We Weren’t Soldiers

It was billed as an afternoon of chaos and carnage at Splatters ‘N Tatters Paintball Emporium out on old route 17 just inside the state line. We’d recently merged with another outfit, and the idea was to build esprit de corps among the troops– to help two distinct groups of employees bond– by dressing as soldiers and shooting one another with wicked little paintballs.

I didn’t know how such an exercise would help us sell more industrial compressors, but I’d always wanted to commit varied atrocities on certain of my fellow staffers… and I looked forward to testing the mettle of the newcomers.

So we split into four squads– the Vipers, Mayhem, Death on a Stick, and I Can’t Believe it’s an Army — and spread out across our field of operations, an unforgiving spit of Georgia countryside surrounded on three sides by thick woods and on the other by a strip mall featuring your Burger King, Planet Smoothie and Dollar General.

My boys lost no time in overpowering the accounting department with a full frontal assault. We shot their leader in the ‘nads, confiscated their weapons and sent them running for the clubhouse. We took pot-shots as they retreated. They shouted “Ouch!” and “Show-offs!” and “Stop it!” as they ran.

Our scout, Perry Gooberson, who’d asked us to call him Billy White Feathers for the day, found elements of Mayhem… engineers one and all… hidden in a fortified bunker in a desolate area known as Little Round Top. They were a formidable opponent… and they held the high ground.

We crept up on them through the woods, and then Tiny Boudreaux whipped out his cell phone and called Harlan Edgerson, a senior engineer. He told Harlan that the old man needed him back at the office pronto… something about Project Hemingway. When Harlan scampered out of the bunker, we shot him in the ‘nads and launched our assault.

Well, the engineers were certainly no pansy accountants. They fought us toe-to-toe…spanked us soundly… and forced our chaotic retreat to nearby Hill 529… where we regrouped… and paused to enjoy a lovely boxed lunch from Monique’s.

Oh, my!

Free-range chicken marinated in a delightful lemon sauce… bow-tie pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and raisins… home-style biscuits which absolutely melted in your mouth… and a magnificent, light-as-a-feather crepe with blueberries and cream which was to die for.

Chef Jean Claude himself toured the battlefield, handing out truffles and wet-naps. “Well done, Jean Claude!” we shouted. “Marveilleux!”

A messenger from the Vipers approached us under a white flag with a plan to join forces, encircle the well-fortified engineers and attack from all sides. We lowered our lattés and shot him in the ‘nads.

“You guys are such jerks!” he cried.

Billy Terwilliger, our otherwise mild-mannered PR guy, and now head of our psy-ops unit, hollered, “You tell your guys to surrender right now or I’m going to come over there, shoot you, have you stuffed and hang you over my fireplace!”

The Vipers — a ragtag collection of accounts payable drones, graphic designers, sales trainers, quality assurance nabobs and risk management loonies– launched an ill-advised assault on Death on a Stick… composed mostly of young guys from sales who gave them quite a shellacking… and then escorted them to the parking lot!

“Hey!” Tiny Boudreaux hollered. “Get back here!”

“Sorry, dude… four o’clock tee time!”

Just then the engineers swarmed out of their bunker like angry hornets… and so began the final, terrible skirmish which would determine the battle and, quite possibly, the war!

Oh, it was a terrifying swirl of flying paint… gooey Georgia clay… the ripe, surprisingly fruity smell of fear… and lots of mean little welts on our exposed skin!

I’m not sure how long that final, brutal assault lasted, but when it was over both sides, exhausted, claimed victory. The boss gave a little speech about the importance of teamwork, and someone took our picture for the company newsletter.

We talked some trash with the engineers; no doubt, a grudge match was in the offing. And as we pulled away in our cars, they ambushed us with a secret cache of ammunition, splattered our vehicles and chased us across the frontage road to the highway!

When I was safely out of range, I rolled down my window and hollered, “Let the babies cheat!”

And then, alone… hurting but alive… thankful for the day to end… scanning the horizon for signs of danger… I unclinched my Sam Browne belt… and took one last swig from my battered canteen.

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