Ray raced past the study carrel where I was sitting in the library before making a screeching halt and coming back.
“There you are,” he said between breaths, “I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”
“What’s the matter?” I inquired, putting down one of the books I was going through in order to try and get ready for a Roman Civ. paper.
“It’s Jer,” he said, wild-eyed, “He’s gone berserk!”
“Uh-oh,” I said, rising from my chair and glancing around the library stacks to make sure that Ray hadn’t been followed and Jeremy would leaping at me from one of the shelves like a ninja in shorts, “What happened?”
Well, Ray began, “He came back from the Health Center …”
“He WENT to the Health Center?” Now my voice was getting louder. A couple of girls studying at a table a few stacks down glanced around at us. I grabbed Ray’s arm and we headed down the PA 3695 aisle towards the stairs. “What do you mean he went to the Health Center? Why didn’t you stop him?”
“I wasn’t there,” said Ray, lying through his teeth.
“Vince didn’t stop him?”
“Jer wouldn’t listen. You know how he gets.”
“He didn’t believe the note was fake?”
“Well, no, not exactly,” Ray paused. “He, uh, didn’t believe his Jock Itch wasn’t an STD.”
“You guys didn’t tell him?” I said, my voice rising in pitch at Ray’s ‘Deer in the Headlights’ look. “Are you insane? What does he think?”
“He thinks you did it.”
I stopped, mouth open. The traitorous bastards. “You told him?”
“No, he just … guessed, or at least he thinks he knows because of, you know, that other thing.”
“You guys asked me to do it. Did you tell him that?”
“You wrote it.”
“You took the stationary.”
“I didn’t write the note.”
“Vince told me about the Jock Itch.”
“You put it in there.”
“You guys let him believe it.”
“It was your note.”
And so it went for a good five minutes as we tried to determine who deserved the butt of Jeremy’s vindictive rage. Finally I put it out there:
“If he comes after me I’m telling him the whole thing.”
“No,” said Ray emphatically, obviously having anticipated this threat, “Vince and I have it all figured out.”
“Oh yeah,” I sneered, “Which limb do I lose?”
Apparently, Jer had come storming, bow-legged cowboy style, back to the dorm. Vince and Ray were in our room, hiding out. Jer had torn up his and Vince’s room looking for any evidence of foul play. Eventually he came to Ray and my room. He found Vince and Ray sitting at the coffee table trying to look as if they had been engaged in a discussion that was so interesting they hadn’t noticed the ransacking and swearing next door.
“Oh, hi Jer.” Vince tried to look concerned for something besides his own safety, “How did it go?”
Twenty minutes or so of raging and wailing ensued, in which Jeremy first accused the perpetrators of the crime, and then, having been convinced of their innocence, related the entire tale in all it’s exquisite embarrassing detail. But even as the first flash of his rage was subsiding, the second phase, which stemmed from the fact that the perpetrator(s) of this hoax had yet to be found and brought to justice, was deepening.
“I’m going to hunt down whoever did this,” Jer swore.
“What are you going to do?,” asked Ray, still uncertain that they were out of the woods, “You don’t want to go around advertising it.”
“No,” Vince chimed in, ” You don’t want everyone to know.” When Jer didn’t look quite convinced, he added “Especially girls.”
“What’s the use?” Jer lamented, “Everyone’s already laughing at me at the Health Center. The whole campus will know.”
“But they can’t tell anyone,” said Ray, standing on principle, “It’s a breach of confidentiality.”
“Fat chance with that,” said Vince, unhelpfully.
“It’s Nelson,” Jer snarled, “It’s got to be him.”
“No,” said Ray, “Not Eric. Besides, how would he know about the rash?” Vince kicked him under the coffee table. Idiot.
“I mean,” continued Ray, trying to throw off the scent, “It was probably someone from the team and who saw you in the locker room.”
“I don’t know,” Jer sounded unconvinced, “He wrote that fake News in Brief, didn’t he?”
“We don’t really know that,” Ray reminded everyone, “That’s just what some people are saying. Your note could be just a kind of copy-cat thing.”
“Yeah,” Vince confirmed, “People do that all the time.”
“Still,” Jer continued, “I’m gonna find out.”
“How?” asked Vince.
“I’ll test him and see how he reacts,” said Jer, “I’ll tell him that the Health Center is sending me up to Seattle in for some horrible tests and see if how he reacts. Who would let someone keep going through such a thing if they knew it was fake?”
“Yeah,” said Ray and Vince together, with just a tad too much sincerity, “Who would do that?”
When Jer went back to his room, Ray slipped out the side door and ran around campus looking for me to inform me of Jeremy’s plan because, if Jer got to me first, I was likely to rat him and Vince out. He finally found me in the library and was able to clue me in. So when Jeremy saddled up next to me as I was checking my mail at the front desk later that evening, I was prepared.
“Good Lord,” I exclaimed, crunching up my face at the story of his impending tests at the UW Medical Center, ‘That sounds awful! Do you need a ride? Because if you do, you can use my car or I’m sure one of us can drive you up.”
“Uh, oh … that would be really great,” responded Jer, looking slightly disappointed at my generosity, “I’ll let you know if I need it.”
“Do that,” I called after him, as he crab-walked his way down the hall, “After all, what are friends for?”
Jeremy didn’t go to the UW, and he didn’t find out what really happened until the last week of school. Our floor of the dorm had an award celebration, and I got a “Golden Scribe” award (presented with a stack of official stationary collected by my floor mates from around campus). Vince spilled the fact that I had written Jer’s note, and I nearly had to escape over the table before Vince and Ray got him calmed down and took some of the blame themselves.
Nevertheless, I always have felt conflicted about the incident: it’s a great story, and it was such a great practical joke. But it came at a cost that went far beyond its intended trauma setting. I never anticipated how far it would go and I didn’t have the opportunity to hold it back until it had gone completely out of control. But that’s how dangerous practical jokes can be. So much so that when I am in the library alone I still fear that I may be attacked by an older ninja in short-shorts and a tank top.