April Fool’s Day 2019, the year before the pandemic was when it all began. Most of the people at The Examiner, a small, local newspaper, loved a good joke. Mark never had a problem with any of his co-workers, but one particular co-worker, Joel, made it his mission to make sure the whole office enjoyed his pranks above all. The morning began with vegetable tasting donuts, throughout the day there were whoopie cushions on a few seats and even fake, plastic ants scattered in the refrigerator. There were lots of chuckles, but one prank, for Mark, made the day personal and a promise of retaliation.

In 2020, the small company of 26 people where Mark and the prankster worked, was shut down, due to Covid-19. The employees were working from home and they all inherited a new job description task, daily zoom meetings, to keep them in communication and for work morale. Mark, surprising to himself, looked forward to their meetings; somehow, he was able to communicate more effectively in zoom meetings than in person; he found his voice. It could be because he felt more comfortable at home or because he knew he only had to speak to his co-workers for less than an hour a day? Whatever the reason, Mark wanted to savor the time he had at home, how long could they be shut down for after all, it can’t be for more than a few weeks, he thought.

“Can you hear me, I’m not sure if my audible is working?” Mark asked the group of 6 people that were on the April 1st zoom.

“Yes, we can hear you,” Kyra answered, she was always the most helpful at work. “Can you believe we’re still off work, it’s been almost two weeks,” she nervously smiled.

The other co-workers all joined in with their comments about the virus and concerns about their job, the questions and thoughts piled on top of each other like slices of cheese melting together on a hot pan. After a few minutes it all seemed like the colleagues were doing nothing more than venting their worries and the bottom line was, what is going to happen?

The prankster took advantage of the weak moment, he messaged all the meeting participants, except Mark: “For an April Fool’s joke, let’s all pretend we can’t hear Mark”.

Since Mark was not privy to the message when there was a lull in the conversation, he felt it was a good time to ask his supervisor about the future of their jobs.

“Will, what’s going on? When will we go back and are our jobs sacure?” Mark waited for an answer. But the others just looked at him.

“Did you say something Mark?” a colleague asked.

“Mark, I see your mouth move, but I can’t hear you,” another added.

Mark checked his audible, it showed that it was on. “I can hear you all, I’m not sure what’s wrong,” he felt confused. Still, no one could hear him. Mark then exited the meeting and then rejoined. He checked to see that all the setting were correct, the video and audible were on, “can you hear me now?” All of his co-workers looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language, “it must be my computer!” he began to get frustrated when a new participant entered, he could hear Mark swearing and becoming anxious, “Mark, what’s going on?” the new participant asked.

“What does it f*!&#* matter!?” he yelled.

“Whoa, language, it does matter, we can help. Take a breath,” he was worried and wondering why no one else had tried to help.

A light bulb turned on in his head, “Wait, you can hear me?”

“Yes, we all can, can’t we?” He asked and looked at the other participants.

Guiltily, they all quietly nodded. At that point, Mark was humiliated, he was seething and exasperated, then he clicked out of the meeting. No one heard from him the rest of the day, he was too busy at home planning a way to take revenge, he knew who the prank choreographer was.

That day did not end there, for months, not all, but some of the witnesses to his outburst would see him in zoom meetings and he would hear snickers, “can you hear me?” and laugh. The laughter was at his expense and he promised himself, he would pay Joel back and it would be a sweet revenge. It would be planned, calculated, carried out and it would be worth the wait because it would give Mark the satisfaction he was craving.

Mark spent the next six months researching, googling and deciding which prank would be worthy of the level of revenge Joel was entitled to. By the summer of 2020, he found the perfect prank, it was important that it wasn’t too devious, that it was not illegal and that no one would get hurt, he only  wanted to humiliate him. One positive aspect of the pandemic was that it gave Mark the time he needed to plan the perfect prank.

By March, 2021, Mark’s office worked in staggered shifts and at home for part of the week. This gave him time to start planning the April Fool’s joke that would give him the satisfaction he so desired. On the first day of March, Mark sent a text to Joel from a paid cell phone he’d purchased: April Fool’s is Coming, was all it said. A few days later, another text: You’d better watch out, someone wants to prank you. And still a few days later, the third text read, 22 days to go.

During the second week of March, in passing, Mark ran into Joel at the office as they were both stopping in for a few hours. “Mark, have you gotten any texts from an unknown phone?” Joel asked hoping for some answers it seemed.

“What do you mean?” Mark could feel the satisfaction growing.

“I’m wondering if someone is planning a big April Fool’s joke, that’s all,” Joel said not looking very happy.

Four days later, on March 15th, Mark sent a new text: Beware, the day of fool’s is approaching, with a scared emoji. This time Joel replied to the text: Who is this?! I’m getting tired of these texts, please stop!! Mark knew that he was getting to Joel, but this wasn’t enough, he wanted to embarrass him.

When Mark saw Joel on their zoom meeting, he seemed fidgety and untrusting of everyone, he was quiet and mostly studying all the participants. Their supervisor stopped to ask, “Joel, are you feeling okay? You seem a bit off,” he waited for an answer.

“I’m fine,” Joel replied. Everyone could see that he was not fine.

On March 20th, Mark sent another text: I’ll be waiting for you in 12 days, lol!

As the month of March winded down to its last days, everyone in the office could see Joel deteriorating. He was increasingly moody, paranoid and most of all, his signature jokester style was no longer visible.

On March 31st, Mark stopped into his office to pick up supplies. As he was sitting at his desk, he heard a request from his supervisor, Will, “Can I speak to you?”

Mark followed Will into his office. Will sat behind his big oak desk, it was as if he was looking for the right words, “I’m letting all the employees know, Joel, he passed away last night. He’s been sick, cancer. It was aggressive, he’d just found out two months ago…” Will continued telling Mark all the details he’d learned of from Joel’s family. Mark heard his words in echoes, all he kept thinking was, how could I not know, was I that self-involved? He was suffering and I was only making it worse with my texts and planning.

On the morning of April 1st, Will shelved any ideas of jokes, pranks and April Fool’s Day mischievousness. In honor of Joel, April 1st will now be a day of volunteering, good deeds and helping others.

April 02, 2021 06:14

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