The Guilt of Telling a Joke That Ended Gruesomely

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Photo by Kristian Seedorff on Unsplash

Tested my understanding between truth and lies

It happened in October. The month we both celebrated our birthdays.

Deedee and I were best of friends. Although she was a grade behind me, we lived close and spent many afternoons and weekends playing together.

This particular weekend, we were playing in the front yard raking autumn leaves into giant piles to run and jump in.

Then we heard the side door open and we knew that Deedee’s older brother, Barry, was coming outside.

“Don’t tell Barry where I am,” Deedee giggled as she jumped in the pile and I helped to disguise her under the leaves.

Barry rounded the corner of the house with his golf club swinging.

“Where’s Deedee?”

I squeaked, “I dunno” trying desperately to contain my laughter.

Barry kept swinging the golf club. Closer and closer to the giant pile.

Surely he knew Deedee was under that pile.

Surely he knew Deedee was hiding.

Surely he knew?

As if I watched in slow motion, he lifted the club high and took a long swing at the pile of leaves.


The horror of watching him hit my best friend in the head was only eclipsed by the screams she made.

The blood. Oh, the blood.

It oozed out of her head, thick and crimson red.

Wide-eyed, I swallowed the bile that rose in my throat.

Barry rushed Deedee into the kitchen over the sink just as their mother returned home.

My rapid, fevered apologies felt empty and my shoulders slumped as she told me to go home. She had to wrap Deedee’s head and take her to emerg.

I muttered to myself tearfully as I mounted my bike for the ride home. It was all my fault. I should’ve told Barry where Deedee was. I thought he knew. I thought he was teasing me. I thought he was joking.

Deedee had to get 8 stitches. Doctors said that had the hit been one inch closer to her temple, she would’ve died.

Over 40 years later, both Deedee and I can laugh about that day. But I haven’t played in a pile of leaves since. And I think twice before telling even a little lie that’s disguised as a joke.

(First featured on Medium platform February 27, 2021)

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