April Fool's Day at the Gas Station (Complete)
March 31st, 11:45 PM
You may have already heard about the shitty gas station at the edge of town. It’s garnered quite a bit of infamy over the past few years. But if you haven’t yet been introduced, allow me to summarize:
Weird things tend to happen there. Some of it can be explained away--natural weather phenomena; fumes from the local chemical plant playing tricks on the mind; bored townies burdened with too much time, alcohol, and drugs... Some other things, though, simply defy explanation.
Perhaps the frequency of incidents has something to do with the fact that the business is always open. Barring a few incidents where the building needed to close its doors for foundational repairs after the odd earthquake, sinkhole, or shootout, the business is otherwise operational twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and every day of the year. That’s including holidays. Yes, even the minor ones. Even though, as one employee continuously argues, it sure would be nice to take a day off once every April first. There’s enough shenanigans to worry about without a whole day dedicated to the manufacturing of new ones.
Not that it was ever expected to be effective, but there is a sign taped to the wall behind the cash register that very clearly states, “No pranks allowed.” It goes up every March 31st, and stays up usually until someone removes it, steals it, or (in one case) sets it on fire.
If you couldn’t already guess, April Fool’s Day is my least favorite holiday. If I didn’t have a job to do, I’d be far away from people, drowning my post-traumatic stress with something strong enough to kill the memories for at least another year… But duty calls, so here I am, sitting behind the cash register at the gas station and waiting to see what nonsense today has in store.
At least I’ve got this journal to keep me occupied.
April 1st. 12:20 AM
Well that didn’t take long.
Here it is, barely scratching the surface of our annual day of mischief, and things have already gone stupid.
It started just before midnight with a customer wandering the store, wearing an outfit made entirely of cardboard boxes and packing tape. To be honest, it was a decently impressive example of ritalin-abuse ingenuity (ritalingenuity?). The arms and legs were made from the long, skinny packages you use to mail posters. The chest and feet were a bit more square, giving him a poor-Voltron vibe. His helmet was pulled up on his head like a hat. Not sure if it was just a courtesy to show his face, or if the eyeholes weren’t big enough for him to see what he was shopping for. Or maybe he just really wanted to share his Covid with me. He was open mouth wet-coughing all over the aisles, after all.
Eventually, he found what he was looking for--a bottle of bleach--and brought it up to the counter. While I waited for his card to run, the man calmly opened the bottle and took a sip right in front of me.
As I handed him his receipt, he squinted at my nametag and said, “Thank you, Jack… Uh, can I ask you a question?”
“I’d simply love it if you didn’t,” I responded.
“Would you, off the top of your head, know how much postage it would take to mail a package to the White House? Like, say, two hundred pounds, give or take?”
“That would be a question for somebody else.” I was feeling less-than-inclined to be helpful. Especially because, according to my watch, it was only 11:59 PM, which meant this guy was not pulling an early April Fool’s prank. He was just the normal everyday kind of crazy.
That’s when the clock struck twelve, and everything changed…
The lights flickered off. The sound of dull chimes filled the room, one after the other. The front door slammed open and a deep fog rolled in. The crazy box man sipped his bleach and stared out at the darkness until the chiming came to a stop… A dozen chimes in total.
And then he walked into the store, dragging long chains behind him, arms stretched out as he moaned like a zombie that had just stubbed its toe.
“Dammit, Jerry!” I yelled. “We had a truce! No more April Fool’s Day pranks!”
“Who’s this clown?” asked Box-man.
“That’s Jerry,” I explained. “My roommate.” It really says a lot when you’re able to make the bleach-drinking madman raise an eyebrow and call you a clown. But if anyone can make such an impression, it’s Jerry.
“Whooooooo Ooooooo Oooooooo!” he moaned as he shuffled towards us, stopping momentarily to pick up his chains and rattle them in the air.
“You’re, uh, really committing to the bit this year, aren’t you?”
At this point, Box-man excused himself and scooted out the door into the soupy cloud of fog.
“I AM NOOOTTT THE ONE THEY CALL JERRYYY…” (More chain rattling for emphasis.)
“Alright, fine, I’ll bite,” I said. “Who are you, then?”
“I am the Great Hok-Shew, God of Mischief!”
“Jerry,” I said as I rubbed my eyes. “You told me you couldn’t work today because you tested positive for Covid. Which means you either lied in order to put together this elaborate ruse after I specifically asked you not to, or you were telling the truth and you just exposed me to your cooties. Either way, I’m pissed.”
“‘The Great’ Hok-Shew,” he corrected, suddenly losing his spooky accent. “Please do not forget my title.”
“Go home,” I said. “Before I kick your ass.”
A frown crept across his face. “Who are you?” he asked. “I came for the one they call Jack. You are not him.”
“I’ve lost the thread here. What’s the joke even supposed to be? Are you, like, a ghost or something? And where did all that fog come from? Is that stuff safe to breathe?”
“Where is Jack?” he asked, dropping his chains and crossing his arms stubbornly.
“Are you serious right now?” I asked. “I mean, I honestly can’t tell if you’re joking or not. We’ve known each other for how many years?”
He shook his head. “We’ve never met.”
“Because you’re not Jerry, right? You’re the Great Hok-Shew, God of Mischief.”
“That is correct.”
I decided it was time to play along.
“Okay, your majesty. If you are the god of mischief, then why do you look like my roommate?”
“I am only allowed to speak to Jack.”
“I am Jack!” I shouted (maybe a bit too loudly).
“Oh, really?” He took a pair of glasses out of his front pants pocket and put them on his face. With a judgmental look, he let out a long “Hmmm…” then added after a pregnant pause, “you don’t look anything like I was expecting. I thought you’d be taller.”
“Well, I am sitting down.”
“Do you have any identification?”
“That depends, do you have a God-of-Mischief warrant?” I suddenly realized how silly it was to even try and defend myself. “Now hang on a second. If you are the God of Mischief-”
“A god of mischief. Not The God of Mischief. Little ‘g.’”
“Oh, mischievous and humble? Not a common combination. Okay, if you are ‘a’ god of mischief, then why do you look like my roommate?”
“I come to you in a form that you can most comfortably comprehend. This visage of a ghost is meant to remind you of your own pending mortality.”
“But Jerry isn’t dead… I mean, he had to be resuscitated one time after he nearly drowned in a koi pond, but I don’t know if that counts.”
“I’ll be perfectly honest with you, Jack. There weren’t that many good options. We looked at all of the possible dead people from your past, and apparently almost all of them tried to, like, kill you at some point. We spirits try not to take the form of someone that would send you running for the hills.”
“So are you a spirit or a god?”
“Don’t overthink it.”
“Okay, let’s say I believe you. Why are you visiting me?”
“It has come to our attention that you do not understand the true importance of the season. You’ve lost your wayyy, and need to be reminded why this holiday matters.”
“How did it ‘come to your attention’?”