I’m all for pranks as long as they aren’t mean. I don’t find it funny to tell someone that a loved one has died or that they’ve received something they really really really want only to say APRIL FOOLS! I like my April Fools jokes to be within the realms of good taste and fairly harmless.

For instance, last year the kids and I concocted a good one to play on Matt. We rigged the sprayer on the kitchen sink with a rubber band, so as soon as the faucet was turned on the sprayer would go off. Now, we waited until the evening to do this so his work clothes wouldn’t be messed up. The kids were stationed right by the sink and did a very good job of keeping quiet. I was making dinner and pretended to need help with the potatoes. I asked Matt to scrub a few of them for me because I was tending to something on the stove.  We were lying in wait as Matt’s hand lifted the faucet handle and got a perfect view of him jumping away from the sink when the water came squirting his way. We all had a good laugh and the worst that happened was the need to change into dry clothes.

I know you remember my tales of teaching boating at a summer camp back in the late 80’s. Well, in order to be Red Cross Certified to teach others how to row, canoe, kayak and sail, I had to spend two weeks in Connecticut learning all I could about small-crafts. There were five of us who would be teaching at the same camp in Pennsylvania and many others who would be counselors elsewhere. I was the only female in the entire group. Well, that’s not completely true. There was another girl, Beth, and we became fast friends but she ended up contracting Lyme’s Disease and had to leave camp. I cried as the car carrying my BFF that I had known for only three days drove away – leaving me alone with approximately 50 stinky boys.

This camp was primitive at best. We slept in tents that I could only describe as rejects from World War II. Frayed and sun bleached army green canvas, tent flaps open forward and aft (could have been secured with ties had they not lost most of their limbs in the war). Cots that had most likely carried the maimed and the dead from the Civil War era, stained with God Knows What. Minimal privacy, but the directors of the camp made sure I was stationed away from the boys in my own barracks. The showers, however, were co-ed. Single stalls, open at the top (allowing nature to surround you at all times) and a small, never steady, spit of alternating hot and cold water whining from the rusted pipes. *Shudder*.

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that Connecticut was experiencing its single worst infestation of Gypsy Moth Caterpillars ever. For those of you who have experienced these slimy worms of doom, you know how terrifying they are. The horror film industry has done a disservice to their particular genre by not exploiting these mutant caterpillars to their fullest capacity. They are truly heinous, foul little beasts. *Shudder x 1000*.

Gypsy Moth - gypsy moth caterpillar

And this is just ONE. Imagine an INFESTATION! Let’s put it this way. I had to take a swimming test when I arrived at camp – you know – 10 minutes of treading water and then swim from the dock to the bouy and back. I had taken off my shorts to jump in the lake and start my test. I imagine I was in the water less than 15 minutes and within that quarter of an hour, my shorts were COVERED with these filthy little buggers. Ick. I shook them off, put on my shorts, stuck my hands in my pockets only to find MORE! Aaargh! Horrible! I DETEST THESE ABOMINABLE LITTLE CREATURES! Is my disdain coming through loud and clear?

Okay, so, I’m the lone female at this camp. I’m not as strong as my fellow classmates, so I struggle with lifting my metal canoe over my head to carry to the water for our afternoon drills. I struggle with lifting the mast to rig my sailboat. I have a hard time getting back in my canoe after doing a “tip test”. I was bruised, battered, cut, bleeding, and sobbing silently in my WWII accommodations on a daily basis, hoping that no one but those heinous little caterpillars could hear me. Oh, they tried to keep me company. I’d wake up in the morning with one swirling over my head, suspended by its silky thread of doom. And I’d smack at it like a Kindergartener trying to play tether ball. I had the enthusiasm but rarely hit my mark.

And this was how I started nearly every day. I’d trudge down to the open air shower stall and stand in line with my c0-campers. They’d laugh and joke with each other and I’d shoo off the creepy caterpillars as they tried to stake their claim on my shower gear. Then breakfast. Then classes. Long, tedious days broken by restless sleep thanks to nightmares of the hairy caterpillars coming to get me.

Somewhere along the way, the boys thought it’d be funny to start playing jokes on the lone female. That first week of aquatic camp was HELL. Then, one night, at dinner, we had ice cream with chocolate syrup for dessert. The one boy that I thought of as an ally came over to sit by me. He poured a bunch of chocolate syrup on my plate and then shook some salt over the top of the chocolate puddle. He said that the chemistry between the salt and the chocolate created heat. I said, with wide eyes, “REALLY?” and placed my hand over the concoction, expecting to feel the heat radiating from my plate. As soon as my hand was in place, BAM! My friend smacked my hand down onto the plate, which shot a spray of chocolate all over my clothes, my face and hair. The entire cafeteria erupted in laughter. As I closed my eyes and lowered my head, ready to wave the white flag and accept defeat, something burned inside of me. It came rising from the pit of my stomach and came forward in a calm, calculated series of movements that had nothing to do with what I wanted. It came from somewhere else. And with a voice that I couldn’t describe as my own, I stood up and said “All right. That is enough. I know where you sleep. I know where you eat. I know where you shower. And I’m coming for each and every one of you.” And walked out of the cafeteria, still dripping in chocolate.

I plotted my revenge as I stood under the spitting stream of alternating hot and cold water, hoping that it was strong enough to get the chocolate out of my hair. And over the course of that second week of camp, I got every single boy who had played a trick on me back. I used dead snakes in sleeping bags. I rigged sailboats with “parachutes” attached to the rudders so I could speed past them and laugh as they struggled to figure out why they couldn’t gain speed. I got up at wee hours of the morning and kept long hours into the night plotting and executing. But there was one boy, my “ally”, that I didn’t know how to get back. It had to be special.

The last day of camp came quickly. I had gained a lot of respect over that last week and had even enlisted some of the boys I’d already “punk’d” to help me get the rest of them. But I knew this last hurrah had to be of my own doing and I had run out of ideas.

It just so happened that on our last day, my ally and I happened to be standing in line for the shower at the same time. We had some idle chit-chat, talked about staying in touch after camp was over, benign stuff. Then, the heavens opened and a light shot down out of the sky and enlightened me. I heard angels sing. I nearly wept. I placed my hand over the trunk of a tree that was covered with row after row of gypsy moth caterpillars. I said “My stars. There are so many caterpillars on this tree that they are actually radiating heat.” My ally said, “Really?” and I licked my lips with anticipation as the sweat crept up on my brow in anticipation of his hand raising to test the validity of my statement. C’mon. Do it. Raise that hand. And, as if it were in slow motion, his hand started to come up as the expression on my face changed from painful anticipation to pure ecstasy. Yes! Almost there! What had to be milliseconds turned way down to super slo-mo as I watched his hand snap into place over the target. And then BAM! as his hand smacked into the hordes of caterpillars set on their path of destroying the tree only to be destroyed themselves by my ally.

Happy dance (on my part) ensued as my ally wiped off the carnage of the fallen caterpillars. The joy of getting him to fall for the very same prank that had nearly created my demise was a sugary sweet victory. My mission was complete.

Go and have some fun with your April Fool’s jokes, but remember, paybacks are hell.

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