The Cold Prank War

The United Nations Secretary-General told us to treat the Russians like an annoying roommate, like someone who pays their share of the rent to keep nuclear winter from evicting humanity. With this advice rattling in his head, the president held a brainstorming session, and we all sat around the Oval Office like modern-day knights.

One of us, a member of the Joint Chiefs, uttered something about a guy named Jerry who never washed his dishes. The president ordered us to think bigger, to think globally. I mentioned Great Britain and how us turning a harbor into a giant pot of tea got them to eventually move out. Another senior advisor cited the Native Americans and how we—in unison everyone brought their index fingers to their lips.

“We’re the good guys, right?” the president asked.

“Sure, sure,” the vice president said.

“We should go the Great Britain route, sir,” said the three-star general who used to live with a sink full of dirty dishes.

“Okay, let’s talk to Lipton. Should we get the boys in Boston on the horn?”

“No, sir, let’s prank the Russians.”


Behind the Resolute Desk and in primetime, the president addressed the nation. He called on all Americans, rich and poor, to send the White House their…waste. Flyers with a man squatting over a Tupperware container were stapled to utility poles and bulletin boards across the republic. Since I’d pitched the idea, I was in charge of inspecting the incoming ammunition. Everyone was doing their part. Even the constipated chipped in, shipping us their pets’ droppings instead. Soon a mountain of brown rested on the South Lawn.

 We packed the excrement into paper bags with the Constitution written on one side and “Made in the USA” written on the other. Then we loaded the corn-speckled cargo into a fleet of Lockheed U-2s. Operation Freedom Shit was underway. That night, flaming bags of liberty would rain down on Moscow.

The Russians got back at us by TP’ing the Pentagon with red toilet paper. The media had a field day. The headline “KGB Stunt Hopes to Wipe Away the Stink of Capitalism” ran on the front page of the Times. To help his sagging approval numbers (it was an election year after all), the president declared the Charmin Bear the enemy of the state and banned toilet paper across the country to protect every god-fearing bum.

From sea to shining sea, we wanted revenge, so DDD (ding, dong, ditch) Day was set in motion.


Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” blared from the C-17 Globemaster’s speakers. Our target was the Grand Kremlin Palace. We were a mile from our drop point, and I was strapped to a Green Beret. The president had created a new cabinet position, Secretary of Pranks, and promoted me to fill it. At all costs, I was to make sure Gorbachev’s front door buzzed.

 The Globemaster’s ramp lowered. Communist air filled the cabin. The sergeant in charge of the mission stood and then walked to the end of the fuselage.

“Men, let’s show them how we ring doorbells back home.”

The Green Berets, including the one I was attached to, parachuted behind enemy lines. Traveling in the shadows, we made our way from the outskirts of Moscow to the Grand Kremlin Palace’s golden double doors. With a finger clutching his M16’s trigger, the sergeant gave me a head nod, the signal. I pressed the button with “Please Ring” written underneath it, and the Russian National Anthem played in electric beeps and boops.

Crouching, the Green Berets sprinted away and took cover behind some bushes. But, like someone stuck between fight and flight, I couldn’t move.

 A Russian soldier opened the door. When he noticed me panicking on the welcome mat, he drew his weapon. I could hear the Green Berets snickering. I needed to get out of there and fast, but as I stared at this Russian soldier I saw my son. There were the chubby cheeks that he never grew out of. There were the wrinkles he got on his forehead when he got upset. There were his eyes that had always peered through me ever since he was a kid.

 But this boy shoving a pistol in my face wasn’t my son. My son wasn’t a soldier. My son was happily living in Idaho as a sculptor. Well, at least that was what his mother told me.

 “кто ты, черт возьми?”

“It’s me, America. Can we talk?”

The Russian soldier escorted me into the building. The next day the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Pranks was signed. 

Will Musgrove is a writer and journalist from Northwest Iowa. He received an MFA from Minnesota State University, Mankato. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ghost Parachute, Inklette, Flora Fiction, 5×5 Literary Magazine, Rabid Oak, and Barstow & Grand. Follow him on Twitter at @Will_Musgrove

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *