Plausible Deniability And The Great Empty Beer Can War Of 1987

My daughter has an extensive track record of trashing furniture. I’m not talking about scratching the finish, spilling water on it, or any of those kind of pussy minor accidents that I would gladly deal with in my house. She fucks furniture up. I mean, makes it fall apart into individual furniture molecules. Case in point, her dresser. She had a dresser with five drawers on the front of it, and she would CRAM clothes in there until the drawers would burst. I’m not kidding, her jeans drawer had a wad of jeans in there so dense that they were on the verge of gravitational collapse. And when I say the drawers would burst, I’m not talking about the cheap particle board bottom most dresser drawers contain these days. The solid wood front of the drawer would fly off like a button on Oprah’s pants. One time I reattached the front of the drawer with 4 inch wood screws. That lasted a week.

So her dresser failed its main purpose on this earth which was to contain clothes. Instead, it sat against the far wall in her room periodically erupting clothes like a fashion-conscious Mt. St. Helens. One day we’d experience a jeans eruption, the next a shorts explosion, etc. And even though the clothes would be wadded up so tightly that they were unrecognizable, you’d always know what had exploded because my daughter had written, in the six inch tall lettering common to kindergartners, “PANTS!”, “SOCKS!”, or my favorite “UNDERWHERE!!!” on the side of the white dresser with a Sharpie. Still, the dresser wasn’t without its girly charms: It was festooned with Barbie stickers and the top had seven or eight coats of nail polish with names like “Cotton Candy Pink” or “Vibrant Pink” or “Motherfucking PINK!”

Finally, I was walking past her room one day when I heard a noise coming from her room. As I entered, I distinctly heard the dresser moan in pain, “Kill me!” So it was time to get a new dresser. I took the old one in the back yard, shot it four or five times, and took it apart board by board with an axe. Then I dropped it off at Goodwill because a) They’ll dispose of it without charging me; and b) I’m an asshole.

I came back home with a large white dresser from Ikea that had eight large and very spacious drawers. I couldn’t bring my daughter to Ikea with me, of course, because they’ve heard of her and how she treats furniture. If I turned my head for a second, she’d disappear and the authorities would find her lifeless body stuffed in a economical pine cabinet floating in a fjord. But I picked well and she loved the new dresser. Once it was fully assembled, I sat her down and had the talk with her. No, not about sex. She can figure that out like I did: by going over to my friend Charlie’s house and looking through his dad’s back issues of Penthouse. The talk I had was about the vastness of the desert outside of town, the difficulty of finding a shallow grave, and other things she’d need to worry about if she fucked up this dresser like she had the last.

She fucked up a dresser?!? All right, I'll go dig a hole.

She fucked up a dresser?!? All right, I'll go dig a hole.

To her credit, it has been a full six months and we haven’t had any issues with the dresser. Until this weekend when my daughter came running downstairs and informed me that her brother had broken her dresser.

Me: “How do you know that it was him?”

Daughter: “He was in there this morning!”

Me: “For less than thirty seconds!”

Daughter: “Who else would have done it?”

Me: “Beats me, Dances On Dressers! Lead me to your teepee and we shall confront the young scout.”

And of course I got in there and it was obvious that she had jammed too many articles of clothing in there, the drawer got off track, she panicked, she pulled all the clothes out, jammed them under her bed, and tried to pin it on her brother. A nice try, but she failed to take into account that when I was growing up my Indian name was Gets Away With Murder. I know all the tricks.

What disturbs me is the fact that my daughter has stumbled across the concept of plausible deniability. My daughter used to specialize in implausible deniability, in which I would ask her if she’d jammed her cat into a small piece of luggage and she’d deny it even though:

  • She was holding onto said piece of luggage
  • The luggage was wobbling back and forth, emitting “meow” noises
  • She was in the process of checking off the last box on a list with three things on it: “Find Bongo”, “Get sootcaise”, “Put Bongo in sootcaise”
100% not guilty. Just like O.J.

100% not guilty. Just like O.J.

I thoroughly enjoyed the implausible deniability because it made parenting decisions easy and it was a good way of gauging just how stupid she thinks I am. (Pretty stupid, as it turns out. Like Snooki-level retardation.) But now that she’s finally tumbled to the radical idea that a lie is more believable if it is consistent with logic, common sense, and the laws of the known universe, things are bound to get harder. And it makes me think about my dad.

Among the chores my dad asked of my brothers and I was mowing the lawn. As we had a very large back yard, this was a task that took three hours. Still, I enjoyed it because even as a teenager I knew the simple joy of honest work. That and I’d get higher than Jesus and listen to Led Zeppelin full blast while tooling around on the rider mower. And of course this led to some unfortunate decisions, such as the one where I backed over a formerly bushy, four foot tall shrub and reduced it to a pile of sticks and disembodied leaves. Oops. I just raked up the remains and piled them up where they used to live and finished the lawn, saying nothing to anyone.

Several days later I saw my dad near the former shrub and walked up to him.

Greg: “What’s up, dad?”

Dad: “What the hell happened to the shrub?”

Greg: “Hey, yeah! What the…”

Dad: “…”

Greg: “Looks like, I don’t know, some animal tore it to pieces or something.”

Now my dad was anything but stupid. He held a PhD in nuclear physics. But because I had plausible deniability on my side, I could deny everything. Maybe wolves did it! Maybe my older brother did it! Maybe my younger brother! Maybe rowdy neighborhood kids! Who knew? Not me! And he knew that short of producing videotape that showed me murdering a shrub to the strains of Whole Lotta Love, he had no way of pinning the crime on anyone. He stood there, slowly shaking his head.

Ditto the time I came across him examining the evergreen bushes by the side of the garage that were brown and dying from roughly my crotch level downward because I’d come home late on weekends, drunk, and didn’t want to wake my parents by flushing the toilet. So I peed on the bushes. “I don’t know dad, looks like a neighbor’s dog has been peeing on the bushes.” “Yeah, a really tall dog!” (Slowly shakes his head.)

Sorry, dad. Nickel beer night.

Sorry, dad. Nickel beer night.

When you have siblings, you can hopelessly cloud the issue with a minimal amount of effort. In fact, if you get good at it, you can frame a brother or sister for a crime they never committed, which is as good as it gets. This is what happened during the Great Empty Beer Can War of 1987.

My mom used to buy beer by the case. She did this for very different reasons than I have for buying beer in bulk: For her, it was cost-effective and meant she didn’t have to buy beer too often. The benefit to me and my younger brother was obvious: We could sneak a couple of beers without anyone noticing. The only problem? Disposing of the evidence while you’re lying on your bed, lazily wondering how many women you’d nail in your lifetime (my best guess at the time was woefully short of the mark). I got clever: I put the empties in my brother’s closet.

A week later I heard my mom talking to my brother in his room: “Don’t forget, on Thursday we’ve got to… What is this? Why are there empty beer cans in your closet?”

Brother: “I don’t know! They’re probably Greg’s!”

Mom: “Uh-huh. Sure.”

A couple of minutes later my brother came into my room: “Thanks a lot, asshole!” The next time I had a few empties to dispose of, I just tossed them into my closet. “Greg, do you need new jeans? Because… What is this? Why are there empty beer cans in your closet?”

Greg: “Ha! They’re probably there because a certain someone is trying to get clever with his empties.”

Mother: “Ooh, that kid!”

And, of course, a couple of minutes later my brother barged into my room. “Thanks again, asshole! What the fuck?” At that point I was free to leave empties pretty much anywhere in the house. I’d practically belch through my brother’s protestations of innocence without my mom tumbling to the truth. And then he’d try to frame me by leaving empties under my bed, or flagrantly out on my desk and that still wouldn’t work. He’d still get nailed for it. If you’re reading this, dude, sorry. I was 18 and an asshole.



So now the rooster has come home to roost. And by “rooster”, I mean my daughter. And by “come home to roost” I mean I’m totally fucked. If she gets good at this at all, I may as well just punish myself for having kids knowing damn well that they might turn out like me. I don’t know what I was thinking. One thing I do know, though: If my daughter takes up pot smoking, I won’t have to search through her dresser drawers looking for her stash. It’d never fit in there.