I was a senior in high school, but I had been reading Stephen King since the 4th grade. Maybe that’s why I always looked at the furniture prank as scary and not funny.
It was the fall and I was deeply involved with the school musical that required me to be at rehearsals every night at 6pm. In between drill team after school and play practice in the evening, I usually beat a path home in my little brown Mazda for a snack and a break.
As usual, I picked up the phone as soon as I walked in the door. I never dropped the habit of calling my mom when I got home, even though I was long past the age that she worried about me after school. I was telling her every detail of my uneventful day as I strolled through the front hall and glanced out at the yard that slopes up towards our street. I lost all train of thought.
“Mom.” I said, flummoxed. “There are recliners in the yard.”
“What? What are talking about?” She was used to my dramatics.
In the large yard directly in front of our home, there were two old leather recliners facing each other about 10 yards apart. Less than fifteen minutes earlier, I had driven down the driveway and past this yard, then empty.
I tried to describe the scene to mom, who was sitting at her office and still on the phone. I didn’t know what to think. It was so strange. I hadn’t heard a thing and yet someone had deposited and arranged the chairs within minutes of my arriving home and looking out the window.
My parents weren’t home from work when I left for music practice, still confused. I didn’t tell anyone at rehearsal about the chairs, only because my churning teenage mind was otherwise occupied by the time I reached the stage.
Later that night, as I came around the curve of my street, I could see the silhouette of the recliners against the moon and suddenly remembered the mystery. So strange. Stranger still that my dad hadn’t moved them.
The next afternoon was reminiscent of the one before. Only this time when I looked out the window, a long black couch was facing the house in between the two leather recliners. The third day, a large busted television joined the party.
The television had appeared while no one was home, the culprit possibly worried that I was now watching. Our yard looked ridiculous, and I had already heard a few snickers at school even though I wasn’t saying a word.
I called a college boy that I had dated over the summer and accused him, through tears, of stalking me and being ruthless and who knows what all. Once he made any sense of my babbling, he denied the prank but couldn’t stop laughing. He, nor I, could understand why the furniture was scaring me so badly when most everyone else found it humorous. Even my parents didn’t seem concerned.
I believed the college boy’s denials. Logistically, he lived over an hour away, plus it wasn’t his style to pull something off without receiving full credit. Beyond him, I couldn’t come up with a single person who could be behind such a creepy act. I summoned my courage and asked one of my closest male friends if he was putting furniture in my yard. His expression was genuinely confused. We were in English class, and this was the first that I had spoken of it. The jokes began.
On day three, my dad finally decided enough was enough and hauled all the furniture up to the road to be removed by weekly trash collector. I breathed a sigh of relief and considered the episode over, until the next morning when all four pieces were back in the middle of the yard, this time in a different arrangement.
Helpless, I called my high school sweetheart. We were recently back together and he lived in my neighborhood and drove a truck. He could help my dad deal with it. For some reason they pulled the furniture around to the back of the house instead of hauling it to the dump.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened next.
On day five, the two recliners, couch, and television were back in the front yard scattered haphazardly. My angsty head was close to exploding.
My parents acquiesced to my shrieks and we called the police. I’m not sure what the crime would be – trespassing? Stealing? Giving? Tacky yard decoration?
Abruptly, it all ended. We took the furniture to the dump and while some friends still cracked jokes about my week of appearing lawn decor, it faded from most everyone’s mind except mine. This mystery stayed with me for years after I graduated. Not one of my high school friends appeared to have a clue as to the prankster, and I had exhausted all plausible possibilities.
A few weeks ago, one of the culprits accidentally incriminated himself to my brother. Thirteen years later, this private and bizarre mystery is solved. And guys? I know who you are.
photo by Robert S. Donovan