When Alexander was ten, his older brother Joshua changed his clocks on April Fool’s Day. Alexander had woken up when his alarm screamed at six in the morning. He drowsily changed out of his pajamas, brushed his teeth, and headed down the stairs. He rubbed his eyes, confused that his mom wasn’t already in the kitchen pouring coffee before she went to work. Maybe she was sleeping in for a change. Shrugging, he started banging around the cupboards and putting together a bowl of cereal.
He had just taken his first bite when a voice made him jump out of his seat and drop his spoon.
“What are you doing?”
Alexander stared at his dad, whose hair stuck up in every direction and whose red eyes glared daggers at his son. Alexander gulped.
“Um, getting ready for school?”
“And why,” said his dad, speaking through clenched teeth. “Are you getting ready at three o’clock in the morning?”
Alexander froze. “What?”
His dad jammed his thumb toward the oven clock. Alexander blinked; he hadn’t even noticed it read 3:12.
He stared at the numbers and narrowed his eyes. “Josh,” he grunted.
“He changed my clocks. For April Fool’s.”
His dad was silent for a moment before he suddenly burst into laughter. “Just get back to sleep and stop making a racket,” he said sternly. But he gave Alexander a small smile before leaving the kitchen.
When Alexander was fifteen, he went to the bathroom after dinner, staring at his phone. Jen was texting him, and he was struggling to find the balance between being friendly and being flirtatious. She was the prettiest girl in sophomore year, no question.
He was concentrating so hard when he sat on the toilet that he didn’t notice the plastic wrap--until his legs were covered in urine.
He heard the muffled sounds of laughter from his family in the dining room. Swearing, he jumped in the shower and didn’t talk to Josh for the rest of the night.
When he was nineteen, Alexander was struggling through biology homework in his dorm. He was up early, having drunk too much the night before to get much done. His phone buzzed and he ignored it. It buzzed a second time. And then a third.
He sighed and looked at it. Three separate texts, all wishing him a happy birthday.
He frowned before turning back to his biology homework.
After four more birthday texts, he pushed his biology homework aside, irritated, and responded to the first one: It’s actually not my birthday, but thank you!
Then why does it say that on Facebook?
Pressing his lips together, he logged into the app and saw six birthday posts on his wall. He groaned.
Alexander had logged on at the family computer over spring break last week. How stupid.
He changed his birthday to the correct date, but the damage was already done. He made a post explaining Josh’s prank, rolling his eyes, before he realized he was late for biology class. Swearing, he swept his textbook into his bag and ran out of his dorm room, planning to shout at Josh later.
So when Alexander was twenty-six, he was ready. He had endured years of changed clocks, plastic-wrapped toilets, tape over the sensors on remote controls, fake spiders and rubber mice, sticky notes on the back of his t-shirts, mayonnaise in the shampoo container and glue in the hand sanitizer, glitter-filled envelopes, caramel onions and God knows what else. Every year was another stupid prank, and every year Alexander fell for it. Not this year. This year, he called Joshua four days early to lay down the law.
“Josh. I’m serious, no pranks this year.”
“How am I supposed to prank you? I’m halfway across the country.” John lived in New York while Alexander lived in Colorado.
“Whatever. I know you’re thinking of something.”
“Calm down. You’ll have a prank-free Thursday, I promise. Sheesh.”
Alexander sighed when he hung up. Thursday suddenly felt a long ways away. The day lodged itself into Alexander’s mind until he thought of nothing else, just wanting the day to come and be over. He found himself inspecting everything in his apartment, looking over his shoulder at the smallest noises.
On Thursday, he huddled in his house. He took the day off work, mumbling something about a stomach bug. He had turned the notifications off on his phone and checked that his door was locked. He wouldn’t answer any calls or any knocks. He would sit here and read all day, only stopping to make meals.
At lunch, he double checked that the salt was salt and the sugar was sugar. He inspected his lunch meat and frowned. Everything was in order.
When he went to the bathroom, he looked around the floor for fake snakes. He finally sat down, tensed and ready to jump up at any moment. He did his business quickly and ran back into the living room after he was done. He double-checked the locks. All was clear.
He reached for his phone before jerking his hand back; no. His phone was the number one way he’d be tricked, he just knew it.
For dinner, he made some quick pasta and tasted the alfredo sauce before pouring it over the noodles. No mayonnaise. All clear.
He grunted in frustration. Something was coming. He just knew it.
At ten o’clock that night, he figured it would be fine to look at his phone. The day was almost over. But he noticed nothing out of the ordinary, just a couple notifications.
He was dialing the number before he knew it.
“A little late for a call, isn’t it?” said Josh.
“What did you do?”
“What did you do? I know you’ve done something. Just tell me, or I won’t be able to go to sleep tonight.”
“What are you talking about?”
“April Fool’s!” Alexander exploded. “You always do something stupid. Spill.”
Josh snorted. “It’s April 2nd, you idiot.”
Alexander paused. “What?”
“It’s April 2nd. April Fool’s was yesterday.”
Alexander looked at his phone’s home screen. There it was--April 2nd. He rushed to his desk and opened his laptop. Again, April 2nd.
“You changed the times on my devices? How did you even do that?”
“Alex, you donut--it’s April 2nd, seriously. I didn’t do anything.”
“You always do something.”
Alexander quickly turned on the TV and changed the channel to the news. There, in the corner, was the date and time: April 2nd, 10:06 p.m.
He raked his brains. And then it hit him.
“You said it was on Thursday! I’ve been freaking out about today since our last phone call!”
There was a beat of silence, and then a chuckle.
“Happy April Fool’s, bud.”
The phone clicked off.