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1945


with my plastic helmet liner strapped about my chin, a world war 2 nazi ammunition belt (brought back by my godfather from anzio) clipped to my belt and a homemade wooden replica of a submachine in my hand, i stand in a circle of similarly equipped buddies. there are four of us. we are on the forested side of open wire fencing that is covered in honeysuckle. the 'enemy' is beginning to 'fire' from their position behind the picket fence on the other side of the newly mowed lawn. we fall to our respective tasks. 

"p'dow, p'dow...p'wing!" a vocal bullet ricochets nearby. 

"bang. you're dead, tipton" 

"am not..." comes the reply from a crawling figure on the lawn. 

"are so, i've got you right in my sights. bang, bang...gotcha" 

"uh, uh..." the maddingly persistant soldier yells back, "i'm in this big gully..." 

"no fair!" a cry goes up from our side as we realize they're trying to use the same imaginary trench we invented in the last game. 

"that gully was further back near the house". 

"it bends this way when it gets up here!" the voice returns. 

"no fair!" the howl goes up again. 

finally, both sides tie white cloths to the barrels of their toy weapons and a representative of each army steps out upon the battlefield while their comrades keep the proceedings 'covered'. 

the soldier in question lies patiently in his imaginary ditch as his commanding officer and a member of the enemy forces engage in a debate as to the proper location of this newly invented geography. 

"ok, it can bend here", agrees one, "but it can't run up to the fence." 

his opposite, recognizing that insistance upon his envisioned layout would remove all sport from the contest, relents and the action is renewed. 

"pow! pap-pap-pap-pap-pap-pap!" 

over the sound effects from the machine gun installation the unmistakable whistle of a pretend mortar is heard. "bawoom!" there is a notable pause in the activity.

"that was a mortar shell, tipton! we gotcha!" 

"did not..." comes the valient, though hesitant reply "what?!" the question asked in outraged unbelieveability. 

"are you kidding?! you were in the ditch weren't ya?" 

"yeah, but i found this cave and i crawled in just..." 

"no fair!" the familiar retort takes on a more intense pitch. 

i began to see a pattern here. "i'm gonna loop around behind them...", i whisper to rob dorsey, "keep em busy". 

he looks a little puzzled but nods and i'm off through the brambles that grow on the outskirts of my backyard while under a flag of truce the discussion about the placement of the cave location rages on. 

i emerge in about seven minutes time directly behind the enemy position. the battle has resumed, and no one here has noticed my maneuver. and with one long raking burst of "pap, pap, pap, pap, pap, pap, pap, pap, pap...", this particular battle is settled beyond question.

i will be almost forty years old when i lament these victories during scenes of military imitation and realize that it was not in the winning but in the negotiating that i would have learned the fine art of relationships. giving...taking...compromising...recognition of competitive ethics. no wonder rob dorsey looked at me strangely. he knew. the idea was to have fun, not to win.


 

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