The Good Pencil

Lyall came home from school with the 'Good pencil' last Friday. He tells me that the Good pencil is given to Class 2P's best behaved and helpful pupil of the week.

I usually take things that Lyall says with a proverbial pinch of salt as he does tend to struggle a little with the truth. I'm not talking about dangerous lies or deceit mind you, just irritating white lies that he relies on to protect his angelic reputation from damage. That reminds me, did I tell you the time that Lyall scoffed all my mini white Swiss chocolates that I was saving in my bedside drawer and blamed it on a cat that he'd witnessed coming in through the bedroom window? I found the wrappers stuffed into an empty loo roll under his bed twenty minutes later. I mean, where do you even start with that one?

So anyway until Friday I assumed that the Good pencil was something that Lyall had whipped up in his mind to fool us into believing that he'd behaved like an cherub in school by simply bringing a pencil home in his bag. When I collected Lyall from his classroom on Friday afternoon however, I was surprised to find him waiting with his teacher, her hands proudly on his shoulders and a huge lovely smile on her face.

"Lyall's been awarded the coveted 'Good pencil' today." said Mrs Picklow. Lyall presented a very fine looking brand new red HB pencil from behind his back.

"Oh tits... The good pencil's REAL" I thought, feeling more than a tad guilty for doubting Lyall's honesty.

"He's been wonderful; helping his friends with their writing and he tidied up all the chairs."

With a smile and a ruffle of Lyall's bushy blonde hair I gave the teacher a wink and replied "Oh that is marvellous news. Well done Lyall that's fantastic, kiddo."

A fantastic start to a Friday evening. We collected Richard from his classroom and headed back happily through the park towards the car, chatting about what the boys had eaten for lunch. Salmon bites, apparently.

Back at home, the boys went straight upstairs to get changed out of their school uniforms. I'd usually follow them up to their rooms to keep an eye on proceedings but considering their good behaviour and jolly attitudes I thought I'd give them some responsibility and leave them to it. (Plus I was desperate to sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit). After ten minutes or so I wondered what they were up to, so I called up from the bottom of the stairs to hurry them along.

Lyall came downstairs first, bursting into the living room wearing what can only be described as top half football kit, bottom half Sunday best, with a slightly guilty, familiar expression on his face. "What have you been doing?" I asked with puzzled eyebrows. "Nothing Daddy." Lyall replied.

A few moments later Richard crept quietly into the living room, eyes fixed on Lyall, holding his right arm as though he'd been injured somehow. "What on earth is wrong with your arm?" I asked. Richard began to cry.

"Lyall stabbed me with the Good pencil."

"Is that true, Lyall?" I asked.

"No." said Lyall.

I took Richard's arm in my hand and looked for evidence of a pencil stabbing. There was a tiny grey mark on the inside of his elbow (whatever that bit of inner-arm is called); it didn't look particularly sore. He stopped crying and began to 'Ooh' and 'Ahhh' as though it was causing stabbing pains. I probably should have just tutted and written the incident off; filing it away with every other insignificant squabble. But, I thought, if a stabbing with the Good pencil had occurred, I should thoroughly investigate to derive the whole truth.

Lyall wasn't prepared to own up, so I thought I'd start proceedings with a basic line of simple questioning.

I sat the boys next to each other on the sofa opposite me and had a think, tapping my fingers against my chin.

"Richard. Tell me what happened. The truth, please."

"Well Daddy" said Richard, "I went into Lyall's room and he just stabbed me with the Good pencil."

"That's RUBBISH" shouted Lyall, "He wasn't even crying until he came into the living room."

"I don't care whether or not he's crying, Lyall, did you or did you not poke Richard's arm with the Good pencil?". I smirked at the ridiculous notion of the good pencil being used as a weapon.

"No Daddy, well... at least I don't remember doing it. It must have been an accident."

"An accident? How can you accidentally poke somebody's inner-arm with a pencil?"

"Well..." said Lyall, clearly struggling to think of a reasonable excuse, "I might have done it accidentally. But it wasn't on purpose."

I was starting to get annoyed. "I just want the truth, boys." I said. "I'm not in the slightest bit bothered about the pencil poke, but I am bothered about you telling the truth."

My questioning continued for a few minutes and, while getting no closer to assigning blame I derived that the Good pencil stabbing was most certainly deliberate.

So, like a Crimewatch reconstruction I decided to recreate the event at the scene of the crime, in Lyall's bedroom with both boys and a drinking straw as a prop.

"Right. Lyall where were you standing when this happened" I asked.

"Up there standing on the end of my bed" he replied. "Riiight." I said doubtfully. Up Lyall got onto the foot of his bed, precariously balancing with his arms out like a tight-rope walker.

"And you, Richard. Where were you?"

Richard stood in the doorway, his hands sheepishly in his pockets. "Just here I think."

"OK. Now will you please demonstrate how Lyall's pencil (currently right up near the ceiling) ended up accidentally poking the inside of your arm right down there by the door?"

In a moment of panic, Lyall frowned and shook his head at Richard, climbed down from his bed with the straw and stood with his back to Richard. "Actually now I think about it I was down here, I couldn't see him cos I was facing this way."

"Right." I said with more than a sprinkling of sarcasm. Holding out Richard's arm with the underside facing upwards I asked "Why did you put your arm out like this, Richard?"

"I didn't" he replied. So, to demonstrate the absurdity of their false story, I slowly walked Richard towards Lyall, twisting Richard around (luckily he's very bendy) into the only preposterous position that would enable a poke of Lyall's Good pencil into the correct point of his arm.

"So you're telling me that Richard approached you, in this bizarre position, just at the very moment that you had the Good pencil poking in precisely the direction of his arm, without looking behind you?"

"Yes, sort of." continued Lyall, "Well... Richard asked me to do it."

A breakthrough!

"Is that true, Richard?" I asked.

"I don't remember."

"I want the TRUTH!" I shouted, making both the boys shudder.

Lyall, sensing that I was getting frustrated and might get angry finally owned up with a rushed explanation, a little bit like Vicky Pollard from Little Britain:

"Well, Richard asked me to poke him with the Good pencil and so I did, but only very gently and then you called me downstairs and then I came down and then Richard came down afterwards and started crying to get me into trouble but I didn't want to get my pencil confiscated so I didn't tell the truth."

“Is that true, Richard?" I asked again.

“Yeah.” Said Richard.

“You really are a pair of pests.” I said with a relieved smile.

We all headed back downstairs, boys looking remorseful. I gave them a hug at the bottom of the stairs.

"Thank you." I said. "Finally."

"Why didn't you both just tell the truth in the beginning?? We could have avoided all this rigmarole."

"We did, Daddy." replied Lyall.

Sigh.