The Alien Conspiracy

                            by Michael Feir

	Many years ago, when I was eight or nine, I had no idea what the word =
"morality" meant. I realize what a different life I led then, and that =
this difference was one of the few which is likely common to all of us. =
I can be certain that all of you understand how easy it was to quash =
that "little voice", as my father used to call it, that told you that =
what you were doing was "bad!". I can be certain that all of us have =
done things which we later partially, but not totally, wish we hadn't. =
Since we've all partaken in the folly of youth, I can let that reason =
for participation in the "Alien conspiracy" rest. I admit freely here =
that there was a dose of malice in what we did to the hopelessly =
gullible fellow I'll introduce to you shortly. However, you must =
understand that this was completely over-shadowed by a sense of fun and =
adventure. None of us meant for things to go as horribly wrong as they =
did. Also, note that I don't write this as any kind of apology or =
defense. Our actions were cruel and unfair no matter which way you think =
about it. This is a confession of a sort, but I seek no atonement. There =
can be none. For as long as I live, I'll go on laughing at the trick I =
helped perpetrate. My laughter, however, will always be tempered by =
guilt.

Before you can properly appreciate and/or cringe at this conspiracy I =
mentioned, you must have some understanding of what insanity life could =
be in the institution for the blind where I spent the first two and a =
half years of the school days which I have any recollection of. This =
place was one of the few boarding schools for the blind in North =
America. I lived close enough so that I could go home on a bus for =
weekends, but many students basically spent most of their younger years =
there, weekends and all. The effect of this was that one's conception of =
"real life", became largely based on life within the school. Everyone =
understood what it was like to be blind, since most people there =
actually were. Very few students, at least in my dormitory and classes, =
had any vision at all. The ultimate effect of this, as far as pulling =
pranks went, was that you could get away with just about anything if you =
were careful that none of the sighted staff were around to see you do =
it. One of the favourite pranks was to swap someone's seat for a garbage =
can for them to sit in. Rubber bands were fired at will, even in small =
classes. The only restriction was that you had to wait until there was =
other noise in the room. This noise would provide the cover which would =
prevent people from easily localizing the small snap made by the =
launching of these annoying projectiles. Voices were routinely changed =
to protect the guilty. I once had a class firmly convinced that I was =
their female supply teacher. They were actually doing work before I =
coughed and ruined the whole thing. Braille, as essential and beneficial =
as it is, was also a major source of grief to the unsuspecting and =
gullible. No matter who writes it, Braille, unlike print, is always =
identical. There were countless ways to put this simple fact to =
spectacular advantage. One of the most devastating was to forge a note =
from the principle informing the unfortunate victim that he or she had =
to report to the office and be ready to face any number of punishments. =
I fell prey to two of these very official and terrifying notes, before =
learning that the P.A. system was used to summon students to the place =
of supposed dread. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the office got =
upwards of three or four unexpected and uninvited quivering visitors per =
week.

	Now, you have some sense of the common kinds of mischief that went on =
there. As you struggle to fully absorb the implications of what a day =
could be like if enough people chose you as their victim, I'll begin to =
explain higher forms of mischief. At last, the time has come for John, =
my crackpot of a room-mate, to make his appearance. I know now that John =
was and still is mentally retarded. Back then, I had no idea what that =
actually meant, and merely regarded him as particularly gullible and =
stupid. Most of my circle of friends felt much the same way about him, =
as did some of the older kids who made use of the play-room. All kinds =
of ingenious schemes were devised to torture and terrify this poor young =
loner.

One mean teenager with particularly lofty delusions of grandeur had John =
firmly convinced that he was God himself. John would be minding his own =
business, building a tower from the large plastic blocks kept in the =
large playroom. This was John's favourite activity, and he wasn't too =
bad at it. If the thunderous crash of their destruction is anything to =
go by, his towers usually grew fairly high. After he had finished, John =
would always step back in order to rest and either sonically or mentally =
admire his work. No sooner had he taken this fateful step, then a loud =
crash would be heard by all present. Before we could laugh at John for =
his supposed clumsiness, a deep voice would bellow: "Thou shalt not =
build!" This mischievous and soft-footed teen would quietly sneak close =
to John, knock over his tower, make his declaration, and then step =
quickly and silently away. After a few seconds, he would calmly approach =
John and inform him that he had broken one of the ten commandments. =
Opening a book which he claimed was a bible, he proceeded to recite to =
John all ten commandments, with the obvious revision of one of them. =
John would get down on his knees, (on those few occasions when he didn't =
land squarely on his ass), and begin hysterically stammering out what =
passed for a prayer for forgiveness. The main reason why I doubt that =
this was a holy book at all, other than the decidedly uncharitable way =
this trickster went about inspiring holy terror, was that the bible in =
Braille consists of around twenty-five large volumes. The sound of the =
pages turning was wrong for a volume of this type. The pages were just =
too thin. Overall, I'm drawn to the conclusion that this tome, though =
ponderous, was nothing more vital to salvation than a copy of the phone =
book.

Another older girl, gifted or cursed with a particularly wicked voice, =
had John firmly convinced that she was a wicked witch. She would have =
fit perfectly into the Wizard of  Oz. John was fairly careless with the =
few belongings he had, and was always losing or forgetting about them. =
The major exception to this frivolous disposition was an old stuffed dog =
of which he was very fond and proud. if John displeased or annoyed this =
woman in any way, or, if she were merely in a spiteful mood, she would =
utter those famous and fear-inspiring words: "I'll get you, my pretty, =
and you're little dog too!" John would clutch his dog tightly, if he =
happened to be holding it, or run quickly to his room and grab it if he =
wasn't. Someone would usually find him sniffling in some corner, =
guarding his stuffed faithful companion. The musical lament sung by the =
Scarecrow was constantly being piped up around him. People would =
whistle, hum, or just sing it outright. I don't think he ever realized =
the cruelty in this. He would sing snatches of it cheerfully enough =
himself from time to time.

We used to sneak up behind him and lightly hit him on the back, telling =
him that the sky was falling. He'd run off to hide under the nearest =
thing he could find, yelling: "The sky is falling!", at the top of his =
lungs. Why objects would somehow fall silently through the roof of the =
building, not to mention the floors above us, without causing some kind =
of damage, or being stopped by these obstacles, never seemed to occur to =
him. The fact that no one else ever seemed to be hit by small pieces of =
sky never seemed to trouble him either. To try and convince each other =
of the absolutely unbelievable wasn't all that uncommon in those days. =
The only uncommon element in this was that with John, you didn't even =
have to try and convince him. He'd readily believe just about =
everything.

	Eventually, we all grew bored with the idea of a falling sky, and my =
friends and I decided it was high time to pull a wholly new and wondrous =
prank, the likes of which John had never experienced. There were four of =
us sitting in a quiet corner of Robert's room, calmly discussing the =
most absurd ideas we could think of. Could we make him think the school =
was on fire? Probably, but we all saw how that one could potentially get =
out of hand. It was actually fairly possible. It was also lacking in =
originality. The fire alarm would be pulled by some prankster or other =
at least twice a term. Could we convince him that he was going to be =
arrested for some imagined crime or other? Probably not. None of our =
voices were sufficiently authoritarian to sound like those of actual =
police. The problem of height occurred to us as well. Everyone knows =
that cops are supposed to be big and tall. At age twelve, Henry was the =
oldest and had the most cop-like build, being a fairly athletic sort of =
guy. It actually might have worked if something could have been done =
about his as yet childish voice. Several other ideas were discussed and =
dismissed in their turn, before the grand scheme of making John think =
that our school was to be the site of an alien invasion occurred to =
Robert. Robert was by far the most well-read of us. He was always using =
big words. However, he was always willing to explain them, so no one =
held it against him. We began to work on the concept, and found that =
each of us could contribute to the plan. Henry had a CNIB tape player =
which we could put in one of the cupboards we had to store our personal =
effects. James had a number of tapes with sound effects on them, and =
also had a highly prized "double-decker", which could be used to copy =
things from one tape to another. Robert could explain the large words =
and the essentials of alien existence to whoever was chosen to play the =
part. Of course, that chosen one, (drafted being somewhat closer to the =
truth), was me. After all, I was his room-mate. Robert was as well, but =
he had to do most of the thinking. That got him off the hook.

	Initially, our plan was to keep the illusion going for as long as we =
could, coming up with new ideas for it as we went along. We had a sense =
that like the falling sky, we'd eventually find the prospect of an alien =
invasion to be rather tedious, and have to come up with another idea. =
We'd end it all by finally showing John how it was done, and have a good =
laugh at his expense. So went the plan. Vague and skeletal as it was, we =
eagerly put it into action. I don't believe any of us knew that ominous =
saying about best-laid plans being laid waste.

Over the course of the next month, we slowly worked on John's natural =
resistance to the idea that I, a here-to-fore fairly normal room-mate, =
was anything but a kid two or three years older than himself. We soon =
discovered that John had no idea what an alien was, or even what outer =
space was supposed to be. I now realize that Robert and Henry were =
probably the only two of us who actually had anything like a proper =
notion of these concepts. James and I had only those notions which come =
of listening to cartoons like Battle of the Planets. Space, we thought, =
was a really big place just teaming with strange monsters, neat-sounding =
ships, and those wonderfully sinister "intergalactic villains" Robert =
was always going on about. For the most part, James had shied away from =
pulling pranks on John, so it was decided that he would be trusted more =
than the rest of us. Therefore, James should be the one to explain these =
basic concepts to John and to "figure out" that I was an alien. None of =
us envied him this role. Explaining anything to John was no one's idea =
of a good time. We had all heard a well-meaning but short-tempered =
member of the staff make a disastrous attempt to explain the use of a =
knife and fork to him. The staffer was driven to absolute fury, and John =
was so stressed that he had flung a knife across the dining room. =
Although not especially sharp, the handles of the knives we used were =
heavy enough to cause more than a little pain. The knife had landed =
harmlessly on the floor, but could have easily hit any number of people. =
James spent the first week or so filling John in on the basics, and =
telling him about those evil "intergalactic villains!" He was fairly =
good at it, and by the end of the week, John started asking me timid =
questions about aliens and space. Were all aliens actually bad? Why was =
space so big? Were there many monsters out there? So many questions, and =
so little certainty.

	In the meantime, Robert was coaching me on how to "talk alien". As it =
happened, he was a Star Trek fan, and told me about the famous Mr. =
Spock, and his "Vulcan mind melt". even Robert's understanding of things =
was off the mark on occasion. This was a fortuitous error for him to =
have made. To have one's brain melted! What could be more "totally =
gross!" What would it be like? Seeing the potential usefulness of adding =
a dash of terror to John's existence, we worked out what such an =
experience would be like. You'll learn the horrors that presented =
themselves to our misguided minds in due course. He taught me such words =
as "in-ter-plan-etary", "hyperspace", and dozens of others. I had known =
that we lived on a planet, so "interplanetary" wasn't too hard to =
explain. Saying it without sounding uncertain of my ability to pronounce =
the word was a different matter entirely. Neither of us really knew what =
hyperspace was, but we both concluded that it sounded like a "real cool =
fast way to go places".

	The month rolled on, and as it did, more pieces of our illusion were =
put into play. James played his part beautifully, ending up seeming to =
force me to confess my Vulcan origin, and the impending invasion. Why a =
scout from the planet Vulcan would confess such top secret information =
to a scrawny little kid like James never concerned us in the least. =
Fortunately, John never questioned such "minor details". Despite =
countless slips back into "earth talk", such as:

James: "So! You are an alien! Where are you from?"
Mike: "Ninety-two harvard road...Er!... Vulcan! Yah! That was it!" and:
James: "What's your favourite food?"
Mike: "Frosted Fla...er...Human brains!", John began to actually believe =
that I was an alien.

	That tape player, so thoughtfully provided by Henry, and so skilfully =
provided with strange sounds by the efforts of Robert and James, became =
a central piece to our operations. There were sounds for all kinds of =
things. Whenever John came into the room, and I happened to be in my =
cupboard, I'd turn on a taped sound of the Star Trek transporter beam. =
I'd then step out of the cupboard and greet him with a "Hello, =
Earthling!", which was about as spooky as I could make it with my all =
too human high squeak of a voice. When brushing my hair in the mornings, =
I'd put on the sound of a hair dryer at twice normal speed. That was one =
of the great things about those nifty CNIB players. You could change the =
playing speed, and, for a special thrill, you could play things =
backwards if you flipped the tape over and threw a switch into the right =
position. It was amazing how many totally innocent and beneficial things =
we managed to find devious uses for. A dog's bark became the growl of a =
pet space monster when played at slow speed. A children's book of fairy =
tales, played at slow speed and backwards, became my commander who would =
want to talk with me on occasion. One student at the school was fond of =
breaking windows for some reason. We recorded one of his destructive =
acts and played it at high speed, telling John that it was a garbage =
smasher. As un-patriotic as it was, I took the canadian national anthem. =
Playing it backwards at an absurdly slow speed, I stood solemnly at =
attention for the whole thing. Well, as solemnly as was possible while =
trying desperately not to laugh. I told him it was my "interplanetary =
anthem", and hoped that I was using both words properly. The anthem was =
my idea, so we didn't have the reassurance of having it sanctioned by =
Robert. I've paid dearly for that flash of wickedness. I've never been =
able to hear the national anthem without grinning at the very least.

	It still amazes me how long we kept the prank going, despite numerous =
extremely close calls and tense moments. All of us realized that if the =
wrong people discovered what we were doing, punishment would be fairly =
severe. Being anything but perfect, we all made mistakes which might =
have, or even should have tipped off someone as crazy as John to the =
truth. I made all kinds of errors in my speeches and ravings like the =
ones presented above. The tapes we used for sounds were not always =
blanks, and sound effects would often be followed by bits of music or =
stories before someone thought of stopping the player. All good things, =
and even bad ones, must come to an end though. For us, things fell to =
pieces very suddenly and unexpectedly.

I had just transported into my room having finished sending my =
intergalactic report card for the day. I made a show of smacking my lips =
as if I had just been snacking on asteroids. (Lame? Extremely, but =
Robert couldn't think of any space foods, so we went with them because =
they sounded like something you'd pass around at parties. I think Robert =
knew that they were rocks, but I suspect he had as little of an idea of =
their potential size as I had.) Of course, being human, my mouth was =
empty and I had merely run back from classes. I had begun to habitually =
try and get to my room before John did in order to have some fun with =
this whole alien thing each day.

	"Hello, foolish mortal!" Robert had just taught me those two words. I =
had no clue what they meant, but thought they sounded wonderfully =
sinister.

	"Hi, Michaelalien!" John tended to join his words when even remotely =
nervous. "Is the vasion today? You don't have your braimelter on you, do =
yuh?" Unlike many other concepts we threw at him, this one had some =
staying power. For days, we had kept him terrified of having his brain =
melted.

	"I have it right here!" How could I miss an opportunity like that? At =
this point, I pulled out the toy space-gun which was, to John if no one =
else, my brain-melter. "You know what happens when your brain gets =
melted, don't you?" I shook the space-gun at this point, so that it made =
a small click as if being loaded. The click had more of an effect on him =
than any words Robert or I could have cobbled up.

"Please don'melt my brain! Need it!" Yes, reader, the obvious question =
"What for?" did occur to me, but I couldn't think of a sufficiently =
witty way to put it to him so I grudgingly let it go. Instead, I =
launched into the tortured tale of the melted brain.

	"You're thinking along, and suddenly, your brain gets really really =
hot! It gets all crispy around the edges. Then, it starts to bubble in =
the middle. And then, it all turns into this big slimy blob. And then, =
the blob falls down into the back of your throat, and you choke on it =
and die!" I ended this speech with the most wicked-sounding laugh I =
could muster.

	John was at the ragged edge of what passed for his sanity. I knew this =
intuitively, even before he began to whimper a bit. I knew it, and even =
savoured it for the few seconds I had before all hell broke loose. =
Despite the fact that it would have been an act of betrayal towards my =
faithful comrades in arms, I was very sorely tempted to say something =
like: "Guess what, John? It's brain-melting time!", and fire off the =
space-gun. that would doubtless have caused him an instant's worth of =
the purest terror to be found this side of Hell, but his brain not being =
melted, this impulsive act would have shattered the illusion beyond easy =
repair. I'd have to somehow acquire a different space gun. These were =
highly valued and carefully guarded items. What happened instead was =
infinitely worse.

	"They're here!" the shriek of mock terror came in from the hallway. I =
had never heard the voice before, nor have I ever been able to figure =
out who it was who wrecked our plans so thoroughly. The scream was =
immediately followed by the sounds of a fierce space battle from one of =
those read-along Star Wars tapes. Ships and laser blasts seemed to whiz =
down the length of the hallway past our room. Whoever decided to join =
our conspiracy had set up a pair of stereo speakers in excellent =
positions. Had it not been for the musical score that accompanied the =
furious exchange of fire, I might have been halfway convinced. John =
could have won a gold medal for high-jumping had he been able to leap as =
high as he did just then on a regular basis. I heard his head hit part =
of the ceiling of our room. I'm uncertain whether the part that  he hit =
was lower than the rest of it, but regardless, it was still an =
incredibly high jump for little tykes like us. He then ran wildly out of =
the room at a pace which would have put the road-runner to shame. He was =
yelling: "They're here! They'll melt-our-brains! We're hi-i-storeeee!" I =
don't know where he got hold of that word, but suspect it was either =
Robert or Henry, both western fans, who might have used it while =
threatening him with my supposedly awesome powers.

It took a moment for me to gather my somewhat scattered wits, but after =
that, I was right behind him all the way. Heedless of the doors he =
rammed open by sheer force of impact, he charged onward through the =
fortunately empty hallway. Except for Robert and Henry, we were all too =
young to carry canes at the time. It didn't matter that things had just =
gone to hell in a split second. For the brief moments while we were in =
the hall, I was able to laugh unreservedly at the results of our little =
conspiracy for the only time in my life. I laughed at the sheer cruel =
farce of it all, as I puffed along behind him. I thought of what an =
absolute lunatic he sounded like. I laughed at the relief I felt that my =
part was over at last. I laughed at how all our efforts were thrown off =
kilter by the only member of our audience that I ever learned about. =
Someone had appreciated the sheer insanity of what we were doing enough =
to want to partake in it himself! It was downright vindicating in a way. =
During this time, I had lost all track of time and space. I had =
absolutely no idea where we were going. This didn't really trouble me =
much until we actually got there. The principal's office isn't typically =
on a prankster's list of prime destinations you know. Nonetheless, there =
I stood. John marched in and let loose the last words I heard him speak =
that day:

	"Ms. Smith! Ms. Smith! There's a vasion goin'on! Aliens! They'll =
melt-our-brains!"

	In the two and a half years I attended that school, I don't think I =
ever heard Ms. Smith or any other staff member caught quite so =
thoroughly off-guard. She burst out into a cackle which made me feel =
like my hairs were standing on end. The next sound I heard was John =
thumping on the floor. I'm not certain whether he fainted, or passed =
out. I didn't run into him for the rest of that day. That was when I =
began to feel guilty for my actions. I knew the axe was about to fall, =
and I wasn't disappointed in this belief. I think it goes without saying =
that I told all. I didn't even think twice about giving her the names of =
my three partners in crime. Surprisingly enough, they never held it =
against me. Considering the heaps of trouble we all got into over our =
little caper, this was nothing short of miraculous. The punishment we =
were subjected to sunk the smiles off our faces like the iceberg sunk =
the Titanic. And yet, it didn't completely destroy the comic power of =
what we had done. All of us could still laugh at the whole thing, even =
at the worst of times. I guess one of the reasons why we could do this =
was that John didn't seem to be all that traumatized by it in the long =
run. After a fairly shaky couple of days, he was back to his usual =
gullible but fairly cheerful self. Nothing ever seemed to make a lasting =
impact on him. There were times when I almost envied him his innocence.

Two years ago, I met up with John at a lodge for blind people situated =
on Lake Joseph. He's still a cheerful and gullible fellow, and his =
marbles continue to illude him. I had to tell him what my name was at =
least half a dozen times during each of our conversations. I didn't take =
this personally. Despite a four-year relationship, his girlfriend had to =
do the very same thing. He didn't remember me at all, nor the cruel =
trick we had played on him.

	Over the years, I've found that the "alien conspiracy", as Robert ended =
up coining our enterprise, has left me a rather mixed legacy. As I grew =
older, kinder, and somewhat wiser, I've learned what a cruel thing it =
was to be a part of. Even though I'm certain now that we made no truly =
lasting impression on him, it doesn't lessen the guilt and shame. We =
took advantage of an innocent and entirely too gullible person. In =
contrast, I have also found that there was a lot more comedy to be =
enjoyed in the whole episode than we found in it at the time. The old =
reasons for my guilt-ridden mirth are still just as valid as ever they =
were. I'll never forget his shriek of absolute terror, and the way he =
ran screaming down the hallway. James was the most unlikely space hero =
imaginable. I was an absolutely pathetic excuse for an intergalactic =
villain. Despite this, it all worked out anyway. I laugh at all the =
hilarious slips we made, which never quite had the disastrous effect on =
our plans that we thought they would during one horrified instant after =
another. I laugh at our ingenuity, and at all the crazy, misguided =
notions we put into play. We all had such a stupendous sense of control. =
It's funny how one guy with a stereo managed to rob us of it completely =
and escape unknown and unscathed. He turned our prank into the stuff of =
legends, but kept his own obscurity. John himself seems not to remember =
it at all, but apparently, the story has been passed along. I've had =
several blind youngsters whom I had never met before come up to me and =
say: "You're not the Mike in the Alien Conspiracy, are you?" My =
affirmative answers to this are somewhat less full of pride and good =
cheer than they seem to expect. But then, the story they know has been =
twisted somewhat. They know the fun of it, but not the whole of it. To =
them, the "Alien Conspiracy" was the pinnacle of all pranks. I have no =
doubt that it has now fallen from its position of greatness, but am =
convinced that I'll meet people eager for the "whole story", twenty =
years from now. I'll give it to them too, but they'll have to take the =
grit along with the glory.

Epilogue

With the exception of my own name, I've changed the names of everyone =
else involved in this incident. I have a number of reasons for writing =
this down, but causing the various participants any more pain and =
embarrassment than they've gone through already isn't one of them. The =
institution to which I refer has doubtless changed drastically since I =
left. I doubt very much that any practical joke quite as cruel  or =
prolonged could happen nowadays. For one thing, more students are =
visually impaired, rather than totally blind. It's a lot harder to keep =
something like what we did secret when people can see what you're doing. =
Also, I have yet to meet anyone quite as impressionable as our young =
victim was. As far as I've been able to tell, no one except that one =
person who joined in the fun knew how long we kept the prank going, or =
how terrified John actually was. The whole episode spanned about a =
month's time.

I've always had mixed feelings about this whole episode in my life. I =
thought that by writing about the "Alien Conspiracy", I could sort out =
my feelings concerning it. Ultimately, what I've come to realize is that =
it's only natural to have mixed feelings. Anything else would almost be =
abnormal. I have yet to meet anyone who hasn't found reason to laugh at =
the misfortunes of others from time to time. The simple truth is that =
remorse and mirth aren't always mutually exclusive. One of the two =
almost always dominates, but neither can ever entirely eclipse the other =
in a case like this.

As I've alluded to earlier, the whole enterprise had a kind of magical =
and adventurous quality to it, which I'll freely admit to cherishing to =
a degree. Sop it up, reader. I can insist on you enjoying this if at all =
possible. While I'm still fairly youthful, I'm anything but carefree. I =
have yet to hear of anyone being involved in a prank as detailed or =
blessed with sheer luck as this one was. It just seemed to fly along, =
despite the countless ways there were for our antics to be brought to a =
screeching halt. Yes, it was quite cruel. I could never go along with =
anything remotely as mean as this prank was now. Like any other young =
school-boy, I was ignorant. So were my partners in crime. It was an =
immoral experiment in psychology. What could we make this nutty guy =
believe? How far could we bend his reality? I think we all had a sense =
that what we were doing was mean. I certainly did, but for me, it seemed =
about equal to hiding someone's toy on them, or smearing toothpaste on =
somebody's pillow. Only afterwards did I attain any real sense of how =
reprehensible our actions were.

Despite this sense of wrong-doing, I still find myself unable to hear =
the Canadian national anthem without grinning at the very least. =
Thinking about how the whole thing fell apart still evokes quite a =
chuckle. My pity for our hapless victim doesn't lessen my sense of =
amazement, nor render me incapable of finding amusement in the whole =
affair. Now that I've written it all down, I realize that one of my =
reasons for doing so was simply to share a good story. I've told it =
orally on frequent occasions, but never as fully as I've managed to set =
things down here. Why should this story be told? Well, for one thing, if =
it does nothing else, I hope it will convince you that us blind folks =
aren't really as marginal as is sometimes thought. We're not all =
musicians, bumbling fools, incredibly deep and wise, nor as free from =
the propensity for youthful mischief as some would all too easily =
believe. I can't count the number of times I've been accused of "never =
doing anything wrong in school". Given the opportunity, we can be just =
as helpful, and just as harmful as anyone else. You've doubtless read =
stories of remarkable achievements of people like Helen Keller or Louis =
Braille. Well, here's an achievement which certainly qualifies as =
remarkable in its way. This remarkability is dwarfed, however, by the =
remarkability of its being recorded. I've read tons of books about =
sighted children getting into all kinds of strange mischief. However, =
other than reading Tom Sullivan's biography at around age eighteen, =
where he recounts some of the capers he got involved in, i never read =
about any blind kids pulling pranks.

Another reason for writing this is simply to re-experience a slice of =
youth in a form that I can share with others. That's right, reader. This =
is neither a comedy nor a tragedy. There are morals in this story, but =
you'll also find what fun it can be to partake in a practical joke. It's =
an episode of my life, which, like most lives, doesn't come with all of =
its ingredients laid out in separate piles. I invite you to share in my =
amusement and laugh. You'll find lots of absurdity here, certainly =
enough for a derisive snort or two. Or, be emersed in pity for poor =
John. Weep at the barbaric cruelty of this tale of malevolent =
exploitation. Take either of these paths, and you'll almost certainly =
stumble, for neither is true. I'm neither jester nor monster. I'm simply =
a person, with elements of both of these extremes in my nature. I hope =
none of you have gotten this far without cracking up in helpless =
laughter, and also feeling at least a tinge of pity. I suppose that's my =
whole point in a nut-shell. Life isn't even. We all stumble our way =
through it, blundering around each twist and turn. Basically, I hope =
that you enjoy this romp through my youth. I want you to feel, if =
possible, the sense of wonder and fellowship which I experienced. There =
is magic here, a very important and special kind of magic. However, I =
also hope that you feel some small portion of the pity and unease at =
your mirth that I have over the years. Perhaps, you'll even think twice =
before engaging in a prank of your own. I am by no means advocating a =
life of sainthood here. There's always room for the odd practical joke, =
or slightly dastardly deed. Life wouldn't be half so interesting without =
them. Just be certain that you consider the consequences of your =
actions.

I've suffered the odd twinge of guilt along the way, but on the whole, =
I've immensely enjoyed solving the puzzle of how to recount this =
properly. Time after time, I've gotten the sense that people miss one =
side or the other of the equation. Either they grasp the amusement in =
its entirety, and miss the darker side altogether, or they find it =
impossible to understand how I could find anything to laugh about. I can =
only hope that you, my readers, have come closer to my experience than =
either of these positions. Ultimately, empathy is why I wrote this all =
down. Experience a part of what made me who I am. Have a taste of the =
uneasy laughter I've enjoyed. The ability to empathize is all too rare, =
particularly among the young. I find it ironic that this ability is =
often only gained due to the lack of it in others. With that parting =
thought, I leave you to your own deviousness.

The End