Fool Me Once
Bobby was a practical joker. He liked nothing more than playing a prank on an unsuspecting victim, reducing himself to hysterical laughter and his victim to red faced embarrassment. As a child he had spent all his Saturday mornings and most of his pocket money in the joke shop on the High Street, filling his pockets with itching powder, rubber snakes and plastic flies. Throughout the week he would search out new victims, hunting them down with all the stealth and ruthlessness of a big game hunter, luring them in until he was ready to strike.
At school he had tormented his teachers with frogs in their desk drawer, rubber chalk, whoopee cushions and the like. He had spent more time in detention than any other child in his year and on one occasion had been suspended for putting a potato in a teacher’s exhaust pipe and causing several hundred pounds worth of damage to the car. His father had beaten him for that and threatened him with further beatings if he ever did anything that serious again. So Bobby learned to play less serious pranks, ones that would give him the thrill of fooling someone without the risk of causing any real damage.
As a teenager Bobby was often the centre of attention as he pranked the girls, reducing them to red faced screaming ninnies. He positioned a hairdryer under a desk and as they walked past he switched it on and blew their skirts up, affording the boys a flash of thigh and knicker. He put superglue in the keyhole of the head girls locker and watched as she wept with frustration when she couldn’t get her text books out for her lessons. He switched the soap in the girls’ cloakroom and shrieked with laughter when the prettiest girl in school emerged with a sooty black face. Not many people laughed with him when she was sent home in her father’s Bentley after becoming hysterical.
Bobby’s parents hoped that he would grow out of these tricks when he became an adult but they were disappointed. If anything the tricks got more cruel. He would play on the most vulnerable part of a person, finding just the prank that would sting them the most. A shy woman at his work was horrified to find a picture of her face pasted onto a naked body and displayed around all the offices one morning. She became hysterical and had to be calmed by the office manager before the paramedics arrived. He never saw her again. She was replaced by a fat woman who he tormented for three months with deliveries of pizzas and diet club application forms until she stormed out one day, throwing her letter of resignation in the manager’s face on her way out. The man with the stammer only lasted a day after Bobby gave him a list of customers to phone littered with names containing m’s and l’s. He had to retire to the toilet after that one, tears streaming down his face and unable to speak for laughing.
Bobby moved from the office job when he was outed as the one who put cling film across the gent’s toilet seat on the day the chairman of the board was visiting. He though he should quit before the internal enquiry began. He found a job in a warehouse and many fruitful opportunities to pull pranks. He stacked some empty boxes so that the next person through the door would make them topple. A few broken pots in the top one made a wonderful sound as they crashed to the floor. He’d never heard a man scream as loudly as John did. John was a wonderful victim, so gullible, so trusting. When he started work at the warehouse Bobby singled him out for special treatment. He sent him on wild goose chases for tartan paint, left handed screws and glass hammers. The look on John’s face when he came back empty handed and apologetic was priceless.
But it couldn’t last. John worked out what was going on and complained to the manager that he was being bullied by Bobby. The firm took a very serious view of bullying and sacked Bobby on the spot. All his pleading that it was all done in fun fell on deaf ears. There was a zero tolerance for bullying and he was to be made an example of. He was given such poor references that he found it hard to get another job, drifting in and out of dead end jobs like litter picking and collecting trollies in supermarket car parks. None of them lasted long as he was unable to curb his pranking ways and always fell out with his co-workers. On one memorable occasion he was sacked for surrounding the manager’s car with trollies so he couldn’t drive off. Bobby thought that was one of his finest but it cost him yet another job. Eventually the offers of jobs dried up and he settled into a life on benefits, living in one room in a bed and breakfast. He’d alienated all his friends and family so lived a lonely existence, drifting from one pub to another until he got barred for playing tricks on the regulars.
As an old man he liked to slump on chairs in cafes pretending to be dead. When a concerned customer or member of staff came to see how he was he’d open his eyes and wail at them, causing more than one young girl to burst into tears and getting himself barred from more establishments around town. He took to pulling the same trick in the park, slumping on a bench and lying very still until someone came up to him concerned for his welfare. Dogs would sniff him and he’d wait until the person was really close before he shouted in their face, making them scream or jump back in horror. He got a reputation in town and people would walk quickly past him or turn and head back the way they had come. None of the locals bothered with him and the trick was rarely played to its conclusion.
And that’s how Bobby the prankster, the master of the practical joke, the great trickster, came to be found stiff and cold on a park bench one Friday afternoon, having sat there, dead, for seven hours.