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My wife isn’t just a prankster. She’s an elite practical joke artist. It’s real performance art with her, and it’s been that way for over 30 years. Her friends, co-workers, and her daughter and I brace for every upcoming April 1st with a sense of grim foreboding.

It was always fun watching her gameplan at the kitchen island for what her office mates would endure the next day. But we knew she had another playbook for “home games.” And even though last year’s plays were already on film, this savvy offensive coordinator always makes sure that this year, you wouldn’t know what to prepare for. Ready or not.

Waking up with a Sharpie mustache, finding every left shoe missing, foreign things emerging from toothpaste tubes, car entertainment systems gone crazy… all nickel-and-dime stuff in our house. But over the years, those perfectly thrown long balls on her highlight reel are ones that I’ll always remember.

Here are a few…

1. False Droppings

There was the office neatnik, always obsessively cleaning his desk area and complaining about the dirty office kitchen. On one April Fools Day afternoon, he emerged hysterical from his office. “Mouse droppings… on the corner of my desk?!?…Goddamnit somebody call an exterminator!  I mean it. I warned you guys.  And now, here we are.”  For weeks he droned on—before, during, and after the exterminators came and removed all traces of those tiny black balls of Play-Doh. Finally, in the conference room, with everybody around – The Big Reveal. A confetti gun goes off. The unfortunate one is forced to cycle publicly through several emotional stages, eventually settling on acceptance.

In the aftermath, he was still kind of a dick. But his incessant bitching had eased. She later said of him, I saw real emotional growth.

2. Cell Phone Hero or Villain?

Once I ran out on a business trip in a hurry and forgot my work phone. Those Nextel flip-phones were state-of-the-art before iPhones came along. Frantic, I called from an airport pay phone, begging her to ship it to Huntsville overnight. And my loving wife was oh-so happy to oblige.

It arrived the next day. There were important voicemails and texts to return. But as it powered up, nothing made sense. Everything was in a language I didn’t recognize, which turned out to be Portuguese. I learned that you need to actually understand the phone’s commands to undo them. And while I had no Portuguese colleagues, I did have actual rocket scientists helping me, and they were all stumped. When we finally cracked the code, most of my contact names had somehow become notorious pop culture figures. And some of the texts from them to me were just… well… beyond.

I sat in a bar that night with the guy who finally helped me figure it out. He scrolled through my new contacts and laughed out loud. “DAMN, she’s COLD!”

3. Donut Try This at Home

Food sabotage is her classic go-to. Mustard-injected circus peanuts, frosting-filled hard-boiled eggs (with paprika, no less)… so many good ones in this category. Here’s my favorite…

Her coworkers usually brought in Dunkin Donuts on Fridays. So, on the Friday that happened to land on April 1st, she made sure it was her turn. The colorful assortment went fast, but a special one hid underneath the pile. A latecomer wandered over, picked it up, examining it carefully. She fought hard to stay cool as he made his fateful decision. Satisfied he’d found a hidden gem in the box, he chomped, taking nearly half the donut in one spectacular bite. He appeared confused, and then the stages of prank realization came fast. He turned away quickly. Everyone roared as they heard what was left of it hit the bottom of a tiny office trash can.

Turns out, mayonnaise has about the same viscosity as lemon creme. Good to know.

4. Supreme Leader

What self-respecting office person doesn’t have framed pictures of loved ones out in plain sight? The whole family on a Disney vacation. Mother and daughter at a graduation. The perfect anniversary photo with her husband at a surprise intimate dinner. And do you know what’s even better than those memories? Looking up from your computer one day, reaching for your morning coffee, looking over at your loved ones, and trying to remember exactly when Kim Jong-Un, the Supreme Leader of the Hermit Kingdom, got into every photo.

My wife still has the photoshopped versions on her hard drive. I believe the woman she played this one on actually kept the Dear Leader in all of them.

5. It’s Showtime

My daughter’s middle school plays always managed to coincide with my wife’s favorite holiday.  And what better way to celebrate both than with a giant frosted cake right before the opening night of Annie. A room full of sugar-starved 11 -year-olds bouncing in anticipation as she brought in a giant, square, architectural masterpiece of confection perfection. Frosted top to bottom, adorned with multi-colored skittles, a “The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow” themed surprise, these kids couldn’t wait to get a slice. My wife handed the giant cake knife to the director. Miss Colleen, please do the honors. Colleen herself eyed the cake lovingly as she raised the knife while two kids fought over the paper plates.

No matter how many times the director yelled CUT! it just wouldn’t. Disturbed frosting finally exposing a solid, corrugated core. The energy in the room grew very dark as twenty little pairs of eyes stared down my wife.

“It’s a box!”

“Ahhhhhh, I want CAKE!!”

My wife, the only person in the room laughing, couldn’t hold it together. She pulled out a crumpled little paper bag.

“Okay, okay… I brought Munchkins! And I swear….they’re real.”

6. The Best Prank Ever

My favorite joke of hers was a simple one. But the real magic was in the set-up.

It was March 31st. April Fools Eve, if you will. You could feel the tension in our house as she had already ripped the seal off of a couple of prank appetizers, just for us. I was getting annoyed. Tomorrow was going to be bad enough. Did we really have to pre-party before this year’s nightmare? I snapped at her a little, temporarily muting her juvenile joy. She snapped back. Words were exchanged. You know I prank you guys because I love you, right? I wasn’t buying it. Well, that’s just fine, you know. I’m just not gonna prank you this year.

She turned away. I felt bad, but for my own survival, I needed to keep my guard up. She was not to be trusted. We turned out the lights and silently turned away from each other. The fun had left our little mischief house.

The next morning I woke up, went to the bathroom, and returned minutes later, my pre-work routine always conducted those days in pitch darkness. I felt badly about how things were left the night before, that my anger might spoil her favorite day. I could hear her sleeping as I opened my underwear drawer, trying to be really quiet and not wake her as I pulled out the top pair. Lifting one leg, I met with unexpected resistance.

I nearly stumbled to the floor. The pant legs were sewn shut.

I went through those familiar emotional stages. Looking over toward the bed, the comforter was jiggling. And then I heard that all-too familiar sound…


Devin Householder

Devin is passionate about writing, reading and remaining in emotionally harmful relationships with losing sports teams. He suffers quietly (except on Sundays) with his loving wife and daughter in Rhode Island.

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