The Birth of the Mental Reservation

Summary: A mental reservation is not a lie which is why it's called a mental reservation and not a lie. Sound like "splitting hairs"? Maybe. But Jeff tried to explain the distinction to Al.

Disclaimer: Homefront characters belong to their creators. No copyright infringement intended. No profit is being made. Some of the dialogue that appears in this story is not my own, but belongs to the writer of the Homefront episode "Splitting Hairs".

Author: Tracy Diane Miller

InAl's mind, Anne Metcalf was an exasperating woman. He didn't know much about the teachings of the Catholic Church, but Al suspected that it was buttressed upon convoluted logic as a strategy to disarm any dissenters. Splitting hairs is what he'd call it. And now, listening to Jeff rationalize the distinction between a lie and a mental reservation, Al's inner voice told him that if he stayed around this family for too long, he'd begin to adopt their logic as his own.

"When we got older, she taught us to use mental reservation. Which is saying, Mom isn't in, but thinking, just thinking, not in for you."

Jeff had become quite adept at using mental reservations for over a decade now. But the young man could still remember the occasion when he used his first mental reservation:

May, 1935

Sunday mornings were always the busiest time in the Metcalf household. Even though she had done the washing and ironing the night before, for Anne, there was still Sunday dinner that needed to be prepared. Not to mention...

"Mom, I can't find my shoes!" Jeff yelled from upstairs. "And do I really have to wear this suit?"

Jeff.

Her youngest son could challenge the patience of Job. Every Sunday was the same routine. "Mom, I can't find my shoes. Mom, do I really have to wear this suit?" Anne was certain that these were stalling tactics by a very clever little boy who didn't want to go to church. Sometimes Jeff would even give her a look. Those beautiful mud green eyes almost had the power to get him anything that he wanted.

Almost.

Jeff was his father's son all right. He had inherited his father's eyes and his father's charm. A long time ago, she had allowed herself to be seduced by Steven's charm. She had a tough time saying no to Steven Metcalf. Steven knew that and had used this weakness against her.

Steven had died last year. It wasn't easy for the children losing their father. And despite his drinking, gambling, and extracurricular activities with other women, Anne had been careful to create an illusion for her children that their father was a hard-working man who loved them very much. She knew that the children missed Steven. Jeff seemed to have taken his father's death the hardest.

"Yes Jeff, you really have to wear that suit."

Anne was in the kitchen seasoning the meat loaf when the telephone rang.

"I got it." Jeff assured.

"Hello? Oh, hi, Mrs. Szabo. My mom? She...she isn't in." Jeff said, but he was thinking not in for you. "Okay, Mrs. Szabo. I'll tell her. Bye." Jeff smiled proudly as he hung up the phone. He had used his first mental reservation.

It wasn't that Mom didn't like Mrs. Szabo. But Anne had learned that whenever Mrs. Szabo's family suffered a crisis, the woman felt the need to unburden herself in the hope of gaining a sympathetic ear. Anne knew that the current crisis involved Mrs. Szabo's sister, Mrs. Berg.

Florence Berg had recently divorced her husband. Because of her "sin", Mrs. Szabo was estranged from her sister. When Mrs. Szabo told Anne, Anne made the mistake of offering to listen if Mrs. Szabo needed someone to talk to. Her generosity was repaid with Mrs. Szabo giving her weekly updates on her family troubles. In her frustration last night Anne had mentioned to her children that if Mrs. Szabo happened to call, they were to use a "mental reservation" and tell the woman that she wasn't in.

Jeff walked into the kitchen. He was still in his bathrobe. "Mom, Mrs. Szabo said that she had something important to tell you and that she would call later."

"Why aren't you dressed yet?"

Jeff placed his hand on his stomach. "I'm really, really sick. My stomach hurts. I don't think that I can go to church today."

"Jeffrey Metcalf, are you lying to me? And on Sunday, too. You should be ashamed of yourself, young man. Now you go upstairs and get dressed for church this instant!"

"Honest, Mom. I'm really sick." He flashed her the most pitiful expression that he could muster.

Anne studied her son intently. She hesitated briefly before speaking. "Okay Jeff, if you're really sick, you don't have to go to church today. I'll stay home with you. I'll call Dr. O'Brien. I'm sure that he can give you a shot. You should feel much better after that."

Jeff swallowed hard. "A...a...a shot? Ah...I don't think that I need...I mean, I'm starting to feel better. I'm going to go upstairs and get ready for church now." With those words, Jeff bolted out of the kitchen and hurried upstairs. Anne suppressed a laugh over Jeff's "speedy recovery".

And sometimes even when it's coupled with a pitiful look, a "mental reservation" just isn't enough.

The End