April 1st, 2020
The day started like any other day, just as it would for any other high school junior. I woke up from my five hours of productive dreaming and removed my headphones, which were still playing personal recordings of organic compound nomenclature rules. At 5:30AM, after an energizing cold shower of precisely fifteen minutes, I brewed coffee and poured some into my favorite cup, revising the structure of the caffeine molecule printed on it at the same time.
For the next two hours, I practiced Graphical User Interface development in Python using one of my favorite maze solving algorithms. By 8AM, I knew it was time to get some physical exercise done. I hopped on my mother’s treadmill for the following sixty minutes. The American Ergonomics Newsletter had issued dire warnings about the risks of remaining inactive during the lockdown, and so I always made sure to jog every day, at a pace sustainable over a half-marathon, while carefully monitoring my loss of water.
Everything was absolutely, practically and effectively perfect… until my first online class that is. I connected at 9:27AM, as Mrs. Hayworth recommended logging in at least two minutes ahead of time for her to take attendance. As she went through the list of students, I could sense her tone was slightly different. The whistle quality of her voice was gone; the harmonics didn’t sound quite right. I could easily tell, thanks to my perfect pitch.
My name came out of her mouth like that of a deceased person as spoken by a priest at a funeral.
“Present!” I immediately replied, as always.
“Julia, before I go on, let me say that I am extremely disappointed in you.”
My heart sank in less time than it took for its ventricles to contract during systole – less than 0.3 second, that is.
“Pardon me Mrs. Hayworth,” I said, shaking ever so slightly. “I’m not sure I understand where this is coming from. Have I done something wrong?”
“Of course,” said Mrs. Hayworth, her narrow face made even narrower by the smallness of the browser she appeared in. “I never expected my top student would fail last Friday’s test.”
This time, my heart could not have sunk any lower: it was no longer physically in my body. Perhaps one day, a geologist would find it trapped between the lithosphere and the asthenosphere, down in the Earth’s depths.
“That’s not possible,” I replied. Everyone must have been able to see my face was going through the five stages of grief all at once. “I have mastered trigonometric functions back in sixth grade, Mrs. Hayworth. There must have been a mistake. Perhaps Kate is the one who failed.”
“Hey!” yelled Kate, her voice cutting through my computer’s speaker like a knife.
“Sorry Kate,” I said, even though I wasn’t sorry at all. “I’m just trying to make sense of the situation.”
My fingers dashed across my keyboard. Mrs. Hayworth was not lying: there, on my online classroom’s interface, I saw a dreary 57% at the bottom of a series of seven consecutive perfect scores.
“I guess you’ll just have to study harder next time,” concluded my teacher, as cold-hearted as one could humanely be.
There was no way to stop it. My lacrimal glands produced water as part of a visceral emotional response to this tragic information. As tears began to stream down my face, the whole class erupted into laughter – those who had forgotten to mute themselves at least.
“Don’t cry Julia,” said my best friend Brenda, the head cheerleader. “Can’t you see she’s teasing you? It’s April Fools’.”
I stared straight into the teacher’s eyes. Her expression shifted back to her usual look of benevolence.
“Apologies,” she said, trying to rise above the general laughter. “It was just a stupid prank, I didn’t mean to make you so upset. A few students sent me emails thinking this would be funny. Look.”
She pressed a button on her keyboard, and the grade on my transcript reverted back to 100%. The laughter, unfortunately, didn’t stop. I shut down my computer and ran downstairs, boiling with rage.
“Mom!” I yelled, barging into the kitchen. “They all made fun of me!”
“What do you mean, darling?”
Mother jumped up from her makeshift workstation set up on the dining room table, her long locks of golden hair flying into the hair, light as an angel’s. As always, she was the first one ready to comfort me in times of trouble, even when I pulled her out of her busy work day as an anthropology professor.
“You wouldn’t believe,” I cried out, diving into her caring arms. “It was the meanest prank.”
The entire tale flowed from my lips in less time than it took for light to travel from the Sun to the Earth – less than eight minutes and twenty seconds, to be precise. As I reached the conclusion, to my surprise, she responded to my pain with a chuckle.
“Darling,” she said, a hint of laughter still creeping up through her words. “They weren’t making fun of you. They were laughing at the joke. You are a perfectionist, just like me, and it’s an endearing quality that your friends love.”
“Clearly, they don’t love it that much.”
“They do. That’s why they found it funny. It’s called teasing. Friends tease each other sometimes. You need to learn how to make fun of things, otherwise life becomes painful and disappointing with every problem.”
“That’s not how I see it. I never want to be pranked again.”
I approached our family goldfish’s bowl on the kitchen counter. The poor thing circled on and on all day, knowing nothing of the outside world, and somehow I felt exactly like him: trapped behind glass, only for other people to enjoy the show. I leaned on the counter and stared at it, tears still streaming down my face.
“I wish never to be pranked again. April Fools’ might as well not exist.”
April 1st, 2021
The day started like any other day, just as it would for any other high school senior. Actually, that’s not completely true. I hadn’t slept at all. All night, I was busy sending emails to all of my classmates and school staff, in which I attached the injunctions I obtained against any form of pranking done on my person during classes.
"Why did you send us these injunctions?" she asked, confusion bleeding out of her voice.
"Because it's April 1st," I replied. "Obviously, you guys were planning some prank on me like last year."
"April 1st? There's no April 1st. It's April 2nd."
"Yesterday was March 31st, Brenda. Don't mess with me, I'm sure of it."
"Yes, but there's no such thing as April 1st. It always goes from March 31st to April 2nd. Always."
"Why would that be?"
"I don't know, why is there no February 30th? Does anybody ever ask?"
I stared at my calendar on the wall, confused. She was right. There was no April 1st. It was as if the day had vanished. I looked on my phone and on my computer. Both indicated today was April 2nd.
"I'll have to call you back."
Before I could even realize what was happening, my legs automatically started to guide me downstairs in less time than it took for the Universe to undergo inflation after the Big Bang - that is, less than 10^-32 second.
"Mom!" I yelled gleefully. "It worked! It worked!"
"My wish from last year! There's no April 1st."
"Of course there's no April 1st. It goes straight from March--"
"I know! But that wasn't the case before. I made a which while staring at the fish last year so that there would never be an April 1st again, and it worked."
"Could it be?"
Mother approached the fishbowl, staring into its depths like a fortune teller would stare into a crystal ball.
"Perhaps it is true after all," she said, lost in thoughts.
"The fish. The woman I bought it from claimed it had magical properties, like those of a genie. She wished for a jackpot win and ended up with a winning lottery ticket in her hand the next day."
"Incredible! We have a magical fish, this is... I have no words. I have to tell Brenda."
I rushed back upstairs, elated by the fish's newfound powers, but little did I know about the shenanigans going on behind my back...
"Hi Mrs. Langford. Did she buy it?"
"She most definitely did. Incredible what editing a calendar and reprogramming a computer can do. She'll be mad as hell when she learns the truth tonight, but someone has to teach her how to take a joke once in a while."
"Thankfully, she did not cite you in this injunction."
"I consider myself very fortunate indeed. My own daughter bringing me to court, can you imagine? Thank you Brenda."
"Thank you, Mrs. Langford."
Julia's mother hung up, a large grin on her face. She had once been a sensitive teenager too, but she now knew how to take a prank like no other. Turns out she enjoyed pulling one too, and the alleged vanishing of April 1st would go down in history as one of the best.