“I just can’t take it anymore, Geoffy,” you tell your little brother with an exaggerated sadness. “I’ve decided to end my own life.” When you hit own life you drop your voice as deep and raspy as a twelve-year-old boy’s voice will go. A seven-year-old would not be convinced by your horrible acting, which makes it convenient that little Geoffy is three.
You grab the mechanical pencil from the table and click the eraser repeatedly until the lead point is almost two inches long. You hold it up to Geoffy, who still seems confused as to what it is you’re doing.
You attempt to explain. “Lead poisoning, Geoffy. It’s not a pretty way to go.” You grasp the pencil as you would a syringe and he seems to get the idea; he gasps and covers his mouth.
Walking down the hallway, Dad passes your room and glances your prank-in-the-making. He sticks his head back through the door.
“What are you doing?” he asks sternly.
You clumsily hide the pencil behind your back. “Nothing.”
Dad gives you a suspicious look. “You better not be faking your death again to scare your brother. I know you remember what I told you about that.”
Dad nods and leaves for the kitchen without another word.
While holding down the feed button, you jam the lead onto your wrist. It retracts back into the pencil quickly and smoothly, giving the illusion to Geoffy’s young mind that you’ve stuck a two-inch cylinder of graphite into your arm.
Geoffy lets out a low grown and shakes his hands in horror.
You begin to make horribly forced choking noises and fall to the ground. You reach a single hand out to Geoffy. “Tell mom…I love….her…” you wheeze. You pretend to go limp.
You pop up immediately. “Ha! Got you, you dummy!”
Geoffy begins to cry and runs out into the hallway. You chuckle to yourself while wiping tears from your eyes.
Dad calls out from the kitchen. “Terrence! Have you been messing with the oven again?”
“No, sir!” You yell back to Dad. You know you haven’t messed with the oven. Well, not today.
You hear a loud whoosh! sound coming from the kitchen, and a strange orange light, faint at first, begins to grow brighter and brighter in the hallway. Then you begin to hear your father scream.
“Oh, God! Oh, God Terrence why!” screams dad, as he comes around the corner into your room. He is completely on fire from head to toe.
A high-pitched scream of a timbre usually reserved for young girls flies up your throat and cuts through the house.
Dad collapses on the floor, screaming in agony. He is dying and it is all your fault. You scream and scream but you are powerless to help. You have wet yourself without noticing. Trying to step back from the flames, you fall onto your ass. Tears stream down your face and snot pours from your nose.
Dad screams “Now!” and you assume it’s just the dying neurons in his brain firing randomly, but suddenly Mom runs into the room with a fire extinguisher.
“Cover your mouth,” Mom tells you calmly as she puts out the fire that was Dad.
As the dust from the extinguisher settles you look down, expecting to see the charred remains of your dead father. Instead, you see what looks like a burned version of the Michelin man getting to his knees, then to his feet.
Dad takes off the hood of the asbestos suit you were too terrified to notice; an enormous grin covers his face.
Smoke still rising from his charred suit, Dad leans in close to you. “Do you remember what I told you about faking your death?”
“What?” you ask, completely bewildered.
Dad speaks slowly and deliberately. “What did I tell you about faking your death?”
“I-, I-, I-,” you repeat over and over. You are a broken record of fear and confusion.
“Dad leans even closer and whispers softly in your ear. “I told you that you were an amateur. There’s one king of fake death pranks in this house and that’s me.” Dad pulls away slightly. “Step your game up, kid. You suck at this.”
Dad flicks you on the tip of the nose and chuckles as he walks out of the room. “Come on, babe,” your dad tells your mother as he exits.
Mom points at you and laughs, then leaves with your father.
You sit in a puddle of your own urine and try not to hear your mother having loud sex with your father.