T’was a dangerous practical joke

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Like my dad, there’s nothing I enjoy better than a good, harmless practical joke. Except my latest one wasn’t harmless; it almost got me killed.

It all started when neighbor Marty asked me to watch her soap opera, “The Young and the Restless” – a show she’s watched for years. She couldn’t watch it that day because she had a doctor’s appointment at 11 a.m. Marty wanted me to find out for her if Summer, who had donated her liver to Lola, would die during that particular episode because there’d been some serious complications and she probably wouldn’t live, Marty predicted.

So I tuned in that day and watched, although mainly what I watched – endured, I should say – was an avalanche of moronic, witless commercials.

It was while putting up with the lamebrain commercials that I concocted a practical joke to play on Marty. Last November, Marty fell and suffered extremely bad multiple fractures in her left hand and wrist. She had to go to a series of follow-up sessions at the clinic with a therapist named Peter. She truly enjoyed Peter’s pleasant personality and cheerful chatter.

When Marty got home from the doctor that day, she was practically frantic to find out all about Summer.

“What happened?” she asked. “Tell me what happened!”

“You’re not going to believe this, Marty,” I told her. “It’s really, really bad.”

“Did she die?” she asked. “She did, didn’t she?!”

“Well, no, but here’s what happened. It was a dark and quiet night on the hospital’s intensive care unit. All of a sudden, Summer started thrashing about in her bed. Then she flung the blankets off, ripped out feeding tubes and ran from the room. In the halls she sprinted zig-zag back and forth like a wild deer, screaming and shrieking.”

“Doesn’t surprise me,” Marty said. “Sounds like something she’d do. Summer’s really weird.”

“Then,” I continued, “the staff started chasing her down the hall. She ran to the staircase, tripped and tumbled all the way down, bouncing like a beach ball in the stairwell.”

“No!” Marty said. “Did she die?”

“Well, no, she didn’t die, but . . . ” I said, pausing for effect.

“But what?! What? Tell me, Dennis!,” she demanded.

“But she suffered terrible injuries,” I said with a tone of funereal sadness. “All of her ribs are broken, fractured leg, bumps, bruises, abrasions, a concussion and . . . “

“And what? What?!”

“And she broke her hand so badly they had to amputate it.”

“Amputate?” said Marty, turning ghostly white as she looked down at her own mending hand in its support bandage.

“Yes, amputation!” I said with exaggerated horror. “But now for the good news.”

“What good news? Tell me!”

“She’s going to get a hand transplant soon. From Lola. Lola told the doctor that since Summer gave her a liver, she’d gladly give Summer one of her hands. But, meantime, they have to put her in an induced coma that will last at least nine episodes – maybe more.”

“No!” said Marty, squinting at me. “Are you making this up?”

“Now listen, Marty. Wait, there’s more. As the scene in Summer’s hospital room faded, just before another barrage of commercials, you could hear on the ward’s intercom, “Paging therapist Peter, paging therapist Peter!”

“Dennis! You dirty rotten rat! Shame on you! You made all that up just to get my goat!”

She gave me a dagger look, and if looks could kill I’d still be sprawled on my kitchen floor. Dead. The Old and the Lifeless.

“OK, now tell me what really happened,” she said.

“I have no clue. Summer, whoever she is, wasn’t even on today’s show.”

“You dirty rat! I’ll get even, just wait and see!”

I learned one thing from my practical joke. Don’t ever make fun of soap operas. Some people take them seriously. Dead seriously.

Author: Dennis Dalman


Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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