“He’s a slippery little eel!” That’s what mama always said about my cousin Jake. From the time he was two years old, and now all these years later, he’s definitely slippery. I don’t know how he does it. Or why. But if he wants something, he is going to get it. And he’ll get away with it! Oh, he might get caught, but he’ll get away with it. He could talk his way out of a mime-fest.
Even in school, he had such charm with the teachers that the lamest excuses would work when he didn’t have his homework. He’d say, “I lost my homework when I got into a fight with Brian over who the best teacher was. He said Mrs. Cook, and I said you. I won.” By the time he went through all the details, the teacher had forgotten what she had asked him. He had such delivery of his lines that it actually worked for him. Or he’d say, “I lost it when I jumped in the river to save my baby sister from drowning.” He’d change the subject so quickly, to how much he loved his baby sister, and how she didn’t know how to swim when she fell in the water, and how it would just kill him if anything ever happened to her, that the teacher would be cooing over his bravery and soft heart instead of being angry at him.
He could always sweet-talk his way out of doing chores. One minute he’d agree to do the dishes and take out the trash, and the next minute he’d be out on the playground with the rest of the kids, somehow using his slippery tricks to get out of any of the hard work. He never would reveal his secrets, though.
It’s funny how he’d be in trouble one minute, and the next minute, you’d be asking him for advice. Like the time when he was fifteen and he took his daddy’s truck out for a joy ride in the middle of the night, probably to see some forbidden sweetheart. Aunt Lilly called momma about 4 in the morning. She was beside herself, and mama had all of us kids get dressed and go over to their house. While Aunt Lily was sick with worry, Uncle Bill was hopping mad! I’ve never seen him so angry! I was afraid he was going to bust that vein that was sticking out on the side of his neck. Along about daylight, here comes Jake meandering up the pebbled driveway like it was the most natural thing in the world.
“Get out of that truck right now, boy!” Uncle Bill hollered at him.
“Yes, sir,” Jake replied.
“You best meet me out back of the garage, son.”
Mama and Aunt Lilly thought Uncle Bill was going to beat his hide. They kept waiting and waiting to hear the bawling until they finally gave up and came back inside with the rest of us kids. About an hour later, here come Uncle Bill and Jake from around the side of the garage. Spying from the windows, my brothers, sisters, and cousins jaws dropped to the floor. Uncle Bill had his arm draped around Jake’s shoulders. The two of them were laughing and grinning, and instead of coming into the house, they headed inside the garage and didn’t reappear for about another three hours. I just smiled. Jake must have spent hours concocting a plan to get himself out of that one. Turned out, they went in the garage so Jake could show his dad how to fix the transmission problem on the truck.
And girlfriends? He never had less than two, but he never got caught. He’d find a date spot a particular young lady enjoyed, and he’d stick to that same place, and no one ever caught on. And he’d never run into both of them in the halls at school. He was too slippery for that!
Luckily, Jake was basically a good kid. With his deception skills, he could have ended up taking a terrible turn down a long road, but he mostly stayed on the straight-and-narrow. No drinking or drugs. No theft. Oh, he could talk a shopkeeper into giving him something he wanted, so he never had to steal. I had my own nickname for him: The silver-tongued devil-cousin.
It should come as no surprise that Jake eventually went off to college and law school and chose a career in politics. As mama always used to say, “He’s a slippery little eel, that Jake!”