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Little Spouse On The Prairie: Fear And Loathing On The High Plains

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I come from a long line of jokesters. I may be the only person in my direct line who did not inherit the desire to prank the people I love...

I come from a long line of jokesters. I may be the only person in my direct line who did not inherit the desire to prank the people I love. In fact, my family members tell me that their desire to play tricks on me is evidence of their deep and abiding care for me. Nevertheless, I don’t get too tickled when my family members decide it’s time to dust off the ol’ squirting lapel flower just about the time I have my hair styled to perfection.

This lack of funny bone opens me up to being the butt of even more tricks. My family members often say, “Lighten up! It was hilarious!” when I complain about sitting on a whoopie cushion, getting tripped by a Lego minefield, or feeling frightened by a hiding attacker. So, recently, in the spirit of lightening up, I decided to go along with a prank my youngest daughter, age seven, concocted with help from her grandparents. Playing jokes is, after all, a symbol of devotion and love.

Several weeks before, a small mouse had terrified my tough, weightlifting, dirt-biking teen son. He was so frightened by this tiny rodent, in fact, that the high-pitched scream he emitted caused me to experience hearing loss equivalent to that which I had previously only associated with attending a heavy metal rock concert. Dashiell, an 8th grader who is tall and broad for his age, dreams of improving his 40-yard time to under five seconds. I told him he’d be recruited by Division I schools at age 13, if only his football coach held a mouse behind him before hitting the stopwatch. That kid was a blur!

Anyway, I happened to mention Dashiell’s utter fear in the face of said itty-bitty mouse to the grandparents, and they, in cahoots with Clementine, came up with a plan to capitalize on my poor son’s abject terror. They bought a remote-controlled rat. They taught Clem to move the controller, positioned the not-too-realistic looking rodent under the sofa, and waited for Dashiell to walk through the front door. Clementine was giddy with anticipation, remote-control clutched in her small hand as she tried to look unassuming.

A few minutes after the setup was complete, Dashiell lumbered through the front door. He paused at the threshold to turn and holler something to a friend, and then – boom – Clementine activated the remote-control rat. That thing, all seven or eight inches of it even without the tail, skittered across the floor, zigzagging right in front of the unsuspecting Dashiell. He calmly looked at it and said, “Cool. Where did you get that funny rat, Tine?”

Well, that was anticlimactic, to say the least. But Grandma and Grandpa assured the disappointed Clementine that her sister Millie would have a more dramatic response. Millie loves drama in all forms, so we just knew we’d get some satisfaction by resetting the trick. Grandma and Clementine quickly boobytrapped Millie’s room by placing the rat underneath her bed. Clementine planned to have the rat streak out when Millie was getting ready for a dance later that evening.

The plan fell into place perfectly; Millie went upstairs and began to dress for the event, chatting casually with a friend who had come over to get ready with her. Just when the two teens least expected it, Clementine made the rat dart out. Both girls glanced at it, distractedly. “Clem. Did you get a new toy? Don’t play with it in my room, please,” Millie remarked.

“Oh, well!” I told Clementine. “It’s a neat toy that your grandparents bought you, and you’ll have fun with it, even though it’s not scary.” Though she moped a bit, Clementine soon forgot about her disappointment.

Fast forward to a couple of days later. I was sitting at my dressing table alone, calmly combing my hair, when a gigantic, completely lifelike, and totally believable rodent sprang out from beneath my clothing rack.

I rocketed off my stool, scattering makeup and bobby pins across the floor. I tripped on my way out of the room, hit my head on the door jam, and tore my new blouse. I screamed so loudly that Joel rushed upstairs to rescue me from this hideous beast. My sweet daughter just rolled around on the floor, giggling hysterically. I am so glad she loves me.