SHORT STORY: If we’re beyond feeling guilt, we should worry, is the moral of this story by Clara Keller.

The day I let 50 mice loose in my school is remembered in two ways: the Greatest Senior Prank Ever and the Day all Hell Broke Loose at Kensington High School. But the only people that matter to me anyway disregarded the latter.

“Rob Davis!” Mrs James’s voice barely reached above the high decibels of the girls’ volleyball team, screeching and jumping over the mice scurrying out of the locker room.

Assuming my most innocent expression, I turned towards the sound of her voice. “Yes, Mrs James?” I knew she had no idea I had done it. In fact, the only suspicious behaviour that I had exhibited in the previous 24 hours was that I had shown up on time for Chemistry that morning.

“This whole prank has your name ALL over it,” she shook her finger on beat with the syllables of her empty accusations, “and all I ask of you is that you PLEASE get the rest of the mice out of here NOW considering that one just RUINED all the worksheets I’ve made for the summer-school classes.”

Maybe this would be the moment someone would feel some remorse, but not me. See, when I was a kid I used to sometimes regret the pranks I pulled. When I would feel particularly badly about something, my ears would actually turn bright fucking red and stick out so much, the other third graders called me Dumbo. Thank God as I grew older I learned how stupid feeling guilty was when you were giving people a laugh, and so the days of Dumbo and me worrying about others’ reactions ended.

“Now Mrs James,” I shifted my weight onto my left foot, “I’m afraid I can’t help ya there. But whoever did this sure has a sense of humour and a good taste in senior pranks.” I knew she couldn’t say anything further on the matter because she was my advisor and if I had any more misdemeanours, we both knew I would be around for another year.

She turned on the heel of her stiff-looking tan clogs and walked back around the corner she came from as soon as Jesse appeared from behind it.

“Dude…” he held out his fist for me to pound it. There were no words needed to compliment me for the brilliance of this scheme. Despite what everyone says about him, Jesse Murphy is a solid friend. He carried the mice into the locker room in his cross-country gym bag, so I could disperse them through the hallways during his practice. If dealing with baby mice nibbling holes through your Nikes isn’t real friendship, than I’m not sure what is.

“I know.” I looped my arm around his shoulders for a good quality bro hug. “We fucking did it. Not even the seniors last year made Mrs James’s face turn that red.”

“I just really hope we don’t get caught. I feel like the whole student body knows it was us by the way you were talking about it in the parking lot this morning.”

I sighed. I hate it when Jesse gets into his moral human-being act. He doesn’t realise that we ARE being moral. We are making the school a more enjoyable place. In fact, I don’t believe that anyone would even bother showing up if it wasn’t for their anticipation of what we were going to do next. The teachers really should be thanking us for keeping the attendance rate up at this point.

“Man, you know how it is.” I knew I had to put his mind at ease somehow. “Everyone has our backs. They know that it was basically for a good cause.”

I wasn’t surprised when I heard Mr Becker’s voice over the loudspeaker an hour later. Ever since he had left his previous position as Most Boring Maths Teacher and moved to Most Boring Principal, the school had to deal with his monotone announcements on a daily basis. I was surprised, however, at the announcement to follow.

“I take it by now that most of you have noticed the rodents crawling around our building.” He could make even the description of 50 mice sound like he was reading off what was on the lunch menu. “I know that the idea of a senior prank has been a tradition during this week in previous years, but I know that at least a couple of you were awake in the morning announcements last Friday where I specifically said that this type of behaviour would not be tolerated. And now, since no one seems to know anything about where these mice came from, the entire senior class will be held responsible. Until I receive any knowledge pertaining to who was behind this practical joke, the senior prom, senior championship games and Spirit Week are cancelled.

“My door will be open all lunch period to anyone who has any information regarding this practical joke and all seniors will be required to attend an assembly at 3 o’clock today in the gymnasium. I am extremely disappointed.” The loudspeaker crackled as it shut off.

Raising one eyebrow, I leaned back in my stiff metal chair to casually survey the expressions of my peers. As expected, the entire class was looking at the ground. No one wanted to make eye contact with anyone because they were scared, scared that we weren’t all in this together. As my gaze drifted to the back of the room, I made eye contact with Carrie Bernstein. Carrie’s facial expression was unreadable, but she nodded at the door, signalling to meet me after class.

I could read Carrie better than most. Even though she wasn’t the most popular chick at Kensington, our families had grown up together, which meant constant play dates in the sandbox, which turned into awkward group lunches as we got older. I always felt a little defensive when Jesse and the other boys picked on her. She was a little special, in her own quirky way even if she didn’t have a nice rack and insisted on wearing glasses every day when she owned contacts. I wondered what she thought about this little prank.

“You have to tell people you did it, Robbie!” She struggled to keep up with me as I left class.

“Now Carrie, what have I told you about calling me Robbie?” I smirked at her little ponytail bouncing all over the place. “And what exactly did I do?”

“You know what I’m talking about. If you don’t admit to it, then none of us will be able to even celebrate our senior year. The jazz club won’t even be able to have our performance.” Her bottom lip was quivering as if not being able to play the trombone in a school assembly was a matter of life or death.

“Carrie, how about you go and play the trombone for me tomorrow afternoon when school’s out?” She blushed fiercely red at this suggestion and my work was done. “See ya around,” I waved to her before she could respond and walked over to Jesse’s locker where he was watching me with a look on his face like he had just deeply inhaled in the boys’ locker room.

“Dude, you’ve really got to stop talking to Carrie Bernstein. You know she has the biggest crush on you and it’s just NOT a good look.”

I rolled my eyes at Jesse. “What’s wrong with a little harmless attention? I’m just giving her mind some healthy stimulation in the sex department.”

“You know if you told that chick to jump, she would start squealing ‘how high?’ Plus it’s not like you can’t have any other girl in this school, preferably one that doesn’t wear overalls once a week.”

I shrugged off his remarks as we headed into the school assembly and took our coveted seats in the back row.

“Anyone, anyone at all?” Mr Becker’s voice boomed across the gymnasium. The only response he received was the quiet rubbing of body parts against leather as the entire student body shifted in their seats. Obviously no one had come to see him during lunch. I knew our grade had more loyalty than that.

But there was a quiet murmur of voices towards the front as a hand went up in the air. “I did it,” a soft voice called out, “and I’m sorry”.

“Carrie, follow me…” Mr Becker’s mouth contorted as he tried to make light of the situation in front of him. And without a look in anyone’s direction, Carrie Bernstein followed him off the stage and into the offices.

I wasn’t sure how I felt at that moment as everyone’s gaze turned to me for a reaction. A strange sensation started in my mouth when the saliva started to dry out and all I wanted was a toothpick. Then I realised what was happening: my ears were starting to heat up and they were protruding from my head. “What. The. Fuck?”

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