Everything has been set up perfectly. I double-checked the ropes and rigs a few minutes back and am currently squished in a bathroom stall with Serena, my only friend in this godforsaken company.
I still do fancy her a bit but telling her would probably gain me a slap on the face and a piece of heel lodged up my butt. So, I think it would be safer for me if I just kept my blabbering mouth shut.
Today is the best day of the year, April Fools. The day when people damage each other physically and emotionally and get a laugh out of it. It is great fun.
This year’s target is our sweet boss Roy. The pot-bellied blue-shirted devil who controls our work lives with pleasure. It is time he loosened up a bit and had a thrilling day. By being the brunt of our prank, he would not only satisfy all the people squished in the other bathroom stalls, but it would be a learning experience for him to take a joke the right way and not make us unhappy ever again.
I check the time. Only a few minutes till eleven forty-five am. That is when his biological alarm for nature’s call goes off every day. It is quite a remarkable thing, but we do not question it. Instead, we are grateful for it, otherwise, we would be stuck in here forever. When everyone got up to go to the bathroom a few minutes ago, the poor fool didn’t even notice. He was too busy with whatever he gets up to in his own little cabin.
I glance over at Serena, her mascara smudged around her eyes and her face layered in sweat. She still looks like the goddess she is. I look away before she catches me staring and kills me on the spot.
“Is it time yet?” she asks, her voice a mere whisper. I glance at my watch again and nod at her. Her expression changes to one of anticipation.
The door opens, and we hear the splash, followed by the shrillest scream I have ever heard. It is high enough to break glasses at the opera house and loud enough to impair our hearing for the rest of our lives. I bite my lip to stop the laugh that bubbles up in my chest.
The red paint that we had strategically placed on top of the door with a rope attaching it to the door handle had audibly fallen on Roy perfectly. If I knew him correctly, he would soon go over to the washbasin and try to wash the paint off. And that is when he would see it.
Another loud shriek. I had been the one who had suggested writing ‘ROY’ on the mirror using the red paint, and I had done it too. I look at my stained fingertips and smile at Serena.
Now for the grand finale.
At exactly eleven fifty-two am, all our alarms go off. This time, I mean an actual mobile phone alarm. I had asked all my colleagues to set an alarm for this time with a woman screaming as the ringtone.
As the women sing with all their hearts, the cacophony swells around us, and soon we can hear Roy harmonizing with the other women, his voice clearly sounding more threatened and afraid than his fellow singers.
When it becomes eleven fifty-three, the screaming stops and the silence that follows is even more bone-chilling than the sounds still ringing in my ears.
Our stall’s door is pulled open, and only by holding on to each other did we manage to keep our bodies from falling on the floor. We are faced by a literal red Roy. I make a mental note to initiate calling him ‘Red Roy’ from now onwards. He soon opens every other door, and some of them attempt a weak explanation on our prank, but he doesn’t want to hear a word of it.
We are pushed out and asked to wait outside his cabin in a line, as he calls each person inside. My knees start wobbling the moment the third person is called. Everyone gets out of the cabin with the same expression on their faces: eyes downcast and slouching. No one was willing to share what had transpired between them and Roy, and all the people who came out picked up their bags and left.
Soon Serena also comes out with the same expression and looks pointedly at me with moist eyes, passing by me and overwhelming me with her perfume.
It is finally my turn.
I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants and push down the door handle, entering the room. The air conditioning washes over me but has no effect in calming me.
Roy sits there, red from head to toe, except for his hands, which had clearly been washed clean. He gestures for me to sit in the chair opposite his.
“What is the meaning of this?” he yells, pointing towards his paint-covered body.
“It’s a prank, sir,” I say.
When he just tilts his head and looks at me like I’m speaking another language, I pull out my phone to look up the word.
“A prank is a…a practical joke or mischievous act,” I read out from Google, and I swear that I can see puffs of smoke escape from his ears.
“Don’t try to act too smart, George,” he says, and I purse my lips together.
“Do you realize the magnitude of what you have done? Huh?” he asks, and I shake my head, oblivious.
“It was just a joke, sir. I thought you could take it,” I say, and he shakes his head sadly.
“You have made a big mistake, and everyone has to bear the consequence.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re fired, George. As is everyone else,” he says, and my heart drops.
“Fired?” I whisper, and he takes out his phone.
“To fire means to dismiss an employee from a job,” he says.
“I can take a joke, don’t worry,” he justifies, but I can only faintly hear it over the roaring in my ears.
Everyone has been fired.
Because of me.
If they don’t hate me already, they’ll hate me now.
“Out. Take your stuff with you, and don’t come back again,” Roy says, and I nod, getting up.
I walk out of the cabin and sling my bag on my shoulder. My chest hurts. How will I tell my family, my friends? I thought I was immune to being fired. Guess I was completely wrong.
I open the door of the office.
“Happy April Fools’ Day!” they yell, and I jump, my hand immediately on my chest as I try to calm my heart.
All my colleagues are standing there, carrying their bags and having the widest grins on their faces. Serena walks towards me and leans closer.
“You have been pranked,” she whispers into my ear.
Everyone cheers and starts laughing and discussing how startled I looked when they surprised me, and how I had perfectly fallen for their whole charade. At one point, even Roy’s arm is on my shoulder as he says that I was close to tearing up when he had fired me.
My cheeks heat up and they don’t cool down until I leave after work.
Maybe it isn’t the best day of the year after all.