“Have you got it, Howard?”
“Yeah, here it is.” The slightly overweight boy answered. He gave George, his fraternal brother, a book dust cover.
It is only natural to find a book jacket in a library, but it is unusual for a junior high boy to have one with the title. “Counselling Parents”.
George, quicker and thinner than his brother, grabbed the dust cover and put it around the book he held, then on the shelf.
“I saw her come in the library. We have to hurry,” said Howard, looking over his shoulder.
George shoved and hurried Howard behind the opposite bookshelf. Through a gap in the books, they watched their mother look for the book she wanted. Darla, the mother, ran her hand on the books until she came to the title on the book jacket. She pulled it out and opened it to read if she wanted it. Darla leaned her head down a little, but then jerked her head back, and opened her eyes wide. Immediately she turned to the title page: The Shining by Stephen King. She quickly closed the book. Then she heard her two children behind her. She turned and witnessed in the viewing gap her two boys alternately bending and standing up from laughing so hard.
Pointing at them, she said, “Boys! Quit hiding behind books and come face me.”
George and Howard came to her, still snickering.
“You know I don’t like horror books.”
“That’s why it is so funny,” said George.
“We were just practicing for April Fool’s Day,” said Howard with a sheepish grin.
“How many times have I told you not to pull pranks on me. I don’t like them. Please don’t ever do that again.”
George and Howard said in unison, “We won’t.”
Realizing it probably was not the end of it, she walked behind them and noticed the boys grinning at each other.
“I know you think this is funny, but I want to make sure you return this book and the book jacket to the librarian and with your apology. You can show me and the librarian where the real book is located. When I get my book, we will all go home.”
The next day after school, George and Howard planned their next trick.
“We’ve got to do another practice prank on Mom before doing one on April first. But what and when? It should have been today,” said Howard, his face showing disappointment.
“Maybe Dad will help us. We don’t have to be afraid of his reaction. If he does, we’ll remind him of his stories of pranks, when he was in college dorm.”
When they entered the house, George saw his Dad surfing the web on his tablet. “Is Mom home yet?” asked George.
“No, she had to catch up on work and have quiet time to study for her recertification.”
“Good,” said Howard, giving his fist and right arm hard yank downward.
Dad gave his head a half-turn and half closed one eye. “What are you up to?”
“We want to play a trick on Mom,” said George.
“Didn’t you do that yesterday?”
“Yes, but it was just a practice run. We need another one. A better one.”
Dad smiled. “That might be fun. What do you have in mind?”
“We haven’t decided yet,” said Howard.
Dad smiled mischievously. “How about an old trick? One that I am sure you will like.”
Darla, the mom, trudged through the living room. All the kids talked about at school was April Fool’s Day tomorrow, their trick plans and who to do them to. Then she studied for a recertification test. She felt exhausted. She plopped her books on the couch.
Maybe Harold, her husband, had made supper, but all she could smell was sweet.
In the empty kitchen on the table, sat one lonely caramel apple: red, complete with stick and an appealing sheen. Harold must have decided to use the apples this way rather than for apple pie, Darla thought.
She lifted the remaining one and took a bite. Her mouth flew open, her tongue stuck out and the caramelized bite of onion fell to the floor.
The boys laughed so hard, they had trouble crawling out from under the table. The father, hiding behind a door, laughed as hard as the boys.
Darla lowered her eyebrows at Harold. “Did you help them?”
“I had to,” he said with a smirk. “They couldn’t heat the caramel by themselves. Don’t you think it is funny?”
“Did they tell you they promised not to do that again?”
Dad sobered his mood and glared at the boys as only fathers can when they are angry. “No, they didn’t tell me.”
“George said, “We promised to never to do that one again. Covering a horror book with a dust cover jacket.”
“Your mother asked you politely. If I hear any more from Mom, you will answer to me.”
“Yes, sir,” said two boys who sobered their attitude.
In their bedroom alone, George and Howard talked about prankster plans for the next day.
“We have to fool Mom tomorrow,” said George. “It will be April Fool’s Day. She is so gullible. We have to do something, but what?”
“In the garage is cardboard from our new refrigerator. I don’t know why Dad never threw it out. Maybe we can use it,” said Howard.
“I have an idea for using it. What if we covered up her computer with cardboard?”
“We could take measurements of the monitor, keyboard, and mouse from Dad’s computer. And then use the measurements to cut the cardboard.”
“You know Dad doesn’t like us messing with his computer.”
“I’ll just take measurements. That won’t take long if you get Dad to help you with your math homework,” said Howard.
“We’ll do it at the lunch hour at school. We can tell the receptionist that Mom said for us to wait in her office to talk to us,” said George.
“This will be great,” said Howard.
The next day, the cardboard fit into the boy’s lockers at school because it was already cut to shape. When freed for lunch, they waited and watched around the corner of the hall wall.
Darla walked out of the counsellor’s office, located behind the main desk. She stopped to talk to Patricia Dolton, the receptionist.
“I have a strict appointment at 1 o’clock. I don’t want to dig in my purse to unlock the door when I come back. Can you watch my office?”
“Sure.” Pat exaggerated, “I’ll guard it with my life.”
After the mother left, the boys came out from their hiding spot as if only now arriving.
No sneaking past Ms. Dolton, but George planned for that.
“Mom said,” George began, “to wait for her in her office. She wants to talk to us.”
Howard smothered a snicker.
“I can believe that,” said the Ms. Dolton. “What’s with the cardboard?”
Howard sucked in his breath.
George said with a straight face, “For a class project. We want to discuss it with Mom.”
Howard let out his breath.
“Well okay. If your mother said. I don’t know why she didn’t tell me. The door is unlocked.” Ringing of the telephone stopped her from saying more.
George led the way without hurrying. Howard followed his example.
Once in the room, Howard held the cardboard over the monitor while George taped it down. For the mouse, they had prepared a rectangular box with the shape of the mouse drawn on it. It fit. The last cardboard piece, they attached to the keyboard. The keys had been so perfectly drawn on it, that it looked like the real thing, except being brown instead of black.
Dashing out of the office, they passed Ms. Dolton. “What about your Mom? And the cardboard?” She watched with a puzzled face but couldn’t leave her post.
When Darla returned from lunch, she just waved to Pat who was again on the phone. Darla entered her room, stopped, and rolled her eyes.
Pat walked in. “Your boys said you wanted them,” her speech slowed as she looked at the computer, “to wait for you. I guess now I know what you wanted to talk to them about. The boys ran out before you came.”
“Principal Marcus will assume I’ve let someone in when I shouldn’t,” said Darla. “He will accuse me of letting out confidential information.”
Patricia admired the work. “Quite some April Fool’s Day trick they cooked up.” She lifted up the cardboard keyboard. “At least they didn’t mess up the equipment.”
“Will you help me clean this up before Principal Marcus returns? I don’t know how long it will take to get rid of the tape.”
“I am no good at pranks, but I would like to teach them a lesson.”
Darla looked at Pat. “You have any ideas?”
Pat shook her head.
“Maybe I have an idea,” the mother said slowly and mischievously.
At home, Mom sat down with her sons to talk.
“That was funny what you did. I never saw it coming.”
“See Howard,” said George who turned to look at his brother. “I told you she would come around to see it our way.”
“I’ve been thinking. It is my turn to pull a prank on you two,” said Mom.
The boys laughed.
“You’ll never be able to do it,” said George.
“You don’t have George’s imagination,” said Howard.
Mom smiled calmly. “I already have something in mind. But I need your permission to prepare for two weeks.”
“Sure,” said Howard.
George’s face showed skepticism. “Will it be a real prank?”
“Oh, yes. I will think it is very funny.”
“Will you see my reaction?” asked Howard.
“I’ll see both of your reactions.”
“And I won’t know when to expect it?” asked George.
The boys looked at each other, then back at Mom. “We agree,” they said in unison.
Two weeks later, Mom called her boys in to talk to them.
“My prank is done,” said Mom.
“But you didn’t do anything!” the boys said in unison.
“Oh yes I did. I did good deeds rather than laughing at people.”
The boys remained silent, so she continued. “Since you used a book on me, I read to small children at the library.”
“That’s not a real prank!” said George.
“I fooled you into thinking I was not doing a prank. I told you when I went to the library. You could have seen me setting you up.
“I also volunteered at the soup kitchen.”
“What does that have to do with a prank?” asked Howard.
“I told you,” the mother said, “when I left to do volunteer work. You could have caught me in the act.
“Since I could have been fired for your computer prank, I decided to donate your allowances. George, I donated yours to the library and Howard, I donated your allowance to the soup kitchen.”
The boys howled and protested with stomping feet and shaking arms at their mother.
Dad entered the room at hearing the noise. On seeing Darla’s peaceful, smiling face, he stayed silent. His curiosity kept him from entering the conversation.
George whined. “You didn’t do it in one day.”
Mom said, “You gave me permission to prepare for two weeks.”
“We didn’t see you do it,” said Howard.
“Nor did I see you do yours.”
“That’s not funny. We don’t like that kind of prank,” said George with his arms crossed.
“Nor did I think yours were funny. You should have respected my wishes when I said I didn’t want any more pranks. Harold, what do you recommend?”
To their surprise, Dad stood right behind them. “I think they should do your prank if they do not keep their promise to you,” he said.
The boys were stunned silent. George and Howard agreed and humbly apologized to their mother.