I loved Nanna. There was no doubt to it. Like most families, Nanna was the one person who it didn’t matter what she said, it was usually funny as hell. Funnier still was the way she reacted to certain situations. For instance, let’s say she was making cookies and an egg would fall on the floor. Nanna would look at the egg, point at it, and say, “You fucking bastard,” like it was the egg’s fault, or if she was making dinner and inadvertently knocked over the olive oil, she’d point at it and say, “You little prick.” This, of course, would send me into a fit of laughter. She would always place her forefinger at her lips and “Shhhh” me before telling me to not say anything to Ma or Daddy about it. I never did. That was Nanna’s and my secret.

As funny as that was, as funny as she was, Nanna had a dark side to her as well that manifested itself in the way of practical jokes. For instance, when I was eight, I had yet to see the movie Independence Day. Nanna told me to come watch TV with her. Unbeknownst to me, she had paused the DVD until I arrived, then pressed play. The scene came up where the aliens destroyed the White House. “Oh, my God!” she shouted. “Wesley, we’re under attack by aliens!”

I remember looking at her and beginning to cry. “Come this way, Wesley. Nanna will protect you.” She had me hide in my closet, then said, “Nanna has to make sure all the doors and windows are locked. Stay right here until I get back.” An hour and a half later, and I was still waiting, and still crying. I heard a noise. Something had fallen. Footsteps then, and they were getting closer and closer to my closet. Finally, a metallic voice said, “Target has been located. Prepare for extermination.”

My closet door flew open and I was looking at a hideous creature with claws that were moving back and forth. I screamed as loud as I could as I pushed myself into a corner. Nanna removed her mask as she laughed wildly. I, on the other hand, had pissed my pants. Oh, she thought it was hilarious. “It’s okay, Wesley,” she said between bouts of laughter. “Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up.”

That night for dinner she fixed me chicken strips and French fries to make up for the joke; however, I was still sulking. “I’m going to get you for this,” I promised her.

“Oh, really?” she asked with a laugh. “Bring it on.”

Halloween was just two months away. I told my best friend Carlos what Nanna had done, and asked him if he’d help me play a prank on her. He said sure, and asked what I had in mind. I told him, and he was excited to be a part of it.

A week before Halloween, Nanna took me to the store and bought me a Chewbacca outfit. One call to Carlos ensured his parents had bought him the same. The day of Halloween, while still at school, I said, “Okay, I want you to hide in Ms. Crowley’s shrubs. When I go up to get my candy, I’ll wait for the other kids to turn and walk away, then I’ll trade places with you. You know what to do next, right?”

“I got this, amigo,” Carlos assured me, and sure enough, that is how things went. I did hit a bit of a snag, though.

“Weren’t you already here?” Ms. Crowley asked me.

“No, ma’am,” I answered as I took my mask off. “Carlos Ramirez and I have the same outfit this year, Ms. Crowley.”

“You wouldn’t lie to me to get more candy, would you?”

“You’re my Sunday School teacher, Ms. Crowley. I wouldn’t lie to you. I promise.”

“Well then, here’s an extra piece of candy for being honest,” she said with a smile.

I returned my mask to its proper place, and as planned, when the other kids turned to leave, I jumped in the shrubs while Carlos took my place. I followed Carlos for about four houses, then Carlos removed his mask and said, “Lady, can I go home now or are you going to kidnap me? Stranger Danger!”

“Oh, my goodness!” Nanna said as she looked around. “Oh, my Lord! Where’s my grandson?” She looked across the street to see me laughing my ass off on the Peterman’s lawn. She marched across the street and said, “You little—” but she stopped short as I continued to laugh. She started laughing as well, then said, “Okay, okay. You got me.”

“That’ll teach you to play jokes on me,” I told her, but my smile soon faded when she said,

“Oh no, dear Wesley. That teaches me to play even bigger and better jokes.” I stared at her wide-eyed. She cackled like a witch. She took my hand and said, “Come on. You still have a lot of trick-or-treating to do.”

She played little pranks on me throughout the years, like the monocular that, when you look through it, it puts a black ring around you eye, or the “stick of gum” that’s really a mouse trap thing that snaps your finger when you take it. She even got me with a whoopee cushion several times, but I knew that these were building to something bigger. I just didn’t know what.

The next really big prank came when I was sixteen. Nanna was chopping onions to add to the giblet gravy on Thanksgiving Day as I watched TV in the living room; Ma and Daddy anadolu yakası escort were putting up the Christmas Tree. I was really into the latest Dragonball Z episode when all of a sudden, I heard Nanna yell. I raced to the kitchen to find her holding the blood-soaked nub of her right index finger while on the cutting board was the remainder of it covered in blood.

“Oh … Oh Wesley. I’m going to pass out.” Ma and Daddy arrived just as she slid down a wall. I was at Nanna’s side trying to get her to wake up. Ma screamed as she ran to join us.

Daddy looked at the cutting board and said, “Okay, Willa. You got them.” I looked up and saw him lick the blood from the finger, only it was ketchup and the finger was rubber.

“Darn tootin’ I did,” Nanna said as she sat up. “Especially this one here.” She tousled my hair. “Hope I didn’t scare you too badly, Wesley.” She looked between my legs. “Nope. Still dry.”

“You’re going to get it,” I told her, “and when you do, it ain’t gonna be pretty.”

“Stop it. Both of you,” Ma said. “No more pranks in this house. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I answered.

“Whatever you say,” Nanna replied.

Being sixteen, I was old enough to start donating blood. We had a blood drive upcoming on February first at school, and while there, the perfect prank hit me. Of course, I would once again need the help of Carlos, and when I explained why, he was only too happy to comply.

When I got home the day of the blood drive, I proudly showed off the bandage where they drew the blood, and my free T-shirt that read ‘O-Positive-ly a Blood Donor.’ Everyone congratulated me on caring enough to help as I could.

Ma and Daddy had planned a romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day, which fell on a Friday. They would be gone all weekend, so it was the perfect time to put my prank into motion. First, Carlos had created a really nice American Red Cross letterhead on his computer. Second, after several hours of wording it just right, he and I came up with the perfect letter. It read:

Mr. Wesley Gavin Johnson

re: Blood Donation

Dear Mr. Johnson,

We regret to inform you that as part of our standard testing procedures, your blood has been deemed unsuitable for use. It has been determined that you are a carrier of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that ultimately leads to AIDS. Your name has been entered into our databank, and you are urged to seek professional help immediately.

Alec Pilsbury

Department Head

Vermont American Red Cross Headquarters

“Oh, man. She’s going to have a litter of kittens when she finds this,” Carlos said.

“Yeah, but when she finds me hanging from a noose, she’ll be having a whole herd of cows,” I told him. I explained what I wanted to do, and he helped me fashion a harness that would make it look like I had hanged myself.

We got Carlos’s mother in on the prank as well. We had her call Nanna and say she was from the library and that Nanna had a book that was three weeks overdue and she needed to go there immediately to settle the matter. When Nanna left, Carlos and I fixed the harness to my back, then I put my shirt on. Then we looped a rope around my neck, but the real rope was affixed to the harness and was tied to a rafter on the back porch. Carlos left a folded note on the patio table, then ripped open the faux envelope from the Red Cross and displayed the letter on the counter. After that, he went home and awaited my call.

Nanna returned about thirty minutes later, and from my spot on the back porch I could just make out her stopping at the counter and reading the letter. There was a high yelp of shock, followed by Nanna going through the house, screaming my name as she looked for me. I had closed my eyes and pretended to be dead. She finally made her way to the back porch and screamed as she saw me hanging there. She began to cry as she said, “No, no. Wesley, please, no.” She stopped, grabbed the folded note that I had written “To my dear family” on, and when she opened it, she screamed as the words GOTCHA! jumped out at her in bold, green letters.

“You little son-of-a-prick!” she screamed at me, then punched me in the nuts. It hurt so bad, but I was laughing so hard that I didn’t really register the pain.

“Now you’ll think twice before cutting your finger off, won’t you?”

She laughed as she said, “Good luck getting yourself down.”

I called Carlos and was down in fifteen minutes.

Nanna and I went back and forth after that, trying to out-do each other with little pranks. Some were successful, but most weren’t. In the back of my mind, I knew she was building to something big, and I honestly didn’t know how I was going to counter it.

After I graduated high school, Ma and Daddy announced that they were going on a two-year project with Greenpeace to third-world countries to do their part in spreading democracy and helping ataşehir escort the environment. I had applied to and was accepted at The University of Vermont-Waterbury, which meant that I would be moving from our home in Woodstock as a seventy-one-mile daily commute was too much to ask of anyone. For all intents and purposes, Nanna was going to be living alone for the next couple of years.

Oh, yes. I promised both Nanna and my parents that I would drive back home every weekend and holiday, and I did. On one particular weekend, I was hanging out with Carlos. We talked about this and that, then we got on the subject of practical jokes. I told him that Nanna hadn’t played one on me in a while, and it was hard for me to play one on her when I lived so far away. “Not necessarily,” he told me, and then began to tell me of a really good one I could play on Nanna, “because you always retaliate. You need to strike first this time.” I agreed, so we set his plan into motion.

Carlos had an aunt who worked in the Governor’s office, and since he was her favorite nephew, she pretty much catered to his requests. He told her that he wanted her to type something on the Governor’s stationery. He told her it was for a prank, and when she heard it, she was more than willing to play along.

Two weeks later, Nanna called me, frantic and exasperated. “Oh, Wesley. Oh, Wesley. What am I going to do?”

“What’s wrong, Nanna?”

“I just received a letter from the Governor, Wesley. The Governor! Oh, it’s terrible, Wesley. So, so terrible.”

“Calm down and read it to me, Nanna.” She was on the verge of tears. It was all I could do to keep from laughing right then and there.

“Dear Mrs. Johnson,

“It has come to the attention of the Governor’s office that your son and daughter-in-law recently vacated your home to spend an undetermined amount of time overseas. Furthermore, we have seen where your grandson has vacated the premises and moved to Waterbury to attend college there. Nothing could make us happier than to hear this news, for it means that you now have three bedrooms available for occupation.

“We here at the Governor’s office embrace the refugees who are pouring in from the Middle East, and we feel it is our duty to find suitable housing for them while they are being vetted. The simple fact that your house has an in-ground pool makes you a prime sponsor for these plaintive refugees. Smile, Mrs. Johnson, for you are now part of the Refugee Network. We will be sending you some literature concerning customs and foodstuffs you will be required to participate in.

With Many Thanks,

Gov. Thomas Bell, III”

“Wesley, these people haven’t even been vetted and they want to put them up in our home? What if they’re terrorists, Wesley? What if they try to kill me, or rape me, or both? Oh, Wesley, what if they—”

I couldn’t contain it any longer. I burst out laughing and actually dropped my phone. I didn’t pick it up for several minutes because that’s how long it took me to calm down. When I finally did, I said, “You okay, Nanna? Did the little prank rile you up too much?”

“Oh, you son of a bastard ball sack!” she spat at me. “I should have known. I should have known.” She hung up on me, but immediately called back. I opened the line and she said, “You know, that was your best one yet. I’m actually impressed by this one, Wesley, but in the words of Bugs Bunny: ‘Of course you know, this means war,’ and you know Nanna always wins out in the end.” She laughed that cackling laugh of hers, then hung up on me.

It was January. Nanna called me and asked if I would take her to the doctor the following day, Friday, since she knew I didn’t have any classes. She was coughing terribly, which had me concerned. “Why don’t you just go to the emergency room, Nanna?”

“I’ll be alright until tomorrow,” she said, then fell into a terrible coughing fit. “Besides, if I thought I could drive myself, I wouldn’t ask you to come get me.”

“Are you sure?”

“My appointment is at one. Call me when you leave out so I can be sure I have all my things together.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I told her. “I love you, Nanna.”

“I love you to, Wes—” and then another coughing spell. “Letmegoloveyoubye.” And she killed the connection.

The following morning, I called Nanna at eleven-thirty to tell her I was on my way, but she didn’t answer the phone. The whole trip up, I called every two or three minutes, and still she never answered. I was so worried, and even a bit scared, for I had never heard her cough like that in all my life.

I got to Nanna’s house in record time. I was surprised that some cop hiding in the bushes hadn’t pulled me over for speeding. I entered her house and immediately began calling out, “Nanna. Nanna. It’s Wesley. Where are you?” I made my way through the house and to her room where I found her lying on the bed.

She appeared to be asleep. I reached out to gently ümraniye escort shake her on her shoulder, and she was ice-cold. I grabbed her arm. It was just as cold as her shoulder had been. “Oh, Nanna,” I said as tears formed in my eyes. I sat at the foot of her bed. I pulled my phone out, then touched her on her shin. Ice-cold. I dialed 9-1-1, and then,

Nanna sat up and shouted, “Hur-hur-hee-hee-hur-hur-hur!”

Motherfuck!” I screamed just as the 9-1-1 operator answered my call. As I stood there, I became aware of the fact that I had not only pissed my pants, but that I had actually shit myself as well. The 9-1-1 operator asked for the third time what my emergency was, and I said, “I’m sorry. False alarm,” and killed the connection. Then I turned to Nanna, who was laughing her ass off. “What the fuck, Nanna?”

“I told you I was going to get you,” she said through her laughter.

“You … You made me shit myself.” This revelation sent her into an even harder fit of laughter. “It’s not funny, Nanna. What am I supposed to do now?”

“I had bought you some clothes for your birthday,” she told me, still laughing. “Get a shower and I’ll lay them out for you.”

I showered, got dressed, then made my way to the living room where I found she had changed into much warmer clothing. I asked her if her doctor’s visit was legit. “Oh, yes, but it’s just a routine check-up. Nothing more.”

“Then what was all that coughing about? And why didn’t you answer your phone when I called? You had me worried sick.”

“I turned the heater off first thing this morning. When you called, I immediately ran the tub full of cold water. I had to time this just right so I wouldn’t warm up by the time you got here. I waited thirty minutes, then got in the tub and soaked for another twenty. I dried off, then put on the sleeveless night gown. You walked in shortly after, and …”

“You made me think you were dead, Nanna!”

“Didn’t you do the same to me?”

“That was dif—”

“Different? How?” she interrupted. When I didn’t readily answer, she said, “My nipples weren’t poking out, were they? They felt hard enough to cut glass.”

“You’re really dark, do you know that? Dark, and disturbed.”

“You wouldn’t want me any other way, Wesley. Now come on, let’s get to my doctor.”

I was really stewing as I drove her. She took this opportunity to start making jokes at my expense. “Oh, hi, Dr. Livingston. This is my grandson, Wesley, but we just call him ol’ shit-ass.” She burst into laughter. I just looked and scowled. “Oh, Nurse Collins. This is my grandson, Wesley. He’s really big in hip-hop. His rap name is Sir-Dumps-a-Lot.” She burst into laughter again.

You know how when you’re really pissed at someone and they make you laugh, and that makes you even more pissed? That’s what was happening to me.

“Oh, P.A. Mitchell, allow me to introduce my grandson Wesley. We just call him Turd-knocker, Jr.” She was laughing so hard that she couldn’t even catch her breath.

“Okay, Nanna. That’s enough.”

“Wait,” she managed to say. “Wait. One … One more. Oh, Irma—hahahahahaha—you remem—hahahahaha—you remember my grandson Wesley. Did you know—hahahahaha—did you know—hahahahahaha—he … he’s half Indian?—hahahahahaha—His Cherokee name—hahahahaha—His Cherokee name is Wakunaku, which means—hahahahahaha—which means ‘He Who Shits His Drawers! BWA-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

Oh, God. Nanna was on a roll. I was laughing so hard that tears were rolling down my cheeks. I drove off the side of the rode and narrowly missed a speed limit sign by mere inches. “Okay, Nanna. Please.”

Our laughter subsided, then there was a couple of moments’ silence. Nanna reached out and grabbed my hand. “I love you, Wesley.”

I smiled at her. “I love you too, Nanna.”

“When your grandfather died, I put all my energy into you, Wesley, and never once have you disappointed me. I’m so proud of you, and I love you more than you will ever know.”

“Thank you, Nanna. You’re very special to me, too.”

“You know,” she said as she continued to look at me, “My nipples weren’t hard from the cold bath, but from you touching me.”

I slowly turned and looked at her, incredulity painted across my face. Nanna fell into another fit of laughter. “Dark, and disturbed,” I reiterated.

I decided to stay the weekend. Classes had just started, so there was no homework. Nanna went to the store, and off the top of my head I concocted a prank to get even with her. I turned on the TV in the kitchen, found an episode of Martha Stewart making a soufflé, then paused it as it was On Demand; I muted the TV as well. I placed a stool in front of the TV so that when I sat down, Nanna wouldn’t be able to see what I was watching. I then grabbed a banana and half-peeled it. Now all I had to do was wait.

I heard her enter through the front door, and that’s when I started the show up again. I began saying, “Oh, yeah. Beat that thing. Beat it good. Oh, baby, can’t nobody beat that thing like you can.”

“Wesley! What are you doing?”

NANNA! NO!” I shouted, then turned and squeezed the banana and it popped out of its skin and flew across the room and landed at her feet.



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