Central High women’s soccer team: schooling the boys’ team on the field since 2012. Now it’s time to school them off the field.
I mute the music and kill the lights on my mom’s SUV, packed full of my teammates, as we approach our rival school, Valley High. The speedometer hovers below 20 mph. A block away from the school, I park behind a beat-up sedan, also packed full of soccer players.
Malcolm, the captain of the boys’ team (yes, I said boys, not men…because no high school guy is actually a man), leans against his car, his dreadlocks peeking out from under a black winter hat. We’re all dressed in black to blend in with the October night. Megan and I slip out of the SUV to talk strategy with him.
“Mac. Megan,” he whispers in greeting, his breath puffing in the cold air. We’re not close enough to the school to be heard by anyone there, but we’re not taking any chances of talking loudly and disturbing the neighborhood. “You ladies ready for this?”
“We were born ready,” I say before Megan can answer. She’s our captain and the boss on the soccer field, but I’m in charge tonight.
The thing is every year the Central High women’s soccer team has a better record than the boys’ team. And it goes without saying (though I’m going to say it) that we look a helluva lot better out on the field than they do.
But there is one thing the boys’ team is better at than us: they always pull the best Dog Day Eve prank. So this year (my senior—and final—year), I’m determined to one up them by stealing Benji the Bulldog, Valley’s mascot. And I’ve come up with a brilliant plan.
It’s a brilliant because there’s little fear of retaliation. Our mascot is also a dog (a husky), but unlike Valley’s bulldog, our husky isn’t real. The dog is a costume worn by the gym teacher. (It used to be worn by a student until two years ago when there was an unfortunate incident with a bare bottom underneath said costume. Both hilarious and gross!)
From my pocket, I pull out a drawing of the school and a flashlight. I point to the bus drop-off circle. “This is where we park. It’s easy in/easy out. They keep Benji in the janitor’s office until the night janitor takes him home around ten p.m. I’ve got dog treats to keep him quiet.” I add as an afterthought, “For the dog, not the janitor.”
Malcolm stifles a laugh. “How many are going in?”
“Four of us. Me, Megan, you, and whoever you want to take.”
“Jimmy’s my wingman.”
I make a snap decision. “Okay. The four of us will take your car up to the circle. Everyone else can wait here.” My mom will kill me if I get dog hair (or worse) all over her SUV.
Malcolm ducks his head into window and in true clown-car fashion an impossible number of boys file out of the tiny sedan. I tell them they’re not going to fit in my car and they can wait outside.
While Malcolm chats up Addison (who we all call Hunter) in my front seat, I flip my car keys to Denise (my best friend), who is squished into the very back with Sadie and Paloma. “You’re in charge until I get back. No boys allowed inside.”
She ducks low and makes her way to the front. “Got it.”
I let Malcolm drive up to the school (only because it’s a stick and I don’t know how to drive one) and we park at the end of the drop-off circle for a quick getaway.
I’m about to get out, when from the backseat Megan locks my shoulder in a death-grip. “Wait, MacKenzie. You never told me how we’re supposed to get in. It’s after hours, way after hours. All the doors are locked. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner.”
Before she can spiral further into panic (any sense of unpreparedness makes Megan slightly crazy), I pry her hand away. “I’ve got it under control. My cousin’s boyfriend goes to Valley. He spilled a bunch of chemicals in the photo lab and convinced the teacher to leave a window open to air it out.”
Next to Megan, Jimmy lets out a long whistle, clearly impressed by my prank skills. He has no idea how long I’ve been planning this.
“Let’s do this,” I say, and then we’re out of the car and creeping around the school to the photo lab’s, which is in fact cracked open (I barely refrain from shouting with joy that my boyfriend’s cousin has come through for me).
Between the hushed whispers and the squeak of the window being pushed farther open, we’re making way more noise than we should. I make another executive decision.
“Only two of us go in. The other two wait outside and stand watch.” I didn’t want the boys involved at all (so they can’t try and steal all the credit for the prank), but no one on my team could take Benji overnight and Malcolm agreed to do it.
“Me,” Megan says. “I’ll go with Mac.”
“No way,” Malcolm argues. “It should be me. I’m the one housing the dog tonight.”
Before a real argument breaks out and blows up my whole plan, I shush them. “Malcolm comes. Megan and Jimmy wait outside.” Maybe I should have been captain of the team (not really, too much responsibility).
Amazingly we sneak down several hallways to the janitor’s office and find it empty except for Benji. I slip a couple of dog treats to him and open the dog crate. I swear he smiles (though bulldogs always kind of look like they’re grinning) and attempts a leap with his stubby legs. But he’s quiet.
Malcolm grabs him around the middle and we take off in a jog back to the photo lab. That’s when all hell breaks loose! As Malcolm is passing Benji through the open window Jimmy, the dog starts barking, and barking, and barking. Benji squiggles in Jimmy’s arms, and Jimmy swears, loudly.
We sprint toward the car, but by the time we reach the front of the school, lights are turning on inside. Jimmy practically throws the still-barking Benji into the car and we all pile in. Malcolm guns it out of the driveway.
Megan screams, “Slow down! We’ll get caught. We’ve gotta look inconspicuous.”
Malcolm decelerates the car to a normal speed. I stuff the last remaining treats into Benji’s mouth, and he finally calms down.
A squad car rushes past, no lights or sirens (but definitely in a hurry). Malcolm puts his blinker on to turn down the street where we left everyone else, but I direct him to head to the mall. I’ve resigned myself to letting all those boys into my mom’s SUV and text Denise to meet us there. (No way am I staying so close to Valley High with the contraband.)
At the mall, the guys and Benji head off with Malcolm and I start the long process of taking all my teammates home. My hands are still shaking with adrenaline as I take the wheel.
Megan recounts what happened and the atmosphere in the car is giddy with the excitement that we pulled of such a great prank. Swallowing back the lump of nerves in my throat, I join the celebration by blasting loud, brain-cell killing music.
At home, I crash hard and wake up late. All day I can’t shake the butterflies wrecking havoc on my system. I tell myself that I’m just excited about the final phase of the prank tonight at half-time of the football game.
I pick up Denise and Megan and we head to our school for the football game (the football players never come to our games so we make of point of not attending theirs, but we have a special reason for attending tonight).
We sit with a bunch of our teammates and players from the boys’ team. Megan has forbidden anyone from talking about what we did last night. Those of us who were part of the prank keep shooting glances at each other. The high-fiving and giggling are rampant. Malcolm gives me a nod and heads out of the stands. It's almost time!
The half-time whistle blows and the anticipation in our section of the stands is palpable. Before the cheerleaders can take the field for their annual mid-game exhibition, a tennis ball is thrown at the 50-yard line (I bribed a freshman to do this without knowing why she was doing it). Benji (strategically released by Malcolm from the cover of the trees on the far end of the field), dressed in Central’s red and white colors, trots to the ball.
A cry of fury breaks out in the Valley stands as they realize the dog is their mascot. Our fans whoop and holler with glee. One of Valley’s cheerleading coaches scoops up Benji and stands in the middle of the field as if waiting for instructions on what to do. I think my sides are going to split I’m laughing so hard.
I bask in the triumph of a well-executed prank for one full minute before a heavy hand falls on my shoulder. All those butterflies that have been hanging in my stomach threaten to come out of my mouth.
I look up to find the vice principle staring down at me, her mouth closed in a harsh line of anger. Her other hand is pressed firmly to Megan’s shoulder. Megan sends daggers my way (she might be angrier than the vice principle). The boys’ soccer coach is already escorting Jimmy down the stands.
“You two need to come with me,” the vice principle says.
Best prank of all-time: accomplished. Punishment for my crimes: to be determined (but all signs point to something severe). Maybe I should have left the pranking up to the boys’ team this year.
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Katie L. Carroll is a mother, writer, editor, speaker, and soccer player. She began writing at a very sad time in her life after her 16-year-old sister, Kylene, unexpectedly passed away. Since then writing has taken her to many wonderful places, real and imagined. She wrote her YA fantasy ELIXIR BOUND so Kylene could live on in the pages of a book. Katie is also the author of the picture app THE BEDTIME KNIGHT and a contributor to THE GREAT CT CAPER, a serialized mystery for young readers. She lives not too far from the beach in a small Connecticut city with her husband and sons. For more about Katie, visit her website at www.katielcarroll.com.