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Shoulder Pads and Other Surprises

a going away party

I think it started by accident. I don’t even remember who started, but my roommate, L., pulled a nursing textbook out of her bag and a shoulder pad fell onto the classroom floor.

The next day I was at the library when I found shoulder pads in my bag. Shoulder pads in pockets. Shoulder pads in the refrigerator. In glove boxes. Behind towels and in makeup bags.

I went through my closet with scissors to check every blouse and jacket. I had 18 shoulder pads. In the living room I stood on a chair to put the shoulder pads on the ceiling fan blades.

I wish I’d been home when L. flipped on the switch.

Readers like surprises, right? How do you know which surprises work? What is a book you’ve read with great surprises? When does a surprise annoy you?

8 thoughts on “Shoulder Pads and Other Surprises

  1. I’m dying over here, imagining shoulder pads flying all over the room! That was brilliant! 😀

    As a reader, surprises annoy me when they don’t fit the overall feel to the story. For instance, the recent “haunted” story I read had a demonic element, but the way the protagonist buried the bones of a boy to defeat the “curse”? He imagined burying them. Poof! I was disgusted. The bones were not imaginary, and the burying of them should not have been either.

    I wish I could think of pranks like you! I still need to get back at my husband for scaring me in the bath. 😉

  2. I don’t think I like surprises very much. I’m the guy who loves themoviespoiler.com, remember? 🙂

    Still, a well-done surprise in a book could be a good thing. I had a surprise overtake me in one of my stories once; I’ve never experienced that before or since. That was pretty cool. 🙂

    • It depends. Even as a kid I refused to open presents on Christmas Eve, and I’d get mad if someone told me what I got before the right time. I like those surprises.

      But you know how someone will want you to taste something new, and they might say, “Close your eyes and open your mouth.” Bad surprise.

  3. Unlike so many people, I never hated shoulder pads, and I still don’t hate them. In fact, I like them far better than the way too short cropped shirts that you find now. (I really hate seeing people’s underwear showing when they bend over, and especially hate mine peeking out.)

    I hate pranks, but I love nice surprizes. (I don’t count the shoulder pad blizzard as a prank, as nobody got hurt.) But people doing something nice and surprsing you with it is nice.

    • Oh, I like some shoulder pads. It depends on the shirt/jacket/whatever and the person who wears them. My coat now has shoulder pads. As for pranks, I only play fun ones. I don’t do things to hurt feelings or really scare people. I like a good a laugh for everyone!

  4. The shoulder pads prank is brilliant. If I understand it correctly, it was made even better because it was a tradeoff prank, which escalated without getting out of hand. When I get involved in one of those the laughter feels especially good, because you’re not just laughing because it’s FUNNY, you’re also laughing because you really like the person you’re trading off with.

    Unfortunately, I also have a wicked practical joker living inside my head. (You can see fairly benign traces of it in, like, the story of how I came up with Seems to Fit‘s title — the made-up song lyrics, presented to the world as if they’re real.) Enough of those have backfired, though, that I’ve learned to enjoy just thinking and talking about them rather than putting them into practice. But I did execute a pretty good one years ago and I think I may do a blog post about that — just recently got a reminder of it — so thanks for the idea.

    Can’t think of a good, full-of-surprises book at the moment… Well, no, wait — the first Harry Potter book was one for me. It was FULL of them. Even though I’d already heard a lot about the premise, actually reading it was a joy for me: on every page, it seemed, I encountered a neat little touch, even just a made-up word, that made me almost want to clap my hands. It was brilliant. And what I really loved was imagining what went on in JK Rowling’s head every time she thought of one of them — the little starbursts of fun and excitement. It was like the book itself was a big surprise she was preparing to spring on the world, but it also must have held a thousand little surprises for her in the writing.

    (I’ve read the stories about how difficult and complicated her life was at the time, and how she wrote it in, like, coffee shops and laundromats or whatever it was. But you know what? If I were her, I think — even if the book hadn’t gotten off the ground — just because of all those little surprises, I’d look back on that as one of the happiest times of my life. That’s one of the reasons I still write: the sense of surprising myself.)

  5. Pingback: Boyish Prankery

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