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For Kari

September 4, 2014

We were only a few weeks into the school year when we saw him. I was a freshman at Michigan State University in the fall of 1999 and the excitement and anxiousness of living away from home had started to turn into over caffeinated comfort. Jenna was my high school best friend, my roommate freshman year and on this day, my partner in crime. Grand River Avenue, lined with college town shops and restaurants was still a source of wonder to us–so many places to explore. I had picked up a pair of boots that day at a now defunct bootery and had been excited to use my very first credit card for the very first time. We walked back to the dorm, chattering about our new friends in the dorm. One of our new friends was a girl from Muskegon, Michigan, named Kari who had a penchant for hair dye, ’70s rock bands and squirrels. She had recently introduced us to her taxidermy friends, Skippy and Petey. Kari loved squirrels and would often chase them around campus as she yelled “chitter chitter.”

A squirrel had met its match on Grand River Avenue a few days before. The ants and other insects had stripped its body of most of the meat, leaving a furry but mostly intact carcass. The body was on the edge of the road, close to the sidewalk. I’m not sure what came over me, but I began to giggle uncontrollably as I asked Jenna if we should give it to Kari. Jenna, usually the more practical of the two of us, laughed as well and agreed to help me transport the body. I tossed my new boots in my backpack and gingerly moved the squirrel into the shoe box. It has a slight dead animal smell so I held the box out in front of me as we walked back to the dorms, still laughing at the absurdity. We thought Kari would laugh at the gag; there had been no animosity in our plan.

Once we got back to our dorm room, we found an old paper bag and wrapped the shoe box with care. “To KaRi A105 BaILeY HaLL” we wrote on the front in disguised handwriting. “FrAJiLe” I wrote as I laughed hysterically, “PLeaSe HaNdLe with CARE.” The package was ready for delivery. I ran down the long hallway of the dorm, knocked on her door, and dashed back to my room. Only Kari wasn’t home but her roommate Sheena, a quiet, no nonsense girl from Mississippi was and she opened the door, looked down the hall, grabbed the package and closed the door.

That was it. Our plans for a hilarious reaction from Kari had been dashed by our lack of planning–we hadn’t thought to make sure that Kari was home when we made the delivery. We retreated back to our dorm room and worked on homework while we waited for Kari to get home. Hours passed and our excitement  and anxiousness started to wane. Finally, we gave up and went to bed, momentarily forgetting about the package.

The next morning, we ran into Sheena on the way to class. We asked her if Kari had gotten the package. “She sure did,” she replied in her drawl, “I made sure to set it on her bed so she could see it when she came in. I left before she opened it. But she was really sad about her grandma, so whatever it was I hope it cheered her up.”

“What is wrong with her grandma?” asked Jenna nervously.

“Oh, she passed away. Kari packed up and left early this morning to go home to her family,” Sheena said.

I stared at Jenna as an awful feeling began to envelope my stomach. She stared back at me. We were at a loss for words. We didn’t have Kari’s parents’ phone number and we didn’t have cell phones. We would have to wait several days for Kari to come back before we could apologize and explain the situation. We rode our bikes back down Grand River Avenue to find the perfect condolence cards to give to Kari and left them in her room on bed so she could see them as soon as she came in.

Days later, Kari returned and we were able to apologize in person for the horrible prank gone wrong. She told us that she had been crying and then saw the package and started to laugh, only to start crying again once she saw the contents. The dead squirrel prank gone wrong proved to be not all bad–even now, 15 years later, when we reminisce about our days in Bailey Hall, the story of the squirrel carcass still comes up. And Kari is still my friend.

 

 

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