Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Messing with the policemen (one LONG blog-post)
This takes a while to get going because it's the account of a really elaborate prank which went unpredictably wrong, but trust me it's worth it. It's so damn long it's going to have to count for something like a week and a half before I post again, but hell, let's begin.
It is astonishing where pranks can lead, sometimes. I told you guys about Alex and the 'monster in the closet.' I thought after it happened that it would have made for a good story, but that it would have been, mainly, a cute, one-off episode. Never have I been more dramatically mistaken! As it turned out, it was only the beginning.
Over our cohabitation, you see, me and Alex developed a habit of constantly lying at each other on absolutely all subjects that the human can embrace an on every single occasion that the opportunity presented itself to us. Imagine that one should ask the other a question, even a completely innocent one such as 'Where's my milk?'. In that case, the other would immediately think of something not true, then try and build it into something as elaborate and believable as possible: Oh, I forgot to tell you, Lorna ran out of it this morning and took yours. She asked me to apologize on her behalf and to make sure you didn't buy it again for tomorrow, because she'll have an extra carton and BLAH BLAH BLAH. You get the gist
The problem is that this domestic habit became so competitive that I started practising on people outside.
'Where are you from?,' some girl would ask at a party.
'Wierzbowsczy,' I would immediately reply. 'It's a small town in the North of Bulgaria. I've come here to study temporarily, then I'll probably get back to my country.'
'Oh. And what do you study?'
'Thermonuclear biomechanics. But it's not as complicated as it sounds - it's a compromise between astrophysics and mechanical engineering, really that's all it is.'
Admittedly these lies decreased significantly my chances of getting laid for all the time that I was living with Alex - not to say, erased them altogether (eventually the lies would get so outlandish the girls would suss me; one time I managed to get to a bit where I was supposed to leave the next month for an anti-gravity experiment in a plane in Missouri before the girl started laughing). None of these deftly-woven tales had ever had any serious consequence, however, until the infamous episode involving Lorna's cake. (Between this occasion and the time he lost his head because I forced him to wash my plates over a Sachertorte, it really seems that Alex has no luck with the sugary georginas).
The set-up: Lorna has a boyfriend, a balding guy who works in a cake-shop. Baldie, not the most romantical of lads, prefers not to bring bunches of flowers to his beloved, but instead to lump boxes of cakes in our house, on account of the fact that he's got so many he could put them on a ship and bombard the coast of Sardinia with them. To me and Alex, this is of course fantastic news. It's true that Lorna, for her own part, isn't particularly prone to sharing (no instinctive Mother Teresa is she, alas); but even the canteens of the Royal Navy's Boxing Club on the day after a tournament would be at hardship to exhaust all that sugary smack. So she occasionally shovels us a piece.
So this is how we get to our present situation. One day I'm in the kitchen struggling with some tomatoes to get them to form a coalition with the scrambled eggs in the pan without disintegrating into submolecular dust in the process, when Lorna walks in. There is a cake-box on the desk and she walks towards it. That's when I hear a sharp 'Oh,' the kind of 'Oh' you express when you've just asked for an ale and the barman hands you over a lager instead - disappointed, but not quite feeling it's worth making a fuss. I turn around: Lorna has opened the box, and it seems that a slice is missing from the round face of the cake. She turns towards me and asks:
'Did you have a slice of the cake?'
I am confused.
'I left it here intact, this morning, and it appears someone took a slice. Not that I'm flabbergasted, mind you, I'm just wondering who it was.'
I reason for a second. 'It was probably Alex,' I tell her. It was the logical conclusion. 'He must have seen the cake and assumed it was all right to take a slice.'
'Oh. I see. Well, I guess that's fair enough. I can't finish this on my own anyway, so feel free to have some yourself.' Then she left, with her mind completely absorbed by fairies or walruses or whatever it is that hippy-women tend to get absorbed by when they're walking so earnestly down the street.
Such event would have proved completely inconsequential were it not that, later in the evening, when I found myself again busy in the kitchen (not with the preparations for the same dish as in the afternoon, for the record, though I wouldn't put that beyond me), Alex walked in from university. He had his usual look, that of an astonished giraffe (I have no idea what that giraffe may have been astonished at).
'Hullo,' he said, stepping into the kitchen.
'Greetings,' I responded, still fumbling with the microwave (even that I had trouble working; I swear the kitchen is going to be my death-place). We exchanged useless information for a minute or so. At a certain point I turned and asked, out of simple curiosity (I swear it was just curiosity): 'Oh, by the way, was it you who took a slice of Lorna's cake this morning?'
'Yeah, why?', he said, furrowing his brow. 'Was she bothered?'
'Bothered?' I said, 'She was incredibly annoyed. I don't think I've ever seen Lorna so upset. I was so surprised.'
'Oh no!' he said. 'I didn't mean to steal. I mean, she's let us take slices in the past...'
Even for someone at times as astonishingly gullible as Alex, I couldn't believe how unquestioningly he had plunged into my lie. It's like I had been bathing in the open next to the rivers in Ontario and an adult salmon swimming upriver had suddenly leapt into my bathtub. I was like, what the hell? He was so duped I almost had trouble thinking what to make up next.
'Yeah, well, you did steal after all, considering you took something not yours without asking...'
'Oh gosh, but I didn't think she would be that fussed. Why is she acting so spongy, if she's never even cared that much about those cakes? Oh my gracious dear...'
'Well, apparently this cake was a special one that her boyfriend had made in person or something. She didn't go into the details. I think she meant to share it with him tomorrow night, but in any case, she was remarkably distressed.'
I left the kitchen, leaving Alex to mull over his sins, and not giving the issue much thought - I expected Alex to go and apologise the next morning (Lorna was not in that night), and the bluff to be revealed. When I walked into the kitchen the next day, however, it turned out that Alex had opted for an epistolary apology, rather than an oral one. On the white cardboard of the cakebox, in a handwriting which unmistakably belonged to Alex (it looked like an elephant had been holding the pen with its proboscis and scrawled the answer in his stead), was the following line:
Hi Lorna sorry I took a piece of cake without asking but I couldn't resist it.
It was a simple statement. But it barely looked serious, so I took a pen and wrote the following reply, with a jokish disposition:
Sorry Alex, but your apologies are tardive. I have already called my lawyer and legal prosecutions shall begin on the 12th. See you in court.
The next day I found another reply upon the cardboard cake-box. Quickly it became a regular verbal battle between me and him, the contents of which were as follows (ok, so this will not rival with the epistolary exchanges between Camus and Sartre, but it's how things went - there is no great exchange of witticisms when you're throwing down a line inbetween trips to the bathroom or to the kitchen, after all - and I'm not going to try and embellish it):
But Lorna, you can't do this, I've got a family to sustain, think of the children!
It's precisely the thought of those brats that makes me want to sue you.
What, and how do you know? I'd told John not to tell anyone!
John is far too intelligent to listen to your advice. He is also far too handsome, confident, manly, honest and smart, and said in short he is the only man not to have been created in God's image; rather he's better. Make him a cake.
Stop being so jealous Lorna - no matter what you say, you will never manage to break the love between me and John.
You are to John what Verlaine was to Rimbaud.
Ok, so I warned you - it's no Moliére.
What I didn't have the slightest idea of, was that Alex could be so spectacularly idiotic as to believe he was actually communicating with Lorna. I would have thought that the set of statements I produced were so dumb - particularly the one about how I was 'so intelligent' - that it would have been completely impossible to mistake my identity for that of someone else.
What I was also unaware of was that in the meantime Lorna had disappeared. She went on a trip with Baldie to the woods, presumably to celebrate the Sabbath of the witches or the days in which the butterflies leave seeds on flowers or whatever, and they slept in the car for a few days. For God knows what reason they did not bring their cellphones with them (or they simply ran out of batteries after the first day), so that when their car broke down on the way back, they found themselves stuck and without contacts. The police in the meantime started looking for them, and they came to our house to enquire on whether we'd seen or heard from Lorna at all in recent times. Me and Alex were out, but our other two housemates were in, and they told the police that they hadn't seen Lorna all week.
I learnt all of this stuff two days after it had happened, that is to say, on a Friday, when I stepped into the kitchen only to find Alex jumping back and forth like an extraordinarily irate kangaroo and calling me 'a fucking bastard,' with special emphasis on the 'fucking.' Before I could even say a word, he filled up a glass with water and launched it at me. Instead of trying to calm him down, I of course grabbed a pint in turn and splashed the fucker's face back. I knew I'd made a mistake when I saw him turn to the cupboard and extract the washing bucket from it.
I gallopped into the garden while he further elucidated the differences between me being not just 'a bastard,' but 'a fucking bastard.' I attempted to shield myself with the table but I might as well have been using it against a charging hippopotamus and two seconds later I looked like I had just walked out of a monsoon. This still didn't satisfy him though and over the next minute we find ourselves rolling in the mud under the pedantic and disapproving stare of the neighbours.
Once the swine-wrestling is over, I learn what's sent him off his head. Apparently, Alex had come home the previous day and found out through our housemates about the visit of the authorities. When he was told that Lorna was missing, he thought, 'This cannot be!' and he phoned up the police and told them how he had in fact been seeing her every day for the past week. The story sounded doubtful to the detectives, who called Alex in and start questioning him. Most people would reflect on what's going on before setting off on any serious statements; Alex, instead, stood by his story and even started adding, in some imaginative act of Freudian association, episodes in which he has been 'seeing her' in the house over the last week. Halfway through this recounting of how he had been exchanging writing with Lorna through the cake-box, the idea finally flashed into his head that it may have been me he was communicating with all along. He started laughing nervously, his heart went racing, he tried explaining this to the agents and of course messed this up completely, then he spent half an hour convincing the agents not to hold him there for the night (how he did that, knowing his usual eloquence, remains to me a baffling mystery), and eventually came back home.
That's where he met me the day after so he could start beating me up. By the time he had finished telling me this story I was laughing so hard I couldn't even fight back (he jumped me again when I started laughing), and I had to stay on the floor hooting while he clobbered my arm with a shoe. The next day, Lorna came back to the house. I thanked her.
I still haven't told her what for.