Monday, October 31, 2011

Total Prankonic Reversal: Part 2

So continues the story of my failed prank execution as first described yesterday.

Total Prankonic Reversal: Part 1

All of our kids, Elisa's, Julie's and mine had been at a church sleep over the night before. Julie picked them up in the morning and Elisa and I met at her house to get our kids. This is the background on which phase one of the prank began.

"I am so excited to see your thesis." I heard Elisa gush to Julie.

"Thanks for coming." Julie said from inside the den.

I went outside and approached the van like a kid from The Outsiders. It sat unsuspecting on the road. I pulled on the door handle, locked! My mind raced. Julie's husband busied himself preparing the yard for an impending cold snap. The first fingers of winter's chilly grip had wrapped around the Wasatch Mountains a few days before.

"Rachel," I called to a fair niece of mine. 

She glided across the lawn. "What Uncle Shane."

"Go and Tell Aunt E.C., we need to move her van to fix a sprinkler."

"Why?" she questioned.

"I'll tell you later," I said with a devilish grin. I chose Rachel because she has the demeanor of an angel, no one would suspect her.

Keys in hand, I moved the van and lay below the driver side foot pedals, looking up into the guts of the steering column. I placed the radio into the mechanical bowels and tested its reception.

The receiver crackled to life. "Test 1, moo. Test 2, moo." My voice echoed softly above me. "Excellent." I whispered in conclusion.

I went back into the house and ran into a mob of cousins huddled around a video game like it harbored the universe's secrets. I passed the den and saw Elisa scrutinizing a computer screen while Julie explained some arcane detailed. Elisa's pony tail bobbed as she thoughtfully pointed at the monitor. IT was good to see them sitting together. It occurred to me that I didn't know the last time I had seen them like that, sharing some one-on-one time as sisters.

Both are beautiful women, but the differences between them are as stark as the glowing moon against a shimmering, starlit sky. Elisa is blond, while Julie is dark brunette. Julie runs a tight ship and Elisa plays it by ear. To sum it up, Julie never would have put a fake severed finger in my birthday chili! To see Elisa's post on this event click the following link.

I anxiously watched the clock. My wife labored at home preparing a birthday party for me. I really should have been there helping her, but one has to have priorities. I deliberated on my next move. It would be best to leave first and then lay it wait before whispering into Elisa's world. Elisa emerged from the mock consultation before I could act.  

"Okay, kids," I said, "let's go."

Elisa and I herded the children out the front door.

"Thanks, Julie." I told my older sister with a wink.

"Sure, no problem, Shane." Julie said, but I failed to notice the hint of uncertainty in her words.

Elisa chatted with her little boy, the one she calls the Zombie Elf in her blog. "So, do you want to be an engineer like Uncle Shane when you grow up?"

"Yup, I want to be an engineer for Halloween, too," he said. I love that boy.

I sat in my car, radio in hand, and waited. Elisa strapped her brood in and pulled around me. I surged forward, immediately behind her, too close behind. I depressed and held the send button on the radio. I should have left earlier and struck from within the shadows. It was too late now. I took a deep breath and let out a screeching like mechanical components grinding to an inoperable halt. Elisa's brakes slammed on and she pulled slowly to the curb. I parked in front of her and got out of my car.

"Van problems?" I asked innocently.

Elisa stepped from the car. "Did you do this?" she smirked. Elisa has asked me this question more than any other since the blog war began. She gets a paper cut, "Did you do this?" The Texas Rangers loose the world series, "Did you do this?" She gets lesbian love letters, "Did you do this?" Do I look like a lesbian bent on amore'? At least I hope not for my wife's sake.

Apparently Elisa thought something terrible waited under her seat, but in the end she knew it was me. Urrgh, another failure, but the jig wasn't up yet. Two more radios waited in the wings, ready to strike fear into Elisa's good-natured existence.   Check in tomorrow to see how it went and to find out how I ended up pranking myself.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Total Prankonic Reversal: Part 1

This blog war with my sister Elisa has taught me some important lessons about the nature of relationships and the fragility of humanity, especially my own. It is too easy to forget the impact an action will have on someone's feelings when focused on 'winning', an irrational notion in itself considering pranks. A couple of days ago I tried to prank Elisa. Not only was it another udder failure, I ended up pranking myself in the process. It was a complete backfire. You may ask how one accidentally pranks oneself. As Egon said, when you cross the streams, you get total prankonic reversal. When you cross the line, rational thinking is left behind. So, what are the characteristics of prankonic reversal?

Any prank has a desired emotional outcome, the primary being embarrassment, as a result of misguided fear, anger, joy, etc. Funny how deconstructing it in this way reveals pranks to be the dirty little deeds they are. Anyway, a failed prank elicits an unintended emotion, the most dangerous being sadness... And so part one of the story begins.

The Prank Premise:
I planned to secret two-way radios in Elisa's van and house. With another radio I would then create sounds, ultimately mooing, into Elisa's unsuspecting world.

Prank Facts:
Three radios eventually infiltrated Elisa's domain, one in the van and two in the house. Each was set to a different radio frequency. The forth I kept with me and could change it's frequency to communicate with the other three independently.

Prank Method:
The hardest part of this idea was getting the radios in place. I enlisted our older sister, Julie, to plant a radio in the van, and our mother to plant two radios in Elisa's house. Julie would ask Elisa for her opinion on  a Master's thesis she is writing. While Elisa reviewed the document in Julie's house, I would be outside planting the instrument in the van. Our mom would call Elisa and ask if she could visit. While there, our mother would place two radios in the house.

Nothing would go as I had planned. Check back tomorrow for how it went at Julie's house.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Motorcycle Love

Today I came home with a surprise for my wife. I came home with a motorcycle. It was given to me by a friend at work who no longer wanted it. At first I thought springing this on her would make for some good blog material. Fortunately, this isn't the case. She seems to know me well enough to take such things in stride. In the end I would guess this is what makes a marriage work, tolerating the idiotic husband when he behaves badly. That, and having something in common. I may be an engineer, but I've got a fairly broad streak of fine art running through. My wife on the other hand has a technical streak running through a majority of fine art background.

The following are some pictures we've done over the years. Each has brought us closer in one way or another.

Painting of my wife while she was pregnant with our first child. (minus the blue boxes)

Germany map painting my wife gave me on the first birthday we celebrated together.

France map painting my wife and I worked on together, but mostly my wife.

Painting I did of my father and myself.

They say opposites attract when it comes to relationships, but I don't buy it. I think it's the things you share in common that bind you together. It has something to do with being not only husband and wife, but friends at the same time. When I brought home the motorcycle, my wife wasn't happy. Indeed, she hit me several times as I teased her, but she's still talking to me and I love her all the more for it. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sometimes Pranks are Good

I suppose it must be a fairly common malady, grumpus totalitorus. Insidious and consuming, the affliction makes the infected person moody and almost intolerable to be around. It effects us all at one time or another. I had a severe bout with it this weekend in fact. In my own case the most tragic effect is that my dear wife bares the brunt of my symptoms. Despite yesterday marking the end of coaching my son's soccer team for the fall season and my wife finishing the current sub-semester at Liberty University, I rolled out of the wrong side of the bed with a resounding thud.

"Would you mind editing my final discussion forum response, Shane?" my wife asked me after lunch. I sat at my work desk in the garage.

"You need to learn to do it yourself," I said and continued hovering over the circuit board I fiddled with.

"I tried my best, but the teacher said to clean up my spelling the last time," she pleaded. My wife is from Japan and while her English is pretty good, sometimes the finer points get missed.

"Why should I? You don't appreciate it." Where this came from, I don't know.


"Sure, you say thank you, but what's the difference? You have to SHOW you appreciate somebody, not just say it." I hadn't lifted my head while I belittled her, and yes, I am an ass. It is interesting to me how you know something is bad, but you never realize how bad until you tell someone else, like now, as I tell you.

"I don't understand," she said.

"I have to do some yard work. I don't want to talk about this. I'll check your forum later." I took the weed eater and walked from the garage.

I spent a very long time manicuring the lawn, so long I started hearing Gandalf from Followship of The Ring. "A little late for trimming the verge, don't you think?"

I looked like the Jolly Green Giant by the time I finished, with weeds in my hair and blades of grass between my teeth.

At this exact moment, as I type, my wife is peeking over my shoulder and won't leave. She's making comments about this being my own personal diary. She is saying, "You shouldn't share your diary. Hey do you remember before we were married? I came home and you were reading my personal, sacred diary. Hey stop that. Quit writing what I'm saying. Shane! I'm not in this! What are you doing. Erase it."

No, I will not erase it. Now stop looking over my shoulder, or I'll use your name in here!

She's going away mumbling, "This is not romantic. Your there writing in your diary, being mean."

She has a way of knowing what gets me. Apparently this is my diary, my "womanly diary". Anyway, let's carry on. I suddenly feel a tinge of my prior grumpiness. Stay on target.

Anyway, so I went into the house and edited her forum. She's actually getting much better. Japanese is a bit odd compared to English. Japanese tends not to use personal pronouns and doesn't have plural forms of words.

Oh boy, she's back. "You should put in some information about what I'm learning at school." She's a Psychology major with an emphasis in Christian Counseling. "About how important it is to treat women with respect. You shouldn't write on the blog. No respect. You're mean. You're so mean," she says. "Stupid blog people, wasting time."

"Nobody cares what I say." I just said.

"Yeah, whatever." She now has turned to my son. "Daddy needs this, a diary. Maybe we should buy him one, with a lock and everything."

Former grumpiness, increasing.

Arrgh! So the grumpiness continued for much of the day yesterday, right up until the evening and we watched a movie as a family. We were half way through when  three slow knocks boomed throughout the house.

"Someone is at the front door. Who could it be?" my wife wondered.

"Could it be the boy next door?" my son added.

"It's kind of late." I stated. Three more ominous knocks echoed down the basement stairwell. "I'll go get it."

I reached for the door and did something udderly (utterly) stupid. I unlocked the door. I tried opening the door, but it wouldn't come open. I instantly knew someone held it closed from the outside. I reached up and tried to re-lock the dead bolt. The tension applied on the other side of the door had pulled the bolt in just enough so that it wouldn't go back into the door jamb. However, I didn't realize this at the time. All I could think was, "How are they keeping me from locking the door?" as if the boogie man had intentionally worked it out this way. For about two seconds I panicked, and then I realized the truth. My little sister Elisa and her husband Cade waited to play some prank on me from the other side of the door. They were getting me back for the prank I'd played on them the previous weekend.

Udder Prank Failure

I turned to my son who had crept next to me on pensive toes. "Don't worry," I told him, "it's just Aunt Elisa and Uncle Cade."

I pulled on the door again and this time it came open. A black apparition jumped at me from the other side and screamed, I mimicked the same scream and jumped toward the figure I knew was Cade. Elisa sprang from the shadows, video camera in hand.

"You've been Pranked!" She yelled.

I may have known it was them when I opened the door, but for those two seconds when the lock wouldn't close, they had me going.

They came in and my wife came up. We all laughed, had a nice chat and by the time they left I didn't feel grumpy anymore. I told my wife I was sorry and thanks to the prank, I feel much better. So maybe pranks aren't always bad. At least it scared the grumpiness out of me.

My wife is back, watching me type.

"I'm worried. I think you may need some therapeutic counseling." She just said. "I'd much rather you went in the garage and made a huge mess. You could use the garage for yourself. I won't complain anymore. It might be healthier than this. Publishing our private lives." I give her the smolder-look. "Stop that, I hate that cool look, like you've got the victory or something."

Don't worry. She can't resist the smolder.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Udder Prank Failure

Today the blog war with my sister at continues. This volley in the battle of words is more shocking than Paul McCartney robbing the cradle of Nancy Shevell or Tim Tebow almost resurrecting the Broncos after Orton's disastrous first half against the Chargers. It's even more shocking than Hank Williams Jr. comparing Obama to Hitler. Check out the following video and you'll know what I mean.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Harriet: To Hell and Back

I remember the day Elisa got Harriet as a gift for her eighth birthday. It was like Jacqueline Laurita of Real House Wives of New Jersey had come to live in our home. The entire family became glued to the rodent's plastic cage, avidly observing the little hamster long before reality television swept the nation. Andy Rooney from sixty minutes could have created an editorial about the suburbanites who forfieted their own lives to watch a hamster run on its wheel, eat its food and poop where it slept.

Of us all, Elisa loved Harriet most. She'd had other pets before, but a special bond existed between the small child and the furry beast. I, on the other hand, wearied of it rather quickly. As a seventeen year old brother in high school, it wouldn't do to care for such things.

"Don't kiss it," I scolded Elisa one day when I saw her giving it a big smooch on the mouth. "It's dirty!"

"She's not!" Elisa insisted. "I give Harriet a bath every day."

"It doesn't matter. Do you clean her cage every day?" I asked.

"Well, no," Elisa admitted.

"Don't you think when she goes to the bathroom it gets all over her?"

Elisa gave me the evil eye. "You don't know. You don't know anything!" she yelled and stormed away.

I almost felt bad. I'd made my sister realize something unattractive about her first true friend. It wasn't long before she forgot though, and resumed playing with the hamster. She'd go to the bathroom, or her bedroom, close the door and let Harriet run wild. I learned to be careful entiring a room, lest Harriet be turned to hamster jelly beneath my big feet. And an ample amount of jelly she would make. She'd gone from an oblong baby to a bloated ball in a few months. At the rate she was growing, the New York Giants or the Detroit Lions would be busting down our door to sign her as a nose tackle.

Then one day, catastophy struck.  Elisa had let Harrient run loose in her room, on the second floor, but forgot to close the door properly. The next thing she knew, Harrient was gone. I heard the wailing from my room, where I got ready for work.

"Harriet. Harriet. Where's Harriet?" Elisa cried. She ran in. "Shane, help. I can't find Harrient."

"I can't now, Furp," I teased her. "I've got to go to work."

As I left, I could hear my mother and Elisa calling Harriet's name through the house as if it would come running. I got to work at the local Wendy's, but couldn't get my mind off what might be going on at home. Not so much because of the hamster, but because of how scared Elisa had been.

I called home on break. "Hi mom," I said. "Did you guys find the fuzzball?"

"No, we've looked everywhere, but we can't find her."

"How's Elisa doing?" I asked cautiously.

"Oh, you know, she's devastated," my mom replied. "When are you going to get home. Maybe you can help us look?"

"I have to close tonight, so I won't be home until after midnight. But, I can tomorrow."

"If we don't find her soon, I'm afraid she'll stay lost."

"Well, I have to go, my break's almost up and I need to grab something to eat," I said.

"Okay, honey, do a good job. Bye."

I got something to eat and went back to work. The beef patties sizzled angrily on the griddle with a life of their own. I pressed each with a spatula and the squeal made me think of Harriet, caught somewhere, unable to extract herself. Where had she gone? Four orders stacked up and my supervisor shot a scathing glance my way before I realized the meat had burned and I'd have to throw on a new batch of burgers. The rest of the night proved difficult and by the time I returned home I felt like the meat had been pressing me into the grill and not the other way around.

I sat on my bed at one a.m., pulling off french fry smelling socks. I looked up. Elisa held a smurf plush toy in the doorway, tears sparkling in her eyes.

"Hey, what you doing up? Shouldn't you be in bed?" I said.

"We didn't find Harriet," Elisa said matter-of-factly.

"We'll find her. Don't worry."

Elisa walked next to me and leaned against my shoulder. "What if we don't? She'll turn into a mummy somewhere in the house and then she'll come to get me because I lost her."

"No, she'd go to heaven, Elisa. You love her and she loves you. But, don't worry, we'll find her. She's got to be somewhere, and if she's not here then maybe she's running free outside somewhere."

Tears wet my shirt. "But, it's cold outside, Shane."

"It's okay, she's okay. You taught her to be tough, right?" I asked.

"Like you taught me?" She brightened a little.

"Yeah, but did you?" I asked again.

"I sure did. She's the most deadly hamster ninja on the planet."

"Good, then you don't have to worry. We'll find her kicking some cat's butt tomorrow. Okay, Furp?"

Elisa gave me a hug and went to bed.

The next day came and even though we searched for much of the day, we found no trace. The day after that, Elisa looked more dejected than ever on the way to church.

"You think Harriet went to hamster heaven?" she asked.

"I'm sure she would," I said. Our mother turned concerned eyes from the front seat onto her youngest daughter in the back.

"I'm not so sure," Elisa said.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I had a dream last night. I heard Harriet scratching, trying to get out, like she was under my bed. I woke up and checked, but she wasn't there. I think she's in Hell, because I didn't take care of her."

My mom and I shared a look. "No Elisa, she'd go to heaven, without a doubt."

Days stretched into a week and still no sign of Harriet came. We all gave up hope of ever seeing Elisa's small friend alive again. Elisa had the same dream multiple times; Harriet trapped, scratching madly to escape out of Hell. Nothing we said consoled my sister. On the best of days Elisa's imagination could conjure prismatic dragons and fairies out of bland woodwork. Now boogie men and demons seemed to be the only things she saw.

"I've decided something," she said one day after dinner.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Hell's under my bed."


"I can hear Harriet scratching to get free, under my bed." Her eyes gleamed with the knowledge.

"It's just a dream. Maybe mom should get you another hamster."

"No!" she yelled, "I don't want another. Hell's under my bed, that's all. And, it wasn't a dream, I hear it in the middle of the night, when I'm awake, the scratching." She'd taken a hold on my arm with an uncharacteristic tenacity.



We both had rooms on the second floor, and that night I listened before I slept, actually hoping to hear something, anything. Harriet was forgotten, now I worried for Elisa.

I closed at Wendy's a few nights later and got home well past first bell's hour. Autumn left little pools of chill air strewn about the floor. It was the kind of night that held all in an impregnable silence. Mom had said she'd turn on the furnace, but she must have decided to wait a day. I trudged up the stairs when the faint scritch-scratch of tiny nails eviscerating a chalk board came to my ear. At first I thought nothing of it, a fatigue induced malady. But, the sound intensified as I ascended. My slow steps turned to bounds as I  sprinted up the stairs and into Elisa's room. She knelt on her bed, eye's wide as dinner plates, holding the blankets up to her mouth.

"Do you hear it?" she stammered.

I nodded my head and crouched on the ground, half expecting to see fire and gas belch from beneath the frame. Instead, only dusty carpet lay, and the scraping we both now heard. I crawled under the bed.

"Stop, Shane! It's Hell. No!" she yelled.

Under Elisa's bed, directly below where her head would lay, a vent sat askew. I tilted my head to it and the sound came louder than ever. I backed my way out.

"Come on, Elisa. Let's go get Harriet out of Hell," I said.

"You think we can?" she asked.

"You can't keep a ninja hamster down. Come on."

I made her listen to the vent in the bathroom, the sound echoed there too. We went downstairs and listened in the kitchen. It came louder. We opened the door to the unfinished basement, a place of nightmare in the dark hour, and the sound bounced out of the stair well.

"I can't go down there." Elisa said.

"Even to save Harriet?" I asked.

She screwed her little face into an example of courage. "To save Harriet, I will."

We crept down the stairs and I flipped on the light. It was as if the scratching came from everywhere at once. The duct work rang with every sound. It stopped and Elisa gasped.

"Let's walk around," I said, but the silence suffocated my words.

We came around to the furnace and I eyed it speculatively. A curved cylinder sat at the bottom where the fan rotated inside. The two of us practically jumped through the ceiling when the sound came again.

"Shane, Hell's in the furnace," Elisa said solemnly.

"So it seems. Let's get her out."

The scratching came from the furnace fan housing, scrambling, trying to climb the circular side. We got a drill and a pair of tin snips from the garage. The running stopped as I drilled. The tin snips parted the metal and I bent a three inch flap down like a draw bridge.

"Hold out your hand," I urged Elisa.

Elisa cupped her hands at the end of the metal. The shuffling of something inside sounded.

"Call her," I prompted.

"Harriet, Harriet." Elisa said with so much hope I thought the sun might rise a few hours early.

Then from the dark square cut in the furnace, the furry features of Harriet emerged. Thin and bedraggled, with lint and dirt matting her hair, she shuffled onto Elisa's hand, out of the furnace, out of Hell.

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