Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Guilt Is A Powerful Motivator


I'm going to begin all this by completely blaming my brother for what happened.  In the court of public opinion, I should be exonerated completely.


Now that things have worked out, what happened really was funny, and I want some of the credit for the jape without any of the blame.

I want to have my cake and eat it too - and since this is my blog, I feel perfectly entitled to instruct you to read the following carefully:  

Where something is enjoyable, funny, or clever, attribute it to me.  Where something is soul-crushingly detestable and shakes your belief in human decency and goodness, well, attribute it to my brother as this was all his idea.

What happened is this:

It was April the first.  The day of the fool.  It has been my steady practice to ignore this detestable date, as it is the day that your honest mates turn into untrustworthy monsters and pranksters run amok without remorse or conscience.  What is worse is that you are allowed to be made a mockery of, your emotions toyed with (or worse) and laughed at for your credulity as a result.  No matter that your credulity has been trained for the previous 364 uninterrupted days - you are a pathetic waste if you allow yourself to be tricked on April the first (no matter how elaborate the scheme).

So, as I say, I never participated in these juvenile games.  I was once tricked into urinating onto cling film expertly stretched out over the toilet, and forced to meticulously clean my folly by disapproving parents.  Since that day, I treat this holiday with the disdain it deserves.

That is why I really should have known that no good would come from being drawn into the dastardly and depraved plans that my brother, unbeknownst to me, had been hatching.

He approached me early in the morning, while I was in my office, and informed me that I had a part to play in what (in hindsight) could surely have led to a manslaughter charge at the very least.  

He pulled up a chair (despite my reproachful looks and studied indifference to his presence), and began to outline his evil machinations.  I was distressed to find that I featured heavily and often.  He was certainly heavy on the parts where I did the dirty work.  It was evident that he preferred to view himself as the producer in the part, and I could see why (especially later on) - to him, plausible deniability was a watchword.

The scheme, as outlined was this:

I should call my mother and inform her that my brother had just suffered a heart attack and that she should meet me at the hospital.

Read the above again.  How pathetically cliched and humdrum!  You can see how the plan, as laid out, drew me in.  There was no hook!  It was transparent!  This rank amateur was doomed to failure and he was trying to make me tell such a blatant and impossible lie.  That would never do!  My artistic sensibilities were offended, and I told him that if I wanted to submit myself to a formulaic and samey plot, I would subject myself to a children's show on the television.

"Well you couldn't do any better!", he exclaimed vehemently.

And with those words, his subtle trap was laid, and he knew that he had snared the heart of the hero of this tale.  He had studied my ways so intensely and for so long, that he knew that I would be captured and made an accomplice in this awful tragedy.

And so I was.  I cannot offer any excuse other than that I take pride in my work.  This shambolic and laughable idea of his having had a heart attack was off.  

I thought it over and decided that nothing short of a fire would do.  He would hear nothing of it, I suggested a lawnmower accident, he countered with a violent allergy attack while mowing the lawn, and the thing was done.  Together we had conceived this tragic scenario, and with my brother's history of allergies, the lie would be thoroughly plausible.

The next thing I knew, my phone was in my hands, ringing, my voice haggard and distressed, as I expelled the story onto my mother's voicemail, tiny details never before considered, but establishing beyond a doubt my credibility.  We didn't know how long he had been laying on the ground next to the mower before someone noticed his prostrate body and called an ambulance.  The sound of the mower hindered the alarm being raised.  Nobody knew if he was breathing.  I was racing along behind the ambulance.  Please call!

At the end of the message, there were legitimately tears in my brother's eyes.  He was haunted by the narration he had just heard. 

I got the call a moment later.  My mother was full of desperate hope when she asked "Is this an April Fool's joke?"

At the urging of my sadistic brother (who was sat next to me), I dashed her hopes entirely. "No, hang on Mom, I am trying to find out from this nurse where the paramedics took him.  I followed the ambulance in but they went to the ER and I had to park in the parking lot.  I don't know where he is right now."

I have never before heard the howl of complete anguish that burst from my distressed mother.  I'd made her cry before, sure, but not like this.  Her baby was dying.

Somehow, "April Fools!" didn't seem appropriate.  

And yet, at that point, that's all I had.  

And so, I dutifully delivered my line, with as much merriment forced into the words as I could muster.  I tried to sound jolly.  Instead, the words just hung there, my mother destroyed in her grief.  

About ten seconds passed, with huge wet sobs burbling grotesquely out of the receiver of the phone, and then the line went dead.

My brother and looked at each other, wretched men that we were, tortured in our guilt.

And then, rather unexpectedly, my brother decided to distance himself from our project.

This was a wise decision, and one I envied immediately, as it was not an option available to myself.

He was distressingly quick to point out that there was not actually any proof of his involvement in the scheme.  I had left the message, I had done all the talking during the phone call, I had been the only one to yell "April Fools!"

On all the available evidence, I was the one who was a soulless monster - not him.

Yes, his plan was one of strict denial and studied innocence.

The full horror of my situation was now upon me.  Thinking quickly, I surreptitiously switched the recorder on on my phone.  Within minutes, I had a full confession from this larcenous brother, and when I confronted him with his own words, an impromptu wrestling match ensued, full of bitter and petty recriminations.

In the end, we decided to face up to our crime.

But our mother did not answer the phone for over an hour.

By now, our working theory was that her heart had failed her and that she was dead on the side of the road somewhere.

More bitter and petty recriminations ensued.

But in the midst of a persuasive argument being delivered most expertly by one of my knuckles, we received credible intelligence that our mother had been on her way to a meeting.

Consumed with guilt, my brother and I took to our vehicles and were soon at the location of the meeting.  We found the door locked and immediately began to create as much noise as possible, making it evident to all and sundry that our entry to the building was entirely a necessity, upon which no compromise would be accepted.

It was with tremendous relief that, in the midst of the noise, our mother appeared at the door, pleased by the unexpected surprise of meeting both of her penitent boys. 

Over the ensuing minutes, each of us voiced extremely creative interpretations of our individual contributions to the scheme outlined above, both of us doing our level best to distance ourselves from the role we actually played.  

I take no pride in confessing that I was compelled to play the incriminating recording that I had made of my brother.

I was distressed to find that he had made his own in turn!  

Neither of us emerged from this situation with much honor.

But my mother was pleased that we were so concerned for her well being that we abandoned all other projects and scoured Hell and Earth to find her and ensure that she was alright.

I think that next year, I will return to my habitual indifference to April the first...and I will lock my office door and not take any calls from my brother.



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