“Dad, you’re sure messing with Mom’s kitchen is a good idea?”
“We’re not going to mess with her kitchen,” Mike justified, “she is.”
Mike had been planning his 35th anniversary prank for ages. Charlie was lured under the guise of installing pressure sensors on the robot vacuum, but he was really the bait: Claudia wouldn’t let him leave without ten containers of empanadas. And when she finished—wham! Glitter and duckies everywhere.
He made one last attempt to assuage Charlie. “Besides, it’s reversible. We’ll have a good laugh and help her clean up.” The front door creaked. “Oh! She’s coming inside. Act natural!”
Claudia, still humming, headed to the bar for her post-gardening juice. Mike had set up after her post-exercise, post-shower, and pre-gardening juices, and it paid off: she didn’t notice the elaborate setup in her kitchen, even the gigantic tub of duckies. She only noticed Charlie.
“Mijo!!’ she emoted, trapping him in an affectionate hug.
“Let me make you some food. Now tell me: to what do I owe the pleasure?”
“No, no, no, no, let me feed you. It’s my job,” Claudia interrupted, punctuating the end of her sentence by throwing wide the fridge door.
The holiday lights fell, pushing a toy truck into the crates, transferring momentum to an angle bar.
“I want to hear all about your beautiful new job,” she enthused, knife in hand, “and your beautiful new house…”
While Claudia kept prefacing potential conversation topics with the same two modifiers, Mike gave Charlie an encouraging nod: keep letting her love you. It’s distracting!
The bar nudged a hanging display of pans, the last of which hid a small weight. It fell into the scale, knocking over the menus like dominoes.
Charlie’s younger brother Hector walked by. “Hey, guys, I’m going to my room to do my homework,” he announced, heading to his room to do his homework.
The menus dislodged a precariously balanced tray, one corner of which was lodged in a spice rack.
“Willow Creek is wonderful. It’s peaceful out there.”
The spice rack spun counterclockwise, pulling a string connected to the sink tap. Mike’s plan had reached its antepenultimate step. Charlie stalled as he waited for the sink to fill and drop more duckies in the bucket. “How about you? How’s Hector?”
“Hector has been looovely, helping me cook,” here she emphasized the word ‘lovely’ by pirouetting across to the kitchen island near Charlie. As she turned, her arm knocked the wooden mallard too early, releasing the string around its neck from a tarp on the ceiling. Glitter and duckies rained over Claudia’s kitchen. Mike could only watch his brilliant contraption being ruined by the one factor he couldn’t control.
“Ahhhhhh!!!!” Claudia squealed. “Pranking! I love it! I love it!”
Mike tried to hide his annoyance. “Hun,” he pleaded, “I spent days engineering this, and you just wrecked it in two seconds.”
Claudia sank as the joy left her body.
“Sorry, love,” she mumbled, brushing glitter off the countertop with her arm.
“Mom, c’mon,” Charlie pleaded. “Let me get that.”
Mike kept venting. “It was going to be so good! When the mallard dropped, I was going to yell ‘Claudia! Duck!'” Claudia kept her head down. The robot vacuum hit her in the foot. “You always do this.”
Just then, Hector reappeared, stifling giggles. “Surprise, Mom and Dad! I said I was going to do homework, but I was actually texting my friends! Psyche!”
He beamed at his family members, who were clearly caught speechless by his ruse.
“That’s how you pull off a prank, folks.”
So! Now that the contest is over, I can reveal who the fool in this story really was. If you’ve spent enough time trying to figure it out for yourself, feel free to read the explanation here. Thanks to everyone who read and voted! And hey—if you enjoyed this, and can tolerate black humor/profanity/Yoga-Sutra-and-math-inspired philosophy/an author who maybe admires David Foster Wallace’s style a bit too much, please consider giving Catastrophe Theory a shot. Enjoy your day, y’all.