How a blue lie turned out to be a blue chip winner

For years I have tried to figure out what possessed Brooke Benton to croon Lie to Me - one of his best ditties ever.

For years I have tried to figure out what possessed Brooke Benton to croon Lie to Me - one of his best ditties ever.

I fail to understand what drives a man to ask outright that he should be lied to, so he can feel a little good about himself. In recent days I have tried to play psychoanalyst. I have tried to question why people lie in the first place. Methinks ordinarily, people lie to get out of trouble, impress (where the truth is unimpressive), to derive undue benefit . or because they are plain mad.

Take Bra Mokaloba, for example. He came from Thaba 'Nchu to visit the Mangos, our neighbours in Evaton, way back in the 1960s. His sharp wit and brilliance with words was matched only years later by his jokesmith nephew Timothy, who today denies any relations with the old man. Bra Mokaloba did not seem to think it mattered whether he lied or told the truth, but because lying came more naturally to him, he preferred to lie most of the time.

Mokaloba came into our lives and told everybody in the neighbourhood he was a high-flying businessman from the then Orange Free State, with a fleet of expensive cars back home. I recall him seeing a new Citroen, pointing at it with his crutch and telling my father: "My boss (you were supposed to be your own boss Bra Mokaloba!) drives something exactly like that. Just that his is made of diamond. The whole car is diamond."

"Oh, really!" my old man indulged him, excusing himself to go and laugh himself silly out of Bra Mokaloba's sight.

We all later got to know that Bra Mokaloba was just a jolly old fellow from the Vrystaat without two shillings to rub together. He was a dreamer, and a liar to boot who brought bellyfuls of laughter into the Mango family - and the neighbourhood.

But then there is lying to get oneself out of a spot. My mate in primary school, one Sefo Pheto, had the fortune of being sent by the teacher to buy her slap chips from a popular restaurant in the township.

Now, mistress should have known that you do not send a hungry boy to buy you the most desirable chips in town - because the stuff is not sealed, dear mistress. Now, Sefo did what every naughty boy would have done on the day: he helped himself to finger-licking good goodies - bietjie-bietjie. By the time he got back to school, the packet was half - and the remaining chips were blue.

We used liquid ink those days, and Sefo was one of the few boys who somehow always got their hands and fingers stained each day. So each time he dug into the teacher's lunch, the steam from the hot chips dissolved the blue ink and dyed the chips.

He sidled up to the teacher and "innocently" offered the stained chips.

"What the @*&!!! is this Pheto?" the hapless teacher demanded.

"I don't know mistress. They gave them to me like that," Sefo lied.

The frustrated, hungry mistress, almost in tears, threw the chips back at my buddy, ordering him to eat the damn stuff. He obliged, and that day Sefo literally had his blue chips - on account of a lie.