When All the Fools Rush In: Part 1

I’ve made no secret of my hatred of April Fools day.  I hate it.  I hate it more than Joanie would grow up to secretly loathe Chachi after ten years of sullen marriage, nurtured resentment and missed opportunities.  I hate it more than Yukon Cornelious would grow to hate his baleful addiction to peppermint as he lay dying from peppermint poisoning in “The Mint Julep” hotel in Las Vegas, tended in the end only by a prostitute with a heart of gold as his last remaining friend.  I hate it more than when someone says “Van Halen with Sammy Hagar wasn’t *that* bad.”

In short, I hate April Fool’s with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns in champagne supernova, cooking inside a microwave of the gods set on high, locked inside a car sitting in the universe equivalent of a black interior Chevy nova in the Texas summer heat.

I want to make clear the reason why.  For a period of about 36 hours as the wave of April Fools rolls over the world from Sydney to LA, the Internet as a means of distributing information becomes useless.  I mean completely useless. 

As useless as a metaphor without an.

Pranks however, I am fond of.

I’m by no means a master prankster or anything of the sort.  In fact, I enjoy being fooled just as much as fooling as long as the joke was well done enough. But as this past April Fool’s day came by and I was nurturing my hate now that the Internet is around* I reflected a bit on some pranks both at my hand and against me. Two stuck out in my mind, both from my childhood.  And I remember them vividly.

I have two younger brothers, Jeff and Scott. If I have not been clear about the fact they are awesome and I love them muchly, let me do that right now. Scott resides in the rarified air of HighAtopAMountainNearTheSky in Colorado where he brews beer and walks among the Elk.  My youngest brother Jeff frolics with his dog DeeOhGee** in our home town of Dallas, works in the restaurant business, and we can always be counted on to be txt’ing each other during major NASA events.

When we were children, I was into comics and they were into baseball cards.  Thus began my first major April Fool’s prank. 

I blame the baseball card thing squarely on my father and my Uncle Mark.  On my father’s side of the family there was an intense love of Baseball.  It’s to this day never really gone away. My cousins delight in the knocking about of the base balls and the running of the bases against the bad guys in the fields of out.  I never got it.  Oh sure, my first piece of sports equipment was a beautiful leather Wilson baseball glove.  My father taught me to oil it and take care of it.  He taught me to never keep my eye off that strangely stitched ball whether I was fielding, pitching, or batting with the part of the game that is called the bat.  I learned these things and I remember them today, much like most people learn Algebra.

Baseball is interesting to me in one singular respect.  It is a game of stats.  You can replay any baseball game in your head if you know the stats by innings.  Other than that I find it crushingly boring.  I refer to the late great George Carlin, who said that you could make Baseball 10000% more interesting by randomly placing landmines in the outfield, and if the pitcher hits the batter with the ball the batter is out.

My brothers however, found a way to embrace Baseball I never could: Baseball Cards. The most entertaining night in modern Baseball history, besides the time he delivered one metric manhandling to that moron batter who charged him on the mound, was the night the great Nolan Ryan pitched his monumental 5000th strike out.  Up high in the stands was my uncle Mark, with a run of the mill camera.  And he managed to take the only authenticated photo of the actual moment.  He caught, in one photo, the pitch the swing AND the scoreboard. Thus began my uncle’s journey into Texas Rangers baseball fame, and my brothers’ love affair of baseball cards.

They started collecting them incessantly.  With my uncle’s guidance and tips from my father, they began spending all their allowance money and birthday and Christmas requests on cards.  Boxed sets of Topps, Upper Deck, Fleer suddenly filled their shared room.  Flip books of rares were created.  They became consumed. They had to have two boxes of every year.  One sealed and one to plumb for those cards worth the most and most in need of protection.  You people who think the card game Magic inspired card preservation obsessiveness are obviously people who never knew a baseball card collector.  All of that shit came directly out of baseball card collecting, just without any actual use of the cards other than looking at them and having to throw away pounds and pounds of gum so dry and brittle I’m convinced the balsawood industry was actually making it.

I regarded this with some amusement in my own private bedroom as I bagged my latest Detective Comics issue in Mylar with an acid free cardboard back.  You know, something actually important.

Soon, Jeff found a stray puppy.  It was some retriever-esque mutt wandering the neighborhood with no collar and way too young to be lost. He brought it home, and my mother named it Maggie.  Maggie features very prominently in the next several hundred words.

Maggie was prone to chew, as most puppies are, and she was an absolute delight.  Our long time family dog, a toy poodle named Angus that lived to be 17, had just been put down.  So the arrival of a fresh young playful dog was just what we needed. My brothers, obsessed over their cards, would often leave them out in their bedroom after pouring over them like deluded fools. But they knew to close the door.

After Maggie had established a reputation for shredding, having going through a couple of pillows and several books,  I sat in my room one late March night carefully cataloging my pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths comics from the post ones, and realized the ultimate April Fools prank.  Being older I had a bit more spending money than they did of course.  My epiphany was that while my joke was *technically* mean spirited, it would result in a net benefit for my brothers.

The next day I went to a local card store and bought as many single packs as I could afford.  I split it up amongst the card makers.  I ran home and opened each pack carefully.  Using one of my brothers’ many price guides I separated out any rares or potential rares (rookies).  I munched on balsawood textured gum I carefully indexed each card out of each pack. In an initial purchase of about 60 cards I netted about 5 rares and another 5 potential rares. Another pass yielded another 2 rares and 30 cards, giving me 90 cards for my prank. Again munching on balsagum I carefully planned for April first.  I shredded all the common cards  by hand.  In the end I basically had baseball card confetti. As April first approached I purchased the exact same card holders and flipbooks my brothers had.  I tore them apart as well, a bit more haphazardly this time and in larger chunks.

When the big day arrived I waited until my brothers were downstairs together and put my plan into action.  I locked Maggie in my room. I quickly took their flipbooks and boxes of cards into my mother’s room.  I carefully and rapidly soaked the baseball card confetti in water and spread it all over their room, dropping the torn flipbooks as I went.  Within just a few minutes their room looked like a puppy sized, baseball card eating tornado had gone through it.  Mischief managed, I moved Maggie into their room and closed the door.  I wandered downstairs and said “Hey has anyone seen Maggie? I have not seen her in like an hour”

My brothers had already seen the anger in the house at Maggie chewing up various things and sensed danger.  They looked up from their perch on the couch as I turned in perfect slow motion timing and said “Ohhhhh mannnnn I hope sheeeeee isnt innnnnnn yourrrrrrrrr roooooooooom”

You could almost see the John Hughes’ dolly back zoom-in effect as they realized what might have happened.  They ran upstairs with me in close pursuit.  As they opened their door, time stopped.  There was the palpable sound of an old vinyl record scratch. Two things happened at once.

Maggie had already had a field day with the torn up useless cards so she was on top of one of their beds, her mouth coated in paper fragments and busily chewing up a fake torn flipbook I had put in there. She looked up at my brothers with that happy tongue lagging grin that only a retriever breed can manage, you know the one that says “ARE YOU AS HAPPY AS I AM RIGHT NOW?” The illusion was more perfect than I could have hoped for.  She looked for all intents and dark purposes as if for the past hour she had systematically destroyed everything my brothers held dear.

The second thing that happened is that both my brothers souls’ rent asunder in front of me and I had to physically prevent them from murdering, then eating the puppy.

And that part was tough because holy crap they really wanted to kill that dog.

The dog of course, thought this was play time, being happy to finally tear up shit that was ok to tear up.  So I entered some type of matrix like battle where a situation of my own creation resulted in my trying to shield an attacking and playful puppy from my two brothers. Imagine an anime sequence where I had to actually fight my brothers with swords and laser beams coming out of their eyes, while the puppy turned into some type of pokemon, all over a situation I had created. It took many many minutes of screaming and yelling and fisticuffs to let them know it was all a joke. In the end the handing them their collections safe and sound helped.

And the handing over of rares and potential rares they didn’t otherwise have helped.

But.  They didn’t forget.  Oh no they didn’t.  And Maggie would be the instrument of their revenge.  But being smart, and being related to me, they knew to wait.  They knew to bide. (cont)




** Get it?  *nudge*  Get it?

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