“This isn’t happening. This isn’t fair! I don’t wanna be fifteen, I liked my life just the way it was!” I bellow, shaking my head in abject denial.
The rich, buttery taste of frosting seems to have Mom and Dad in some kind of trance. They chew the Birthday cake in synch, occasionally making ‘mmmm’ and ‘ahhh’ sounds. It was good but not that good. They are trying to torture me.
Dad’s fork makes a high-pitch, obnoxious scraping against his plate.
“Should we have another piece, Ariane? Or leave the rest for the Birthday boy?” Dad chuckles and Mom joins in, sounding positively devious.
“Oh, I’ve had quite enough, Sigismund. I think it is time for our little chat with our darling son.”
“I am ready for a little chat, Mom. Let’s start with why you tricked me into blowing out these candles if you knew what was going to happen?” I huffed.
“Sebastian, don’t be ridiculous. You have had many birthdays yourself, you have been to many birthday parties…you know the drill. I think you are just feeling prickly because you’re a teenager. Welcome to the wonderful world of wild moodiness and continuous uncertainty, ” Mom said, a playful smirk on her face.
“What is certain is this new decree,” Dad continues, his tone of voice quiet and serious. “No longer will you make anyone in this house the victim of your pranks. If you do, I will make one swift phone call that will be painless for me but quite the opposite for you.”
“Uh…uh…what kind of phone call, Pop?” I stutter, deathly afraid to hear the answer.
“That’s for me to know. Let’s just say if you can’t quit these childish games and man up on your own, you will be given no choice. But if you mind what I say and knock off these humiliating tricks around the house, you never will have to find out.”
A feeling I have never experienced, a crushing, helpless rage engulfs me. I throw back the chair I am sitting in and rush down to my new basement bedroom, not even bothering to slide down the spiral banister as I had earlier planned. I slam the door with all my might but before I do, I swear I hear my parents giggling upstairs.
The tone of their laughter is conspiratorial and suddenly, I am overwhelmed by hot, salty tears and a sensation in my gut like I’ve been punched. The old man makes it sound so easy–stop pranking and everything will be fine. But they don’t get it! Pranks are my life, they give me a sense of purpose, they define me. Pranks…are…who…I…AM! I climb onto my new loft bed and sob myself into a fitful sleep.
But as restless as my sleep is, it is also refreshing and my subconscious provides me with a solution. When I awake, I go to my dresser and rummage around for some dark clothes and a matching hat. Dad was very clear about pulling tricks on him and in the house. But what is to stop me from taking on the unsuspecting outside world?
I am on a mission of terror as far as my neighbors are concerned. No one is safe. I start closest to home at old Land-hag’s house.
Finding something fresh to stash in the paper bag is no problem. Land-hag has a pack of lap dogs, all of which love to cross over into our yard and leave behind messes that infuriate Pop. Well, he can thank me later for picking it up, ha! Taking the long lighter I have pinched from our grill, I hold the yellow flame on the corner of the bag, just long enough to ignite.
When I’m certain the brown bag is aflame, I make my getaway, not even stopping to be sure I haven’t lit the whole porch on fire. Oh, but first, of course, I lay on the door bell for a long enough time to get someone’s attention.
From a distant vantage point, sweat pouring down my brow, chest heaving with excitement, I see the door open and a face appear–it looks like Mr. Land-Hag and how sweet can it be, the dude is in a tuxedo! Even from far away, I can see his nose wrinkle in reaction to the now acrid, billowing smoke. Impulsively, Mr. Land-Hag stomps out the flames with his fancy slippers and then realizes, too late, what is in the bag.
The triumph of my dirty deed completed is a rush I could not have ever anticipated. My pranks before were just childish games. Now I’m in the majors.
I return to my trusty chemistry set to wreak havoc on a grander scale. After searching the SimNet for hours, I have a formula to work with. I spend another afternoon trying to perfect it and at last, I am satisfied with the results.
Stealth and a stink bomb combine beautifully to waylay those full-of-themselves Frio brothers down at the public library. I hide between the stacks, doubled over with laughter, a cool, damp handkerchief over my nose.
Connor clutches at his stomach and as the other patrons rush for the door, he bends down awkwardly and loses his lunch all over the floor.
The look on Jared’s face is a little scary, to be honest. I want to hang around to see what happens next but I don’t want to get my scrawny self in a brawl.
Connor’s face looks pretty scary too, but for a different reason. He has turned chalk white. “Help me, Jared,” he cries out in a raspy voice and then passes out. I wasn’t expecting the stink bomb to render someone unconscious. As quickly as I can, I sneak through the shelves towards the children’s room and then out the back door, hoping against hope no one will see me, especially that bruiser, Jared.
I manage to get home without being pummeled. Mom and Dad don’t catch me sneaking in the house in my black clothes and hat, which I keep in an old pillowcase. They smell pretty powerful from the stink bomb but I can’t wash them here, I will have to pay a visit to the laundromat. I’m feeling so pumped from my escapade and yet…
I’m feeling conflicted, too. What if Connor has to go to the hospital? What if he or anyone else that was at the library gets really sick? What if Mr. Land-Hag hadn’t come out in time to put out the fire and I had burned their whole house down? A single word whispers through my mind…CONSEQUENCES. I don’t like the way it sounds, so sibilant and accusatory.
I shower quickly and sit down in front of the computer. I visit my favorite forums. Hmmm, covering a car in baloney to remove the paint, putting hundreds of forks in someone’s lawn. Each caper fascinates me more than the next but my mind drifts back to the library. Who had to clean up that stink bomb and Connor’s barf? CONSEQUENCES.
A week or so goes by and I don’t hear anything more about my library antics. I sneak out and pull some more pranks around the neighborhood and I am always overwhelmed by the heady exhiliration of my success. But it is getting too easy and I need to step up my game. I shed the dark clothes but rummage around in my old costume chest to find the perfect accessory for my next adventure.
I enter the bar, only glancing at the name: Bebe’s. It is not a dive but not exactly high-class either. The smell of old beer and stale smoke permeates the joint. I have been staking it out for awhile and I time my entrance perfectly while the bouncers are in the middle of shift-change. So as far as the bartender is concerned, I’ve shown my ID at the door. I sit in what I think is a manly, mature posture and clearing my voice, speak in a lower octave. “Double Llama Head, please.”
“Llama Head, LLama Head. What goes in that? Oh, yeah, I remember,” the bartender mutters. I have not glanced up to make eye contact, I am afraid she will kick me out the minute she sees my face. Even with my disguise, I know I look hopelessly young. But by some miracle, she just gets right down to mixing the drink.
I cautiously take the drink off the bar. It slightly resembles my stink potion in taste and sight. But I have never had a Llama Head before, I have no idea what it is supposed to look or smell like. I just want to taste it. Pop said it was time for me to be a man, well here goes.
For the first time, the bartender looks up and at the same time, I take a sip. “Maybe you shouldn’t drink that, you know, it looks kind of funky,” she warns. I swallow and begin sputtering. It tastes worse than I ever could have anticipated.
“It is absolutely delicious,” I say in between coughing fits. To prove it to her I start to take another sip.
“Hold on there a minute!” She sounds annoyed.
“Didn’t you have a mustache when you came in here and sat down?”
We both peer down into the glass I am still holding and there on top of the ice and foam is my phony facial hair looking like a wet spider.
“Bebe?” I hear a voice behind my shoulder. Bebe? She owns the place? My heart is pounding. Do I just get up and run out? Tell her I’m sorry? Wet my pants and start blubbering, that is what I really feel like doing.
She motions to the person behind me and a formidable bouncer comes into view. “I was just about to show my little cousin out, I gave him the grand tour today, but you can do it for me,” the bartender says and my relief is palpable.
“Oh, I can find my way out, thanks!” I say, leap up and run to the nearest exit.
After the triumph of gaining entry into Bebe’s club, my old tricks just don’t give me the thrill they once did. But for lack of anything better to do, I round up a carton of rotten eggs and head to a part of town I haven’t hit before. With little relish, in almost a mechanical mode, I start flinging my missiles at a random house.
I grab the last two eggs and focus on my target, some formerly clean windows. What I see sends my mind reeling out of control and I impulsively squeeze the shells in my state of shock, releasing the gooey insides. They drip down my sleeve, adding an even more-powerful odor to my dark clothes which were already rank from the stink potion. The smell should trigger a gag impulse but I am frozen, mouth agape.
In the window I can see Bebe from the bar. She must have just entered the room because she seems oblivious to the nasty streaks of egg running down the glass. The sheer, rose-colored fabric of her negligee skims over every curve of her perfect body and on her face is a mysterious, Mona Lisa-like smile. I watch her for what seems like hours but in reality is only seconds because I realize how desperately I don’t want her to catch me defacing her home. CONSEQUENCES…
Back in my room, I climb into my loft bed, not even bothering to change out of my odiferous gear. My mind is swimming with discordant thoughts–I feel terrible that my target was the beautiful woman who gave me a pass when I broke the law sneaking into her adult establishment. But the eyeful I got standing in front of her window! Though she didn’t catch me, my mind conjures that very scenario: Bebe storming out of the house in her revealing clothes, grabbing my by the arm, dragging me back into her house…
I drift off to sleep and my waking fantasy morphs into a dream like I’ve never had before. I am back at Bebe’s bar and she is standing in front of me looking so gorgeous in a bright yellow, very revealing bikini, holding out a tray with glasses of some romantic elixir. I reach out to take one and am startled awake by my mother’s angry voice.
“Sebastian Notorious, I don’t know what you are doing in there but the smell emanating from your room is atrocious!”
I strip off my reeking clothes and throw them in the old pillow case, then shower and change into regular duds. The laundromat is on the other side of town, not too far from Bebe’s house, so maybe I shouldn’t be completely dumbfounded when I discover her reading a book, presumably waiting for the washing machine to finish a load.
She sees me and immediately approaches me. I want to run back out the way I came in but I am frozen like a statue. Except statues don’t have hearts pounding so hard they are about to burst, or sweat pouring from everywhere possible, or idiotic expressions like a deer caught in headlights.
“I see your mustache hasn’t grown back,” Bebe says, eyeing me sternly. Then she starts giggling and the tension breaks and I am so relieved, I let out some sharp barks like a crazed hyena. Out of the corner of my eye, I am startled to spot my father entering the laundromat with an angry look on his face. What is he doing here?
“Hand over the pillowcase, Sebastian!” Mortified by his chastizing tone in front of Bebe, I do as my father says. He looks inside. “Your mother smelled a mysterious odor, you take off on your bike and head here to wash your clothes? I wasn’t born last night, son. I know you are up to no good!” Then he takes a deep whiff. “Ugh, it smells like sulfur.”
Bebe looks at me in amazement and I see a steely flicker in her eyes. “Like rotten eggs?”
“Exactly, and who are you, Miss?” Pop is confused but still angry.
Bebe gives me another dark stare but then her expressions brightens and she holds her hand out to the old man.
“Bebe Hart. I posted a notice at the school that I needed someone to clean up my windows. Someone egged my house while I was at work and your son was kind enough to help.”
“Egged your house, you say?” Dad is very sympathetic. But over Bebe’s head, he shoots me a murderous look.
But I return it with a cheesy smile. Bebe Hart is my luscious guardian angel. I’m not sure why she is so generously protective of me but I do know I’m madly in love.