April Fool’s Day, A Reminiscence

4 Apr

I had a fantastic April Fool’s Day. It started out as every April Fool’s Day has since I was a boy–my father slowly opens my door as I sleep, so as not to wake me; then, at the top of his lungs, screams “APRIL FOOL’S!” and dumps a pillow case full of cats on my chest. They growl and claw and bite. The pain is excruciating. After a moment, my dad snaps his fingers and the chaos ceases. The cats stop fighting and fitting, descend from my bed, and leave my room. My dad says not a word.

As I shower this particular April Fool’s day morning, bolts of pain ripping through me as the water runs over my wounds, I contemplate what my big April Fool’s joke will be this year. It isn’t until breakfast that it hits me.

I arrive at the school to which I am employed in much the same state as I usually do: half-naked, a partially-eaten peanut butter sandwich tucked into my waist-band. As I rummage through my trunk for a shirt, I see my boss park a few spots down from me. She gets out of her car, pulls her purse over her shoulder, locks the door of her car, and turns toward the building. Upon turning, her gaze falls on me. She looks at me with a stare as cold and motionless as stone. I look back at her, smiling widely. There’s a tiny chunk of peanut butter at the corner of my mouth.

“Mrs. Rodriguez!” I wave emphatically. “Ready to teach?!” I take a bite of my sandwich.

“I–” Mrs. Rodriguez starts, as if to say something of some importance, then gives up on whatever message she had planned to deliver. She sighs, smiles weakly and walks into the building. She has no idea of the mischievous, spring-time hilarity coming her way.

It just so happened that this day, the tutoring program at the school I work for had arranged for a guest speaker. Perfect, I think to myself. This prank will be so much easier with all the kids in the same room.

At the first bell, all the students participating in the tutorial program are led into a large lecture hall in the newly-renovated portion of the high school. Me and my fellow tutors, along with Mrs. Rodriguez, follow them. The students file in and fill each row from front to back.

“I think I’m going to sit more toward the front,” I say to the other tutors. “I’m a big fan of this guy’s work.”

The group halts their ascent up the stairs. Walt, another tutor, looks down at me, confused. “The speaker’s a girl.”

“Oh yea, yea. She’s hilarious,” I respond. “I love her energy.”

“She’s going to talk about overcoming an abusive father and the AIDS virus to attend Harvard. How is that hilarious?” Mrs. Rodriguez interjects.

Tell me about it,” I say, smiling nervously. A thin line of sweat has broken across my forehead.

I sit down next to Emilio, the boy who sometimes sells me Tic Tacs that are actually Xanax.

He nods to me. I nod back.

“What’s this about?” Emilio asks. I’m only half listening, surveying the room and mentally preparing for my prank.

“What?” I ask, calculating the relative distances between different points in the room.

“What is this speaker going to talk about?”

“Oh,” I say, “Something about abusing her father and giving Harvard AIDS.”

“Huh? But Kyle, th–”

“–Dude,” I say, turning to look him in the eyes. In a hushed tone, I continue. “If you don’t stop asking me questions, I’m going to stop buying glue for you and your friends. Do you understand me?” He nods in agreement.

The speaker comes out. She’s probably a six. Without the AIDS diagnosis, though, she’s an easy eight. I weigh my options and continue undressing her with my eyes. I take a mental note to wash my eyes later.

“Hello, everyone,” she says. “My name is Sarah Estes. I’m here to tell you my story, not to scare you, but to insp–”

I zone out completely. Now, my focus is solely on the clock. In twelve minutes, I pull the trigger on my great prank.

Eleven minutes, forty-five seconds: “–to perhaps be better people and to never ever stop believing in the power of your own personal intention.”

Eight minutes, thirty-seven seconds: “He locked the door, turned to me and said, ‘Now you’re going to get what you deserve.'”

Seven minutes, six seconds: “I thought the bruises would never heal.”

Five minutes, twenty seconds: Emilio sneezes, startling me. I almost chop him square in the throat.

Three minutes, eighteen seconds: “Then the doctor came in with my test results. I knew it wasn’t good.”

Two minutes, two seconds: “How could I face my family? How could I face myself?

One minutes: I shift in my seat, restless.

Ten seconds.

Nine.

Eight.

Seven.

Something less than seven.

Four?

Wait, are we counting down or up?

Two.

Five.

One.

Blast-off.

I leap from my seat, applauding.

“What a beautiful speech,” I proclaim. Murmurs of confusion ripple from the students. “Now now, students,” I say, smiling amiably, hands slightly raised, “Do shut up. Yes.” Mrs. Rordriguez quietly slinks out the rear exit. So sly. She must be sneaking out to eat a sandwich or something. Walt, eyes wide, looks down on me, making eye contact. “What are you doing?” he mouths. “I’m about to fuck this whole place in two,” I mouth back.

“I wasn’t quite done, sir,” the speaker says.

“Sure you were,” I say, patting her on the back, then removing a small bottle of hand sanitizer and thoroughly washing. I gently remove the microphone from her hand and wash that to. Now, speaking through the PA system, I say “Kids, I have something I need to tell you. A month or so ago, the high school made some phone calls, inviting all your parents to a special, surprise event at the school here today. They were set to be standing just outside these double doors after the presentation. We had record attendance planned. I mean, every single parent and or legal guardian volunteered their presence here today. They all met at a restaurant in town, and were taking a bus to the school from there.”

Silence now. I have their undivided attention.

“Well, here’s the thing. I just got word that that bus has been outfitted with a bomb.”

A shocked inhalation from a girl in the audience sets off a clamoring, chaotic wave of questions and shouting.

“Calm down!” I command. “They’re okay, for now. But, you see…”

They begin to quiet down again. From the rear of the lecture hall, I see the double doors swing open. Several principles and security guards are there. They begin walking down the aisle.

“You see, the bomb has a trigger attached. They have to stay at a speed higher than fifty-five miles per hour, or the bomb will detonate, killing them all.”

All born in the nineties, these kids have no idea what I’m referencing. Not a single one of them has seen The Mask.

A principle reaches the podium where I now stand. “Mr. Irion, I think that’s enough. Come with us.”

An alarm goes off on my phone. Set to sound like a ring tone, I pretend to answer it. “Hello? What? Oh…oh no…NO!…They’ll all be orphans now!” I say. The students are at a near-frenzy. Administration tries to keep everyone calm. “Yes, I’ll tell them. Someone needs to come claim the remains, right? What? Oh, oh. The remains have all be incinerated, you say? How foolish. How… APRIL FOOLISH!” I put my phone in my pocket. “April Fool’s, everybody! Your parents are all fine!”

The cries of lament and woe vanish. All faces are vacant edifices behind which advancing flames rise.

The room darkens.

The End.

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