Write On!

The Tree House Manicure

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2012 at 6:01 pm

by Jill Clingan

I don’t really like April Fool’s Day.  Quite frankly, I don’t like it at all.  It’s not that I don’t know how to laugh at a joke or have a good time—although I have been pegged as a more serious type of girl—it’s just that I am not really a fan of practical jokes.  I don’t like jarring surprises, I suppose, and I neither like looking like an idiot nor making someone else look like an idiot, which pretty much means I despise the day that makes us all fools.

A few weeks ago, though, I had to play along with the day.  It was truly a matter of self-defense: I needed to play a joke before one was played on me.

I have two best friends, Adam and Doug.  They also happen to be twins.  Our yards intersect behind a tangled, uninhabited grove of trees between our backyards.  When my family moved into our home the summer before 6th grade, I was more thrilled about that grove of trees than I was about the fact that I would have my own bedroom.  The day we moved in I escaped from the madness into those trees, and I trespassed upon the playground of Adam and Doug.  At first, they stood there incredulously—and not exactly hospitably—just staring at me.  I was a stranger, for one thing.  I was a girl, for another.  Evidently the idea that a girl would like to tromp through woods never occurred to them, probably because the two females in their lives—their mother and teenage sister—spent all of their free time painting their nails and talking on the phone.  This arrangement worked in the brothers’ favor, because most of the time their mom didn’t know or care where they were, and if she found out and didn’t like it, she couldn’t do much damage because she didn’t want to mess up her wet nails.  Adam and Doug, then, were pretty much on their own, and they liked it that way.

But there I was—a girl in a flannel shirt and hiking boots who stared at them equally incredulously, but at least a little more hospitably, because I actually said, “hello.”  They muttered a “hello” in response and then turned as if to go.  I wasn’t going to let them get away that fast.  “I’m Mandy.  I just moved in,” I offered, vaguely waving my arm in the direction of my house.  They looked at each other, sighed a bit when they realized they weren’t going to get rid of me, and then introduced themselves.  Adam and Doug looked exactly alike to me.  They were each lanky and tall and had sandy blond hair, sharp blue eyes, a smattering of freckles on their noses, and crooked smiles.  It was the crooked smiles that finally helped me tell them apart.  Adam’s smile twisted up a bit to the right, and Doug’s smile twisted up a bit to the left.  As soon as I figured that out they quit trying to pretend they were the other brother.  I have yet to tell them how I managed to pull off an identity detection that even their teachers have yet to decipher.

Despite the fact that at first they weren’t thrilled about me intruding upon their woods, it did not take long at all for us to become inseparable, and, since I, too, am lanky and tall, with sandy blond hair, sharp blue eyes, and a smattering of freckles, people often think we are siblings.  I don’t have a crooked smile, but even I see the resemblance.  I find Adam and Doug much less annoying than my own brother, however, and so I have unofficially adopted them as my own.

We have our own world in those woods.  We found an old deer stand and converted it into a tree house of sorts.  For awhile we scoured the town’s streets on trash day and managed to furnish it with a few precarious chairs, a small table, odd but interesting decorative items, and a bird-identification book.  We also have a sealed storage container with a variety of snacks and lukewarm drinks.  I (courtesy of my mom) keep us stocked with homemade granola, bananas, and bottles of water.  Adam and Doug (courtesy of their unattended pantry) keep us stocked with Doritos and room-temperature cream soda.  We are well-fed and quite content in our own little world in the woods.  Some days we explore, some days we invent an adventure, and on rainy days we huddle up together and talk.  No one would believe that those two goofy boys who can’t keep a straight face in class could talk about anything serious, but they do.  You are just going to have to take my word for it, because I’m not going to blow their goofy cover and surprise you with their depth.

We’re getting older, now.  We are in 9th grade, and while they are still my best friends, I am finding that I need some girl-time, and, if you want to know the truth, time away from their bizarre and ricocheting hormones.  Apparently, they were not OK with the fact that one Friday afternoon I chose to go get manicures with a couple of girlfriends rather than participate in our usual Friday afternoon ritual of popping open some bottles of cream soda in the tree house and reveling in our weekend freedom.

A “mani-what?” they had asked.  I had thought it was sort of a silly question since their mom and sister always seemed to be doing their nails, and while they had a good point that my nail polish would be chipped off by the following afternoon, I still wanted to go.  I didn’t mean to hurt their feelings, and I was right back in the tree house Saturday morning to meet them and go exploring, but they gave me the cold shoulder a bit.

A few days later I sneaked up on them in the tree house.  I was going to burst through the door and scare them, because for a couple of tough ninth-grade boys they sure can scream, but when I heard them talking I decided to stop and listen instead.  It seems I had sneaked up on them as they were summarizing their April Fool’s Day plan to get me back.

OK, so this weekend we will make a new sign for our tree house that says “No Girls Allowed.”  I think if we make it really big and menacing she will get the message.

That was Adam talking.  My heart started to sink at that point.  I mean, I know I had ditched them for girls’ night, but they were still my best friends!  But then Doug continued:

I think we can safely watch her from the roof to gauge her reaction.  She will be so shocked she won’t think to look up!  Maybe we can dig up a couple of water guns to shoot at her when we yell, “APRIL FOOL’S!”

And then they both started laughing like a couple of maniacs.

Aha.  So that was it.  They were playing a joke on me.  I crept back into the woods to give them a few more minutes for their conversation to drift to other topics, and then I breezily pushed through the rickety door like I was none-the-wiser to their plan.

But my wheels were churning.  And I had a plan of my own.

My girl friends, who thought it was kind of weird that I liked to hang out in a tree house in the woods with a couple of odd boys, were happy to help me play a trick on them.  We set to work.

April Fool’s Day was on a Tuesday, and while Adam and Doug were at track practice I usually spent that afternoon and early evening at my grandparents’, where my grandpa usually helped me with  history homework, my grandma often let me bake something full of white sugar and white flour, and they often fed me something deliciously fried.  I usually stopped by the tree house on the way home from my grandparents’ to share cookies or cake, and Adam and Doug were counting on that opportunity to play their trick.  My grandparents were happy to let me off the hook when they heard my plan.  They were still chuckling to themselves as I hung up the phone.

April Fool’s Day dawned sunny and warm, and I had a hard time sitting still through my class and waiting for the final bell to ring.  I noticed that Adam and Doug had that same problem.  As soon as school was over they headed to track practice, and I met my friends in the woods.  They had been to the tree house once or twice, but they never quite understood why I loved hanging out there so much.  They were good sports, though, and we quickly started to execute our plan.

We used pink poster board to decorate a lovely No Boys Allowed sign.  None of us were artists, so it looked rather amateur, but it was very pink and girly, and I thought they would get the message.  Then we lined up nail polish on our makeshift desks, set out little tubs for soaking our feet, and started to enjoy the tree house’s first ever manicure and pedicure party.  I almost forgot that we were there to play a joke on Adam and Doug, but soon we heard boys’ voices echoing through the woods.  One voice stopped mid-sentence when they saw the sign.  There was a beat.  A hollered, “Wha–?!”  And then the door burst open.  There was another moment of astonished silence.  The girls waited for my signal, and then we all yelled, “Happy April Fool’s!”  Our wet nails rendered us helpless to the water gun fire that followed.


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