I was in the kitchen preparing my usual breakfast -- chocolate fudge Pop Tarts and Nestle's Quik. I was mixing in another spoonful of the chocolate powder when my brother Eric came in and opened the refrigerator. He had a smirk on his face like he was up to something.
He took out a bottle of Heinz catsup. Or if you prefer, ketchup. I've never been sure of the official spelling but, either way, I'm pretty sure you know what I'm talking about.
I got a Crazy Straw from the cabinet, stuck it in my chocolate milk, and took a sip. "What are you doing with that catsup?" I asked.
"Playing an April Fool's joke on Mom," replied Eric.
He took off the cap off the catsup bottle and applied a rather large glob on the palm of his left hand. He distributed it between his fingers, on the back of his hand, and let it ooze down his wrist and forearm. It looked like, to quote Lenny Small, "he got his hand caught in a machine."
"So, what's your plan?" I asked.
"I'm gonna go around front and come running inside, acting like I cut myself."
"I can tell you right now that Mom is NOT gonna think that's funny."
"It's gonna be great. Just watch."
Eric was only nine years old at the time, while I was thirteen. While Eric was completely oblivious to the outright panic he was about to inspire in our mother, I knew exactly what was going to happen. If I were a thoughtful, well-meaning brother, I would have calmly explained the situation to him, and talked him out of his ill-advised prank.
But c'mon, I had to see this for myself.
Mom was sitting in the living room, watching television and doing needle point. She reminded me of a deer standing peacefully in the woods, not realizing that a hunter was about to blow his freakin' head off. Meanwhile, Eric went out the back door and walked around the side of the house. From my vantage point in the kitchen, I watched him stagger up the front steps, screaming in mortal agony.
"MOM! MOM! HELP!"
Detailed analysis of the Zapruder film reveals the following:
Frame 112: Eric is opening the front door with his "good" hand, holding the "bloody" hand in the air.
Frame 124: Eric has entered the living room, Mom has clearly reacted to the situation and has just released her needlepoint.
Frame 131: The expression on Eric's face has begun to change. His mouth remains open in a scream, but his eyes convey just a bit of humor.
Frame 140: Eric is clearly laughing. Mom has a puzzled look on her face. She hasn't figured out the joke yet.
Frame 150: Eric seems to be speaking, eyes aglow with mischief. An eyewitness later confirmed that Eric was shouting the phrase, "APRIL FOOL!"
Frame 152: Eric's lips are puckered, pronouncing the "oo" in "fool". Mom's arm is in full swing, open hand headed for Eric's right cheek.
Frames 154-170: Mom slaps Eric firmly. Eric's head is seen clearly snapping back . . . and to the left.
In the aftermath, Eric tried to explain that it was only a joke, that he didn't mean to scare our poor, dear mother, and she sort of forgave him. However, when she noticed me standing in the kitchen laughing my ass off, she turned her attention my way.
"Did you know he was going to do this?" she asked.
What to do, what to do? I figured that if I told her the truth, she'd play the "you're the older brother, you should have known it was going to upset me" card and I'd get in trouble. But if I lied, Eric was sure to seize the opportunity to rat me out and deflect the blame from him. At that point it would be my word against his, and his bright blue puppy dog eyes and pudgy cheeks gave him a clear advantage. Then I'd get in trouble for allowing it to happen and then lying about it. I opted for the lesser of two evils.
"Yeah, I knew about it but I told him not to! I knew you'd get mad, but he didn't listen!"
Mom looked at my brother. "Eric, is that true? Did he try to stop you?"
Eric batted his eyes (still teary), quivered his lower lip and said, "No, Mommy. He told me to do it in the first place. I didn't want to but he made me." I think it was the cheeks that sealed my fate.
I pleaded my case, but Mom was still feeling the residual effects of her initial panic. This, combined with the guilt she felt for swatting my "innocent" little brother, inspired her to sentence me to the usual household punishment.
The Hot Wheels track.
 It's from Of Mice and Men. Read a book, people.
 Okay, you caught me. There's no sequel to the Zapruder film capturing my brother's joke on Mom. It's just a comedic device I'm using here. To be perfectly honest about it, they did the same thing on "Seinfeld" when Kramer got spit on by Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez. But the hell with it, Larry David can kiss my ass.
 Actually, he only made it as far as "April Foo..."
 As I wrote about in a piece entitled "The Ghost of Christmas Presents", orange Hot Wheels tracks were my mom's disciplinary weapon of choice.