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Friday, December 5, 2008

Carnage

I let my wife down this weekend. Hopefully I can rebuild her trust after this latest misstep.
With my son at his grandmother’s house and my wife working late, I committed a terrible act of betrayal in the very bed we share. I knew it wasn’t right, but I had contemplated it for months and finally gave in to temptation.
I was rolling around in our bed when I heard the front door creep open. I jumped up immediately and scrambled around for a spot to hide my other love.
“Honey! Where are you!” my wife shouted.
How could I lose track of time? She’s going to kill me, I thought.
“Honey?” she said again. As her footsteps began up the stairs I frantically covered up some body parts with the blankets. I hoped somehow she wouldn’t notice.
“There you are!” she said as the bedroom door opened.
“Hey baby. Hi,” I said nervously.
“What are you doing in here? Why is the bed all messed up like that?”
“Uh, I was just kind of changing the sheets….”
“What! What is this!!” she said as she reached to pull the blanket back.
“What the hell!” she cried. “I can’t believe you would do this!”
My wife was disturbed, and rightfully so. I’m a player. Always have been, always will be.
“I asked you for one simple thing,” said the wife, “if for just once you could help me clean up around here. I come home and find you…find you… playing with your soldiers!”
I wish I was a “playa” that shuffled women like a deck of cards, but I’m the type of player who actually plays with toys. My wife caught me red-handed with my special collection of pewter soldiers spread along our bed. It’s a medley of orcs and goblins and other creatures imagined in some geek’s mind. Some have been carefully painted while others are primed for a rainy day.
The whole hobby started about twelve years ago when my oldest brother received some soldiers for Christmas. It seemed like a nice enough thought, as it was well known he had few interests outside of cigarettes and violence. His idea of heaven was John Wayne greeting him at the pearly gate with a carton of Marlboros. Still, I was surprised how excited he was over a piece of molded metal.
As the figures were passed around, my brothers and I became intrigued. The fine detail was amazing. It wasn’t long before the mittens I received seemed very disappointing. Our minds began to wander with possibilities.
“Dude, we should start a game or something, like Risk,” somebody offered.
“Yeah, that’s a great idea!” my oldest brother replied. He turned to his 3 year old boy, “Look at these, little guy! I’ll have to go out for a sheet of plywood and make a game board. We’ll get a whole bunch of these soldiers!”
Over the years we developed a board game and it quickly became a cold-weather favorite. Our armies would collide several times a year. One creative brother assembled a large transportable game board. My oldest brother was grateful, as he’d been short on time.
“Yeah, that’s good. Someday I’ll go out and get some plywood and make a game board for my house,” he said.
The object of the game is to maneuver an army around a large grid of squares. The length of your move is dictated by move cards. Upon an encounter with the enemy, victory is determined by a simple roll of the dice.
The game has become more complicated the more times we played. Cavalry, archers, and foot soldiers were assigned their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Special “value” cards were added to the deck, like the “Truce” card, the mighty “Sword” card, and even the dreaded “Black Plague”.
In the early years of the game, the initial excitement led to a ridiculous arms race. The game was less about strategy and more about a man’s ability to acquire these figures in bulk. They are expensive too, often going for six dollars each or more. I recall in my college years marching my band of twenty misfits into forces that were hundreds strong.
Some of my older brothers became engaged in their own little Cold War.
“That’s fine,” one would say after losing, “I’ll just go out and buy another hundred men!”
The silliness went on for several years as savings accounts dwindled, college funds were tapped into, and in my case, auto insurance premiums were foregone. The ridiculous spending didn’t cease until a bill collector finally recommended we simply set a limit of how many soldiers we could have for each game.
As more years passed, we thought the game was a brilliant invention. My oldest brother talked about marketing the game to the public. He would dub it “Carnage”. He ignored my suggestion that a strong market for the game was unlikely.
“Nah, I tell you what, you go hang out at a Lens Crafters, or one of these baseball card shops, you’d be surprised how many losers would love a game like this,” he replied, “I could see getting my own molding kit and mass producing the soldiers!”
“Sure man, I could see that. How’s your game board coming?” I asked.
He turned to his son, now nine years old, “What do you think buddy, next couple of weeks we’ll go down and get a sheet of plywood, make up our own board?”
Like all competition, I have the most fun with the banter leading up to a battle. I recall one email from my brother:
Soon, your weak forces will be cast aside. You can’t match my military might. I have a new regimen of archers that I purchased with you in mind. Under the cover of darkness, it will be a slaughter.
p.s. I want my drill back!
It wasn’t long before I replied back:
Wow, you are a real loser. I intend for my orc-led forces to march upon your villages in broad daylight. I want you to see clearly as your forces are dispatched and your women and children have their civil liberties violated. The elderly among you will be assigned to the fields for hard labor out of spite. Those fortunate to survive shall be imprisoned, fed merely with the indignity of Orcean poop-nuts.
p.s. I aint got no drill
The game has continued to this day. The next battle figures to be around the Holidays. My creative brother has built an even greater game board, complete with castles, three dimensional terrains and decorative corpses. My oldest brother loves the new board.
“Wow, that’s great man. I tell ya, I’m going to go down to Home Depot and get me a sheet of plywood, get my router going…,” he says, turning to his son, now standing six feet and 190 pounds.
“Sounds good, Dad,” the boy says while scratching his beard, “Sounds good.”

Friday, September 5, 2008

Prey

I’ve come a long way over the years. I owe a great deal to my wife for shaping the man I am today. She has enlightened me on some of the simpler things in life.
I vividly recall my savagery at the Olive Garden on our first date. Are you familiar with the large bowl of salad they provide? It is intended for the entire table to share.
I remember my wife as she nibbled at a few leaves and deferred the bowl to me. Rather than transfer a reasonable portion to my small bowl, I proceeded to eat directly from the large bowl. I swooped low and extended my elbows, as if to protect my spoils from unknown threats. As the salad dwindled and the remains became too tedious to collect with my fork, I lifted the large bowl high to my mouth, arched my head, and shoveled every last morsel into my mouth.
You can imagine my wife’s embarrassment as others gawked at my blatant disregard for decency.
Perhaps she noticed my size twelve shoes, but she decided to stay along for the ride and over the course of time molded me into a man of reasonable manners.
Despite my wife’s best effort, deep down inside me resides a predator born some 29 years ago. Buried behind my brainwashed veneer is a man of simple animal needs.
Those needs resurfaced last night when my wife presented me with an entire chicken. My ensuing barbarism has left me a conflicted man. My instincts told me to be proud, but my wife’s eyes told a tale of shame.
At first the chicken was carefully shaved and presented to me neatly on a plate, accompanied by nutritious side items. It was adorable how all the food groups were represented. I worked slowly on my meal at first, allowing my wife plenty of time to finish her meal. As she left the table, she reminded me that there was more chicken left.
“Hmm…I could go for more chicken,” I whispered.
I entered the kitchen and there it was; a beautifully mutilated chicken carcass, glistening in the light. I could see the hidden meat treasure among the bones.
I approached it slowly and carefully like a lion toward his prey. With my wife outside of ear-shot I pounced on the dead creature and pulled at it with my bare hands. With explosive burst, I consumed the animal tissue without discretion; ligaments and flesh alike. Once a section was clean to the bone, I would rotate the animal and continue on earnestly, fearing perhaps another man would stumble upon me and threaten my prey.
It wasn’t until my wife entered the kitchen for a glass of water that I was snapped back into humanity. I stood there with a large ring of grease around my mouth, my hands littered with bird parts and tendon oils.
“Honey, what’s going on in here?” she asked.
I stood silent for a while, unable to think.
“Umm…the chicken, they were coming for the chicken,” I replied frantically as my eyes bulged from my head.
“Honey, nobody’s coming for the chicken...it’s just us," she said while rubbing my back gently, "Nobody’s coming,” she said calmly.
I was possessed by thoughts of the old days. I wasn’t starved as a kid, but the food was just scarce enough that dinner time was about getting what was rightfully mine.
To survive in my house you had to gather and horde. When Mom brought home Food Club Nacho Tortillas, I had two options. I could eat the entire bag at that very moment before somebody else sees them, or I could hide them like a squirrel for a rainy day.
Even to this day, when I see my brothers, my first instinct is to look for the nearest food supply and defend it.
This food-shortage paranoia carried on for many years. We’ll call it FSPS, or Food Shortage Paranoia Syndrome. Even when many of my brothers had left the nest, I would hide every last nut and berry in the house from my poor father. Fortunately my wife has helped me manage the problem without the aid of any medication. She’s assured me that she only wants her small portion, and that she’ll never lunge for my plate. I’ll have to keep my eyes on my son. He’s not getting any smaller.