How to Prank (a story and a confession)

“They’ll never know it’s me.” (When you see it…)

Screams were coming from the living room. Loud and long.

Ali entered from the hallway. “Someone better have died in here,” she said sarcastically.

One of the three girls shrieking and jumping around the living room turned around, bouncing on her toes and flapping her arms, and looked her sister.

“Ali, do you know any good pranks?”

Ali, who would be returning for her second year of college in two weeks, tilted her head and arched an eyebrow.

“All the guys on the football team are having a sleepover in the school gym,” Mackenzie bubbled on in a stage whisper.

“And you want to prank them?”

The girls were flapping their heads now, too. Every part of their body was in motion, including their grinning mouths. The girls had multiple ties to the football team: Lacie’s brother and boyfriend were on the team; Haley’s boyfriend was running back; Ali and Mackenzie’s cousin, Aaron, was team captain. Besides, the girls were friends with several boys on the team.

Ali raised both eyebrows. “And you think you’re going to get away with it?”

The excitement in the room was uncontrollable, like a group of tweens at a One Direction concert.

“C’mon,” Ali coaxed Max, the family’s miniature Australian shepherd, who was whining and looking up at her with big, brown eyes. Despite his muscular frame and lifetime in a loving home, he was pretty skittish. He hated loud noises – his least favorite days were July 4th and December 31st/January 1st. Even rain made him anxious. The family usually had to shut him up somewhere when visitors came; he growled and barked when anyone who wasn’t in the immediate family came to the door and was infamous among UPS deliverers.

“Let’s go.” Ali scratched Max’s silky ears and walked to her room, the dog panting on her heels.

She shut the door and sat lay on her bed, reading an Agatha Christie novel until she heard her mother’s voice mingling with the girls’.

Ali couldn’t resist poking her head out.

Mackenzie stood with her back to her sister, happily chattering about her black outfit. “They’ll never know it’s me!” she crowed.

“Yeah,” Ali said drily, “Except for the name on the back of your hoodie.”

Mackenzie twisted her head around and smacked her back, as though she could slap off the big, yellow letters that spelled out “Renckens”.

Ali continued. “So, Mom, you’re cool with this?”

“Yes!” Mom laughed.

“We’re going to toilet paper their cars,” Haley confided animatedly.

“Oooh!” blurted Lacie. “We should wrap them in plastic!”

Twittering and giggling, they ran off to gather supplies.

Ali smirked and shook her head.

“You’re in college,” Mom pointed out. “You must have done something like this.”

Ali raised her eyebrows.


Ali was getting ready to turn in for the night when she heard the doorbell ring. The front door was always locked; everyone used the back door, which opened to the kitchen and was usually slightly ajar.

Curiosity and high-pitched commotion drove her out of her room.

Mackenzie was in the middle of telling an electrifying story to their parents.

“We were toilet-papering Ryan’s car when Coach Darien came out,” she was saying. “I just slammed down in Aaron’s truck bed.” She mimed throwing herself half down. “I mean, I have never slammed that hard.”

“And I couldn’t run,” Haley chimed in, pointing to her knee, which was secured in a brace.

“So we hid,” Mackenzie resumed. “And he went back in.”

“And then Aaron came out!” Lacie broke in.

“We didn’t think that he would come out!”

“Who just walks outside at 10:30 at night?”

“He saw Haley!”

Ali couldn’t tell which comment was coming from which person. Mouths were going faster than Michael Phelps on speed.

“And Mackenzie spilled glitter all over the back of my car!” Haley exclaimed.

“Why did you have glitter in your car?” Mom asked.

“You should have put that in Aaron’s truck bed,” Ali suggested.

The girls howled at the idea of purple glitter falling from the truck of the captain of the football team.

Ali went to bed.


Haley woke up at 10:00 the next morning. She, Mackenzie, and Lacie were sprawled out on the Renckens’ living room floor. A nearly empty bag of potato chips lay between them. Licked-clean bowls of ice cream rested on the coffee table.

Haley stretched and impulsively reached for her phone. One new text message. She opened it.

It was from Aaron. It consisted of a single sentence: “You should check your car.”

“Omigosh!” Haley blurted. She threw back her blanket. Mackenzie stirred and blinked. Lacie sat up.

“Look!” Haley threw the phone to Lacie and hobbled to the kitchen table, where she had left her keys. Soon, all three girls were rushing to Haley’s car.

The outside was clean.

Inside, it was covered with toilet paper. It was wrapped around the steering wheel, headrests, and rearview mirror. It streamed down from the visor and glove compartment. It was strewn over the floor. If the Battle of Gettysburg had been fought with bathroom supplies, the carnage would have resembled Haley’s car.

The girls angrily bounced back to the house. Mackenzie’s mom was in the kitchen. The story poured out, mixed with ideas for payback.

Ali walked out in a t-shirt and running shorts. The story was repeated.

“How did they do it?” Haley wailed.

“Easy,” Ali replied with a trace of disdain. “You never pull a prank at 10:30 at night. You do it at 7 or 8 in the morning when they’re sound asleep.”

“They must have just walked in and taken the keys while we were sleeping,” shuddered Lacie, eyes wide.

The girls walked away, vowing revenge.

Ali pulled out her phone and opened her text messages. She tapped on a conversion with Aaron.

Ali: Hey, does Haley have a small, blue car?
Aaron: Yes. Y?
Ali: She slept over. I passed her car on my way to work. It looks like she has a flat tire, but I don’t have her number. Can you ask her to check her car?
Aaron: Yup

Ali deleted the messages. 

Panting, Max looked at her. She stroked his long, dark fur thoughtfully. “Ya know, there’s a Sherlock Holmes story about a missing race horse. He solved it because when the thief came in, the guard dog didn’t bark or anything, so he figured out that it was an inside job.” 

Mom didn’t seem to be paying attention. “Maybe we should start locking the door,” she pondered.

 Ali wiped purple glitter off her leg. “I wouldn’t worry about it, Mom.” She stood up and began walking to the door. “I have to go to the bathroom.”

Mackenzie popped back into the kitchen. “By the way, we’re all out of toilet paper.”

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