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Caught Red-Handed

Brittany Morris

I woke up, and my hands were red. Not the kind of red when you are really nervous around a hot girl and your palms are sweating. Not the kind when you have clapped too hard at a rock concert. And not the kind after you jokingly slapped one of your buddies on the butt before he runs out onto the football field. This was the kind of red like Bobby's new candy apple red Corvette his dad had bought him as a present for getting his license-after failing the test the first three times.

I turned my hands over and back again; just my palms were red. I rolled up my sleeves; no red on my arms-just my palms. Interesting.

Finally, I sat up-not in my own bed-and tried to figure out where I was. I was lying on a lumpy green couch in a basement. My buddies Greg, John, Justin, Andrew, and Bobby were scattered on another matching couch and in sleeping bags on the floor. Then I finally remembered: we had all spent the night at Bobby's last night. But as I looked around and took in my surroundings a little more, everything seemed to make sense at the same time; littered all around the room-in the corners, up against the TV and walls, and even between the sleeping bags-were red spray paint cans.

I had no idea what time it was- the clock in Bobby's basement had stopped working last summer when a baseball accidently went astray and knocked it off the mantle. But since I was the first one up, I decided to try to see if I could get rid of some of the evidence of what we had done last night. I quietly stepped over and between my sleeping friends and headed for the bathroom in the corner of the basement. I got my hands really soapy three separate times and scrubbed until it felt like the skin was flaking off my hands. Only then did I have the courage to look at the damage done. My hands were still red! Oh, this is just perfect!

Breathe, Jake, I told myself. It will come off eventually. And besides, you didn't do any harm to anything. Just had some stupid fun with the guys.

I weaved my way back through the maze of sleeping bodies until I reached the safe-haven of my couch. I decided to go back to sleep until the rest of the guys were awake.

I couldn't fall asleep, though; my mind was racing with possibilities of what we could have done last night. We could have graffiti-ed and egged Bobby's cat-lady neighbor's house. She smells funny and always hands out apples for Halloween and yells if we even come close to her lawn with our skateboards. We could have spray painted the pool deck of Francis Foster's house.

We all hate that snobby know-it-all spoiled valedictorian SGA president of our junior class. We could have spray painted all of our names on the wall of fame. The wall of fame is the wall at the skate park where your name gets painted if you win the half-pipe contest every summer. It is an honor. Bobby and I have come in second and third place consecutively every summer after Avery Jones. We could have spray painted Avery's new black Mustang as revenge…

I didn't have time to come up with anymore ideas because I heard groaning coming from the other couch: Bobby was up. I closed my eyes, hoping he might disclose some helpful information.

"Man, what a night," he said as he yawned. "We have to do that again! Yo, Justin!" I heard a thump and a moan; I opened my eyes slightly to see Bobby's pillow lying square on Justin's face. Justin groaned again, sat up in his sleeping bag, and threw the pillow back at Bobby. His aim was just slightly off, though, because the pillow came up short and landed on Greg who was sleeping in front of the couch.

"Dude, what gives?" yelled Greg, slightly muffled from under the pillow.

Before I knew it, the pillow had been thrown at everyone else, including me, and we were discussing what we had done last night.

"Man, you were so out of it last night!" Andrew told me. "I'm surprised you were able to walk home on your own!"

"Was I really? No wonder I can't remember anything we did."

"Dude, you don't remember anything?" John exclaimed.

I shrugged my shoulders and saw the nonchalant fist bump between Bobby and Greg that I'm sure I wasn't supposed to see.

"So is anyone gonna tell me what we did?"

"Dude!" That was Justin. "We spray painted the highschool!"

"We WHAT?"

"Yeah, dude. We broke in last night and left some fun messages for Principal Falon."

"You guys are lying," I said. "There is no way we did that! Besides if we did, I'm a dead man."

"Man, you were there! You wrote Principle Fail on his office door! Besides, the whole plan was your idea!" Greg said this with pride in his voice.

I couldn't believe it! I would never do that! And why could I not remember? I definitely stay away from drinking and drugs. "No! No! I'm dead I'm dead I'm dead!" I went to cover my face with my hands until I remembered they were red and shoved my face into the previously flying pillow instead.

"Dude! Don't be such a girl!" cried Bobby. "You won't get caught, so what's the problem?"

"Principal Falon is writing my recommendation letter to go to College Park and get into their specialized Engineering program as a freshman. If he finds out I did this, I have no shot!"

"Once again, you won't get caught! So just give up the dramatics before I sign you up to play Juliet in the school play!" That was Justin chiming in with his usual sensitivity, and throwing another pillow at me.

"You're right," I conceded, chucking it back at him, "Except for THIS!" I showed them my hands.

"It washes off!" said Justin, as if I had questioned that two and two makes four.

"I've already washed my hands three times this morning."

"DUDE!" chorused all my friends. After glancing around at the clean hands of everyone else, I looked specifically at Bobby and Greg out of the corner of my eye and saw them trying to wipe Joker-esque grins off their faces.

"We can't let you take the heat for all of us," said John. "Maybe we should go back and clean the school by tomorrow."

"Dude, you are stupid!" retorted Andrew. "Our work is epic! We can't just go get rid of it!"

"But what about Jake?" John was my favorite out of all of them right now.

"Guess you have to wear gloves to school tomorrow, dude."

"Oh, brilliant, Bobby! That's not a dead giveaway." I swear my best friend is such an idiot at times.

"But why are only your hands red, Jake?" Justin was just now on the same page as the rest of us.

"I don't know, man. It's not like I tried to make my hands red or anything." I looked right at Bobby as I said this. "But, listen, I gotta go. I promised Mom I would be home early to cut the lawn, and I have to find some way to clean my hands."

"Dude, that's weak! You really are a girl!"

"Thanks, Justin. Love you too, man. Later guys!"

***

I arrived at school the next day-expecting to see our artwork adorning lockers, walls, and classroom doors-wearing my attempted cover-up, which I would call shoddy at best. My sister had lent me her boyfriend's huge black skateboarder sweatshirt that was about two sizes too big for me, and for added disguise it had the sleeves with the thumb holes, so the sweatshirt would cover at least the palm of my hand.

Not only was I going to lose my recommendation letter, I thought to myself, I was going to be in detention until I was forty!

But I saw nothing.

The hallways were spotless; the lockers were clean. Even the doorway to my homeroom classroom was sparkling-literally. What was going on?

I walked into my homeroom and didn't see my teacher at his desk like usual; I saw all my buddies crowded around the desk and Principal Falon sitting in the desk chair. Crap; I was done for!

"APRIL FOOL'S JAKE!" they all shouted, even the principal.

I was speechless; I didn't get the joke.

They must have seen my stunned faces because Bobby decided to fill me in. "Listen Jake," he walked over and put his hand on my shoulder. "We knew how much this recommendation letter meant to you, so we talked Principal Falon into letting us into the school this weekend to clean it so he would write you the letter."

"Yeah, we told him the cleaning project was your idea but that you had to be at home helping your mom and couldn't actually be there to help us," John continued.

"We knew you would never actually spray paint the school, but we thought it would be funny to make you think you did," Greg told me.

I was in shock, but apparently that was not everything; it was Principal Falon's turn to add to the story.

"I even got in on the April Fool's fun and made it seem like I wouldn't write the letter for you even if the guys did clean the school. I made them really beg and plead your case, even though I was going to write you the letter all along. Your friends really love you!"

He handed me the letter and shook my hand. Then all my friends just stood there staring at me, expecting me to say something.

"That was cruel, dudes!" I finally said. "But the coolest April Fool's joke ever!"

"Dude, high five?" Bobby asked.

"Dude!" I replied. "You're an idiot." But I high-fived him with my red hand anyway.

Read other articles by Brittany Morris