Backfiring pranks part of April

By Bob Huber: Local columnist

Today’s topic is April Fools’ Day Hangovers and how to live through them. When I was a kid, the second day of April was a time of thanksgiving, a moment when youngsters across the land turned their eyes skyward and gave tearful thanks for surviving another year of April Fools’ pranks.

Everyone felt the same way, because it was obligatory in those days for all stout-hearted little people to shove stickers down their best friend’s gym socks and other innocent gags. No one knew why. It was just the nature of things.

But a more fearful downside was that all pranksters had to reveal their guilt by shouting “April Fool” so they could be identified and then chased home after school. I recall only one exception.

Our fourth-grade teacher, Miss Strudel, anticipated the annual event by slapping her calloused hand with a metal ruler and declaring, “Tomorrow may be April Fools’ Day, but if anyone gets tricky in this class, he’ll grimace when he sits for 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 didn’t pay much attention to Miss Strudel’s mysterious speech. We’d already drafted our own bilateral Huber-Heine Accord in which we agreed to abstain from April Fools’ pranks on each other. We also agreed to forgo any tricks on female classmates, caving in to our restless genes that were just beginning to blossom.

Still, as the fateful day advanced, Smooth and I endured, driven by a firm belief in virtue and the ultimate triumph of vengeance. Our own evil scheme centered around the removal of bolts on certain desks in our classroom, thereby producing chaos and broken bones as seats crashed to the floor. “April Fool!” we were ready to shout, perfectly willing to accept our grimace with honor, whatever “grimace” was.

During afternoon recess we crept into the empty classroom and removed bolts and put incriminating evidence in a wastebasket. When Miss Strudel blew her police whistle ending the recess, we marched back to class, winking and elbowing each other.

But nothing happened. “Why are you boys hanging around in back,” Miss Strudel told us. “Take your seats.”

We shuffled along to our desks, bemused and bewildered.

To simply state that our own desks collapsed when we sat in them would be to describe World War II as a fun day at a turkey shoot. Crashing to the floor, we both exploded in a mushroom cloud of arms, legs and dusty collectibles ranging from art works of erotic wit, to ancient notes to our parents attached to yellowed test papers.

We might have accepted the joke as inevitable if we hadn’t been forced to stay after school to put our desks back together and later happened to pass by the teachers’ lounge where we heard laughter. Peering through a window in the door, we saw Miss Strudel in the center of a group of teachers.

Our pliers were in her hand and she was gesturing with such precision that we knew she was our prankster, and was describing our calamity and her April Fools’ trick.

Smooth and I immediately recognized what we were — true April fools, upstaged by a master. At the same time, it dawned on our quick minds that defining the mysterious word “grimace” wasn’t difficult at all.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.