A Cruel Joke

A short story about an April Fool’s Day joke.

Hunting ducks | Graphic by Emmi Wu ’23/Staff

I went duck hunting early one frigid spring morning with my father. We left the house in the rich darkness between moonset and sunrise. Though the calendar said April, the morning was so cold I could practically feel icicles forming inside my insulated gloves. Over my shoulder I had slung a new shotgun and a bandolier full of shells, enough to clear ten ponds’ worth of ducks, maybe more. The first day of hunting season, and my first time joining my dad, would be a special memory.

At the pond, we settled into the hunting blind and waited in the stillness. While I had experience skeet shooting, today would be my first real test in the wild and I was filled with anticipation. I was as eager as a master sniper tracking his target and waited for the right moment to act. And just like a master sniper, I searched for a balance between calm and a desire to accomplish my objective–a bag full of plump ducks to feed my family and donate to others in need, too. 

After spending a full day in cold cramped silence with no ducks to be seen, the sun dropped behind the horizon once again and the pond shone like quicksilver in the moonlight. Soon thereafter, I spotted sudden movement on the other side of the pond. Without hesitation, I unloaded a magazine full of ammunition as fast as I could. After that rapid fire, my dad and I ran to see my success. Instead of the expected clutch of winter ducks, we found the motionless body of a man lying in the reeds. 

My dad stared open-mouthed in shock. While he searched for words I spun around in response to the sound of a breaking branch behind us and raised my gun once again. A young boy, no more than perhaps seven, appeared dressed in clothes identical to the man lying face down on the embankment. With an anguished cry, my dad ripped the gun from my hand while the boy howled in terror and ran into the darkness screaming for help. I struggled to follow, but my dad’s big, strong hands kept me locked in place. I looked up at my dad’s face and saw a mix of fright and disgust at what I had done. He told me I had lost my mind and tied me up with our fishing net. 

He shook his head in resignation, taking furtive glances at me while pacing back and forth in panic. “What should I do with the body? What will happen to that little boy? What has come over my son?” After what seemed like hours of anguished debate, though was probably just minutes, he decided to take me home and call the police, leaving nothing disturbed at the crime scene. My mother, waiting at the door when we came home, fell to the ground in horror when my dad described what I had done. They debated how to explain the situation to the police and who they could hire to be my lawyer in what was to follow. Moments into their planning there was a knock at the door. My parents looked at one another with anxiety–had someone already reported me? 

Hesitantly, they cracked open the door, only to find the young boy and his dad on our front porch. Both were alive, well, and grinning from ear to ear! It was then that I joined the boy and the dad in side-splitting laughter. This was without a doubt the best April Fools prank ever, even more amazing than some whoppers that my dad had pulled on me. In one evening I had evened the score, and then some, with the master jokester himself.

As the laughter subsided and the actors I had hired with a year’s allowance money headed home, I made a commitment to my family that I would never again pull that type of prank. I’m sure that I will stick to that commitment…at least until next April 1.