August 20, 2015


This morning, having just slid in to a delicious tubful of steaming water for a prolonged soak, I opened Guy Vanderhaege's The Last Crossing and read this:
A man notoriously close-mouthed, infamous for one-word answers, he is practising thinking in English. Resting his hand on the grip of the pistol jammed in his belt, he laboriously retrieves all the English names for the weapon. Revolver. Six-shooter. Side arm. Equalizer. Firearm. 45. Short gun. Hog-leg. Roscoe. Peacemaker. Colt. It is a difficult task to recall them all. English is a stubborn balky tongue.
Except when I read it, it was like this: (Christream of consciousness in yellow italics.

A man notoriously close-mouthed, infamous for one-word answers, he is practising thinking in English. hard to do...  I haven't tried to think en français in a long time... je n'essaie pas penser en Français pour... or is it depuis?... forget it.  My French is shit.  Resting his hand on the grip of the pistol jammed in his belt, he laboriously retrieves all the English names for the weapon.  Revolver.  Six-shooter. Glock.  Side arm.  Equalizer.  Gun.  Firearm.  45.  Derringer?  Short gun.  Hog-leg.  Roscoe.  Peacemaker.  Colt.  Bren 805. Ha hahaha.  Bazooka.  Wait, is a bazooka even a gun?  Didn't Ma Ingalls in Little House have a pearl-handled revolver?  I bet it was pretty...   
[then brain conjures up this image]:
I still haven't finished that paintball post and I began it last summer.  I need to do that... sooner rather than later..   It is a difficult task to recall them all.  English is a stubborn balky tongue.  It definitely was for the Japanese boys...

And just like that, SPLAT!, I found myself aching to get out of the tub so that I could go downstairs and write.  Damn you, Calliope.  Let me bathe in peace.

Beginning of blog proper

Last July, I found myself agreeing to play Paintball.   My son coaxed, begged, pleaded, cajoled, coerced and implored me to join him on the battlefield.  I will admit to being curious about Paintball, and as I fancy myself a bit of a markswoman, I thought that I would be the coolest / dumbest Mum ever and tag along.  PLUS there would be opportunities to shoot my husband AND my son in the ass.  At the same time.

While I was full of trepidation, I recalled giving birth to both of my brats naturally, without crying or screaming, and it seemed to me that paintball couldn't possibly be worse than pushing a 9-pounder out of one's vagina.  And so, I grabbed my riot gear and headed for Flagswipe.

I don't know what I was expecting, but I certainly didn't think that we would be playing in a Kabulesque landscape:

Not digging the dilapidated schoolbus or the creepy crosses...

I am afraid, very afraid...

Being the only woman on the playing field is a tough gig.  I felt like I had to put on a good show.  I wasn't going to let all that testosterone know that I was petrified, so I swaggered around, cocksure but crying on the inside.

After signing my waiver, putting on gloves, tying my shoelaces in DOUBLE KNOTS, getting acquainted with my gun, applying lipgloss (a girl's gotta look good on the battlefield), and slugging back a Redbull, I reluctantly donned my helmet.  

Here's yours truly, aka Athena, READY TO KICK some BOY and MAN-ASS:

And here's Company C making their best mean-faces:   



What a malicious-looking bunch we are, some more than others.  I had no idea what I was in for, NO IDEA at all.

Having been educated on paintball safety and etiquette and adequately nourished and hydrated, we were ready to rampage.

We filed onto the playing field, and waited for the horn to blow, and that's when we ran willy-nilly in all directions.  I avoided the boys and chased after the men - cuz they were men, duh! - and men know what war is about.  ;-)

My heart was thudding in my chest like a jackhammer, and I felt like I was running for my life.  I was a fatter, older, uglier version of Katniss in the Hunger Games.

Out of breath from sprinting, I cowered in an old shack trying not to shit my spandex.  I hid behind blockades and walls, and burned-out vehicles, anything really, and tried to avoid being hit.  I don't think that I shot many paintballs that first round.  I was too busy trying not to hyperventilate.

The paintballs fly by ridiculously quickly and they spatter wildly, or they PING! sharply as they explode on metal.  Have a listen to this (ten-second) video.  The second part of it is bang-on :-)

The game ended before I knew it, and I was surprised to learn that I had a) made it out ALIVE, b) was unscathed, and c) had dry drawers.

I was happy that it was over, but I was still petrified.  I could feel adrenalin coursing through my body.  I hadn't been hit, but I was anticipating the pain and suffering that I would soon endure.  I wanted to get the first hit over with.  Would an exploding paintball feel like a bee sting?  A hard pinch?  A slap on bare skin?  The waiting was punishing.

The bush served as the setting for round two.  Lush and green and quiet, it might have been serene on another day.

We were divided into groups, our biceps wrapped in duct tape.  I preferred playing in the woods; I am a nature girl after all.  I felt much more at home in the trees than in dodgy shacks and rusted-out jeeps.


I had been hit!  I took it on the left shoulder, and I was surprised to find that the pain registered a mere 5 on a scale of 1 to 10:

What a show-off.  I am smiling here because (unbeknownst to me) I haven't felt real pain yet.

Things Begin to Turn Ugly, Including the Tone of This Post

Things began to sour at dusk.

One of the soccer hooligans had been hit point-blank in the belly and he wailed like a baby.  I went into Mum mode and gave him cookies and watermelon, and a bit of a hug.  Being hit at close range is very painful, and you are guaranteed to have some damage, i.e. a welt or a bloody bruise.  Because of this, you stay away from your enemies, and you respect the mercy rule.  (If you say Mercy, you won't get shot).

Paintball wounds:

I felt very sorry for this kid.  His bloody, lumpy bruise was angry red and enormous:

I was making out okay, injury-wise.  I had been hit a handful of times, but it didn't hurt too much.  A hot sting, some throbbing, a fade to dull pain.

During one of the last games of the evening, about five minutes in, I found myself in the unenviable position of being without ammo.

I adopted the "Mercy"pose, which looks like this:

I held my rifle above my head, and I walked off the field, confident that everyone knew that I was either injured or that I was out of ammunition.  This move is supposed to let you exit the field without incident.

I smiled as I passed my son, my French Student and one other miscreant - either my nephew or my son's bestie.  They were shooting away happily, and I felt like Mum of the year.  Who says that a Mum can't join her son on a battlefield?  As I strolled by, approximately forty feet away from the trio, one of them noticed me.  I watched as he said something to the others, swivelled the gun toward me and pointed it directly at me.  His comrades also turned toward me, and I felt a pang of anxiety.

Are they going to... - ????


They were and they did.

The three of them shot at me CLOSE-RANGE (a no-no), when I had no ammo and was walking in the Mercy position (another no-no).  I was forced to run like my ass was on fire, which it was.  The first few shots hit me in the side, the kidney and the hip and it hurt like CRAZY.  Then they hit me in the butt!  Many times.  Before I realized it, I heard myself scream, (not proud),  "You little motherfuckers!"

Believe me when I tell you that getting hit in the ass, at close range, is agonizing.  I had bruises for a month.  I could NOT believe the pain.  Worse than the physical pain though, was my disbelief that my son and his cronies had attacked me like that.  Was this some paintball rite of initiation?  I asked my husband and my friends about that, and they assured me that it was not.  And so let me present you with this.  


Snakes in the grass are what those two are.

When I told my son how disappointed I was, and how he would not be punished because no manner of punishment could measure up to my disappointment, I think he was shocked.  I know that he was contrite and ashamed, and I hope that after reading this, he will also know that I have forgiven him.

In fact, after that evening, I was so hurt, disappointed, and furious, that I didn't discuss it with him again.  It took me a year just to write this post, and as I finish it up, I see that I am still bent out of shape about it.  Please don't tell me to get over it.  I am getting over it by writing about it.

If anyone reading this post thinks, "serves her right for playing with them" or "what did she expect?", I will say to you, keep your sexist thoughts to yourselves.  I expected to play with my son and his friends, not even considering that they would turn on me like they did.  When I objected loudly, and called them out, I was made to feel that I couldn't take a joke.  Well let me tell you that I can take a joke, and this incident WAS NOT FUCKING FUNNY.

Okay, enough venom from me.

Because I Don't Want to End On A Sour Note...

Happier times:  

Athena, Nathanimal, Richard, and Louis - our French student.  We are filthy, stinky and rainsoaked

The earth littered with exploded paintballs:  
A note on the Plantain at the top of this shot.  You can eat it in salads, or if you are suffering from a bug bite, you can masticate a leaf or two and spit it out directly onto the affected area and massage it in.  I have it on good authority that this provides instant re-leaf.  
 No one opted for the grenades, thank goodness.   We all had gloves (I used my gardening gloves from Costco), and they're necessary.  Getting hit on the hand stings like a bee-yotch.  I think I started off with the bare minimum of paintballs in my hopper, and I didn't require a refill the entire evening.  In fact, people helped themselves to my paintballs!  I took more of a "sit and back and wait for the best opportunity to hit that son of a gun" approach, I suppose.  I think I'd make a good sniper.  

The soccer hooligans checking out the landscape, planning their coup

Closeup of the mesh fence, designed so that stray paintballs can't exit the field
Gun and CO2 tank storage
A  closeup of the mud, post-rain.  It made for messy warfare
In the pavilion, getting ready to rumble 

You are probably wondering whether I will dare to play Paintball again.  The answer is yes.  Yes, I will.

Except next time, I will trust no one.

Face your life
Its pain
Its pleasure, 
Leave no path untaken.

                                                                                                           Neil Gaiman

Optional musical pairing:  The Ides of March by Iron Maiden

Addendum - Sunday, August 23rd

Someone delivered a copy of London Community News to me today, and either the deliveryperson or another individual strategically placed a poppy directly on top of the rolled-up paper, so that when I opened the mailbox, I couldn't miss it:

The poppy made me think.  Had the poppy deliverer read this post?  Did they want me to read the LCN?  (I did).  Had they read the current poem on the poetree? (Billy Collins' Another Reason Why I Don'T Keep A Gun In The House).  

Perhaps the delivery person was trying to draw my attention to this article in the paper:  Archery Tag.  It's like paintball, but it doesn't hurt and there are NO BRUISES.  A facility is opening in London in the fall.  Sign me up, Glen Gorman, sign me up!

I also like this article:  Kindness Meters.  I hope Lincoln McCardle makes it work.  

For the record, I proudly wear a poppy in October and November, although I should probably wear it year-round.  I am very thankful for all of the men, women and children who fought for my freedom.