April Fool’s day was quickly approaching, and Nalo was cracking her head what she would do for the kids this year. She loved teaching grade 1 and 2s and spoiling them whenever she got the chance. Some teachers boiled it down to her not having kids of her own. Whenever April Fool’s day came around, she would say “This was not a day to be a Fool but to be Cool.” She lived by that mantra and did it every year. Every April 1 they hang the banner on the classroom door.
Nalo was mentally frustrated the pandemic had taken over their lives. “We missed out last year and I really want to do something this year, even with these tedious COVID protocols.” She let out a deep sigh.
“Don’t worry, something will work out.” said Sammy her husband as he spread himself across the sofa.
“But how are we going to make anything work on our shoestring budget?” she rubbed the back of her neck and walked over to the sofa. “Scooch over, it’s a two-seater.”
“We’ll make it work, we can still be Cool and not Fools this April.” Sammy joked and hugged her tightly. 2020 had been a rough year, Nalo’s salary was reduced by over fifty-five percent. This was in spite of her long nights loading up lessons online, preparing presentations and assignments and she still had to teach online despite the buffering Wi-Fi.
Sammy’s carpentry and furniture business also took a big knock, overnight his sales dropped to zero and all his pipeline orders fell off one by one until he was left with no orders. The lockdown restrictions felt like a lid on a huge pot, everyone needed to stay put. Nalo envied her neighbour Sheila who during the lockdown moved to live in the farm which sounded like a great escape. In the city, it was life within walls and in their case a small yard. It was no surprise even when the lockdown restrictions were lifted Sheila decided to start a new life in the farm.
“Okay, what are you thinking?” Nalo asked. “The school children have been asking if they were having an April Cool this year, and I promised they would.”
“I’ll rummage through my workshop and see what idea or ideas I can come up with.” He kissed her on her forehead and went off to the corner on their yard to his small workshop.
Later that evening Nalo cooked slow braised lamb in her crockpot, she had become the queen of one pot dishes, less washing and there was always some left over for the next day.
“Mmm… the house smells great.” The aroma of herbs was lingering in the air.
“Of course, it does, what else would you say.” Nalo smacked him playfully. “There is also dessert.” She smiled playfully as she sat across him at their old-fashioned oak white dining table one of Sammy’s pride pieces.
“Alright! I have two ideas. The first one is making a one-meter ruler for the kids. That will help them to social distance and make it fun as well.”
Nalo rolled her eyes, “Umm… are you being serious?”
“Wait! The second idea is making a tidy box bookcase. Each child would have their own or two kids can share one. Whatever book they are reading can be displayed on their box bookcase. Besides, I have enough wood laying around from all the cancelled orders last year so I might as well use them.”
“I prefer your second idea. You can leave them plain, the kids can paint them in. That would be a fun and its cool.” Nalo tucked into her tender vegetables nodding in agreement with herself.
“Oh! I need to get this, you never know it could be business.” Sammy picked up his phone, stood up and paced around the room, speaking with enthusiasm. “Yes…, Sure…, I do have time…, that’s great, I’ll drop you an email tonight. YES!!! You’ll never guess what?” Sammy was beaming. He jumped up and down doing the happy dance. “I have received an order for a hundred wooden crates from the grocery store in town. They are getting rid of plastic bags and replacing them with wooden crates. “Yeah, for me!” Sammy was radiating with joy, he could hardly believe his luck.
“That is awesome Babes.” Nalo clapped excitedly.
“We really needed this break.” Sammy caught his breath.
“When are the crates due?” Nalo asked earnestly, secretly hoping to hear sometime in May or June.
“In two weeks. Why?” he smacked his forehead remembering the kids. “Oh No! the kids, the April Cool project. We have to postpone to next year, after all people will understand, everyone has had a rough year.”
“Sammy Liwa! Have you lost your mind?” Nalo stood up from the dining table folding her arms across her chest. “Just a few minutes ago we were planning a good deed for the kids and now you want to abandon ship?”
“I am not abandoning ship, I am simply postponing it.”
“Lower your voice, you are yelling.” Nalo snapped.
“This contract is an opportunity to give us the cashflow we desperately need and if I can deliver on time, I’ll get the contract for their other stores. This is huge for us and I refuse to discuss it further. Honestly, I am surprised you aren’t happy for us.” Sammy walked out and went to his workshop.
Nalo cleared the table, removed the apple tart from the oven and put in the fridge, she had lost her appetite. “Maybe, Sammy’s idea of postponing to next year is sensible, but it sucks.” She told herself.
Sammy tiptoed into the house way past midnight. “Nalo? Babes?” he whispered. Nalo heard him but she pretended to be fast asleep.
The next morning, she got up at the crack of dawn and went for her jog. When she returned, she could hear drilling from the workshop out back. She showered and decided she would talk to Sammy later.
Sammy spent the whole day in the workshop, he roped in his friend Jabari to assist him with shaving and cutting the wood planks to size. Two days passed by with barely 10 sentences spoken between Nalo and Sammy.
“Time-out.” Sammy pushed his dinner plate to the side. “We can’t go on like this. This silent treatment is irritating and annoying.”
“I agree, its awkward and uncomfortable. I was being unreasonable. It’s just that I had promised the kids and I was also looking forward to an April Cool. Anyway, I was thinking…”
“Wait…” Sammy interrupted and dashed out. He returned carrying one of the vegetable crates he had been working on. “I think this would make a great planter for the veggie patch you’ve always wanted to start for your students.”
Nalo’s eyes lit up, “That’s the best April Cool idea and I know the perfect spot for them. Nalo’s mood lightened. She rose from the table and gave Sammy a tight hug and a long kiss. “You are the best.”
“Of course, I am, killing 2 birds with one stone. You owe me.”
On April 1, Sammy dropped of Nalo bright and early in his pickup truck carrying the wooden crates and vegetable seedlings. They arranged them at the corner of the field one meter apart ready for when the children arrived. Nalo was giggling with excitement. “I can’t wait.”
Once school was in session, she instructed the children to remove their shoes, carry their paint brushes, aprons, and paint to the bottom of the field. The children rustled and ran down to the field. The screamed in excitement seeing the crates and seedlings, anything outdoors was always a winning strategy. They spent the whole morning, painting the crates, making a mess and planting seedlings. The children were overjoyed. “We love April Cool. Thank you, Ma’am.” they repeated after one kid had voiced her thanks. Nalo was happy, the smiles and laughter around her made it all worth it.