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At least Guy #3 is enjoying himself, beaming as he takes the easiest money anyone’s ever made. “No, no, no. You girls have this all wrong. Listen, I’m the prank king. My friends and I pull pranks all the time. Here’s what you should have done – first of all, you look too innocent, and this neighborhood is just not creepy enough. And you gotta do this at night, are you kidding me? But so okay, you gotta just go and lift one end of the rug and have the guy lift the other end and just act totally normal and not freaked out at all – those rubber gloves are ridiculous, really, when I first saw them I was like, oh what, did she just murder someone or something? – and then, just as you’re hoisting the rug into the truck, she’s gotta flop out a foot or an arm or something. That would really freak them out.” He leaves in good spirits, but not before assuring me that if I ever need help with another prank or need to use his pickup for anything to call him. (So that’s two potential dates, for anyone who’s counting, or looking for ideas.)
M. and I, relieved to have the whole thing over with, open the shades and a couple of beers. M. finally gets the text message she’s waiting for, and the grisly aspects of real life lower like a scrim over our crime scene. “He says he’ll call to explain later. He can’t talk now,” she says. I close my eyes but, exhausted from my tour de force performance, stay out of it. Instead I compile my notes, looking forward to impressing my new colleagues with my devil-may-care spirit, superior journalism skills, and hilarious prank results.
But the next day turned out not to be such great one at work, depriving my prank of its day in the spotlight. Everyone was distracted, including me. Mostly we were distracted because of the all-staff meeting that had been called first thing in the morning, in which it was announced that the magazine had ceased to exist.
That was the language they used – ceased to exist – as if despite everyone’s best efforts it had dissolved on its own like a slug in the sun. Profits had been down, the company had decided to pull the plug, the magazine would cease publication, and today was our last day at work. Our building IDs wouldn’t work after 6. And the September issue that we were just about done closing would never come out.
There are those things that seem tragic and only with the passage of time acquire the patina of comedy. This was not one of those things. I immediately thought it was hilarious. “But my prank! My prank!” I muttered for most of the day, while cleaning out my not-yet-fully-moved-in-to desk. Oddly, none of my suddenly-unemployed coworkers seemed particularly worried about the wasted prank. Even M. was more sympathetic about my sudden job loss than she was annoyed that she’d played dead all day for no reason other than wacked poetic justice. And at least, in the face of losing my fancy new job and my favorite magazine in one fell swoop, it was some small consolation to know that not only would I never be ousted as a complete fraud, I would also never have to do a prank again.
Still, there is that Boevers-trained, almost-prankstery part of me that likes to imagine Guy #1 that bright September, passing a newsstand and suddenly remembering to check for the magazine, rummaging through the fashion titles while the newsstand guy takes his measure with a dead-eyed stare. I like to think of him asking about the magazine and being told it doesn’t exist, and then walking down the street shaking his head, saying to himself, “Those girls are crazy. They crazy!” Because we are, or anyway, we were that day.