Marnie and I hung out at Burger King, downing free refills of Diet Coke and baring our souls. We tried to buy beer; when that failed, we bought Wonder Bread, tucking slices under strangers’ wipers in the parking lot.
We wrote deranged poems and dialed random numbers to recite them. We laughed endlessly, helplessly.
She’s how I survived high school.
When we met again after freshman year of college, I was wearing a t-shirt bearing Ronald Reagan’s face with a line through it.
Marnie studied my shirt for a long moment before asking, “You’re a Democrat?”
Long, long ago, I lived in a great flophouse of friends. It was a shabby, mouse-infested flat, poorly heated by one tiny gas unit in the living room. To keep warm, we often huddled on our “found” couch and watched whatever non-cable subscribers were offered: Melrose Place, Models, Inc., and the like–the kind of shows that go better with an adult beverage and lots of heckling. I was deliriously happy there.
For reasons I will leave unexplored, one person brought a ceramic walrus to the equation, and a game sprouted organically around it. One person would hide it in someone’s bed…all sneaky-like. The recipient would pass it along the next night. The walrus game occasionally got out of hand, escalating until someone had, say, a couple of chairs “hidden” under their comforter. I can vividly recall the joyous surge of anticipation before yanking the covers back each night, and then, twenty-four hours later, the pregnant, gleeful pause when someone else headed to bed.
The game occasionally went awry. Once I found the plunger nestled in my clean sheets. Not appreciated. The plunger was followed shortly thereafter by a plastic egg full of m&ms which I did not find until the next morning, by which time there were quite a few chocolate skid marks to permanently remind me of the occasion. Such a plethora of brown stains is a conversation stopper at laundromats–as well as during a variety of other unfortunate moments which I will leave to your imagination.
I did so love the walrus game, however, and I recently told my two kids about it. These days, they don’t give much indication that they have heard or appreciated anything, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the following items hiding in my bed over the past 9 days:
It is a little hard to explain why this makes me feel loved. It just does. Even the fake poop. I pull back the covers and think, “they love me.”
But there was one last item, lodged firmly under my mattress pad–something we affectionately call the Norwegian Briefcase. The problem: the briefcase had mysteriously disappeared before I got to return the favor, which makes me nervous. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get tucked into my teaching bag. That could be hard to explain to the photo students of America.
It was April 1st, many years ago. My mother had just left town without us, which never happened. I can’t recall where she was headed or why; I only remember going up to my room and noticing that something felt distinctly out of place.
Granted, my room was a perennial disaster, but my bed was a different story; I made that thing with the precision of a watchmaker. I pulled the sheets and blankets into crisp hospital corners, relentlessly smoothing each layer. I folded the top of the bedspread back and over a perfectly fluffed pillow, so not a single peek of the sheets was visible.
The bedspread itself was covered with the names of tourist destinations I had never visited, arranged in a step and repeat pattern, white on blue. Miami. Palm Beach. Orlando. San Antonio. Miami. Palm Beach. Orlando. You get the idea. For the final touch, I would place a little rectangular pillow at a 45-degree angle, with two opposing corners pointing at a couple of Miamis.
Perhaps this was a byproduct of all the years I had to sleep on the daybed. I’ve softened a little, over the years, but I still remake the bed when my husband is not looking.
On this particular day, however, one corner of the throw pillow did not point to Miami and, glancing at the calendar, I knew there was trouble. Sure enough, someone had short-sheeted my bed. Without a word, I quickly and quietly remade it, waiting eagerly for evening.
When my father tucked me in that night, I made a bit of a show crawling in and stretching my legs with a yawn. He eyed me suspiciously. “Anything wrong?” he asked. No, no. Just happy to be in bed. “Really? Everything is OK?” That’s when I learned that my mother had nearly missed her flight cooking up that little prank. Ah, sweet victory.
The most memorable April Fools’ Day from childhood, however, involved my brother and me tormenting our sister. Thanks to his music pedagogy class, the day started with a harrowing early-morning bassoon solo/wake-up call—is there any other kind?– followed by my offering her breakfast in bed, which I promptly tossed on top of her.
That got her up.
As she began her morning regimen, we headed down to the kitchen.
Lord knows how we came up with the idea, but we decided to make a concoction that resembled dog vomit. We filled the blender with peanut butter, yellow food coloring, raw oats, and a variety of other edible items. The result was surprisingly lifelike. Frankly, we were all unfortunate experts on the appropriate color and consistency, since our dog was prone to eat and upchuck just about anything from inside of a garbage can or under a rock. I have even seen her enthusiastically lap it up and repeat.
We put a generous helping of this lumpy, gooey treat on a small piece of saran wrap, and set it on the carpet in my sister’s room.
“Oh, man! That is disgusting! Look what the dog did on your rug!”
We played it up, of course, nice and loud so the entire household was privy to our conversation.
My sister, already more than a little annoyed from the previous incidents, poked her head out of the bathroom, took a good look, and sighed. “Do you think you guys could clean that up? Please?” She sounded a bit desperate, as I remember, and I wish I could say that I felt a twinge of guilt.
“Of course,” I said, ostensibly heading down for some cleaning supplies.
“Just a minute,” my brother said, suddenly serious. “I’ve heard that dog vomit is very nutritious, and surprisingly tasty as well.”
I feigned surprise. “Really? Is that true?”
“I know it sounds ridiculous,” he continued, “but I was just listening to NPR, and a nutritional scientist was on the program discussing potential benefits of eating the regurgitated meals of domesticated animals.”
We debated for a while, after which I acquiesced to try it, and the discussion evolved to determine the proper substrate. We continued to deliberate as we went back down the stairs, rooting through the bread drawer and the corner cupboard of snacks. Finally settling on a hearty slice of homemade whole wheat—not the pickle juice variety, thankfully, that’s a whole other family legend—we brought the bread upstairs with a napkin and a butter knife.
“Mom!” my sister screeched. “Do you KNOW what they are DOING?”
If I recall correctly, this was about the time that the Shaklee saleslady arrived.
You might think that common courtesy would dictate an end to our charade, but the possibility of a larger audience only egged us on.
“Wow. Dog barf is surprisingly delicious!” I fairly yelled. “But seriously, when we finish, which Shaklee product will best remove the stain and odor?”
My only regret is that I missed the expression on the faces in the living room, as Mrs. So and So pretended not to notice and continued to hawk her fine products. I believe my mother did buy a bit more than intended that day, perhaps in an unspoken agreement to keep this story out of our town’s gossip circles.
The sad thing is, I’ve spent so much time reminiscing, I haven’t cooked up a decent prank to play on my own kids this year. And they don’t even have sheets to short under their duvets.