Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Everything you need to know about pranks, Part I

I was looking back on some of my past writings, and I was surprised by just how many of them discussed pranks. I'm passing for a man of extremely unreliable character. But there is an explanation behind my initiation into pranks, you see. So I thought I'd expend a blog-post to declare more or less how I came to the point where I am.

It's all Alex's fault. Basically, that's what it comes down to. Alex is one of the four people who have signed a contract to stay in the house with me, a guy so tall and thin you'd think he's been bitten by a radioactive giraffe when he was young. As well as an ardent vegetarian and a committed philosopher, he is struck with the curious characteristic of being completely incapable of accepting defeat. He once challenged me for a piece of a cake I had made by stating that if I could beat him at a videogame he would wash my dishes for a week, while if I lost I'd give him a piece of the cake. He managed to win enough games in a row to get the right to three quarters of the cake - then lost it immediately after that by brashly challenging me further, losing three consecutive games in a row, and jumping in a fit on the sofa, meaning that not only he had none of the cake he had effectively won ten minutes ago, but he was also going to have to wash my dishes. He was so angry after that that when I locked my door he spent an hour and a half banging on it and kicking it while howling like an animal for the cake. We tried to discuss it 'in peace' the next day, and the subsequent argument almost came to blows. I don't think I'd ever seen him that incensed yet. After that episode, he put on a face like a pitbull looking at the man who just castrated him and didn't wear it off for the whole week. (Alex later described the situation by means of a parallel with Dostoesvski's novel The Player. I agreed with the choice of the author, though I suggested he might want to change the novel to The Idiot. At this he hit the roof again and started yelling).

So this one dark evening I go to the bathroom, I brush my teeth and everything, but as I'm coming back through the kitchen suddenly this ghastly form explodes out of the closet and assaults me. 'OHMYFUCKINGOD' I scream as I fall backwards on the pavement. I freak out: my heart seems to explode and I have to sit on the floor for five minutes just regaining my breath. Only when my life stops flashing before my eyes for ten seconds do I hear the sound of laughter, and I open my eyes to find that idiot Alex standing there hooting while his melon-shaped head swung back and forth in convulsions. The motherfucker had been hiding in the closet.

I don't know if he did it on account of the cake episode or just out of his own personal initiative, but he had decided to play a prank on me. And a very effective one at that.

Other people may have had a laugh about it and left it at that. But in my case, Alex's little jest had hit some special nerve in my system whereby all my cisterns of pride were being held together. I felt the cavalcades of the Walkyries rumbling inside me. When I stood up again, I perceived a steady surge of a primordial, masculine warrior spirit welling up within me. How dare this fucker pounce me? I'm going to take the roof of his cathedral down! I said nothing, for that moment, and he walked away laughing while I watched him with feline eyes.

All's fair in love and war and nothing says that the same trick can't work twice. So one evening, I am sitting in the lounge watching some TV when I hear his equine gait walking down the stairs and heading for the kitchen. Then I hear the sinks in the toilet starting to throw water.

I decide that the moment has arrived. I walk to the closet and shut myself into it.

It is not quite what I expected. It doesn't appear to have been thought out to accomodate a human, truth be told. For one thing, good God, is it stuffy! I have two cans of peeled tomatoes pressing against my face and there's a broom awkwardly hanging across my shoulders. I can hardly believe that Alex managed to get in here, giraffe-ish as he is. The door can't be closed from the inside of course so I have to keep it pulled against me with my arm, which makes the whole thing even more uncomfortable and, incredibly, even tighter. Plus it's dark like a coal-mine out of an Emile Zola novel.

As I wait for Alex to come out, I start rehearsing what to do. Alex had come out screaming like a raging rhinoceros. As I thought of doing the same thing myself, I was struck with an unexpected and very much unwelcome awareness of just how ridiculous I must have looked in this endeavour. What if another of my flatmates walked in while I was doing it? But then again, the idea of doing a silent pounce seemed idiotic. What on earth would be the point? Also, I'd have to wave my arms or something. But how on earth do I do that when I barely have the space to lift them? I'm going to bring half this closet down for my stupid joke.

In the meantime, for some reason, Alex is taking quite a deal of time in there. The sinks keep flowing and at a certain point it even seems like he's talking to himself. What the fuck is he doing? I've been closed in this mouldy hole for what feels like ten minutes now. I'm starting to feel like I don't have the air to breathe in here. For a moment I even experience a brief surge of admiration for Alex's capacity to stay stuck in here waiting for me - the brave fellow, undergoing deprivations and hardships just to play a prank on me!

From the kitchen, I hear the bathroom-door opening. My heart starts pounding. Hold on a second - why am I getting scared? Hell. What happens if he opens the closet before I decide to leap out of it? What am I going to tell him, that I needed some intimacy to look for the tomatoes?

Then his steps come close enough to the locker and I decide: to hell with everything. I blast the door open with my right arm and wave my left arm forwards while attempting something like a war-cry. I say attempting, here, because my sense of dignity and shame is rebelling to my actions as if I'd decided to beat up an old woman. The cry that comes out of my mouth resembles more that of a goat calling for some lost companion over the mountains than that of a Viking leaping out of his Drakkar. Further, I can't swing my left arm around too much or I'll knock stuff over, so I end up keeping it flexed by my ribcage and fanning it up and down like a spastic velociraptor. Overall I really look like an emu.

Despite the poverty of my contingent performance, though, I am pleased to see that its effect is nothing short of what it had been for me. Alex leaps so high that he almost bangs his head on the ceiling (not at all an hyperbole for a crane like him). He then collapses on the floor with his hands over his face like a grenade had exploded somewhere nearby. For a second I'm afraid I've killed him - the guy is as thin as a grasshopper and his constitution doesn't suggest a particularly robust cardiac system. Then his ragged breathing is heard and I realise he is alive.

'You fucking bastard,' he chirps. 'You scurvy, lousy son of a bitch!' This is another thing about Alex. When he's had it, he doesn't just refuse to accept defeat; he spends at least half an hour insulting you. In this he is very much like French football fans.

I had to take forty-five minutes of insults while we bitch-slapped each other virtually in a videogame. Sometimes I am thankful for videogames. If we hadn't had the chance to pound at each other like mad on the screen of our little TV, I fear we might have ended up doing it for real. Our debates on philosophy alone caused more shouting arguments between us than I've had in all my relationships with women put together.

This is only half the story though, but it's getting too long - it will need another fully blog entry of its own. See you in Part II!

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