And then the day came. Al gets his mail at work, so I was there the day the bill came. In my office, I try to prepare myself for what is to come. While opening the bill, he declares, “oh this should be a great one!” As he reads the bill, I see his face fall and he lets loose a string of accusations and expletives. He just can't comprehend this! How could this be? As I listen to him spout off theories, it is all I can do to hold it together and not die laughing. I did have to fake a coughing fit a time or two. "But I was gone and the light bulb wasn't even turned on! I mean the fridge was running, but it was cold in the house and I never opened the door. The water was drained and the heat was off. The bill should have been lower than ever! Is the electric company screwing with me because I complained about the service fee?”
It is at this moment that I am thankful I didn't share the prank with Dad. He is very much enjoying listening to Al go on and on, but he also has no idea why the bill was that big. No doubt in my mind, had Dad known, he would have cracked a smile and the game would have been over.
A week later, Al tells us about this thing he bought that costs about 60 bucks (that's like a years worth of electricity!). You can plug it onto your appliances, etc. to see how much they are drawing. Hmmm, no luck there. Everything reads correctly. Imagine that! I hear he and dad going back and forth and thinking of possible reasons. Al keeps circling back to the electric company hosing him over. At this point I can't keep the secret anymore and tell a few of my cousins. It was a very memorable Christmas, Al relaying his story over the dinner table, while those of us in the know gave each other knowing glances and tried to swallow our smirks and snickers along with our food.
Well, wouldn't you know it? The bugger leaves town again and once again puts me in charge of the birds. Repeat my actions all over again. And the same outrage at the bill when it comes in the mail. He is now completely bewildered and irate. Al goes to lunch, so it is just Dad and I. I can't take it anymore and spill onto the floor with laughter, tears streaming down my face. Dad gives me a look, I see his gears working. “Oh my god it was you?! This whole time?!” I fill Dad in on all the antics. It is entirely possible that I have never seen my dad so proud of me in my entire life. Not when I graduated. Not when I sold my first big ticket at work. Not when I bought my farm. He was beaming. We laughed and laughed till our bellies hurt. So with dad in the know, it was even harder to keep a straight face when Al brought it up, which was often. One day, Dad had to excuse himself to go down in the shop just so he could laugh before his insides exploded.
Now I love my Dad. A lot. But he loves a good story. LOVES. He did his best to keep it a secret, but ended up telling an internet buddy of his who was many states away. That guy told his secretary who knew Alan. And of course, she blabbed. So the gig was up. I have to say, Al took it like a champ. I think he was a little proud of me too, though he wouldn't admit it. I was afraid he'd be really really mad. I sheepishly told him, “I'm sorry Al. I couldn't resist. I'd pay you back for all the wasted electricity, but it was never about the money, it was the principle of the thing.” He graciously forgave me.
Now he has a nice new house that he built mostly by himself and there is even at least one light bulb in every room. (I think the kitchen has FOUR!) Every time I am there for any reason, I always leave a light on to let him know I stopped by. And the best part, now when he leaves town I am never asked to feed the birds.