Everybody liked Harry. But his disarming grin was a major weapon in a relentless quest to set up anyone within range as the butt of a practical joke. Their reactions were loud but temporary, for everyone knew he meant no harm.
Being born on April First, with pranks happening everywhere, may have aligned something for him; but he dismissed the zodiac as “a collection of star signs that prove it’s unlucky to be superstitious!”
His career as a practical joker began way, way back.
His first lesson was his hardest.
Having been chosen as Joseph in a Sunday School Christmas pageant, the role went to his head. He became so obnoxious during rehearsals that he was made innkeeper, while the biggest nerd in the class became Joseph. Everything went smoothly after that; until the night of the play, when Harry got his revenge.
Nerdy Joseph and Mary knocked at his door; asking if he had any room.
Harry’s reply rewrote history: “Sure, we have plenty of rooms. Come on in!”
As a kid, Harry saw life through a different lens. When a neighbour asked: “Why do you call your dog Blackmail?” Harry’s answer was simple: “It’s because he’s not a black fe-male!”
One afternoon when his father took him across town, they stopped to order a takeout meal to pick up on their way home. When they returned, the small size and high price of the food clearly showed the vendor’s favour for regular customers. As they drove away, young Harry observed: “Dad, wasn’t that fella kind to make such an expensive meal so easy to carry!”
University introduced Harry to active minds that were sometimes a little too active. Harry’s gentle reply to conservation issues was his tee shirt which pictured a whale holding a placard that read: “Save the Humans!”
On one birthday, city maintenance workers had begun some roadworks just outside his college, so Harry quickly phoned the police: “Please hurry to the university,” he announced, “because some students dressed up as workmen are digging up the road!”
Then, with that big grin, he said to his friends: “Okay guys, let’s get back out and watch the fun!” They looked at each other, wondering what he meant, but knowing that whatever came next would be very interesting.
They ran back out to the workers, whose piles of dirt were growing, and Harry found the foreman. “Excuse me sir, I don’t want to alarm you,” he said, “but very soon some students will arrive, dressed as police, to try to stop your men working!”
Retreating to where they could invisibly eavesdrop on the ensuing ‘discussion’ with the police, they quietly congratulated themselves on a great stunt.
As a born communicator, Harry headed into a radio, where he became a popular breakfast host. Now he had so many ways to celebrate his birthday, simultaneously trapping his audience with a range of far-fetched hoax calls.
He handled calls from “farmers” who were complaining about weather ruining their spaghetti crops. Another year he interviewed a “basketball manufacturer,” who had installed a timer in basketballs; preventing any shots if referees were late in calling the game; as the ball would explode at the precise end of the game. The station’s switchboard melted with complaints from anxious parents and fans, who could just see people getting hurt!
One year he wore a week’s suspension, for announcing the closure of the main bridge across the harbour. Word quickly got around that day, causing hours of disruption as drivers clogged secondary roads in their efforts to avoid the (non-existent) impasse.
What ultimate revenge for Harry?
With his wedding approaching, revenge was definitely in the air. But what to do? When would or could it happen? Who to do it? And how to do it?
The big day arrived, with no visible threats between Harry and the horizon, as everything flowed with the easy grace of two families sharing a day of great joy.
The church was packed with happiness, until the pastor asked fatefully: “If anyone has any objection to this marriage, let him now speak…”
“STOP THE WEDDING! CALL IT OFF! IT’S A MISTAKE!”
A total stranger had burst in; yelling as he ran down the aisle towards the shocked wedding party.
Every eye was on him as he stopped and looked across the gaping congregation.
“Sorry,” he said, “I’m in the wrong church!”
And he walked out.
He was never seen again.
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