Pity, Confidence, and Other Lies

“We don’t speak,” Heather declared.

Jonas watched her attempt to affect a disinterested air, concentrating so hard to not show her concentration. She was still a child, after all. He tended to forget or ignore that fact—Heather was more intelligent and more active and more useful than anyone who had actual jobs at city hall, and she had an innate sense of how to govern, so treating her as a child would be insulting and probably drive her away. But she was one, and if he had to make one allowance for that every few months, it was an easy one to make.

“I’m sorry,” he said, feeling puny.

Heather continued her display of fake toughness. “It’s okay. It’s better like this. She is a terrible human. I feel sorry her.”

“Liar.”

Jonas surprised Heather with the sharpness of this pounce. He surprised himself, for that matter, although he knew it to be justified. An explanation was in order, however, and he softened his tone for it.

“You are angry at her. You may despise her, and she may deserve it. And I have no doubt that you are better than she is, but it is not because you offer her your pity. It is because she has chosen to be something despicable. To claim to feel sorry for her—it is false, first off, and it gives you a sense of power that you did not earn.”

Heather smiled weakly. “I never expected a politician to give me a lecture on the evils of lying.”

“And I never will,” Jonas grinned back. “Lying to other people is one of the foundations of our society. But lying to yourself, nothing good comes from that. It makes you base your decisions on wrong information.”

Heather nodded to show that the lesson was imparted. And then she decided to have some fun.

“So when you asked the City Council for extra money for the town band that you knew they didn’t have, why did you spend so much time psyching yourself up?”

“I had to have confidence didn’t I, little girl?” (For while Jonas respected Heather more than any of the adults in his office, if she was going to start a battle like this, he wasn’t going to leave any weapon on the table.)

“But isn’t ‘confidence’ just another word for ‘lying to yourself’?”

“In some cases,” Jonas said, stretching out and slightly twisting the words. It was a verbal trick he often used in debates; it gave him thinking time, and the odd tones that he made couldn’t hurt if he wanted to confuse his opponent. As usual, it worked. “But in some cases—most cases, really,” (slight bobble there, but he recovered well) “confidence is just the acceptance of uncertainty and the belief that said uncertainty of the first part can work out in your benefit.”

“Go on,” Heather prompted eventually, after stumbling over the “of the first part” and then realizing that Jonas had peppered it in solely for her to stumble over.

“For example, say you were about to ask out somebody who is way out of your league.”

“And exactly who would that be?” Heather demanded. She was joking, but she acted angry to give Jonas something to defend against.

“For the sake of argument, let’s say… His Holiness The Pope.” Heather offered a small smile at the skillful riposte. “Sure, everything you believe you know about him would indicate that he’s probably not interested, what with him being really old and the vow of chastity and so on. But what you think you know might be wrong. You’ve never been pope; maybe he has a special secret room where he is permitted to go on dates with—”

“Underage girls? That’s a very offensive stereotype.”

Jonas dodged Heather’s faux offense again. “—people.” He realized he could land a cut of his own. “Although the offensive stereotype is actually underage boys. Underage girls would actually be a step up.”

“No it wouldn’t.”

“No… it wouldn’t.” Jonas decided the attempt wasn’t working, and pulled back accordingly. “The point is, maybe you do have a chance with this hypothetical pope, so confidence isn’t lying to yourself, it’s just accepting that there may be certainties that you’re not aware of yet.”

“That’s very deep,” Heather admitted. “You didn’t get the money for the band, though.”

“Not yet. That’s why we have back-room deals. Let’s get to work.”

*****

A new, not-terribly-Thanksgiving-related bit of writing from The Clean Hippie Murders featuring protagonist Jonas and sidekick Heather. I really enjoy writing their relationship—they constantly battle, and they constantly try to back each other into a corner, but they very much like and respect each other. The first bit is, I guess, a reaction to people saying how sorry they feel for other people when in reality they’re angry at them. The second bit really just came because that first bit… well, it wasn’t as meaty as it was in my mind. But together, I’m pleased.

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