Lie, Lady, Lie: A Grammatical Short Story

In which a liar lying on a beach lays to rest all possible confusion about the words for reclining, telling falsehoods, and setting things down.

Lie, Lady, Lie

I should be at home laying tile in the kitchen, but I instead I’m lying on the beach. I called my husband—ex-husband-to-be—and lied, telling him Grandpa’s home health aide had called in sick and that I’d have to stay with Grandpa all day. The kitchen can wait. We’re only fixing it up so we can sell the house for a higher price after we move out and go our separate ways. I lie on my back and close my eyes, lay my phone on the blanket, and then remember to turn it off. When I’ve lain here long enough, I’ll get up and wade in the waves. But not yet. When was the last time I was free to just lie around and be lazy? I swear, I married a slave-driver. I’m not going to miss him. Once, I lay in bed until nine o’clock and Dan listed all the things I could have accomplished if I’d gotten up at seven. On a Saturday. Today, I’m making up for lost time

I wake with a start, wondering how long I lay asleep in the sun. I reach for my phone to check the time, but it’s not where I laid it. My hand grabs a man’s ankle instead. I look up to see Dan’s attractive young assistant, Sebastian, holding my phone and smiling down at me.

“Bad lie.” His voice is low and teasing. “Your grandfather’s house is on Dan’s way to the office. Your car wasn’t there. And he said he heard gulls in the background when you called.”

Darn. The best-laid plans of weary wives … “And he sent you to make me go home and lay tile? You’ve got to be kidding.”

“He sent me to go look at a property we’re leasing for the business.” Sebastian takes off his shirt and lays it on the sand, then lies beside me, propped up on his elbow, grinning. “Of course, when he mentioned your call, he complained about what a lazy wife he has. He doesn’t appreciate you, Celia. So, I lied, too. And here we are.”

His half-bare body is as beautiful as I’ve often imagined it would be. The longing that has lain dormant in both of us for years awakens, and we embrace. On someone’s radio in the distance, Bob Dylan’s classic love song, “Lay, Lady, Lay” is playing. Sebastian laughs. I ask him what’s so funny, and he says, “It’s such a sexy song, but I always wonder what he wants her to lay across his big brass bed? A silk duvet? Granny’s crocheted afghan?”

“Her body, silly.” I kiss his neck and nibble his earlobe. “He wants her to lay her body down.”

“Then he should be asking her to lie—”

“I already did. ” My fingers caress his lips.  “We both did.”

*****

For more fun with lie and lay, check your mastery of these words with a couple of quizzes.

http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar_quiz/lie_vs_lay_1.asp

https://journalism.ku.edu/interactive-quiz-lielay

I’ve never written anything in first person present tense before, so this experiment was fun for that reason as well as my attempt to incorporate every possible variation on lie and lay in a story as short as NPR’s three-minute fiction. (I’m sorry it’s not a mystery, but with the characters both lying and lying, the thematic words lent themselves more to a tryst.) I was inspired by Jane Gorman’s entertaining homophone post and by my encounters with lie/lay confusion in print and in speech.

Occasionally, I take yoga classes taught by a young woman who understands the human body and teaches well, but she uses the transitive verb lay for the intransitive verb lie. When she wants her students to assume a supine or prone position, she says, “Lay on your back,” or “Lay on your stomach.”

In some parts of the country, this is a regional speech idiom, and of course it occurs in popular music. Perhaps that’s why it’s confusing for writers. I’ve found lay/lie errors in published books, overlooked by editors and proofreaders. Even the grammar-check function in Word is confused, and occasionally tries to supply the incorrect word. It found fault with one of the two quotations from the ungrammatical yoga teacher and not with the other.

I can’t bring myself to make any of my characters talk the way she does, even though it would be more realistic if a few of them did.  What about you?

Comments welcome! Lay it on!

Photo credit: The lead image was originally posted to Flickr by J.C. Rojas at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jcrojas/194663540

 

What Scares You?

screaming-face

Since we’re so close to Halloween, I thought I’d explore my one venture into writing horror. The plotting workout of going outside my genre was educational, as it made me study the art of scaring people.

I’m at home writing paranormal phenomena. My mystery series features a psychic protagonist and there are ghosts and spirits in two of the books, Shaman’s Blues and Soul Loss. However, their roles are more mystical than frightening, and while the ghost in my prequel short story The Outlaw Women delivers some disturbing news, he’s actually quite benevolent. Mystery involves suspense and tension, and sometimes fear for the main character’s safety, but not the kind of fear that that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

In Stephen King’s analysis of horror, Danse Macabre, he has a chapter on monstrosity in which he examines the fine line between the strange and the monstrous. It’s the walk on that line that I find chilling. When the transition into monstrosity is too extreme, the impact is lost. To me, the scariest part of a horror story isn’t the gore. The blood and guts or weird slime or whatever is supposed to deliver peak terror is usually so over-the-top or icky that I’m not scared anymore. It’s the build-up that creeps me out, the sense that something is wrong at a deep, perhaps supernatural level, making it hard to fight or prevent.

Though I read horror stories occasionally, I never planned to write one. I ended up doing it on kind of a dare. In a discussion with several other authors, I brought up the fact that when author earnings are sorted by genre, the most money was in romance. None of us wrote romance. A horror writer said he’d have to try. I asked, “Horror-romance?” Next thing I knew, we were working on an anthology of horror-romance short stories based on the seven deadly sins. I picked sloth, since it was a challenge. How could I make laziness frightening? And romantic, in a scary way?

The Apache concept of bear sickness, a condition of unnatural lethargy, struck me as good starting place. Loss of control at the mental level, the feeling that something is invading and taking you over against your will, would have to be terrifying. I explored other Apache myths about bears and came up with a horror story without gore, an appropriate choice for the author of series of mysteries without murders. I was working on Ghost Sickness at the time, which is set, in part, on the Mescalero Apache reservation, so I used that locale—the same powwow, and even a couple of the minor characters from Ghost Sickness— in my horror story. When it turned out to be too long for the anthology, I set it aside for a while. Last year I released Bearing as a stand-alone for Halloween. Most people have liked it and found it creepy or chilling. However, the only review on Barnes and Noble says “Not at all scary.” The same things don’t frighten all of us. What gives you a good scare?

Bearingbearing-copy

 A tale of paranormal horror based on Native American myths.

Mikayla, young Apache woman attending a powwow with her family, becomes entranced by an outsider, a Cree man who shows up without his Apache girlfriend. As her fascination consumes her, Mikayla changes in ways both pleasurable and frightening, powerless to overcome his dark magic until it may be too late.

*****

The Calling, the first book in the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery series, is on sale for 99 cents through Oct. 28th on all e-book retail sites.