The Great Carnation Swap

The word butt first originated in the 14th century in Middle English as a block or wooden stump used as a target in archery. Thanks to the evolution of the English language, we can now use this excellent word in reference to our friends or enemies being the target of our wit and/or ridicule, otherwise known as the butt of our pranks. And this story is about one such case.

In high school, every time some sort of ‘gram’ came around (one of those fundraisers where you send a flower etc. with a personalized message), I could never pass on the opportunity to cause a little mischief. This time, it was the Valentine’s Day gram where a carnation could be purchased and a handwritten note attached to be delivered the next day in homeroom— the first room you went to in school before classes would start, so you could sit for 15 minutes instead of sleeping in. Ah, I remember the equal parts dread and excitement seeing the messengers handing out the carnations.

Katie and I rode the bus our first few years in high school, along with a group of other neighborhood kids. Cliff and Julian, two guys who rode the bus with us, were easy targets for Valentine’s Day manipulation. Julian was a bodybuilder type, who always wore a tight white t-shirt— an easy target to make fun of. Cliff, a snarky more intellectual type, was part of the ‘making fun of said white t-shirt’ category. Easy victims to pit against one another.

At lunch, cackling to myself, I wrote out the two slips to be attached to the carnations and delivered:

Julian to Cliff: Cliff, will you be my Valentine? Love, Julian.
Cliff to Julian: Julian, will you be my Valentine? Love, Cliff.

After paying the $2 fee, my task was done in a matter of seconds. All I had to do was wait.

The next morning and throughout the day, seeing people holding their carnations, I was all smiles jut imagining the horror dawning on their faces as they beheld their carnations from their secret crushes. Cackling with delight, I could hardly contain my anticipation of the bus that afternoon. When the bell rang I rushed outside, the first one on the bus for once, where I perched a-quiver on the edge of the seat, waiting for the others to arrive.

To my delight, it became clear when they both encountered each other on the bus, it was for the first time that day. Neither one had seen the other since the bus ride to school that morning. Both were completely freaked out by the message, and it was clear on both their faces they weren’t sure whether the other guy was actually interested, or it was some sort of joke. It was disbelief, shouting, then— the realization they had been had. They were, unequivocally, the butt of my joke.

After the intensity of the moment, relief appeared on both their faces. They began guessing all sorts of people, never realizing two seats ahead, smiling to myself, I had been their downfall. And to this day, they never knew who was responsible for the Great Carnation Swap.


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