Jake

The alarm on my phone jolts me awake, and I jump out of bed, grinning like a madman, instead of hitting snooze a dozen times.   For once real life is going to be better than my dreams.  Today is my favorite day of the whole year, and it’s going to be the best one ever.

My plan is simple but brilliant, and if it turns out like I imagine, I’m going to be a legend.

I take a shower and put on my Joker tee shirt in honor of the occasion then cheek myself out in the mirror.  Jack Nicholson’s face leers at me from the shirt, one eye covered by a slip of paper that asks, “Why so serious?”

I grin back at him and run a hand through my hair, pop a zit that’s making me look like Rudolph, then head to the kitchen for some breakfast.  I pour a bowl of Trix before I discover there’s no milk in the fridge.  Of course not.

Domestic details like milk for the cereal or bread for the peanut butter and jelly aren’t that important to my workaholic parents.  I leave the bowl of cereal on the spotless counter out of spite and scrounge for something else to eat.  We have an industrial-size refrigerator with nothing but condiments in it.  I growl and slam the door shut.  Oh well, at least I’m up early enough I have time to stop for something.

I ask Siri about the weather and decide it’s warm enough to take my bike, so I slide on my leather jacket and double check my bag for the essential ingredient to my evil plan.  One little bottle is all I need to go down in history as the best prankster ever.

“I’m leaving for school, see you tonight,” I call out.

“Bye, Son.  Have a great day!” I holler back to myself because there’s no one else here to say it.

I head out to the garage and climb onto my Kawasaki Ninja, roaring out of the driveway like my ass is on fire.  It pretty much is with this thing under it.  I stop at McDonald’s for some breakfast, wishing there was a way to drink coffee on a motorcycle.  Not that I need the caffeine; I’m hyped up enough on endorphins.

When I get to school, I grab the McDonald’s bag and start looking for one of my buddies.  I see Dylan digging through his locker.  Perfect.  Cautious enough to do a good job, but reckless enough to think it’s a great idea.

“Hey man, I got a McGriddle with your name on it if you help me out with something.”  I hold the bag up to Dylan’s face so he can get a whiff of it, and his stomach growls his answer.

“Can I eat first?”  He slams his locker shut and reaches for the McDonald’s bag, but I yank it away before he can get to it.

“Nope, but I promise it’ll only take a minute.”  He narrows his eyes at me when he sees my devious grin.

“What kind of trouble are you up to?”

“The best kind, obviously.  It’s April Fools’ Day.”  I grin and wiggle my eyebrows.

Dylan rolls his eyes at me.  “Let me guess, you’re going to prank someone.”

“Not just someone.  Everyone.”  My eyes light up, and I smile evilly.  Go big or go home, right?  I’m a junior, so I’ve got to step up my game a little from the smaller pranks that just target one or two people.

“Will you leave me out of it if I help you?”

I shrug.  “As long as you don’t want ketchup on your hamburger.  Follow me.”  I wave the bag and lead Dylan to the cafeteria.

It’s almost time for school to start, and most of the kids at this school are too lazy to get here early enough for breakfast, so there aren’t very many people in here, but I still want Dylan as a shield and a lookout.

I head to the condiment station on the side of the room where there are big dispensers for ketchup and mustard plus packets of salt, pepper, and mayo.  There’s even a bottle of Texas Pete.  Hot sauce for wussies.  It’s not nearly strong enough for what I have in mind.

I position Dylan so he’s blocking me from the rest of the cafeteria and he’s facing the kitchen so he can warn me if any of the staff starts looking at me.  It would’ve been nice to have another person on that side to completely hide me from view, but that might look more suspicious.  Plus, the fewer accomplices I have, the less likely I am to get ratted out.

I want the whole school to know what I did, but I don’t want to get in trouble.

I set my bag down on the counter beside me, blocking the view of my hands, then pull a glass jar out of the front compartment.

“What is that?”  Dylan watches me with curiosity.

“Just a little hot sauce.”  I smirk.

Dylan grins and nods his head in approval.   “This is gonna be awesome.”

I don’t mention that it’s not just any hot sauce.  It’s Artifact Acute Burn 1 Million Scoville Pepper Extract, one of the world’s hottest hot sauces.  1000 times hotter than Sriracha.  Literally.

I special ordered it off the internet, and it came in a skull-shaped bottle sealed with red wax that makes it look like its brain is exploding.  That’s pretty much what will happen to anyone who eats it.  I transferred the contents to an old jelly jar because I wanted to keep the collectible bottle, and I knew I’d have to dispose of the evidence as soon as possible.

When Dylan says the coast is clear, I pull the top off the ketchup dispenser and dump in the entire jar of hot sauce.  It’s less than two ounces, so there’s plenty of room to add it to the mostly-full container, but it’s enough to ignite the lips of anyone who takes the smallest taste of the laced ketchup.  I stir it around a bit with the part of the pump that goes inside the container then put the top back on.

“Let’s try it.”  Dylan reaches for one of those little paper cups, but I grab his arm to stop him.

“No, dude.  Believe me.  You don’t want to do that.”

He widens his eyes and stares at me with a combination of fear and admiration.  “What kind of sauce is that?”

“It’s not Texas Pete, I’ll tell you that.”

I wipe my fingerprints off the jar and the ketchup dispenser with a napkin, I guess because I’ve watched too many detective shows, then shove the empty jelly jar into the trash, burying it under a bunch of other crap.

“I don’t have to warn you not to tell a soul what just happened here, do I?”  I give Dylan a menacing stare-down.

Dylan makes a cross on his chest with his finger then zips his lips with a pretend zipper.  “I won’t say a word, my friend.  But you know everyone is going to finger you, anyway, right?”

I grin gleefully.  “Absolutely.  But they won’t be able to prove it.”

The kitchen is serving waffles this morning, so hopefully no one will use the ketchup until lunch time.  I plan to be one of the first people in here so I can watch every minute as my brilliant prank unfolds around me.

Dylan and I eat our McGriddles as we walk to first period, and the combination of grease, sugar, and adrenaline has me jittery and manic.  I need to pull off some smaller pranks to take the edge off before I end up pulling the fire alarm or something.  I have a bunch of pranks planned for today, but I don’t have time for any of them right now.

When I see my friend Austin sucking face with his girlfriend, Mia, the waistband of his Calvin Kleins sticking out above his jeans, I can’t resist the temptation.

I veer across the hallway and slide behind him, grabbing his underwear and yanking it up till I can see the leg holes.  Austin yowls and whips around, ready to deck me, but I duck out of the way and take off down the hallway cackling.  Nothing beats a wedgie for pure, prank hilarity.

When I get to 1st period, I do a double take because there’s a girl I don’t recognize sitting in my normal spot.  At least, I think it’s a girl.  Is she new here?

“Hey, that’s my seat.”

She looks up at me, and I can tell she’s definitely a girl because she’s really pretty, but she either doesn’t know it or doesn’t want anyone else to because she’s covered it all up with dark, goth makeup.  She has chin-length, messy, brown hair that’s cut a lot like a guy’s hair when he’s way past due for a haircut, and she’s wearing black jeans, heavy, black boots, and an oversized, black tee shirt that hides any boobs she might have.

“The teacher said I could sit anywhere.”

“Well, we don’t have assigned seats or anything, but I’ve been sitting in that desk all semester.  That one’s usually empty.”  I point to the desk beside her.

“Good, you can sit there, then,” she retorts then goes back to staring at the front of the classroom.

Okay, then.  Nice to meet you, too, Miss Personality.

“Whatever.”  I roll my eyes and scowl at her and take the empty seat, dumping my bag in the aisle so she’ll have to climb over it if she wants to go anywhere.

Mrs. Beecham takes attendance then holds out her arm towards the new girl.  “Class, we have a new student today. Kait—”

“It’s KC,” the girl interrupts her.

Mrs. Beecham’s smile falters a bit, but she recovers.  “Sure.  Fine.  KC Smith, everyone.  Please make her feel welcome.”

Everyone turns to stare at her, making instant judgements with one glance, which probably makes her feel the opposite of welcome.  She plays it cool, though, and looks around the room returning their stares.  Got to hand it to her, she’s pretty tough.

Mrs. Beecham starts in on her history lesson, and I strain to keep from nodding off as my earlier excitement level plummets to zero.  When the kid behind me props his feet up on the legs of my chair, my attention is diverted, and I slouch down in my seat so I can reach them.  I spend the next few minutes surreptitiously tying his shoelaces to my desk.

The new girl sees what I’m doing, and she looks at me like I’m a childish loser, but she doesn’t alert my victim, probably because she doesn’t know his name, and she’s too far away from him to tap him on the shoulder.  When the bell rings, I hop out of my desk and whirl around so I can watch the show, and sure enough, the kid tumbles out of his chair and face-plants.

Me and the rest of the class start laughing while the kid turns red and tries to untangle himself.  “April Fools, Mikey!”

“What’s your name?” Goth girl asks me.

“Jake Matthews,” I answer, grinning.

“Way to be an asshole, Jake.”  She pushes past me and helps the kid untie his shoelaces.

I don’t know what her big problem is; it was just a silly prank.  It’s not like he got hurt, or anything.  I roll my eyes at her and head to 2nd period.

The teacher isn’t in the room when I get there, so I take the opportunity to stick some fake barf on her chair.  I spit on it a couple times and rub it in so it looks realistically slimy then squirt some stink spray on it.

When Ms. Lebo comes in and pulls out her chair, she gasps and throws a hand over her mouth, and her face turns green.  She grabs the phone on her desk and punches a couple numbers.

“This is Ms. Lebo in room 202.  I need a janitor down here immediately!  Someone vomited.  I’m going to need a new chair, too.”

I think about telling her it’s fake, but I figure I might as well see if I can trick the janitor, too, so I hide my busting grin behind my book and peek over the top of it.

Ms. Lebo is too grossed out to focus on her lesson, so she tells us to read the next chapter while she waits for the cleanup crew.  Most of the students are whispering and giggling instead of reading, especially those who saw me put it there, but Ms. Lebo is too distracted to yell at them. When Dan the Can Man, as we like to call him, shows up with his squeaky cart, he takes one look at the vomit and starts chuckling.

“What are you laughing at?  It’s not funny; it’s disgusting!” Ms. Lebo screeches.

The janitor picks up the plastic barf and dangles it in front of her.  “Easiest clean up ever.”

Ms. Lebo huffs and scans the room, her hands on her hips and her face pinched.  “Who did this?  Who does this belong to?”

I can’t resist taking the credit.  I saunter up to the janitor, take the fake puke from his hand, and shove it in my pocket.  Might want that for later.  “Oops.  My bad.  I was looking for that.  Guess I musta dropped it.”

Ms. Lebo looks like she wants to explode.  “Jake Matthews, that was not funny!  You can march yourself straight to the office.”

“Uh, what for?”  Technically, I didn’t break any rules, so I don’t think I can get in trouble for it.

“For disturbing class, that’s what for!”

Okay, she got me there.

I grab my stuff and shuffle out to the hallway, still chuckling.  The bell is gonna ring in a few minutes, so I don’t bother going to the office.  Instead, I go to my locker and dig in my bag for my next prank — a bright red For Sale sign with the vice principal’s personal cell phone number on it and a price of $200.

I sneak out to the parking lot and find his brand new Mazda then snap a picture of it with the For Sale sign stuck to the front window.  A few taps on my phone later, and the car is listed on Letgo.

I wish I could be there to see his face when he gets the first call.  I grin as another idea hits me.  Maybe I can hear his reaction, after all.  I dial the number on the sign (how I got that was an earlier work of genius that involved making a pass at the 50-year-old secretary and a convoluted story), and tap my fingers excitedly as I wait for it to ring.

“Bob Dillard,” he answers, and I force myself to stop laughing and sound serious.

“Uh yeah, I’m calling about the Mazda for sale.  Does it run?  Why is the price so low?”  I use the deepest voice I can pull off without sounding like I’m faking.

“What are you talking about?”

“The red Mazda 6 you listed for $200.  If it runs, I’ll take it.  When can I pick it up?”

Mr. Dillard gives a stilted laugh.  “I own a Mazda, but it’s not for sale, and certainly not for $200.  Where did you get this number?”

“Your ad on Letgo.  You posted it this morning.  There’s a Yankee Candle air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror and a hula dancer on the dashboard.”  Saying that with a straight face takes some serious effort.

“That’s my car!  You say there’s a picture of it on the internet?”

“Yeah, man.  So when can I come buy it?”

I hear Mr. Dillard rustling around then the clang of the metal doors leading out to the parking lot, so I take off in the other direction and peek around the corner of the building.  Mr. Dillard comes barreling out and gasps when he sees the For Sale sign.  I clap my hand over my mouth to silence my laughter.

“I don’t know who did this, but my car is not for sale!”  He hangs up and grabs the sign off his window, but his phone starts ringing again.  Mr. Dillard should stay busy fielding calls from potential buyers the rest of the day.

The bell rings, so I head back in to third period.  I have this class with Chloe, my friend Austin’s bitchy ex-girlfriend, and I have the perfect prank planned for her.  Thankfully, she’s not there yet when I get to class, but I still have to be sneaky because some of her friends are in here.  The new girl, KC, is here, too, and I wonder if I’ll have any more classes with her.

I pull a bottle of red food coloring from my pocket and unscrew the lid.  When I walk by her usual desk, I let my hand dangle over the back of the chair and tip the bottle upside down so a few drops land on the seat.

When Chloe comes in, I watch in anticipation as she walks over to the desk and slides into the chair without looking.  Yes!  Instant period stain.  And she’s even wearing a pale pink skirt with a shirt barely long enough to cover her midriff, let alone her ass.  She’s gonna be mortified.

I have to wait almost the whole period for her to get up, but once I do, it’s totally worth it.  Mr. Petrowski calls a volunteer up to the board to solve an equation, and show-off Chloe is the first one to stick her hand in the air.

Her seat is the last one in the middle aisle, so she has to walk the whole length of the classroom to get to the board, and her ass is clearly visible to everyone.  When she passes by, some of the girls gasp, and the boys start chuckling, but Chloe doesn’t have a clue what they’re reacting to.  By the time she gets to the board and starts working on the problem, the whole class is losing it.

Chloe grabs the dry erase marker and turns around to glare at them.  “What is wrong with you people?”

Mr. Petrowski gulps and says, “Do you need to go to the restroom, Chloe?”

Chloe whips towards him with a confused look on her face.

“Change your clothes, maybe?” he suggests.

Chloe glances down at the front of her outfit in confusion then strains her neck to look at her back, but she can’t see the spot from that angle.

“Is it shark week, Chloe?” some guy asks.

“What?”  She scrunches her nose at him.

“You know, are you surfing the crimson wave?”

All of a sudden, it clicks, and Chloe gasps and slaps her hand over her ass.  She dashes out of the room and down the hallway, leaving all her stuff behind, and the class explodes in uncontrollable laughter.

Mr. Petrowksi doesn’t even try to settle us down, he just releases us early, and we pile out into the hallway, still cackling.

I don’t get any credit for this one, everyone just assumes she really did start her period, but it was totally worth it to see the look of humiliation on her face.

Goth girl stalks up to me while I’m coming down from my euphoria and hisses at me.  “Did you have something to do with that?”

I pull back and stare at her.  “What, you think I control Mother Nature, or something?”  I chuckle.

She jabs a finger in my chest.  “No, but I think you get off on making a fool of other people.  What’s wrong with you?”

She spins around and stomps off, and I feel a twinge of guilt, but not enough to stop me from chuckling all the way to my locker.

By lunchtime, I’m riding a high just thinking about the prank that’s yet to come, the one that will go down in infamy as my greatest prank ever, at least, until I come up with something even better for next year.

I dash out of my 4th period class the second the bell rings and race for the cafeteria.  I want to witness every moment of this.  I grab a tray of food, skipping the ketchup, and take a seat at my usual table, which just happens to have a great view of the rest of the cafeteria.

It doesn’t take long before people start pouring in, and almost all of them squirt ketchup on either their burger or their french fries.  I can’t help the grin that stretches my face when I see goth girl pump out a big pile of it.

Within seconds, I hear the first yelp as someone gets a taste of the hot sauce.

“Holy shit, that’s hot!  What’s in this?” a loud voice hollers.  It’s echoed by a dozen others as people start coughing and spitting and jumping up to grab milk boxes.

Soon, the entire cafeteria is in pandemonium.  People are yelling and swearing, girls are crying, and even the machoest guys have red faces and tears popping from their eyes as they chug down beverages.

The kitchen staff runs out into the cafeteria when they hear the commotion, and they scramble around trying to figure out what the problem is.  A few people yell “ketchup,” and one of the cooks takes a sample of it and practically detonates.

Dylan and I are two of the few who aren’t in pain, and we’re laughing our heads off.

Suddenly, a loud voice echoes out above the chaos.  “Oh my God, I think she’s dying!”