I first must admit that some may have seen this story before. I sent it around back when I first wrote it in 2002 and I’d posted a link to it on the old Darwinfish, but I’ve been meaning to bring some of my favorite posts over to this site. There’s no sense in letting a good story go unseen. Plus, of course, it’s a cheap way to knock out another post.
One summer, my parents went on a trip to visit relatives, taking my younger brother and sister with them. Because I was the oldest, and had a part time job, I was allowed to stay home. (Rank has its privileges.) I was just out of high school and this was the summer before college started, so it was a given that there was going to be a party of some kind. It was just a small one… my few buds and some neighborhood folk.
We began pulling bluegill out of there immediately… it was just too easy. It was much easier, in fact, than getting the hooks out by moonlight. We had a big bucket that we threw them in, once freed, and in no time we had about 5 or 6 in the can. At some point, we saw some motion up in the windows, so we made a dash for it, grabbing up the bucket and hauling butt. I didn’t even have my line out of the water. I just ran, with the line dragging out behind me, the hooks pulling up little chunks of grass.
Anyway, we got back to The Barn, (where we always had our parties… but that’s another story) and counted up our half dozen monster fish. The fish fry was on, so now, who knows how to cook a fish? (We weren’t much for thinking these things through in those days.) We knew we could just filet and bone it, but we wanted a little something extra. Our friend Rob, who worked with me at the neighborhood grocery store, said he’d call home to his mom and ask for a good breading recipe. Of course, she wanted to know why, so he told her and came away with the goods. The next morning we had quite a tasty little bluegill feast.
My parents came home that evening, and over dinner, I told them about our little party. Near the end of dinner, the phone rang, and the caller asked for me. It was Mrs. Neighbor, who proceeded to tell me she saw me out there fishing last night and wanted me to pay for the fish we pulled out. She said something like she wanted a dollar a pound.
I sat back down, and then told my folks about the fishing part of the party, which I had neglected to mention earlier. They basically said, “she gotcha, now ya gotta pay up.” I was resigned to my fate.
Before the table was even cleared, Rob and my other friend Rik pulled up in the driveway. I dashed out of the house and told them everything… I mean, I wasn’t the ONLY one out there and I wasn’t going down alone. Then I started noticing, as I described the phone conversation, how neither of them would look directly at me. They seemed to be biting the inside of their cheeks. I stopped talking and looked at them, and they just exploded with laughter.
I ran inside to tell my folks the good news, that it was just Rob’s mom, yanking my chain. My dad said, “Now, what are you going to do to get back at her?”
Hmmmm. I agreed that I couldn’t take this lying down. Then my dad gave me the best advice I’d ever received. He said, “The best revenge for a practical joke is to make it seem that it worked too well.” Genius!
We sent Rob back to tell his mom that my dad got so mad at me that he marched me right over to the Mrs. Neighbor’s house and made me pay her off. Then he grounded me from the car for a month.
She was crestfallen when Rob told her the story… she never meant any harm. Rob must have given quite a performance too… she even woke him up late that night, trying to see if she could shake his story while he was half asleep. Rob held up though and stuck to the plan.
So, cut to the following weekend, as we were both working at the grocery store. She came in for her regular weekly shopping. I knew she’d want to ‘fess up, busting with guilt. Naturally, I did everything I could to avoid her. She came up once, with big sad eyes and a mournful look. I put on a look like someone just killed my puppy, all sad and forlorn. She asked me how I was doing. I just said, “not so good Mrs. B., I got in pretty big trouble this week, but listen, I can’t talk now… I gotta go.”
That’s how it went for the next half hour: her stalking me to try to confess, with me trying to avoid her.
The payoff was set for when she checked out. I arranged to bag her groceries and this was the day and age when bag boys still took your stuff out and packed your car. As we went out to the car, she just spilled it. “It was me on the phone,” she said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cause any trouble. I’m sorry, it was just a joke, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
I just stood there, jaw dropped open, looking shocked.
Finally, I smiled and said, “that’s OK, Mrs. B, because I didn’t really get in any trouble, I was just getting a little payback.” Her response was typical of her upbringing as an Italian mother from Brooklyn.
“YOU SONOFABITCH BASTID!” she screamed at me in her high-pitched Brooklynese. “How can you do that to a poor old woman? I oughta kick you right in the ass for that, you had me up all night with guilt…”
We ended up having a great laugh, and happily called a truce. Meanwhile, I was giving mental high fives to my dad. He was most pleased by the way it played out, when I told him the story.
I went on to employ this tactic on numerous occasions, although it was often in the form of advice to others who’d been tricked. It has never failed me yet.
Recalling this yarn makes me remember how many stellar practical jokes I’ve been a part of. Someday I’m going to have to get those stories down as well. Stay tuned…