John entered the room and saw George pacing nervously. He quickly turned to leave; George pacing was never a good thing.
But it was too late. George looked up just as John was at the doorway.
“John! John, I’m glad to see you. Come here, please–I need your help.”
John cringed a bit and turned back into the room. “And how may I help?”
“It’s Jefferson…again. Trying to undermine me. And he has something on me this time.”
This piqued John’s interest. “Oh? And what would that be?”
“He knows about the cherry tree.”
“The cherry tree?”
“Yes, the cherry tree!”, George snapped, as if John already knew the story. “When I was seventeen, I got into my father’s whiskey, got drunk, and while intoxicated, I chopped down my father’s prized cherry tree. Jefferson knows the story somehow, and he’s threatened to use it against me. What are we going to do, John? What do we say? How do we plausibly deny this, make it go away?”
John wasn’t sure why this was a “we” problem, but he thought about it for a moment anyway, then suggested, “Well…what if, instead of cover-ups and denials, we get out in front of this? Take ownership of it. When asked, admit without hesitation that, yes, you chopped down that cherry tree. But, you know, leave out the drunk part. Instead, portray it as just some innocent youthful hijinks. You wanted to chop down the cherry tree to, say, prove your strength, or…because you had a misguided but virtuous notion of providing the family with firewood for the winter, or something. And, what’s more, when your father asked you what happened, you answered him, ‘I cannot tell a lie. I chopped down the cherry tree.’ You were just being a kid, and an extremely honest and mature one at that. And, for good measure, you could strongly suggest it was Jefferson who added the–obviously false–drinking angle to the story.”
George broke into a wide wooden smile. “John, you are brilliant! Brilliant, I say, BRILLIANT!” He adjusted his wig and clapped John on the back as he exited the room, walking tall, his confidence restored.
And the rest, as they say, is made-up history.