Trick's On You
©1999 by Spider Johnsonback to Essays
A sense of humor can take many turns throughout a man's life, often unexpected ones, depending upon whether it's being received or given. So far, I consider myself fortunate for being mostly on the giving side, although my recipients could, even now, be plotting to even up the score. No matter--my chicanery was fun at the time, and no matter what retribution comes my way now, the stories alone are worth it.
Good friends are often the target of japery, pehaps because you believe they (1) deserve to be taken off their high horse, or (2) it's a safe way to try out your experimental humor, or (3) you're truly possessed by evil, or (4) all of the above. Or, you actually hope that they, out of a sense of love and loyalty to the friendship, will forgive you your excessive trespasses. They usually do.
David McEachern is such a friend. We've been pals since we were six years old, and although I don't see him often, I still consider him an unchanging element in a world in flux.
David & I worked part-time at Montgomery Wards while attending college, he repaired televisions & I worked on lawnmowers. Leaving work one day, I noticed the sports department sales clerk was taking down a life-sized cardboard cutout display of Mickey Mantle in full baseball uniform, cap, arm raised in a pose of throwing the ball.
"Hey, Clark--whattya gonna do with that display?" I asked.
""Gonna toss it. Season's over, gotta new display I gotta put up," he replied.
In an inspired instant, I had devised the entirety of my nefarious scheme. "Mind if I take it?", I asked. Mickey & I went out the door, anticipation consuming me like a six-year-old waiting on Santa Claus.
I had a date that night (with whom I can't recall--not even a hint of her appearance) and quickly made her a co-conspirator. The plan was simple: after our movie date, we would sneak down the alley to my recently married pal's house, palliate his big sheep dog with a few familiar words from me, quietly place Mickey between David's bedroom's outside back door and the screen door, leave to return a half hour later and make enough noise in the alley to arouse my friend enough to come open the door for a big surprise.
This we did without incident, then my date & I laughed about it and I had her home by midnight before returning home to my own bed. I hadn't been home ten minutes before the phone rang. David immediately said, "You sonofabitch! You sonofabitch! You're gonna be sorry, you sonofabitch!" I only had enough time to begin my protest of innocence before he slammed the phone down, causing me to wonder how it took him so long to figure out that I was the culprit.
At work the next day, he was still so put out with me that he wouldn't hang around and talk, but he lightened up a little towards quitting time, realizing I'd drop by his home as was my usual habit and we'd have to deal with it. So, I went by after work, beating him there, and heard the rest of the story from his wife Cathy.
David had heard the commotion, of course, and woke up Cathy, and they both listened to the alley & backyard noises: trash can rattling, the ferocious dog barking, and the unmistakable sounds of a motor vehicle racing away. Armed with a shoe and the bravado of being the household protector, this brave friend creeped to the back door and, preparing himself, threw the door open.
Cathy laughed as she described the precipating events. She said that David's sudden door opening actually sucked the silhouetted figure, with arm upraised, into him, as if it were a real malefactor charging in for the attack. The next thing she knew, David was all the way into the living room, standing in his underwear, scared spitless. In a few moments, they both realized what had happened, calmed down and, despite the joke, began to figure out who was behind it and get mad. Then the phone call.
Although this happened over thirty years ago, I'll bet David would be hard pressed to laugh real hard about it even now. Since Cathy is now his ex, I'll bet she would laugh even harder now than she did then. And when I tell the story to folks who'll never meet David, they laugh the hardest, along with me. But that's the nature of practical jokes: everyone loves them but the victim.