Male high school students back in the 1950s were prone, like teenage boys everywhere, to boast about their exploits. Whenever one of them told a story that was hard to believe, the others would blurt, “Swear to God?” The storyteller was required to reply: “Swear to God!” The tale often involved some sexual exploit that had about as much chance of being true as the teller’s having recently been transported by aliens to the moon. Never mind: if it was lurid enough or entertaining enough, fantasy would happily substitute for reality. For enormous whoppers, the other boys would say not merely, “Swear to God?” but also “Mother’s honor?” To which the proper response was: “Mother’s honor” uttered with right hand raised, left hand over the heart, and eyes tilted heavenward. It is unclear which was more sacred, whether “Swear to God?” ranked first because it was invoked first, with “Mother’s honor?” called upon simply to bolster the case or whether “Mother’s honor?” ranked higher because it was invoked last and was the ultimate court of appeal. There were other solicitations, such as “No shit?” and “Cross your heart?” but “Swear to God? and “Mother’s honor?” got top billing. One particularly tall tale required that we pull out all the ritual stops. My glibbest sixteen-year-old friend, for whom truth was absolutely no constraint, concocted a story of how the most beautiful older girl in town had succumbed to his charms. She was in her mid-twenties, had dark, dreamy eyes, full, sexy lips, large pert breasts, and an irresistible beauty mark halfway down her right cheek. The seduction tale proceeded in a heated frenzy for at least fifteen minutes during which my friend omitted no obscene detail whatsoever and his panting cohort listened in rapt awe. At the climax of which, so to speak, the group shouted: “No Shit?! Cross your heart?! Mother’s honor?! SWEAR TO GOD?!” To which my friend calmly replied, with his right hand raised, left hand over his heart and eyes titled heavenward: “No shit. Cross my heart. Mother’s honor. Swear to God.”


David Blumenfeld

David Blumenfeld (aka Dean Flowerfield) is a former philosophy professor and associate dean who in retirement returned to writing poetry, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature, which he abandoned in his thirties to devote full-time to philosophy. One of his recent pieces was cited in Best American Essays, 2022 as a “notable essay;” another received a Pushcart Prize nomination; a third was “highly commended” in the 2022 Autumn Voices international poetry competition and will soon be republished in Five Points. His work for children has appeared in The Caterpillar, Balloons Lit. Journal, Smarty Pants, Carmina, and various anthologies.

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