George, did you chop down the cherry tree?

No, dad.

I think you are lying.

No, no, no! I swear I did not chop down the cherry tree.

Son, I saw you out there with your ax. Your punishment will be worse if you lie. Now, tell me the truth!

Dad, I answered your question truthfully. Still, I must take complete responsibility for all my actions. While my answer was legally accurate, I did not volunteer information. Indeed, dad, I did cause the cherry tree to be lying on the ground. To do this was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part, for which I am solely and completely responsible.
I know my answer to you gave a false impression. I misled you, my own father. I deeply regret that. I can only tell you I was motivated by many factors -- first, by a desire to protect myself from the embarrassment of my own conduct. I was also very concerned about protecting mom from this shock.
What I did, dad, was use a saw to cause the cherry tree to fall. Only after the tree was already down did I go get my ax to chop off individual branches. So I chopped off branches, but sawed down the tree. Look at the saw cut on the stump and the ax cuts on the branches. Therefore, legally, I told the truth. I ask you to turn away from the spectacle of this fallen tree and to return our attention to a solid family relationship.


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Illustration by: Tom Geier, author, from The Washington Times, 9/30/98