An April Fool’s Story

Mom was cooking breakfast and the morning sun was streaming in through the little window over the kitchen sink.

Dad and Grandpa were talking by the kitchen table. Grandpa had the morning paper rolled up in his hand. Dad was doing things like putting silverware on the table, getting the orange juice out and handing Mom the potholders. The topics ranged from current news to other things like stories from Grandpa’s days at the Bolenbaugh Hardware Store where Grandpa worked after retiring from the Railway Mail Service.

Ordinarily, on a morning like this I would have been behind light blue light filtering curtains, peering out the picture window behind our table into our green grassy backyard through my Dad’s Stellar Binoculars, elbows on the white windowsills, watching a robin tilt his head then pull pull pull a long earthworm out of the ground. Or watching the crows from the fields west of here – where the meadowlarks lived – sway and caw in the top of the giant sweet gum tree.

But this was no ordinary morning. It was a Saturday morning, it was spring and it was the first of April. I was probably 7 and my sister Susan would have been 5.

Susan and I were running around the kitchen having fun and trying out our April Fools pranks.

It had been a recent and amazing discovery for us – this thing called April Fools Day. We’d learned that on this day it was perfectly ok to try to get someone to believe a bald faced lie! In fact it was not only permitted, it was encouraged!

Young as we were, years of pent up dishonestly stirred within. Now all we needed was the words! What lie would you tell on such a perfect morning? No one was in trouble so far, no important heirlooms had been broken yet, and no intrigues were underway or even under consideration at the moment. For once dishonesty eluded us. Finally we hit upon a theme involving outlandish claims of exotic animals invading our backyard.

“Grandpa! Grandpa! There’s a big red elephant in the backyard!” I said. Not sure why the elephant had to be red. Bad sunburn?

“An elephant!” Grandpa gave us an incredulous look. “Whaaaat?”

“April Fools!” We both yelled.

Mom laughed, “You kids are a hoot!”

Susan stayed on theme like a disciplined political campaign manager.

“Grandpa, Grandpa! I see a blue giraffe!”

“You do?” Grandpa asked more warily this time.

“April Fools!” We shouted again. He laughed and repeated the phrase, “April Fools! Its April Fool’s Day huh?”

He and Dad started talking about something else.

Then Grandpa fell silent. Over by the window, he tilted his head, as if something in the back yard had caught his eye. Susan and I noticed this and looked up at Grandpa. What did he see? He looked for a moment as if verifying what he was seeing. Peering out the kitchen window for a few moments he said with a very credible sense of mild surprise in his voice: “Well, lookey there…I see a green dog.”

He said it with such a quiet authority – like he knew a thing or two about those green dogs. As if this actually wasn’t the first time he’d seen a green dog, you know, he’d seen them a few times before! He just felt a mild tinge of surprise because he wasn’t really expecting to see one around here. Oh the layers of meaning in a Grandpa’s voice!

It overwhelmed my skepticism. “What! Where!?”I hollered as I ran to the kitchen window. This was serious! A green dog? I could not ever remember seeing such a creature in all my perusings of those unbearably heavy encyclopedias on the bottom bookshelf. A green cat yes, – the Burmese Green or whatever…it wasn’t really all THAT green. If a Burmese Green cat had been running across the backyard, Grandpa would never make the mistake of calling it a dog! Against the green grass it probably wouldn’t even look that green. Grandpa would have said something like “I see this brown cat. What an ugly feller.” I could hardly focus enough to get my hands up to pull back the light blue curtains so I could see. My brain immediately ruled out the Burmese Cat thing…no no, we were probably about to discover a new species of dog! Curtains out of the way, I stared intently out the window into my backyard past the tire swing down into the garden, fully expecting to see a small green dog loping across the backyard. Where was it?

Then behind me I heard Grandpa say with a chuckle “April Fools!”

And we knew we’d been had! By a real professional!

Our esteem for Grandpa reached a new all time high. If we’d known about Oscars we would have nominated him until some judge in Hollywood issued a restraining order.