sixty-nine days after

A week after the discovery of the doodled flower, I’d resigned myself to its insignificance — I wasn’t Banzan in the meat market after all — and as the maples around campus began to hint of resurrection and the maintenance crew began mowing the grass in the dorm circle again, it seemed to me we had finally lost her.

The Colonel and I walked into the woods down by the lake that afternoon and smoked a cigarette in the precise spot where the Eagle had caught us so many months before. We’d just come from a town meeting, where the Eagle announced the school was going to build a playground by the lake in memory of Alaska. She did like swings, I guess, but a playground? Lara stood up at the meeting — surely a first for her — and said they should do something funnier, something Alaska herself would have done.

Now, by the lake, sitting on a mossy, half-rotten log, the Colonel said to me, “Lara was right. We should do something for her. A prank. Something she would have loved.”

“Like, a memorial prank?”

“Exactly. The Alaska Young Memorial Prank. We can make it an annual event. Anyway, she came up with this idea last year. But she wanted to save it to be our senior prank. But it’s good. It’s really good. It’s historic.”

“Are you going to tell me?” I asked, thinking back to the time when he and Alaska had left me out of prank planning for Barn Night.

“Sure,” he said. “The prank is entitled ‘Subverting the Patriarchal Paradigm.'” And he told me, and I have to say, Alaska left us with the crown jewel of pranks, the Mona Lisa of high-school hilarity, the culmination of generations of Culver Creek pranking. And if the Colonel could pull it off, it would be etched in the memory of everyone at the Creek, and Alaska deserved nothing less. Best of all, it did not, technically, involve any expellable offenses.

The Colonel got up and dusted the dirt and moss off his pants. “I think we owe her that.”

And I agreed, but still, she owed us an explanation. If she was up there, down there, out there, somewhere, maybe she would laugh. And maybe — just maybe — she would give us the clue we needed.

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