By Dawn DeBraal

More and more, my body betrayed me. My voice faltered, and hair grew in places seen and unseen. I felt like a gorilla looking at my hairy legs that seemed to get apish overnight, and I questioned why this was happening at the least opportune time. Yes, we had the movie where the guys went to one room and the girls to the other. My friends snickered behind open hands. Barry even snorted out loud. 

Mr. Pyle, the gym and health teacher, looked at him over his glasses with pursed lips. Barry quieted down. We were in our first year of Junior High, and some of us were interested in what was happening and tried to listen like the adults we were becoming. Others like Barry seemed to laugh at the whole process. I didn’t think it was a funny subject and tried to understand hormones and thoughts. They didn’t give us much information. Only the understanding that the hair growth was normal, and uncontrolled things were expected. Eventually, we would learn how to control those things and move into being comfortable with what would be our new bodies. I chose to start lifting weights, wanting to beef up so that when we entered the upper classes in school, I wouldn’t get picked on. 

Mr. Pyle had me do some repetitions and added weights until he felt I would be gaining a benefit from what I was doing without hurting myself. He told me how many times a day to lift and how many repetitions each session. I used my outdoor time, before and after school time, coming in early to work out in the weight room. 

Of course, Barry laughed at me, but my best friend Sam thought he’d do the same. We would encourage each other to build up our bodies, hoping to be buff. Barry sat around eating chocolate bars, watching the zits pop out on his face. We invited him to come and lift with us, but he said his form was fine. 

Sam and I had been friends since kindergarten, living three houses down from me, and we started spending the night at each other’s houses when we were brave enough to stay the night away from home. The nice thing was if you chickened out, you could walk home after facing the parents. It was hard to do the walk of shame, but after the first time, knowing I wasn’t obligated to stay at Sam’s, I didn’t feel the need to cut the evenings short. Sam’s house became as comfortable to me as my own. 

They started square dancing in the gym. The music was stupid, but I had to admit the intricate patterns they taught us required some memory and skill. Alaman Left, shaking hands with girls and boys in a counter-clockwise, circle. And doo see does felt like a Russian dance. 

“A front, aside, a tuck, a tuck.” I’d say to myself moving my foot forward, then to the side, hopping on one leg twice. Weeks later, the class almost had the Virginia Reel down. Mr. Pyle and Mrs. Atwell said we were the best at this square dancing as they’d ever seen. 

I’m sure they told my brother Douglas’s class the same thing. I was glad when we had our last lesson, but a little bit of me would miss dancing with Nancy Crenshaw. She always wore her hair in long braids down her back. I wondered what her hair looked like untamed. You could tell by the whisps about her face she had curly hair and used the braids to keep it in check. Sometimes in class, I imagined it whirling around her like a tornado if it were hanging free. 

She had a scar on her nose that I found endearing, from tripping on the sidewalk and catching a rake in the face, before the days when plastic surgery was an essential part of wound repair. Nancy carried the scar better than I would have. 

Summer let us out of school. I was excited to be a eighth-grader in the fall. Dad said I could start using the push mower to do the yard. At first, I was excited and proud to be trusted with this chore. After a million cautions telling me where not to put my hands and where to aim the mower discharge, I was allowed to begin mowing the lawn. 

I started off feeling important, but soon learned the monotony of going back and forth up and down the yard made my brain hurt from lack of stimuli. 

I watched the grass shoot out the side as I did a one hundred and eighty-degree turn and started back when a rock shot out, and I heard it hit the Buick. I stopped. I was in deep shit. Why would a rock be in the middle of the lawn? I knew I should just get it over with and tell my dad that I’d thrown a stone up with the mower, but I didn’t want to face his frustration and his “I told you so,” speech. 

I took a few more turns up and down the yard, thinking that if I never mentioned it, perhaps he wouldn’t notice it. I mean, it was on the passenger side, and mom didn’t see those things. Dad wouldn’t notice until he washed the car, and maybe by that time, he would forget I was the person who mowed the lawn? 

I finished the job, let the mower cool, and swept it off as my dad told me to so it wouldn’t start on fire in the garage. I tipped over the mower and hosed it off, all the time seeing that ding in the green and chrome door. It seemed not to be as bad now as it had first appeared. I guess an hour or two had passed, and I was used to looking at it. I rolled the mower into the garage. 

“Good job!” Dad said as he looked over my handiwork. I was undeservedly proud of his approval, momentarily forgetting about the car until he added. “Ok, now let’s wash the car.” Oh, dear Lord, send a lightning bolt to strike me dead now.

I uncoiled the hose on the side of the garage, turning on the water while Dad came out with a bucket of hot sudsy water. I started at the roof as he’d always taught me and said,

“Dad, relax. Let me do this.” I watched him smile as he went back into the house, knowing I’d only delayed the inevitable for a short time. He would look over this project and see the new ding. I scrubbed the heck out of that car and even put on two coats of wax. I buffed until my arms hurt, and the Buick shown in the sun. 

Dad came out and approved the job. He looked up at the sky, spying the rolling clouds. Rain was on its way. Dad jumped in the car without inspecting the passenger side and pulled the Buick into the garage. I felt the terrible weight of that chip. The Buick was Dad’s prized possession, and I marred its otherwise perfectly smooth surface. 

“I dinged my Dad’s car,” I told Sam. 


‘I dinged the car when I was mowing the lawn. A rock shot out from nowhere and hit the car, and then I saw a big ding in the passenger door.” 

“Did you get grounded?”

“No, I didn’t tell my Dad. He parked it in the garage before it rained and never got to that side.”

“Wow, maybe you got away with it.” Sam offered. 

“Maybe, but I know I did it, and I can hardly live with myself.” 

“Then you should tell him what you did and face the music.” 

Sam was right. As much as I didn’t want to say anything, I had to agree with my friend. Lying to my dad felt terrible, and it was time to face up to my mistakes.

“I’ll tell him tonight.” The rest of the day went by in a blur. It was pacing back and forth, waiting for him to come home from work. I didn’t know how much it would cost to fix a dent, but I had already decided to forego my allowance until it was paid in full. I was more upset at lying to my father the last few days. 

He pulled into the driveway, and I walked up to him. 

“Hey, Champ. How’s it going?” He had no idea how I had betrayed him, and the overwhelming shame enveloped me. I burst into tears, bawling like a five-year-old. 

“Dad, I dented the car when I mowed the lawn. I was too scared to tell you. I’m sorry.” Snot came running down my upper lip, and I tried to drag my arm across my face, hiding my shame.

“Where?” he asked. I pointed to the door with the dent in the chrome and the chipped paint. 

“That took a lot of guts to tell me. I appreciate you being a man about it.” 

“What?” I had pictured myself grounded for months of back-breaking labor to pay off my debt. 

“You didn’t dent the car. I did. Last week going down the freeway, a stone came off a gravel truck and did that. I pulled over so I could see the damage. I’ve reported it to the insurance already. It happened before you mowed the lawn.” 

I was dumbfounded, gobsmacked, and shocked that it wasn’t me who had dented the car, that my dad knew about the stone chip. I was mad, glad, upset, and grateful all simultaneously. 

“Does mom know?” 

“No, I have an appointment to drop it off at a garage near work next week. It will be repaired in no time.” 

I heaved a sigh of relief that not only had I not dented the car, but after next week I would not be forced to look at it and remind myself how I tried to pass off a lie to my dad. 

“I’m sorry, Dad.”

“Bill, you didn’t do it. I did.”

“I tried to cover it up when I thought I’d done it.”

“But you did the right thing eventually.” Dad put his arm around me and hugged me. I don’t think I ever felt closer to him as I did at that moment. He wasn’t mad at me for keeping my secret.

Three years later, I got the Buick for my sixteenth birthday after my parents bought a new car. I can still see a faint dent in the chrome from that rock, and I have decided I won’t take any of my vehicles for repair at Benson’s Auto Repair. I learned a valuable lesson that day if you make a mistake own up to it right away, or it will haunt you forever. That small dent in the chrome reminds me to be honest in all my dealings

2 thoughts on “Lesson Learned

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s