By Bob Huber: CNJ Columnist
Chamber Executive CommWhen I was a kid, April Fools’ Day lasted all month. It was unwritten law in those days that guys got to seek revenge for tricks played on them. To limit that activity to only one day was blatantly unfair.
(That edict always ceased at midnight, April 30, which was the start of marble season. No one knew why this was so. It was just the nature of things.)
The downside to these month-long retaliations was that a trickster had to reveal his guilt by shouting “April Fool!” That way he was identified and could in return be bamboozled the next day, kicking off a cycle not unlike the Hatfields and the McCoys. There were no exceptions.
No, I exaggerate. There was one. It happened in the fifth grade.
Our teacher, Miss Strudel, anticipated April Fools’ Month by slapping the palm of her hand with a ruler and stating, “Your hearts may be filled with revenge, but if anyone gets too clever in this class, he’ll grimace every time he sits down the rest of his life.”
I turned to my friend Smooth Heine and said, “What’s a grimace?” Smooth shrugged and looked blank.
So Smooth and I brushed off Miss Strudel’s mysterious pronouncement, because we’d already drafted a bilateral accord in which we agreed to abstain from pranks — on each other. We further stipulated to bypass girls with our tricks. (Our genes were just beginning to rumble in the fifth grade, though we weren’t sure why.)
Our compact was a fine idea, but it didn’t fend off other pranksters. By noon our notebooks were dripping with honey, our gym shoes had been nailed to the floor, and forged love notes had been passed around the school, embarrassing us numb.
We knew the school’s main April Fools terrorist was Barf Sweeney, who stood head and shoulders above the rest of us and was even rumored to shave. We knew it, because as each trick was uncovered, Barf laughed heinously and shouted, “April Fool!”
“We have to kill Barf,” I said.
“Naw,” Smooth said. “Our parents would get after us. What we need is a plan.”
And that’s how we came up with a scheme to remove certain bolts from Barf’s classroom desk so that when he sat down, he would experience chaos and broken bones. We planned to shout, “April Fool!” because we were perfectly willing to accept Barf’s revenge and Miss Strudel’s grimace — whatever it was.
So we skipped lunch hour and crept into the classroom to remove Barf’s bolts. We disposed of incriminating evidence including our pliers in a trash can, and when we fell in line to return to class, we were winking and elbowing each other.
Then, as Barf sat down at his desk, we held our collective breaths, ready to shout, “April Fool!” but — nothing happened! Absolutely nothing!
“Why are you boys standing in the back of the room with your eyes bugging out?” Miss Strudel asked us. “Take your seats.”
We shuffled to our desks, bemused expressions on our faces.
To state simply that our own desks collapsed when we sat down would be like describing World War II as a game of Parcheesi. Crashing to the floor, Smooth and I both exploded in a mushroom cloud of arms, legs, and dusty collectibles ranging from satirical art work to mummified notes from the principal, which for some strange reason had never been delivered to our parents and until that day remained hidden in our desks.
Through the din of cascading debris, we heard everyone laugh hysterically, while Miss Strudel slapped her palm with her ruler and said, “Someone will pay for this.”
We might have figured the incident was just Barf vengeance if we hadn’t been forced to stay after school to put our desks back together. We finally finished and were passing by the teacher’s lounge when we heard laughter and peered through a window in the door.
There we saw Miss Strudel gesturing before a group of other teachers with such precision that we knew she was describing our April Fools’ plight.
Although accurate, her story telling was a little clumsy, because she held — our pliers!
Smooth and I looked at each other and immediately recognized what we were — true April Fools, upstaged by a master with no chance for revenge. At the same time it dawned on us that defining that mysterious word, “grimace,” wasn’t difficult at all.
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.