Friday, May 9, 2014

We Are the Champions

So, Mike left a few hours ago with four men and twelve boys for a camp-out at Fort Flagler. I would have liked to go on this trip. Mike devised a mission for the boys to run through the World War II bunkers there. I tell you, that place is like the setting for a video game. There are magazine rooms, shell rooms, powder rooms and not the kind of powder rooms that polite women ask about when they have to pee. There are hoists and platforms with tie-downs for large guns.  There are ramparts and keyhole ports. There are schematics on the descriptive placards. There are things I could not explain. The place is seriously cool. It's cool the way Gasworks Park is cool.

Since I'm not included on this trip, how do I know this? I went there with Mike last weekend for a reconnaissance trip. While we were there, he mapped out an orienteering course. It's a requirement the boys won't even realize they're completing. Fort Flagler is going to deserve at least one other trip there, one with Nick, who happened to go to a friend's house last Sunday. Mike, the dog, and I had a great time exploring on our own. I actually felt sad for Nick having missed this place. Plus, he didn't sign up for the trip in time and missed his chance to go this weekend. This summer, we'll go back. I can picture him running through the bunkers with flashlights and camouflage gear, totally into his internal story.

So Mike left a bit ago without me. Sometimes I hate that. Mostly, I hate it when he goes anywhere near water, lakes, rivers, and the beach, especially when he's canoeing. This time he left me and my imagination behind. Crap!

All week, he's been marking up maps and folding them into envelopes marked 'Top Secret.' He's devised challenges at each station for the boys. There will be a First Aid rescue, a slingshot challenge, and I don't know what else. It seemed to be on a need-to-know basis. Can't you picture how much fun that's going to be?

Today, he asked me to fill up a five gallon bucket with charged water balloons. Yes, it was 56 degrees outside and my plan was to put on shorts and flip flops and go out to the hose and fill water balloons until that bucket was full. I waited until afternoon when it was a tiny bit warmer.

The thing was that it was actually a little bit nice. Birds were singing. The sun shone on my shoulders now and then. Fat grey clouds lumbered low across the sky, letting patches of blue show through. These are the days of intense and varied greens and the light was beautiful. These are also the days of early mosquitoes. I came back inside, sprayed my legs and put on my Columbia insect-repellant shirt. I love that shirt. I don't usually buy orange, but I think I look good in it. I layered with a fleece vest and went back outside to finish my work.

When I had the bucket about three-quarters full, Nick and a neighbor got off the bus. Before they could see me and what I was doing, I lobbed three pink grenades over the shrub that blocked their view of me and they exploded at their feet.

It was war.

It's funny how long it takes to set up for water-balloon war. They stationed themselves in the driveway by my car, putting up barricades, plywood they found in the garage and using the recycle and yard waste bins for cover. I methodically filled the rest of the pink water balloons until I had my own bucket filled with them. In the meantime, they stole a bunch of green ones and a spigot and were filling them. I was much quicker at tying them off and filled Mike's bucket while the boys caught up with me. I was even so kind as to show them how to tie them off more easily, though it was fun to watch their mistakes splash their legs as they failed.

I was waiting and watching for the war to begin when I got a great idea. I quietly walked into the garage and found a spray nozzle for the hose. I could win this war. I was sure of it. Then, I went into the house and found my knee-length rain jacket, zipped it up to my chin, and raised the hood. I was armed and ready.

The boys saw that I was serious about this war and went inside to find rain jackets themselves. Just then, it decided to hail and we all stood around and watched. Teddy, the dog, looked pitiful until it stopped. But when it stopped, he knew a battle was brewing and he danced back and forth between us.

Suddenly, before I felt quite prepared, they were on me. Three balloons smacked me in the face and didn't even pop.

"Hey, don't aim for my face, okay?" I yelled as I lobbed my pink balloons at their backs. They responded by throwing two more and breaking them against my shoulders and chest. Ow! Nick made a point of dodging most of my grenades, letting them smash at his feet. I consoled myself that his feet and knees were getting wet.

In minutes, our ammunition was gone. They shocked me by pulling out squirt bottles set for straight streams. We use these things in the house to persecute the cat when he's walking across a table where we eat or threatening to knock a candle off the mantle. I could not get away from their barrage. I quietly turned my back and walked back up to my balloon-filling station.

A cheer rose behind me.

"We won! We beat her down!" they yelled.

I pulled the nozzle out of my pocket, surreptitiously screwed it onto the hose, and walked back up to the spigot to turn the pressure up.

"We are the champions," Nick screamed. He did a victory dance, a premature victory dance. I grabbed a couple of extra balloons out of Mike's bucket and walked with the hose closer to their bunker. Nick came out from behind a barricade to shoot me right in the glasses with the water bottle. That water was cold and I couldn't see a thing.

I feigned a throw with Mike's balloon grenades and pulled out the nozzle.

It was a massacre, nuclear annihilation. I aimed above knees, soaking their jeans until I was sure that wetness could wick up toward their underwear. I aimed for the open necks of rain jackets. I aimed for exposed ears. I was evil and unrelenting. I played dirty.

It was great!

Eventually, mom-mode set in and I stopped, offering to make hot chocolate for all of us. I was freezing. As I turned to go into the house, I pulled down the hood of my jacket. Just then, Nick squirted me right in the ear with his water bottle. Oh man, I hate that.

"We won!" He screamed. "We won the battle. You retreated!" All afternoon, he's been walking around singing, "We are the champions, my friend, and we'll keep on fighting to the end. We are the champions. We are the champions. No time for losing for we are the champions..."

"... of the world."

Thank you for listening, jb

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