I’m not a fan of guns. Of any kind. The kind in video games, the kind in movies, the kind that are fake and given to kids as gifts by faraway aunts or uncles. Even the bars of soap carved and painted black to look like guns in television shows shot in black and white. Not a fan of those either.
I have long frowned, even, on my kids’ making their fingers and hands into pretend guns. That kind of behavior triggers long, dreaded sermons about violence through the course of human history. Admiring the “Charlie’s Angels” logo will trigger the same sermon. If I spy a “Ducks Unlimited” bumper sticker on a bumper in my neighborhood, I have to resist the powerful urge to hawk a loogie on said bumper. My upstairs neighbor’s quarterly American Rifleman rubber-banded in with my own stack of mail makes the veins in my neck pulse with self-righteous rage.
My own father, who owns guns and espouses their virtues, regularly pushes my buttons on this hot button issue of mine. Most recently, he surreptitiously “gifted” my youngest son with an NRA belt buckle, stuffing it into Everett’s little hand while I was visiting the men’s room at a Denny’s.
So imagine my chagrin at finding myself suddenly gun-crazy. Or more accurately, fake gun crazy. Or maybe it’s gun fake crazy.
What I’m trying to say is this: I have a sneaking suspicion that I just might be a Paintballoholic.
You see, I just cannot stop thinking about the two hours of paintball I played the other day. Over the past week, my family, our friends, and I experienced some of the most amazing bike rides, river walks, and death-defying hikes delivering once-in-a-lifetime vistas that the National Parks system has to offer.
And yet, all I can think about is the double body shot I delivered to a 13 year-old that would have helped my team of two win the final paintball round, had the 13 year-old admitted to being hit. I mean, the double body shot was a remarkable feat of marksmanship. I slid two neon yellow gumballs through a 3-inch wide gap in the clubhouse wall. From 30 yards away. Despite labored breathing, cement thighs and a visor fogged up from the previous 60 minutes of completely losing my mind.
I keep replaying my ill-advised bull rush on the clubhouse full of snipers over and over again in my head. Nevermind that the snipers were 8, 12 and 13, or that two of them were my sons. In the heat of battle, it’s every man for himself, even if that means “offing” that man’s own progeny or the progeny of his friends.
Plus, I had already been humiliated in earlier rounds by the same sweet children whom I had helped guide up and down Angels Landing just 24 hours earlier. The same children who had galloped around the rental home’s environs this very morning, ecstatically collecting Peeps and Hershey’s Kisses encased in blue, plastic eggs and hidden by the Easter Bunny. The same kids who had traipsed around the house in pajama bottoms bearing patterns of a smiling Buzz Lightyear.
Cold-blooded assassins on the field of battle, I tell you.
One snuck up on me with impossible stealth, yelling “Mercy!” (she meant to say “Surrender!”) before popping a painful, yellow pellet onto my right buttock, forcing me to make the long walk of shame, hands held high, up the middle of the battlefield to the Safe House. The shame hurt nearly as much as the red, yellow, black and blue bruise still flowering on my butt 3 days later.
I still cannot comprehend how this sweet little angel caught me so completely off guard or what sort of evil lurks behind those blue eyes that gave her the preternatural skill to eliminate me from the game with ruthless efficiency. I’m pretty sure she was smiling, too, but I couldn’t see that part of her face under the black, protective mask. Come to think of it, the mask itself seemed to be grinning a sick grin, mocking me. Pure evil, I tell you.
So I had that humiliating experience poisoning my head as I stormed my own sons’ clubhouse the next round at a full sprint. Hell-bent on exacting revenge on anyone of roughly the same generation as my blue-eyed, thirteen year-old assassin. High-stepping over clumps of brush, leaping over a man-made ditch cartoonishly. My wife later remarked in a fit of laughter that she saw the orange soles on the bottom of my shoes from 150 yards away. I was evidently channeling Bozo the Clown instead of Rambo.
But in the moment, bitter taste of adrenaline on my tongue, I was desperate to hit the clubhouse wall with full force, dodging a spray of gumball bullets en route, then tip my muzzle expertly over the top of the wall, squeezing off a barrage of my own to dispose of the hornets in the hornets nest.
Ah, the glory that would be showered upon me by the entire group as I marched triumphantly back up that same middle path of the battlefield. My battlefield. Victorious. Probably our paintball guide would marvel at my skill, inquire whether I was involved with Seal Team Six’s Bin Laden operation, beg for an autograph.
I love the smell of napalm in the morning. Smells like…victory.
My delusions of grandeur exploded with the first yellow gumball that plunked off the top of my skull, feeling as though an egg had been smashed on my head. I later learned that my 8 year-old had delivered this kill shot. He bragged about it to our friends during the minivan ride back to the rental house. Basking in the glory that should have been mine alone. Smelling my napalm. Stealing my victory.
Everett claims this moment was the high point of his entire Zion National Park vacation. I’m afraid to ask the obvious follow up question, but if I did, I think Everett might claim that this was the proudest moment of his entire life to this point.
I will have my revenge. I must have my revenge. It is my destiny. As is the case with any true Paintballoholic.
Thanks for reading.