“I am totally serious! Why won’t you believe me? Jessica will die if we don’t help her!” Derek frantically grabbed Tyler’s arm, trying to propel him into motion.
Tyler laughed as he pulled his arm free. “Knock it off, Derek, master prankster. Do you honestly think I’m going to fall for this? When was the last time you were serious about anything?”
“But this isn’t a joke! I swear! Tell him to listen to me, Erica!” Derek turned beseeching eyes on Tyler’s girlfriend.
“Right, Derek! So…is this anything like the time we all rushed to the mall because you had found a newborn baby in the dumpster behind Game Bonanza? Only it wasn’t a baby, it was a doll you put there.” Erica was clearly irritated as she flipped her hair. “Or how about the time you claimed you’d accidentally shot Jared with your dad’s gun and you put fake blood on his t-shirt? When Melanie saw him, she fainted because she was so freaked out. I can’t even remember all the pranks you’ve pulled on us. Just go away, Derek. Take your jokes somewhere else.”
“Tyler, please, I’m begging you! I’ll give you my car, or anything else you want.” Moaning, Derek dropped his head into his hands.
“Let me get this straight. You and Jessica ditched third hour class and sneaked into the maintenance shop to make out. Somehow a shop cabinet fell over and now Jessica is pinned underneath and it’s crushing her chest. You tried to move it and couldn’t. And Jessica will die if you don’t get someone to help you lift it off her.” Tyler crossed his arms, pushed his sunglasses down on his nose and stared at Derek over the top of them.
“Yes! Yes, that’s what I’m saying and it’s true. So will you help me?” Derek’s voice quivered with emotion.
“Derek, you could win an Academy Award for your performance,” Natalie said. It was lunch time, and now several students had gathered around Derek, Tyler and Erica in the quad at Beaumont High School. There was a smattering of laughter at Natalie’s comment. A few applauded.
Tears formed in the corner of Derek’s eyes. He slowly turned, surveying the students, his eyes seeking out a sympathetic face. Finding none, he choked out, “Please, please, won’t someone help me? Jessica’s dying!”
There was silence for a minute, then Tyler’s voice boomed out, “And the Oscar for the lead role in “Jessica Is Dying” goes to……..DEREK! Derek, come on up and get your Oscar!”
Everyone burst into laughter, and someone hollered, “I think he’s trying to replace Ashton Kutcher on Punk’d.”
“Hey, Derek, if this is true, why didn’t you ask Bob, the maintenance guy, to help lift the cabinet off Jessica?”
Derek spun to glare at whoever asked the question. “Why would we go to the maintenance shop to make out if Bob had been in there?” Derek’s voice now had a hysterical ring. “Is anyone going to help me?”
“Hey, Derek, remember the time you told us that Brad Pitt was your uncle and he was at your house for a visit?”
Several more began to call out different pranks that Derek had pulled. Covering his ears with his hands, Derek wildly screamed, “Shut up!”
“Hey, whoa Derek, calm down! We’ll come with you! We all need a good laugh anyway.” Tyler nodded at everyone. “Come on, let’s humor Derek.”
Chatting amongst themselves, several students followed Derek. By now, everyone was curious about what foolishness he was up to this time.
It took a moment for everyone to adjust to the dim lighting in the maintenance shop. Then their eyes were riveted to the spot where Derek knelt sobbing, “Oh no, Jessica!”
Inching forward, expecting Derek and Jessica to burst into playful laughter, there was stunned silence when they saw Jessica lying under the heavy cabinet, a trickle of blood coming from her mouth. As it dawned on them that it wasn’t one of Derek’s pranks, Erica let out a blood-curdling scream.
The scream was followed by total silence. Within moments they heard the faint sound of hand-clapping somewhere behind them. Jessica pushed the cardboard cabinet off as bright lights flooded the stage.
Smiling, still applauding, Mr. Morris, the drama teacher, came walking up the aisle from the back of the auditorium. “Bravo! Bravo! Great job everyone! I think we’re more than ready for tonight’s performance. Alright, go home and be back here at 6:00 sharp.”
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