The Mountain Times

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The April Fools joke

My eight roommates and I lived in the smallest campus apartment. It had no amenities to speak of. It was a place to sleep and eat, but not much else. It was inexpensive, running only a $150 per semester, about a quarter or less of what anything else cost. We were an interesting lot, but none was more interesting than Bart.

Bart was the oldest of the nine of us, and prematurely balding. He had a fun sense of humor and a nerdy laugh. Everybody liked Bart. He, like the rest of us, had very little money, so he worked on the 4 a.m. cleaning crew to make ends meet. Bart was shy and never dated, so, when he would return home late from studying, we would tease him, "Where have you been, Bart? Out having some girl run her fingers through all three of the hairs on your head?" Bart would just laugh and head off to get what little sleep he could before he had to be at work.

But on April first, Bart had a joke up his sleeve. When he came home for dinner, he sprang it on us. "Hey, guys. You know how I've been coming home late and you thought I was studying? Well, I have really been dating, and I'm now engaged."

The gasp in the apartment was audible. Not old, shy Bart! He increased our excitement by telling us the wedding date and all of the details. Finally, he burst out laughing and hollered, "April Fools!"

He then headed on his way to the library for his study session. "Two can play that game," I laughed to my other roommates.
I went to the phone and called one of the girls in a nearby apartment that went to the same church we did. "Hey, Colleen," I said, "I've got a big secret, but you can't tell anyone."

Colleen squealed with excitement. Everyone knew that if there was news to spread around, Colleen was the one to tell. "You've got to promise not to tell anyone," I warned her. I knew that was just adding gasoline to the fire - just as I wanted. Colleen promised she wouldn't tell a soul and begged to hear the news. After teasing her for a short time, increasing her excitement, I finally relented. "Bart is engaged. He just told us so himself." Making her promise one last time not to tell anyone, I hung up.

By the time Bart arrived home from studying, the phone was ringing off the hook with people calling to congratulate him. Poor, shy Bart was taken off guard trying to explain that he wasn't really engaged, and it was an April Fool's joke. When the phone was free for a moment, I called Colleen again. "Oh, by the way, Colleen, what I told you earlier was an April Fool's joke."

Her scream nearly left me deaf in one ear. "You are dead, mister!" she yelled at me.

"Why?" I asked. "I'm sure you didn't tell anyone, right?" Her verbiage left me to know I'd better watch my back and stay out of dark alleys.

The phone continued to ring late into the night, but finally, about one in the morning, it was quiet, and we finally thought we had the rumor of Bart's engagement laid to rest. But, around 2 a.m., after we were all asleep, the phone rang once more. When the lady asked for Bart, Steve, still half asleep, told her Bart was sleeping, and that he worked a 4 a.m. shift.

"I don't care what he does!" the lady hollered, loud enough to wake the dead a hundred miles away. "This is his mother! You get him out of bed!"

Bart was awakened, and as loud as his mother yelled, we all knew why she had called. "Bart, why did I have to hear second hand that you are getting married?! Me, your own mother?! I had to hear it from a friend who heard it from her daughter! Don't you care about me more than that?!"

You know what? I love April first.

Daris Howard, award-winning, syndicated columnist, playwright, and author, can be contacted at daris@darishoward.com