We have a local saying that when roughly translated states: If you cannot take a joke, do not start one.

When I stared at my reflection in the mirror, I noticed I lines on my forehead. In some odd twist of thinking, I blamed the lack of practice of my sense of humor as the primary reason of premature aging.

“Ah, he looks like me,” I said, noticing all of them laughing. There was nothing bad for the elaborate hoax. Later on, I learned that it was some sort of a welcoming tale for all newcomers, to be ushered in to the lighter side of life which most in the village practiced so effortlessly.

“You believed it, didn’t you?” the leader of the group asked. “Your neighbor here had the same treatment several years ago.”

“In that case, am I considered a certified member of the village?”

“Yes. I hope you’re not angry at us.”

“Oh no,” I grinned without guile. “I enjoyed every minute of it.”

It was sarcasm which they failed to understand. Theirs was simple and plain: mine could be practically subtle.

“I wonder who is the owner of the carabao I saw earlier, wandering about without ropes.”

Abruptly, they stopped eating. Everyone was all ears to my revelation.

“Is this some kind of a prank?” the leader asked, suspicious at the timing of my news. “Are you sure the carabao was loose?”

“See for yourself,” I said, wishing they would believe me.

They left their snack in a hurry, running to the direction I pointed. A carabao in the heat was more or less a disaster waiting to happen.

Twenty minutes later, they were back, their perspiration oozing from their faces, upper clothes drenched in sweat.  If my guess was correct, they did not find the non-existent carabao. I got my small revenge.

“Good of you to inform us about it,” my neighbor said, sitting beside me. “The damage was not too extensive.”

What? I invented the scenario but it seemed it did happen.

“We have to help the carabao’s owner to catch his animal. He’s from the next village. He had been looking for it for hours.”

“I am glad you caught it.”

“However, there’s something you ought to know.”

Suddenly, I felt nervous. Why was that?

“Did the carabao entered my place?” I asked, trying to figure out if the figment of my imagination did something real. “I am sorry about the joke earlier. It was a harmless prank, something like the one you did to me.”

“We’re glad for it somehow. At least, it ended in a better note.”

“You said something I ought to know. What is it?”

“I think you should go home and discover it yourself. You don’t want another round of laughter, do you?”

I hurried back home after waving to them my quick goodbye. If it was another prank, I would just laugh it off. I have to get used to it in the long run.

The plants were unharmed, even the fence had no sign of damage. It was a prank all right, I smiled.

But as I approached my front yard I saw a small mound of something near my front door. I could see the carabao’s hoof marks on the soft ground leading toward the house.

Yes, it was what I feared. Damn. I needed a shovel.



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