Uncle Vernon’s Lie

Uncle Vernon’s Lie – Excerpt

“Your Uncle Vernon will only tell you one lie in your whole life,” Benji’s dad said on the day he packed Benji off for his summer holiday. “Watch out for it.”

Benji’s mum had had to stay at home to look after the baby, so Benji and his dad were travelling together on the bus to the railway station. Benji had never been away on his own before, and he’d never met his uncle, but he wanted to look brave in front of his dad, and he was trying hard not to cry, so he just said, “Okay,” and that was that.

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Uncle Vernon, Benji discovered, didn’t use teabags. He used whole leaves that had rolled up into tight, almost-black balls when they dried. He tipped a single teaspoonful into his teapot then poured in the boiling water. (“Always fresh, boiling water,” he said as he poured. “Always.”) Benji watched, fascinated.

Within moments, dozens of tiny bubbles had risen to the surface of the tea.

“Why are there bubbles?” Benji asked.

“Ah,” said Uncle Vernon, leaning across the breakfast table. He had thick, white eyebrows, and these rose as he leaned forward, as though they were attached to the ceiling by strings. “Now that’s a secret, but I shall tell you anyway. Then we’ll both have a secret. Would you like that?”

“Okay,” Benji said.

“Well,” said Uncle Vernon. “There’s a tiny little man wrapped up inside each tealeaf. When the boiling water hits the men, they scream. That’s what makes the bubbles.” He waggled his eyebrows.

Benji sat back, satisfied. He might have been young, but he wasn’t stupid. One lie.

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