Lazer Tag – pewpewpew!
My brothers and friends and I jumped fairly late onto the Lazer Tag bandwagon when my mom found stacks of the original Game Kit on sale at Kay -Bee Toys for $9.99 each. At that price, once we’d given our kits a test run, we went back and bought spares, and I think that may have been when my friend Adam picked up a set for himself, too.
Over at his blog, Adam recently posted some Lazer Tag comic book ads, mentioned the backyard battles we’d have with our friends, and naturally, brought up “the time John ran into a tree, full bore, at dusk.”
It wasn’t one of my finer Lazer Tag moments: We were playing at Adam’s house (Unfamiliar Territory: -1 to Perception checks), and it was getting dark. I was charging across his backyard, hunched over and bolting for the area beside the garage. Thanks to one of those big mercury lights, this meant barreling through a bright pool of light before disappearing into the cover of shadow.
Just inside the line of that shadow lurked a medium-sized tree. Fortunately, since I was rounding a corner, I was leaning into the turn, and I didn’t smash into the thing with my face – the trunk caught me right in the chest and stomach, knocking the wind out of me and sending me to the ground, flattened.
If I recall correctly, Adam saw me go running across the yard through the light, vanish into the shadows for half a second, and then bounce back into sight like a cartoon character punched by a boxing kangaroo.
Like I said – not one of my finer moments, but it reached “someday we’ll laugh about this” status about three nanoseconds after I was able to breathe again.
I’ll counter with one of my favorite memories from one of the two-on-three or two-on-four conflicts that my friend Aaron and I used to engage our younger brothers in.
Partly because we were James Bond fans at that age, Aaron and I loved to take our strategy and daring seriously, coming up with ways to distract and divert and bait the other team, since we were almost always outnumbered. We’d take turns climbing the shed, for example, or take up positions on opposite sides of the yard, each squeezed between the close-knit branches of the rows of pine trees there. (Pine needles are of no concern, you see, to a Lazer Tagger.)
So, one night, Aaron is over, and we’re playing Lazer Tag against my little brothers in the darkness of the yard and the shadow mazes of the house and trees. It’s probably June.
I have climbed the TV antenna next to the chimney and positioned myself atop the wood-slatted roof of our back patio, over on the southwest corner where I have partial cover thanks to the branches of a big birch tree.
Aaron is patrolling the yard, seeking to draw Nick and Adam from their hiding spots and bring them around the south side of the house, into my field of fire.
I rest on one knee and try to breathe without sound or motion.
I hear sudden calls in the night air, carrying from the front yard: Nick and Adam are chasing Aaron. Silently I count down: Three … two … one! And there’s Aaron now, his rifle in both hands, held low at his side as he rounds the house and looks up to my perch, even though he probably can’t actually see me. Nick comes charging behind, his red target light pulsing at his waist. I fire twice and hit him once. At the sound of his sensor alarm, he turns his back to hide the target, looking for me over his shoulder.
Adam emerges from around the corner slowly, seeing Nick shaking his head in warning. I get one shot off at Adam before he, too shields his target.
My hiding spot is soon discovered: My brothers are getting better at this, and they’re not surprised as easily anymore.
Stay up here another second, I think, and there’s no way down that doesn’t involve Nick and Adam flanking me and peppering me with Lazer fire.
And then I’m all unfettered reaction, coiled and released, springing to my feet and racing across the porch roof to the north side of the house. My veins are afire, shot through with adrenaline, my brain iced and thinking only of escape.
I don’t stop at the edge of the roof.
My mind photographs, in that heartbeat, the hulking shadow of the neighbors’ house and the India-ink sketchings of tree branches against the sky. There is a tightening of my chest in the gasp of a moment when, without slowing, I set one foot high onto nothingness, and in the core of my mind a realization that there is no pulling myself back from the brink. The other foot follows with a leap toward Ursa Major, and I am in flight on the summer air.
The yard is dark and empty below, and I let my legs fold to cushion my landing, rolling in the dew-gathering grass, darting east toward the driveway with my pursuers in the darkness behind…
In the years since, I’ve gone back and estimated the height of the roof at maybe 11 or 12 feet, which isn’t high, really, but still – climbing up there again and standing at the edge, I know that if I had paused even for a blink that summer night, I wouldn’t have jumped. And I wouldn’t do it again today.
But for that one instant, the impossible was forgotten, the dangerous was unknown, and there was me and there was a leap.
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