When challenged to write a story on the theme of “mischief,” I didn’t have to think too hard. Here’s part 1.
Jeff dumped Karen, or so they told me. She, of course, was devastated. After all, she was pushing 26 and felt it was high time she got married.
This all happened in the 1980s, but memories of the events that followed Karen’s ill-fated romance have stuck with me like caramel between your teeth.
On the surface, she seemed to rebound quickly. It wasn’t like she was sitting around doing nothing. When she wasn’t working, she played on a volleyball team and volunteered with her church’s junior high youth group. High energy and full of jokes, she was a hit with the kids.
Kind of picky of Jeff, I thought. On top of her outgoing personality, she had a great career as a food service manager for a large corporation. She was full of stories of her employees, which she loved to retell for the entertainment of all her friends. I supposed he felt he was too good for a girl with an athletic build, brown eyes and wavy hair. In my opinion, which no one asked for, he didn’t wear a face that girls would dream about. But what did I know.
Anyway, one day one of Karen’s cafeteria workers, a rather large farm girl named Towanda walked into her office and dumped an item on Karen’s desk that caused her heart to skip a beat. She stared at it, eyes wide open, hand covering her mouth. It was a square object covered with blue fur, with a doll’s face pasted on the side. Out of the top, a piece of Kleenex stood up, like white brains spurting from the doll’s head.
“I make these Kleenex box dolls,” said Towanda, “fer extra cash. Kin we sell them on the tray line in the cafeteria?”
Karen, having recovered from her shock, was now attempting not to fall into hysterical laughter. “I’ll check the policy manual and let you know.”
She told me the story over some carryout Chinese we shared at her apartment a few days later. “I didn’t want to offend her, you know. She’s got a temper and I didn’t want her to come at me in the parking lot.”
“So what did you say?”
“That it’s against company policy to sell home crafts on the tray line.” We both had a good laugh over that one.
She reached behind her sofa and plopped the doll on her wicker coffee table. I dropped my chopsticks on top of my General Tso’s chicken and blinked. “That’s it?” There was something creepy about the doll’s smile, something that reminded me of Chucky from the Child’s Play movies.
“It is,” Karen said. “Ugliest thing I ever saw.” She took a bite of Moo Goo Gai Pan and tipped her head to the side. “But I was thinking. We could have a lot of fun with these. Wouldn’t they make great gag gifts?”
I picked up the doll to get a closer look. The smiling face coupled with the Kleenex brains was hideous, almost scary looking. I had to admire Karen that she didn’t shriek when Towanda put it on her desk.
I gingerly set it on the coffee table, as if it some zombie was about to jump out of it. “We’d have to pick carefully,” I said. “We wouldn’t want to give someone a heart attack.” We talked about who would be the best person to receive such a thing. It took us awhile, but we hit on the perfect victim.
At that time I worked for a consulting firm that liked to consider itself prestigious but in my opinion, snooty was a better word. One of my colleagues, newly graduated from Harvard’s MBA school took himself a bit too seriously. Karen agreed. Parker would soon be the proud owner of a Kleenex doll.
So we placed an order with Towanda for twelve of her best creations: any color fur or doll’s face would do. Variety was great, Karen told her. We wanted to be able to pick the perfect offering for Parker.
I waited for my opportunity. One day, Parker was fighting a cold. I gave him a Kleenex, offering sympathy for his illness. He thanked me, commenting that it sure would be handy to have a box of Kleenex in his cubicle.
So as not to be too obvious, I waited until the next day when he went to lunch. Then I jumped into action. I grabbed the Kleenex doll Karen and I had selected, a dark-skinned, dark-haired doll’s face with shocking pink fur covering the Kleenex box and set in the overhead cabinet of his cubicle, carefully closing the door. Then I left for a meeting.
Others who were in the office that day told me what happened. Parker returned from lunch and settled down to work. His manager came by and asked about a certain client’s file. Parker jumped up, opened his cubicle cabinet and screamed. His manager screamed as well. “What the (expletive deleted) is that?” the manager said.
“I can’t say I know,” Parker said. He then started to interrogate everyone in the office about who could have left him such a dreadful item.
When I returned from my meeting, he started on me. “Did you put a Kleenex box in my cubical?”
“What Kleenex box?”
He glared at me, daring me to lie to him.
“A Kleenex box? What does it look like?”
He stared at me, puzzled. “If you don’t know, that you must not have done it.” He scowled. “Tim said it wasn’t him, but I’m sure it was.”
I shrugged and slid into my seat and pulled some files out of my briefcase. “Maybe it was.” I smiled apologetically. “I’ve got to get this done today…”
He nodded and let me return to work.
Only years later did I confess. Then he had to apologize to Tim, who he’d blamed for years.
That was my idea of a prank. Harmless, funny, no violations of good taste.
Others of my friends had different ideas.
Come back next week for the rest of the story!