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   March 27, 2008 Issue                                       

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©2007 The Chestnut Hill Local

Kids’ April Fool’s holiday ruined by common cents
by Janet Gilmore

Mark “Rags” Raginsky wasn’t a bad kid. His big sister thought he was a pest, but his parents loved him. He mostly did his chores when reminded, and got good grades in school. His friends, though, knew what he was capable of in the right circumstances.

So when he came up with The Idea, none of his friends was surprised.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“You’re crazy, Raginsky,” said Raytek. “They’ll throw the book at us, and we’ll all be in 8th grade forever. Forget it.”

“It’s a good idea, Rags,” said Cheeks, “but what’s the point?”

“Just for a joke,” said Rags. “We’ll start saving today, and by April Fool’s Day, we should have enough to pay for our lunches with pennies. What do you think?”

“They can’t expel us, can they?” asked Raytek. “I mean, it’s only a joke, right?”

“Yeah,” said Cheeks. “They’ll probably give us a detention or something, and we can serve it together.”

“I’m in,” said Goff. “Drive Doofus crazy! Let’s do it!”

Mr. Dunstan Doofus, Master of Education, head of bone, heart of stone, was the vice principal at Fairplay Junior High School. He was a hairless, twitchy man who prided himself on running a tight ship on the job. The Friday evening the Penny Rebellion was being planned, he was in his bathroom brushing his teeth, hoping to sleep the relaxed sleep of a man who had kept things under control all week. But he couldn’t stop thinking about the kids smoking in the woods behind the building. He knew they were doing it, but by the time he hurried out back, the kids had already been warned by the kid-grapevine and moved around the building, or finished their smokes. It drove him crazy.

If he could solve the smoking problem, he would certainly get an interview, and possibly the cover story in Where Are You Going? The Magazine of Hall Pass Innovation. He slept deeply that night and dreamt about the scales of justice, tipped in his favor. He forgot that April Fool’s Day was coming. 

While Mr. Doofus slept, Raginsky started gathering pennies. He found 13 at the bottom of his book bag. He put them in a sock he found on the floor. Then he went through his pants’ pockets. A few phone calls confirmed that his friends were busy doing the same.

Monday, the boys were standing outside at recess time, shivering in the cold March air. Getting their coats took 10 precious minutes of free time; so most kids skipped the outerwear and ran outside immediately at recess. The boys huddled close, talking.

“How’d it go?” asked Raytek.

“Good. I’ve probably got enough pennies for everybody!”

“This is gonna be great!” said Cheeks.

Rags, Cheeks, Goff and Raytek were ready on April Fool’s Day. Rags was first in the lunch line that day. He went through, had his tray filled with mammal noodle casserole, stewed something, French fries, milk and a pink foamy dessert item that clung upside down to the dish no matter how long he held it that way. When he got to the cash register, he pulled the sock from his book bag and poured 250 pennies onto the counter.

“What’s this?” the lunch lady demanded.

“My lunch money.”

“You can’t pay in pennies.”

“Why not?”

The cashier opened her mouth, paused, and then turned abruptly on her sensible rubber heel and went to get her supervisor, who stormed to the counter.

“What’s this?” he demanded.

“My lunch money.”

“You can’t pay in pennies.”

“Why not?” asked Rags.

And a small, sensible question from a hungry peasant might have toppled a mighty cafeteria, but behind the counter and back in the school kitchen, hairnets were conferring with one another. Raginsky was pulled out of line. No one was sure what to do except the other hungry kids, who pressed forward and bought their lunches with regular money.

Doofus, who had been up on the school roof with binoculars, looking for smokers, had been walkie-talkied by the office and came running at full speed into the cafeteria, drooling, dewlaps flapping. He was ready and eager, like a Saint Bernard, to save the lunch line from burial under an avalanche of pennies with a barrel of detentions tied around his neck.

Doofus grabbed the microphone. He hollered, “YOU KIDS — ANYONE CAUGHT PAYING FOR LUNCH WITH PENNIES WILL BE SUSPENDED FROM SCHOOL AND SENT HOME FOR TWO DAYS! THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR! APRIL FOOL’S DAY IS NOT A TIME FOR JOKES!”

Tiny voices here and there said, “April Fool!” but they were either ignored or not heard.

Someone, naturally, ratted out the co-pranksters, who were called to the office and given a two-day out-of-school suspension. The other kids ate their lunch. The smokers looked at each other happily. They could smoke any time, as Doofus would be busy processing the caught jesters for the rest of the afternoon.

Doofus went home happy from school that day. The smokers went home happy. Teachers and kids had a great story to tell at the dinner table that night.

Because their parents worked, but his older sister was home, the perps served their suspension together at Raginsky’s house and had a ball.