A Practical Joke on Captain Obvious

My parents were going on vacation, so my mother came over to tell me that she had hidden a bag of papers and whatnot in the stove to keep them safe.

Why tell me this, you ask?

She wanted me to know so I didn’t “go over to the house and turn on the stove.”

How did she know that every time she goes on vacation, Mike and I immediately hop in the car, bolt over to her house, and turn on all her appliances without checking them first?  Well, not all of them, just the stove, the clothes dryer stuffed with flammable lint and a few hair dryers which we sit on the edges of sinks filled with water. Then we run up and down the hallways brandishing scissors in both hands, while chewing wads of slippery gum just big enough to lodge in our esophagi, screaming like wild Indians. Oh, the fun we have!


I tried to give Captain Obvious a pass on this one. I really did. I know that having children makes some part in your head go mushy, making you say things like  “If you get that water on you, you’ll be all wet!” It isn’t her fault.  It’s mine and my brother’s.  But, after I finished laughing at her, this thought went through my head:

Wouldn’t it be funny if she came home, opened the stove, and there was nothing but a pile of ash in there?

The thought kept me giggling for a week.

So, the day we were supposed to go pick my parents up at the airport, I went to their house.  Inside the stove I found this hidden behind potato chips and a bag of animal crackers (she should have been a camouflage expert for the Army, I think she missed her calling):

We have a fireplace, and I brought some ash with me in a bag. I replaced her bag with this:

I did lay down some tin foil. I didn’t want a practical joke to turn into two hours of sweeping ash out of her stove.

I don’t like to mock people and THEN make them clean, that’s just rude.

Mike had suggested I add another dimension to the joke, by turning finding the original bag of goodies into a treasure hunt. So, I put a note in the ash that said: “This joke is turning into a wild GOOSEchase!”

This would lead her to her table centerpiece:

Under which was a note that said “This joke is FINESTKIND!” – which is the name of my father’s old lobster boat:

Which happens to be sitting on their TV:

And inside the boat was another note: “Hope screaming in frustration isn’t making you FROGGY!”

Which would lead her to another note under the frog (which is probably a toad, but the froggy pun was more obvious). This note says “Ok, enough of this, it is in the closet.”

Then in the closet is:

Which led her finally to the baskets:

And inside, under the magazines was her bag.

After we picked them up at the airport, we stopped for dinner, during which I thought my head would explode if she didn’t go home and open her stove. FINALLY, we got them home and we returned to our house, where we pretended to watch TV, but in reality we were just sitting there thinking “Open the stove! Open the stove!” over and over in our heads, and occasionally having conversations like:

“Do you think we should call them?”
“But we kept it a secret a week, and all through dinner!”
“But we could just call and ask her, um, if she checked her stove…”
“Why would we do that?!! It would be too obvious. Jeeze, what if she went to bed before checking.”
“Aarg…that would be AWFUL…”

FINALLY, the phone rang, and I almost killed myself diving for it. On the other end of the line, I heard Mom’s little voice peeping:

“Did you do something with my stuff in the stove?”


I burst out laughing and she heaved a huge sigh of relief. She said at first her heart dropped into her toes, and then she thought the pile of ash seemed too small for the size of the bag she put in there.

What a strange thought, I thought.

Then she thought maybe she’d been robbed by a thief with a strange sense of humor. Then she realized it was probably us…

She hadn’t seen the note hidden in the ash yet, so I actually got to listen while she walked through the treasure hunt.

I have to say, she sounded kind of annoyed.  Personally, I’d like to end every long vacation with a treasure hunt in my home to find things that are rightfully already mine, but maybe that’s just me.

When Mom reached the baskets and saw the final note, she said something about how she should probably kill us, and we hung up so I could then relive the whole phone conversation with Mike. That is, until Mom called back a second later asking where her bag of stuff was. She didn’t think to look under the magazines in the basket and had been searching through the closet for her stuff.

I guess it was a good thing I walked her through the hunt on the phone in the first place, or she’d still be wandering around the house looking for that bag, mumbling threats and plotting our deaths.

But I bet you the next time she starts to say, “If you go to our house and unlock it to get in, remember to lock the doors back up…” she’ll think twice, or she might just come home to find giant cartoon-ish chains and padlocks draped over every door and window…




Amy Vansant

9 Responses

  1. Kara

    You know, your mother might just put you up for adoption.


  2. Amy

    I think this sounds fantastic. I wish our friends and family were so kind/bored.


    • Amy Vansant

      I’m constantly running around telling people I’m swamped. I’m afraid this may damage my credibility.


  3. Grace Lewis

    I LOVE that your mother’s main objection to the pile of ash was that it was too small. This was really amusing and you are a really terrible daughter 😉


    • Amy Vansant

      I know! That was the nuttiest part for me too – who looks at that and says “Hm.. proportionally I don’t believe those could be the remains of my items…”



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