I woke up this morning and the dogs were following me around the house like I had forgotten to feed them. I searched my memory bank for the previous evening's events, and located the one where I did indeed feed them. Their trickery will not work this time! I explained to them in very specific terms that I had fed them, and their shenanigans were not going to produce an additional meal. They continued to follow me until my fortitude melted away. Even the blind and smelly one, a Cocker Spaniel-Poodle mix (or Cock-a-Poo) was able to tug at my heart strings. I proposed we take a walk in the park. That didn't sound too bad to me, my wife agreed, and the wagging canine tails spoke for themselves.
Next thing I know I am filling my backpack with some granola snacks, a water bottle, and a towel to wipe the inevitable slobber from the smelly dog's face. It was official, we were going to the park. We have to bring leashes for two reasons; 1) because this park requires them and 2) beacause our dogs are not trained well enough for such freedom. The other one, a Jack Russel terrier which we lovingly call "favorite" for her affinity to jump from lap to lap every time we have company, has just leapt out of the car as it is coming to a hault and is running aimlessly onto the soccer field ahead of us. I call her once... no response. I yell her name... no response. I whistle loudly, she stops dead in her tracks, and returns to me at an equal speed. I am able to affix her leash, and we are now ready for our suburban journey.
This particular trip was filled with a slew of interesting sights. First, there was a solitary man strumming his acoustic guitar quietly under the cover of a picnic pavilion. It seemed a little out of tune from what I could hear, but he didn't seem to care so why should I. The second interesting sight was a young couple we passed on the trail. Neither of which was much to look at, and that was probably why they seemed so content with one another. He was a simple looking kid who asked to pet our "doggies", and she was a plain looking girl who only had eyes for her "doggie" loving boyfriend. Then we saw an entire family dressed in New England Patriots apparel. The two kids were quickly leaving their parents in their dust on a couple of Razor scooters. The dad called for the two young boys to stop and circle back. The kids ended up behind us as we approached the clearing out of the forest area of the trail. We reached the clearing just as the parents were entering it. At the same moment our paths intersected, another teenage kid came running past us carrying what looked to be a long PVC pipe and a makeshift shield. All six pairs of human eyes were affixed on this kid as he came to a hault amongst a group of 8-10 other kids who all had their own PVC weapons and makeshift shields in a pile on the ground. The two sets of canine eyes were watching a squirrel run across the path. During our first lap we had seen a couple of those kids carrying heavy stones over their heads as they ran up a giant pile of dirt. My wife and I orginally thought they were high schoolers training for wrestling or some other sport for which that kind of training would be applicable. They were too skinny to be football players or wrestlers I thought, but who was I to call someone skinny. I'm almost six feet tall and I weigh less than 150 lbs. It still hadn't quite hit me what they were doing with their PVC armory. I wasn't alone. As we were leaving the family behind us, I overheard the older of the two Patriot children ask his dad "What are they doing, daddy?" The dad's responce started with "Well son (he paused), do you remember that story I always tell you about?" That was all I could hear, because by the time their rest of their conversation happened, a ruckus amongst the teenage hoard had ensued.
There was a nerd war going on, and the sound of PVC bowstaffs meeting foil-covered wood shields was enough to drown out a police siren. My wife and I both slowed our gait for the sole purpose of elongating our exposure to the geek battle. It was intriguing to watch these pubescents turn into the characters they so dutifully believed they were. The fact that this field of battle was located just 50 yards from a swingset and a port-a-pottie did not make them waiver in those beliefs either. The boy who referred to himself as an Shadow Knight was struck down by a smaller kid who exclaimed his status as a Paladin. Apparently there were also 3 Rangers, 2 Wizards, a Beastmaster, and maybe even a Berzerker or two. It seemed harmless enough, so we continued our pace and passed by them virtually unnoticed. Apparently their powers included the ability to cast spells, heal themselves, and stun others but their power to notice anything around them must have been left at home.
Once the initial shock of what I had just witnessed wore off, I started to think about what the Patriot dad had said when his Patriot son asked him to explain what his young New England eyes were seeing. The dad's response was "Do you remember that story I always tell you about?" I wanted to know about this story. Was it one of the stories from his childhood in the "good old days" when there were only cops and robbers or cowboys and indians and the worst thing one could have brought upon himself was a night in "the clink" or a bad case of being scalped? Or was it a story of a great Warrior and Wizard who defeat an army of Orcs and Goblins with their strength and mastery of the dark arts? Did this father put his children to bed with stories of war and slaughter; where bloodshed was supposed to lead to sweet dreams for his young children. How could he expect them to be well-rounded adults who could become citizens able of contributing to society? I kept thinking that this must be the bedtime memories that a Dahmer, a McVeigh, a Bin Laden or a Pelosi had to share with their respective therapists. I think bedtime stories like this are what keep therapists in a job. It is good to know, because my wife is going back to school to get her Doctorate in Psychology and these kinds of people are our meal ticket. I almost wanted to do an about face and run to catch up to the Patriot family. I needed to know what the story was, and I needed to know even more what life lesson the dad was going to lay on that kid once he had answered yay or nay to his question.
I narrowed the possibilities down to two:
1) The dad and child finally agreed that the story they were both to have in their minds was about the Orc/Goblin defeating Wizard. At that time, the dad would go into gruesome detail as to how the Wizard was to disembowel them with a shockwave spell, or summon the power of the Gods to strike them with a deadly ailment, or call upon his sharp-clawed and Englis-accented giant Eagle gang to rip them limb from limb. Finally, once the child was properly traumatized and in complete agreement about how crazy and unlikely that story is, he would then explain to his child that those boys think it is real. The whole family would feel sorry for them, and go about their merry way. Probably to go to Church to pray for them, then head on down to Hooters to watch the Pats play the Jets. "Praise Jesus, and Go Pats!" they would say. (Update: The Patriots went on to lose to the Jets 28-21)
2) The dad was actually referring to a completely different story altogether. This story was not about Orcs and Wizards or Goblins and Warriors, but rather about birds and bees. At this point, the father would sit his child down on a park bench and clarify some of the comments he had previously told his son. The child would be equally traumatized, and in my opinion was far too young for this conversation to be necessary. He looked as if he were still in the "girls are icky" phase of his development, but I have never been good at telling how old children are. Either way, this proactive father would walk his son through the "when a man loves a woman" discussion. Hopefully there would be no Michael Bolton references in his speech. Not just because it is a ridiculously dated reference, but also because even when it was relevant, it wasn't neccessary. Once the child had fully understood the details of his father's story, he would most certainly ask his original question again, only this time it would be more inquistitive as to how it pertained to the current situation that was taking place on the Parks and Recreation battlefield. The father would then quickly recap his argument, and explain to his son that all those things he just explained were possible and completely natural. But also were something that to these quasi-Warriors and psuedo-Berzerkers would never experience. And as long as they kept meeting here every Sunday with their homemade swords in their hands, they would never find themselves able to sheath their God-given swords in the love-pocket of a woman.
I'm not sure which of the two options make me more sick to my stomach. All I know is that without the option of knowing the true ending to their conversation, I am forced to make up my own. I hope they are happy. For it is their fault that I make such rude, crude and socially unacceptable assumptions about them and the boys in fake battle. I also blame them for making me come up with the line that inlcuded "sheath their God-given swords in the love-pocket of a woman." For shame Patriot Dad, for shame! Go Jets!