APRIL FOOL • by Paul A. Freeman

April hated her name with a vengeance, and the reason was simple. On the first day of her namesake month — the month of her birth as it so happened — she was inevitably the target of every wannabe prankster’s warped sense of humour.

It happened every April Fools’ Day, and she was sick of it.

“My parents have a lot to answer for,” April grumbled, driving into the underground car park at work. “Why couldn’t they have conceived me at a later date? Then I could have been a ‘May’, or a ‘June’, or an ‘Augusta’ even?”

In one of the parking bays, Tara, who occupied the cubicle two down from April, was standing beside her car, speaking animatedly into her mobile phone and casting her unluckily named workmate shifty glances.

“Here we go,” groaned April.

However, she deftly negotiated the first booby trap her colleagues had laid on for her by avoiding the lift and taking the stairs to the third floor.

A short time later she emerged, panting for breath, in the corridor outside the open plan office where she spent eight hours a day extolling the virtues of slate tiling over the telephone. There she found Roger, another of her workmates, poised with his hand on the elevator’s emergency shutdown lever.

Seeing that his and Tara’s plan had failed, he hung his head in frustration.

“Don’t let your guard down,” April urged herself, rummaging through her handbag for a tissue and placing it over the glue-smeared office door handle.

She would have pushed the door open immediately, too, but she noticed it was slightly ajar and could hear Jenny tittering from inside the room. A swift kick of the door displaced a tub of water teetering on the top of the door jamb, soaking the floor.

“Someone had better call a janitor,” April suggested, stepping over the puddle of water and heading for the coffee machine.

“The coffee’s probably the only thing this lot won’t sabotage,” April muttered under her breath. That said, she took a clean mug from her handbag – a mug she had packed earlier that morning as a precaution.

A disappointed sigh echoed around the office, telling April that her usual coffee cup, the black one with the white skull and cross bone motif, had most likely once again had its rim smeared with Sarah the office Goth’s ‘Nightshade’ lipstick.

Her back to her colleagues, April took a vial of liquid vengeance from her handbag, surreptitiously set her own booby trap and made her way cautiously to her desk.

Once she had removed a thumbtack from inside the seat cover of her office chair, April turned on her computer. Within a couple of minutes she had deleted an email informing her she had won ten thousand pounds in a mysterious lottery draw, fielded a wrong number from David Beckham (who sounded suspiciously like Harry from the cubicle by the window) and ignored an alert for an emergency meeting that purportedly came from her boss, Mr Manning.

When the mid-morning break came round, April breathed a sigh of relief. Meanwhile, her colleagues, thoroughly exasperated by their failure to catch April out, rose from their seats and trooped over to the coffee machine.

Twenty minutes later, one by one, April’s male and female workmates rushed, bent double, to their respective toilets, leaving behind them a malodorous trail.

Harry, aka David Beckham, was the last man standing, so to speak. As he hurried to the men’s bathroom, realisation dawned and he cast April a furious backward glance.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” he hissed. “You put laxative in the coffee, didn’t you, you little cow?”

April smirked. “‘Little cow’?” she said. “The name’s ‘April’, fool!”

Paul A. Freeman is the author of ‘Rumours of Ophir’, a crime novel set in Zimbabwe. His narrative poem ‘Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers’, and his second crime novel, ‘Vice and Virtue’, have also been published. Over seventy-five of his short stories have appeared in print. He currently lives in Abu Dhabi with his family, and despite reports to the contrary, he never swims in the nude. He can be found at www.paulfreeman.weebly.com.

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