As I watched him plunk down $2, I could hear my parents lecture on the injudiciousness of carnival games. “They’re all rigged; plus look at the junk you win. What a waste of money. Only foolish people play these games.”
At first I pretended he was chivalrous and thought I expected him to win something for me. “You don’t have to win anything for me,” I told him. “You don’t have to do this.”
“Oh, I’m great at darts,” he assured me, and then he slapped down another $2 and then another and another. I stopped counting at $20 and felt sick when I was pretty sure he was getting close to $40.
“You don’t have to win me anything,” the desperation in my voice had to be evident. That’s when I started praying, Please let him win something or run out of cash. Yes, let him run out of cash. I don’t care if I don’t get anything to eat tonight. Just let this end.
And then it did. In triumph he handed me my $40 prize – the ugliest and cheapest stuffed animal I’d ever seen. The dog’s fur felt like a towel I’d washed my car with and then forgotten on the front lawn for several days.
I tried to act pleased, I really did; but silently I was wondering what had made me think he was good looking. Nothing takes the shine off a cute face like idiotic behavior.
As we neared home, I took comfort in the fact that although my parents might be waiting up for me, they would have the decency to pretend they weren’t by staying in their bedroom. I hadn’t counted on my nosey sister, who had to get up at 4:00 the next morning but thought waiting up until 11:00 p.m. was worth the gamble in case something interesting happened at the end of my date.
Her bet usually paid off. Not long before I’d been introduced to a guy by someone I trusted, and 20 years later I still feel betrayed by that set-up. Amy loved the way that date ended. Early in the evening I had hinted I wanted to go home; then I outright asked him to take me home. At 9:00 when we pulled up to the house, he’d insisted he was too tired to drive to his apartment without caffeine and invited himself into my parents’ place for some coffee. No one asked him to sit down, but that didn’t seem to deter or bother him in the least. He drank cup after cup of horrible instant coffee while everyone stood around and stared at him. (I made the stuff as wretched as I knew how, but he was undaunted.) Finally, dad told the guy that we all wanted to go to bed and could he please go home, but I digress from the carnival date.
As we came up the driveway, I could see my sister lurking in the house by the front door. I had this wild idea of chucking the dog under the porch as I climbed the stairs thinking maybe he wouldn’t notice I’d suddenly lost the dog. However, my respect for his feelings told me that no matter how much I didn’t want the dog, I must finish the evening with grace.
I could already imagine the smirk on Amy’s face.
“Goodnight,” I said over my shoulder and then closed the door.
Amy stood there, grin firmly in place. “What do you have there?” she asked.
My eyes narrowed, and my right hand rose in the air. “So help me,” I said in a fierce whisper, “if you tell anybody about this dog before I get a chance to burn it – or tell anybody ever, and I mean anybody, I will never trust you with another secret as long as I live. But” and here my voice softened, “if you can manage to keep your mouth shut for three weeks, I’ll share secrets with you.”
I’m sure Amy imagined a hundred ways to break that story, but being cut off from all future sister secrets would be a most heinous consequence; so she never mentioned the dog until I told the story myself years later.
Keeping a secret is a noble and remarkably hard thing to do. Secrets are almost always interesting, but they can also be a burden to the person who knows them. They come in the form of sorrow weighing a heart down, a secret sin that has long been the source of crippling guilt, suspense while one waits for something good or terrible to happen, and once in a while a surprise so magnificent that having a coconspirator adds to the fun.
Regardless of the type of secret, once shared, it can never be taken back. A secret is only as safe as the holder of it, and revealing a confidence without permission destroys relationships.
If someone takes you into their confidence; or if like Amy, you stumble across something, be worthy of carrying that knowledge.
As the years rolled by, I didn’t have to threaten Amy any longer to make her keep my secrets. I just knew that she would, and having a confidant is a wonderful person to have in your life.
Proverbs 11:13 “A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.”