Bubs’ birthday is coming up at the end of May. I had the brilliant idea that perhaps he would like laser tag, but knowing my boy and his fear of dark places, his hatred of surprises, and his need for backup in all things — a need I adore — I thought it best if I took him to the actual event center and have him try it out.
I don’t like to throw my boy into waters I haven’t myself treaded, so I, too, paid my exorbitant fee and joined the fray.
He signed up as the White Ninja, and I, I chose from a laminated list next to the cash register. I chose Raven. It’s a big bird, sleek, dark like the night, tricky. Ha ha, I am Raven, hear me caw! But don’t shoot at my overly large feathered body, please.
Bubs was thrilled at my all-for-one spirit, ecstatic that I wasn’t throwing him to the lions alone, but he also never mentioned a Team mentality. I need you to know that now.
Or if he did, I couldn’t hear him. Frankly, we were both trying too hard to listen to the instructions coming from the Game Marshall in a cavernous and echo-y hole. Her instructions resonated across the black-lit paint and thudded back to our ears in a dull roar.
We had our packs on, heavy packs, I’ll add, and we were both in the “on” mode. That was the best we could do; all other information was going to be read on the learning curve.
Bubs was repeatedly pointing to his shirt sleeves. They glowed white. And it didn’t occur to me that I was wearing tie-dye. My “awesome, dude!” swirls were beacons, as I would learn, but at the moment, I was still trying to hear the instructions. I like information; it feels powerful, you know.
The chutes opened and our herd of thirteen overly excited heads went through the door. We were to throw a tag thing in a bucket — I’m still not sure was the tag thing was for, but someone had applied it to my gun and now I didn’t need it; that was the extent of my knowledge — and I kindly said, “Thank you,” to the Game Marshall.
My mother taught me right: always wear clean underwear, eat your veggies, and be nice to people before battle.
I walked through the door and into increased darkness and winding paths. I was lost and saw lasers pointed at my chest plate’s various sensors, sensors that were blaring red because obviously I’d been tagged eight hundred times. That was when a kid rolled around a corner in front of me and stared. I “shot” him. And he wouldn’t back up, he stood there. I shot him again and again. I don’t know the lag time, but I figured I only actually tagged him once or twice, actual “kill” shots, because the system had to reset.
But still the kid wouldn’t budge!
That’s when I heard him say, “Mom! Let’s team up!”
Oh, crap! I’d “shot” at my own child howmanytimes???
I played it off beneath my cloak of guilt with, “Yes! Yes! Lead the way!” and under my breath praying, please, God, don’t let me lose sight of those glaringly white sleeves again.
Together we thundered through the hallways and circuitous ramps/corners/mesh screenings. We realized quickly that we had to get above the world, because we were getting toasted by enemy fire overhead.
Once we were cornered by a boy notmyson, who simply stood his ground and pulverized us with his little gun. I even called him a Little Wart, which he didn’t take to kindly, and spit at me, “What did you say to me?” as though he were a schoolyard bully and I was the fourth grade weakling I truly was when I was nine years old.
“Run, Bubs!” and we were out of there.
Four times, I shot the Game Marshall, as she patrolled the game floor. Five times I apologized, again, thanks to manners, and because I apologized, I gave away my position and was trounced with laser beams any cat would have gone apoplectic for. Forgive the grammar.
When the Bubs and I were alone in a top floor crow’s nest I looked across the expanse of the huge gaming room and saw an unprotected sensor. With all the time in the world at my disposal, I took careful aim and fired. Nothing. No satisfying Kill sounds or cheery Boops or Beeps indicating my victim was toast.
I shot again.
Four more times, I pulled my trigger, and I thought, “Huh. Oh, well. Maybe lag time is more than I thought…” and as I strode away from my perfect vantage point, so, too, did my unkillable target.
I had been shooting into a mirror.
It was dark!
I’m legally blind without glasses!
Yes, I had on glasses, but it was a long way! I couldn’t see properly!
I was under duress? I was protecting my child?
Yeah, I know, I suck at laser tag.
Anyway, the fifteen minutes allotted to the slaughter went by and a flashing light directed us back to Home Base where we parked our exceedingly heavy, exhausted, smoking laser guns and went through the exit to collect our scores.
We didn’t know we’d been sweating. My Bubs was red-faced and over dressed in his long sleeves and favorite corduroys with his ubiquitous cowboy boots.
Worrying about cooling off may have taken some of the sting out of our scores.
When the results were tallied, I was ninth of the thirteenth. And my sweet Bubs was last.
I kept telling him about This is Your First Time, You’ve Never Shot a Little Tiny Laser Beam at Anyone Before, I Was Holding You Back, et cetera.
But it didn’t help. He was wounded that he was last.
Then came the kicker. His score was a negative fifty-three.
He was appalled! mortified! astonished! morose! and begging me to let him try again rightthisminute while the knowledge was fresh in his head!
He was Calvin without the Hobbes. His eyes were wide, his hair stuck up from his sweaty head, his arms flailed as he screamed at the injustice of his negative score. “How did I even get a negative score?”
In short, he was absolutely adorable with his righteous indignation.
He asked my score.
“But,” I repeated, “The person who came in first was an adult, and she’d been here a million times (of her own admission; in fact, she’d helped us get our gear together. She was prepping us to “kill” us (she even asked for a chianti and fava beans (I’m kidding!))), and her score was four times mine!
Bubs’ ego couldn’t be soothed.
And darn him and his own need-to-know, he inspected those score cards, looked at the legends for the symbols to tell him exactly what each number meant, and before I could figure out exactly how much information he could glean from that stupid piece of paper, like who I shot — 3 — and who shot me –a much longer column of numbers — he pointed out that I, Raven, had scored the bulk of my points — 80 of them — from shooting: White Ninja.
How did I know? Because my Bubs’ would not let that scorecard go until he had interpreted each and every kill. His ranting little arms held that page out in front of his wide wide eyes as he screamed, “WHAT? RAVEN SHOT ME EIGHT TIMES?” Turning to me, he yelled again, “YOU SHOT ME EIGHT TIMES??”
Yes, Bubs wants his party there in May. No, he’s not too interested in my playing again. And I think we’ll change his battle name. White Ninja has a bit of a bad rap at that place now…