Author's note (Darthishtar): This is in honor of my very nice friend, Eowyn77. She's been my collaborator on the Botosphere for almost two years and today, I called her up and told her I was going to cut her back on the project because she'd gone too far. She sounded slightly shell-shocked but was being very nice until I told her "And I just wanted to say...April Fool's." Mr. Rentch's prank is borrowed from my older sister, who played that prank on our 7th grade Social Studies Teacher, Mr. Hamar. The line about practical jokes is from Nick Riordan. Oh, and spoilers for The Exorcist.
2008 was the year I learned that aliens and drive-ins don't mix. Even worse, aliens, drive-ins and human holidays don't mix. Really well. At all. If you value your life, sanity or allowance.
I knew that holidays and Bumblebee were not the best things. Mom had tried to give him a kind of normal introduction to how a human family worked, but she had gone too far when she gave him an X-files bumper sticker for Christmas. I mean, come on, Mom. It's like giving a born-again Christian a copy of Jesus Campfor their birthday.
Ever since, Bee had kind of steered clear of Mom. I had the feeling that he would have done it anyway, but he had been feeling pretty good about his efforts and blending in until she gave him an NBE Pride present.
But I had no idea what I was going to be subjected to when we decided to go to Mardis Gras Movie Night at St. Ferdinand's. It's one of those things that Father Butaker does to show that he's in touch with the spirit of the community. I'm not a practicing Catholic or practicing anything, really, but I like a good movie as much as the next guy and it's a drive-in. I've been dreaming about going to a drive-in with my girl since Mom made me watch Greasewhen I was 12. And they usually show pretty good stuff, as long as you can put up with every movie about the Catholics kicking ass known to man and don't mind them playing "Our God is An Awesome God" over the closing credits of everything.
2008 was going to be epic. Reason 1: I had a smoking car. (Not really. He just liked it when girls called him that.) Reason 2: I had a smoking hot girlfriend. Reason 3: They were playing The Exorcistand really, how many times in your life can you see that on the big screen?
Mardis Gras was really early that year, but one of the awesome things about Mission City is that February 25 rolls around and you can still go out without a coat. So we hit the concessions stand, grabbed one of the speakers they were renting out for a few bucks and snuggled up for some good '70's religious horror.
I practically lost my pre-Lent lunch around the time they pulled out the needles and that was something like 20 minutes into it. Mikaela, being Mikaela, sniggered constantly at everything from the pea soup to the death tumble at the end, but was oddly impressed by the contortionist stunt double scuttling down the stairs dripping blood.
Bee was enthralled. Usually, we'd be on a drive and he'd be making commentary. The one time we'd hit a drive-in before, he'd Rifftraxed it until Mikaela threatened to disconnect his radio. This time, he was so quiet I thought he'd blown a fuse. A couple of hours later, Karras had fallen down the famous stairs, Reagan was a normal 12-year-old girl again and Father Butaker had given some speech about spiritual warfare before letting us all out.
Maybe it was my imagination, but Bee kept steering clear of Catholic churches when we were out and about for the next couple of weeks. He always tuned in to the traffic reports to make an excuse for it, but I caught on pretty quickly to the fact that we hadn't been anywhere near St. Ferdinand's or St. Andrew's since Bee saw what the nice men in backwards collars did on a boring Saturday night. I should have warned him that you can't believe anything you see in the movies.
He finally got back to normal—well, normal for him—and I forgot all about The Exorcistfor five whole days.
And then Mikaela started plotting for April Fool's Day. This girl took it seriously. The lowest-key thing I'd ever seen her do was last year, when she got her revenge for Mr. Rentch throwing everyone's baseball caps out the window if they were wearing them in class. She sat right next to the window in question, provocatively wearing her hair down under a Dodgers cap. Halfway through history, when he snatched her hat off and threw it out the window, her hair came with it. It took a nice lie-down and a cold compress for him to stop hyperventilating and Mikaela had calmly snatched the hat and wig off the front lawn on her way home.
This year, to my lack of surprise, she had a multi-phase plan in the works and was describing my part in it when Bee played a clip of someone clearing their throat.
"'It's hard to enjoy practical jokes when your whole life feels like one,'" he quoted.
"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked.
He played the X-filestheme and I understood only one thing. Whatever Mikaela had planned, he wanted something done to my Mom.
"Nothing scary," I insisted. "We don't want you sold to Sector 7."
"'It was only a bit of fun,'" he whined as Bilbo Baggins.
"Talk to us, Bee," Mikaela encouraged. "What're you thinking?"
The voice that came out of the radio next was my own: "'Um yeah, Satan's Camaro? It's stalking me!'"
From the canned laugh track he played next, I knew he wasn't taking that line personally, just explaining himself. I didn't often get to see Bee with a sense of humor, but this had promise.
"Okay," I said, "I'm in. What do we do?"
It all started with Mikaela's technical genius. Sometime around midnight on March 31, she snuck over to my place and creatively rewired the family Buick. Dad was off on business and Mom had a pressing need to run errands, so when she stomped into the kitchen on April Fool's Day, I looked up with concern on my face and swallowed my Cocoa Puffs.
"What's wrong, Mom?"
"That frigging piece of crap we call our pimped-out ride," she snarled. "Dang thing won't start. It's not the battery and Jerry at Pep Boys'll charge me more than what's still left in your college fund to fix it."
"Hey, hey," I said in a soothing voice. "I'll call Mikaela. She's pretty good with that sort of thing."
"And she's free this morning?"
Mikaela had made a point of having things to do until 3 p.m. just in case she needed an alibi. "Um…"
"I thought so." She kicked the pop-top garbage can and started hopping a bit comically. "Frigging rustbucket!"
"Calm down," I urged her. "You can borrow my car."
She stopped mid-hop and squinted skeptically at me. "Borrow your car?" she repeated. "Drive…IT?"
Bee would like it even less if he heard himself referred to as an 'it,' but he'd be hearing lots worse things before she got back from errands. "I'll tell him to behave himself," I promised. "No playing with the radio, no taking over the steering wheel and no detours."
"No detours." She latched onto that idea. "If it even THINKS about driving me to Mexico, I'm busting the windows!"
I made a mental note to remove anything more solid than Styrofoam and nodded. "I'll just have a quick talk with him, okay? You go get ready and call Kaela."
Bee was slightly wary when I started pulling out everything from the spare tire to the tire gauge, but I whispered that it was for his own protection and headed back inside. Mom was still on the phone, drawling pure sugar the way she did when she sucked up.
"Thankyou, Mikaela," she said. "Oh, you're so sweet. I'll see you at five." She hung up and turned, her hands on her hips. "Well?"
"He'll be on his best behavior," I lied.
I'd taken a lot of things out of the car, but there was one small modification that Mom hopefully wouldn't notice. It wasn't anything drastic, but it would let us eavesdrop on the whole thing.
The first ten minutes of the ride were pretty boring. Bee put up with Mom singing Miley Cyrus and talking on her cell about something she was doing with Marlene this weekend. Then, as soon as she'd hung up, I heard the engine rev.
"HEY!" Mom snapped. "This isn't a race."
The tires screeched and I heard a distant horn. Over the loudspeaker, Bee excerpted Love Story: "Love means never having to say I'm sorry."
If that was true, Mom was going to be pretty convinced that he hated her guts by the end of the ride.
The opening salvos weren't too bad. He backfired hard enough to shake the car and turned on the Metropolitan Opera broadcast a few times. Mom got out of the car, cursing, and came back with groceries a while later.
When she turned on the ignition, the engine growled menacingly and then, from the sound of things, Bee took her on a wild, hands-off-my-damn-steering-wheel ride. He screeched into our driveway, disgorging Mom onto the lawn. She made it halfway on her hands and knees and then lunged into standing position and sprinted for the house.
"OhmyGODohmyGODohMYGOD!" she wailed at me.
"What is it?" I blurted out from the top of the stairs before running to her aid. There were grass stains on her white capris and she was looking a little like she'd had her head stuck in the john by the sixth-grade bully. I felt momentarily very sorry for her. "What happened to you? I thought you had…"
"I THOUGHT YOU HAD ROBOCOP UNDER CONTROL!" she shrieked. "What the HELL is wrong with him?"
At least she wasn't referring to my car as an it anymore. Maybe she thought something that psycho had to be part-human. "I thought you had errands," I said. "Do you need help with the groceries?"
"Oh, my God, the groceries!" She smacked her forehead and ran for the front door, but Bee peeled out, weaving down the street and blaring "Highway to Hell" over the speakers. "WHAT THE…"
"MOM!" I grabbed her by the shoulders and moved her out of the way. "It's okay. I'll go get him."
Truth be told, I ran around the corner and waited for my psychotic alien to come back for more. I patted him affectionately on the hood and then ran back around the corner like I had the devil chasing me.
"OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!" I bawled.
Mom was on the phone with Dad, I hoped. If she called the cops, we had to put this under wraps pronto.
"And now it's trying to run him down!" she squeaked. "Ron, I don't care! I'm not leaving the house with that thing out there."
I practically dove through the front door, rolling like I was being chased by a battalion of Nazis instead of an easily-amused muscle car.
"SAM!" She hugged the life out of me with the phone still pressed to her ear. "You're alive!"
I pried the phone out of her hands. "Dad, I've got it. We'll call you when it's under control."
Mom, shaking like a leaf, backed away from the doorway. "Sam, Sam," she whimpered. "What are we going to do?"
"I've got an idea." I glanced around wildly, then spotted a jug that I had bought earlier in the week and forgotten to take to the garage. "I've got an idea that just might work, but I need bait."
She glanced between me and Bee, who was still revving the engine and playing "Enter Sandman" at full blast. If nothing else, we were going to catch hell from the neighbors, but this was so turning out to be worth it.
"Oh, no, you don't."
"Trust me, Mom," I urged her. "I saw this once in a movie."
That made a difference. Mom was the kind of person who believed most of the things she saw in the movies. She'd forbidden me to rent from Blockbuster for a month after she saw The Ring.She could be convinced by the idea that I could pull off something that Schwarzenegger had come up with.
"Okay," she said. "But you've got one shot and then I'm calling the wrecking company."
"Fair enough," I panted. "Now, when I count to three, go out there and climb on his hood. Trap him. I'll take care of the rest."
She straightened her blouse, brushed herself down and took her mark.
We tore out the front door and mom landed spread-eagle on the hood, holding on to the side-view mirror nearest her for dear life. From a distance, all Bee did was backfire and rev the engines a few times and abuse the speaker system. If he had played the sounds separately, it would have been planes taking off, cows mooing and something from Wagner, but put together, she probably thought she was listening to the screams of the damned.
It was my cue.
I wrenched the lid from the washer fluid and started flinging it at the car. "THE POWER OF THE SPARK COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF THE SPARK COMPELS YOU!"
Bee started playing more AC/DC—"Back in Black" this time—and backfired several more times while I doused him with more of the stuff. If it weren't so sacrilegious, I could have started quoting more of the Roman ritual, but with a tortured scream of guitar from an Eagles song, Bee went still.
Mom lay limp on the hood, either sobbing or laughing hysterically. Then she started kicking her heels and I knew she had finally caught on. She peeled herself off, laughing in the hiccupping little giggles with the occasional snort that were her specialty.
"You jerk!" she sniggered. "You're grounded!"
"Bee's sorry," I deadpanned. "Aren't you, Bee?"
He politely opened the door for her and started playing "Unchained Melody." Mom stood, pulled her shirt down and kicked his bumper.
"I'm gonna wax you with Vaseline tomorrow, you piece of junk!" she said.
He honked the horn and even waggled the windshield wipers a little. It was as close to playing coy as I'd ever seen him.
"Come on," I wheedled. "It's just a bit of April Fool's fun."
"April Fool's my a…"
"And we can both give you a ride to your hair appointment," I offered; her hair needed some serious work done after all of that. "We'll have you back in time for Mikaela to unbreak your car."
"HA!" she waggled a finger at me. "I should have known she was in on this!"
"Yes, Mom," I said placidly. "It won't happen again, Mom. No one has to know about this, Mom."
I was just glad we had neighborhood watch cams all over the place. This was going to make for a great movie night.