27 August 2007

Blowing Paint off the List

I’m finding it easier to write again, or rather, tougher to stop writing and sleep. The first time I deployed, writing was my answer to insomnia. When I couldn’t sleep, I would write until the sun came up and it was time to go back to the hospital. I don’t think that was a formula for coherent expression, but it helped me get the most abrasive stuff out of my head.
We have a list of things to do before I leave. For example, I just got a gorgeous olive green suit from my sweetie, and I really have to make it down to the Nordstrom’s to have it tailored. Trouble is, the suit is one of too many things on the list, and the time just keeps getting shorter. The suit is in danger of getting shelved (hung?) until I get back. Just yesterday, installing lattice around the base of the deck slipped off the list for good. There are too many more important things that have bubbled up higher on the list. Today I toured the house with a ladder and a pocket full of nine volt batteries and changed out all the old batteries in the smoke alarms Our smoke alarms are wired together, so when one goes off, they all do. Unfortunately, when one has a dead battery, they all start chirping every 20 seconds in unison. It is a mystery to me why this is absolutely required to happen around three in the morning. Since they all wail distress together, it is a bug-hunt to discover which one has drained its battery. It is a wonderful way to wake up the family in the middle of the night. If I can prevent that fun from occurring while I’m away, I will feel comforted that one small annoyance has been eliminated. I probably threw away a handful of batteries with a good couple of month’s juice in them today, but it was worth it to have that petite worry off the list.
The list isn’t all chores. A few weeks ago, B. asked me if he could try his hand at paintball and I told him we would before I left. The first day of school is mere hours away so I thought it would make for a perfect way to blow off some steam before settling in to studies. As it turned out, it was a also a well-needed release for me to let fly a couple hundred rounds of paint.
It took some time to find the range because every ranch looks to be the same rock studded ridge rolling with scrubby trees. We rented our equipment, bought our paint, and attentively soaked up our safety briefing. The other participants were mostly teenagers, walking from course to course, wearing paint-spattered oversized camouflage and black outfits while toting shiny air-powered paintball markers. There were some dads on the field, and some moms at picnic tables with stacks of sandwiches, but a quick glance told me that if I wasn’t the oldest there, I sure was a prime contender.

Yellow-clad referees started each battle and we quickly took cover to fire from behind stacks of tires and clumps of trees. I crawled through a dry creek bed fighting off a phalanx of fire ants and took out a sniper only to be lit up by a 10-year-old who spattered me with a burst of three rounds of pink paint. The second game we played was Iraqis and Americans on the Fort Bagdad course. The referees asked for seven volunteers to play Iraqis holding the fort and the remainder played Americans with the objective of storming the fort. I suppose seventeen years of combat in the Gulf has given Cowboys and Indians a new name. The fort was taken quickly.
B. and I stuck together and were teammates for each game. He covered me well when I ran. We both were sweaty and dirty and laughed at danger.
As we drove back into town with the air streaming through the open Jeep, I was glad that we had picked this item on the list. It was worth far more bruises and ant bites that we ever could have gotten.

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