• Shelly Powell

All's Fair in Love and Prank War (a short story)

As of two weeks ago, Angie was forced to accept the fact that Benjamin did not care about toilet paper as much as she did. To be thus disillusioned after 4 years of marriage cut her to the quick, but after two weeks of quiet calculating, she had come to terms with this new existence. She was wiser now, jaded, but stronger. So what if her first experiment was a fail? So what if hiding the toilet paper for two weeks hadn’t gotten Ben’s attention. So what if he hadn’t said a word and had an inhuman ability to… Never mind how he did it. The point was, Angie thought of a new way to punish Ben for never remembering to put a new roll of toilet paper on the holder every time he used up the last bits from the previous roll. Angie knew exactly what her next step would be.

Cereal, she cackled to herself. Oh, yes, she would hit him where it hurt. Cereal! Ben’s fatal weakness! Angie had a pile of exactly 12 boxes of fruity, chocolaty, apple cinnamon, cookie crunch, rainbow colored, clusters, O’s, and star shaped bits of manufactured, artificially colored, vitamin fortified pellets that Ben liked to call food when he poured it in a bowl and doused it with milk. Sometimes Angie wondered whether he loved the stuff more than he loved her. It would be another informative experiment, a necessary one to test the bounds of their relationship.

So while Ben was at work, Angie spent the morning making sure she had gathered every last box of cereal he had stashed around the house for a quick pick-me-up snack. She couldn’t believe the places he hoarded it. Besides the pantry, she had found boxes on his desk, next to his nightstand, on the bookshelf, and even in his sock drawer.

Once Angie had them all, she walked around looking for inspiration. Where to put it? She didn’t want to just throw all that cereal away. That would be wasteful, and Angie wasn’t wasteful. She just needed a place to stash all this so-called food until Ben had paid for his crimes, someplace safe, hidden, and subtle. Then an idea struck her. Ben was leaving town on a last minute work trip in another week. Wouldn’t it be fun, after a week of wondering where his precious cereal went, to discover it all dumped inside his suitcase?


Angie pulled his dark blue suitcase out from under the bed, careful not to confuse it with her own matching case by checking for the pink bow she always tied on the zipper. She emptied every last box of cereal, sugared powder crumbs and all, into his suitcase. She was about to call the job done when a second wave of inspiration led her to toss an extra scoop into every pocket. Revenge was sweet! Literally.

Just for kicks, Angie made lasagna that night, Ben’s favorite, even though it was his turn to cook. She figured that being extra sweet to him as he scavenged the house for his missing cereal would drive him crazy. Sure, she could have put something like crickets in his lasagna if she wanted to, but no. That wasn’t her style. Her style was simply to make him think she was up to something, which was its own kind of revenge, hence the suspicious extra sweetness.

When Ben got home that night, Angie smiled hugely. “Hey, handsome.” She met him at the door and went straight for his lips. Ben mmm-ed and put his arms around her. Angie momentarily forgot her evil scheme. It had been a while since Ben had kissed her like that. But she had to focus. “You hungry? I made your favorite.”

“What!” Ben kissed her again. “You’re the best.”

Ben kicked off his shoes and dropped his bag in the entryway.

Angie skipped over to the kitchen to dish up the food. Her hand hovered over Ben’s plate as she looked at him from over the counter. He still stood in the entryway, his eyes closed, as he massaged the right side of his neck.

“Rough day?” she asked as a tiny bit of guilt nudged its way to her stomach.

“Nah, just tired,” he said taking a seat at their table for two.

They ate mostly in silence. Ben was on his phone playing some stupid game that promised to magically protect baby seals with each high score. As Angie looked at that annoyingly sleek device in his hand and listened to its incessant beeping, another plan began to unfurl before her. Ben would regret he ever played that game! She was tempted to snatch it out of his hands that very moment, but no. One scheme at a time. For now, she need do nothing but smile and act innocent. Later, she would raise the stakes.

Ben relished his dinner. After two extra helpings, he got up and stretched. Before going to the bedroom, he said, “That was awesome, Ange. I don’t even feel hungry for cereal after that!”

Angie’s nostrils flared. He said that on purpose! Just to bother her! A single glance around the room revealed that all the cereal was gone. He was playing hard ball. Well, Angie would play harder.

The next day, Ben left for work an hour earlier than usual. Angie didn’t mind. She was eager to commence “Operation Teach-Ben-to-Pay-More-Attention-to-His-Wife.”

Angie picked up her phone and called customer service. “Hello? Yes, I’m calling because I would like to change one of our phones to a kid’s plan.” Angie could barely talk without laughing. Yes, she wanted all the parental controls. Yes, she wanted to limit texting and data. Yes, she wanted to require parental approval to add contacts and download apps. Delete all existing data? Could you do that? Yes!

The monotone voice on the other end confirmed all the changes. “It may take a few hours for the updates to take effect, but all changes should be in place by tonight.”

“Perfect.” Angie smiled as she ended the call. Now, she could relax.

That night, Ben came home an hour late with a huge pack of 24 rolls of toilet paper awkwardly tucked under his arm. He dropped the pack in the entryway without giving it a second glance. Then he walked over to Angie, kissed her on the cheek, and declared he was going to bed. He was exhausted.

Ah, stink, thought Angie. Ben wouldn’t even notice his phone’s changes until the next day. Angie sat on the couch, grumbling, as Ben shuffled around in the bedroom. She glared at the enormous pack of toilet paper he’d abandoned in the entryway, evidence that he had noticed the missing toilet paper. Even though he hadn’t said anything about the missing cereal, he must have noticed that too. Would he show up one night with 24 new boxes of cereal?

Angie felt a headache coming on. She needed to vent to someone. She picked up the phone to call her sister, but for some reason, her contacts list was empty. Strange. Luckily, her sister’s number was one of the few she had memorized. After she entered the number, a message popped up.

Parent approval required to add contact.

What? Angie entered the number again.

Parent approval required to add contact.

Oh, no. The customer service rep must have made a mistake! She tried to look up customer service, but another message appeared.

Parent approval required to access website.

“Ahh!” Angie grunted and threw her phone on the ground.

Ben stuck his head out the bedroom door. “Sweetie, what’s wrong?”

Angie flew into the bedroom, almost hitting Ben with the door, and flopped onto the bed. Tears gushed from her eyes.

“Ange?” Ben sat next to her and rubbed her back.

“Why don’t you notice things, Ben? You haven’t said anything about the toilet paper or the cereal, and now my phone needs parental approval for everything!” Angie wailed into her pillow.

Ben’s hand stopped in the middle of her back. “What in the world are you talking about?”

“You never notice me anymore!” Angie rolled onto her side with her back to Ben. She tried to gain control, but the tears kept coming. It felt good to finally say what had been bothering her.

“Sweetie, why don’t you check your suitcase.”

Angie sat up. “What?” It was her turn to be confused.

“I wanted to surprise you in a few days, but now’s as good a time as any.”

Angie wiped her face. The guilt that had been worming its way into her stomach wriggled and squirmed. She went over to her side of the bed and pulled out a dark blue suitcase.

“No, not that one. That’s mine. Oh wait! I must have put the surprise in mine by accident. I was kind of distracted that day.”

“What?!” Angie looked for the pink ribbon, but it wasn’t there. She checked for the spot on the corner where she had once spilled purple nail polish, but it wasn’t there either. This was Ben’s suitcase. Her heart sank. This suitcase was too light. There was no rustling inside when she shook it.

Ben laughed. “Just open it.”

Oh, no. Angie unzipped the suitcase. Inside were two brochures and a printout of a receipt. A confirmation number at the top displayed the truth. Ben had purchased two tickets for a five day cruise to Mexico.

Angie picked up the receipt and started crying again.

Ben wrapped his arm around her. “I’m so sorry I forgot our anniversary last month, Angie. I’ve been walking around like a zombie worried that you would be upset. I didn’t know how to fix it, and you never said anything. The silence was worse than you being angry with me. So I wanted to surprise you with something really nice.”

That wiggly worm of guilt hardened to a rock and lodged in her throat. How could she have forgotten their anniversary! She had been so upset about those ridiculous toilet paper rolls! But it wasn’t just the toilet paper. Did Ben understand that?

Angie looked into his eyes. He looked so unsure, so hopeful, so worried. She had been saying for the last four years how much she wanted to go on a cruise. Why did he have to spring such an amazing surprise on her when she had been such a beast?

“Oh, Ben!” she cried and fell onto his lap. “I don’t deserve this!”

He put his arms around her and laughed. “It will be awesome. You know that last minute business trip I had? Well, it was really this. We’ll be on a beach in Mexico in less than a week!”

Angie was tempted to pull out her swimsuit and try it on, but she had to come clean.

“Before you decide you want to go with me, you should first look in your suitcase. I mean… my suitcase.”

Ben reached under the bed for the other suitcase. “Here, it looks like your bow fell off.” He handed Angie the pink bow that had fallen off under the bed. Then he shook the suitcase. Angie covered her eyes as she listened to the cereal swishing around inside like a rainmaker.

“What in the world…” Ben said as he unzipped the suitcase.

Angie opened her eyes. As much as she wanted to shut everything out, she had to see. She had to know what he would say.

“No way!” Ben said as he ran his fingers through the clusters, O’s, and star shapes. “This is awesome!”

“What?” Angie’s tears finally stopped. “You’re not mad?”

“Oh, I’m mad,” he said. “But it kind of makes me feel better about forgetting our anniversary.” He kissed her temple. “You’re a terrible prankster.”

Angie laughed and hugged Ben.

“Oh, hey,” Ben said. “Can I use your phone to confirm our rental car? I, uh, accidentally broke my phone at work today.”

“Oh, about that…”

***Can you tell I had fun writing this? My favorite part was actually hearing my own husband laugh when he read it. You can find my story on Booksie.com.

Here is the link: https://www.booksie.com/posting/s-powell/alls-fair-in-love-and-prank-war-601328


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