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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Chapter 21 - Luggage Class

"Something pink, something new" I thought. I couldn't remember the rest of the saying, or even if it was the right saying, but right now it seemed to fit the moment. I needed to answer his question, but I was still unsure about making a decision. It did look odd. "Cotton candy," I thought, "It does look like cotton candy." But I was reasonably sure it wouldn't taste like it though. In fact if you ate it, you'd probably get real sick.

"So, do you want some or not" asked the airman? He was holding a ball of pink fluff. It looked like a ball of cotton candy with strings of pink lying on the surface; except this mass of pink was perfectly round and it wasn't held with a stick, instead it sat on his palm. A few tufts string hung exposed from the pink planet, scars of customers past. Looking to my left, I could see the small chunk of pink was given to servicemen sitting next to me. The serviceman made two smaller balls of pink and proceeded to stick those things into his ear. The concept seemed slightly grotesque, but any solution to the constant humming sounded reasonable. The loud humming resonated in the belly of the machine that we were in, the vehicle's heartbeat could be felt by all. I wondered if Jonah felt the same. Though the sound was too loud for most, I was sure I could handle it until we reached our destination a few hours from now. This time however, my bravado seemed a bit silly. If this was the standard procedure, I'd better join the fair. At least my ear plug choice was better than what I would get on Seti Alpha Five.

"Ok, I'll take the ear plugs." I replied, as I accepted my pink ball of fuzziness with gratitude. The dealer of pink moved onto his next addict.

I rolled the pink fuzz in my hand to form the little balls. The two came out rather nicely. Spheres; both actually look like pink ball bearings. Hmm...now I just need a pink Pachinko machine to match. I smirked and proceeded to deaden the humming that surrounded us all.

Traveling on this aircraft felt very odd. Typically when you fly, rows of seats are lined up one after the other. However in this vehicle, only four columns of seats were used. Two columns had backs to the walls of the aircraft's fuselage and the other two columns were back to back in the center. Wherever you sat you would be facing someone. Sitting here in my red mesh seat, I felt like a WII paratrooper just waiting to cross the English channel. Though unusual in arrangement, the seats were comfortable; if anything, sitting in one felt kind of cool.

Outside the port hole, I could see the clouds run by; I followed the flow and I could see families and airmen sitting in the cabin. To the left and to right of the window sat families similar to mine; looking just as eager to reach their destination. I wondered what made them want to travel. Was it the same thing that drove my family on this pilgrimage? Possibly I thought, because most travelled to this strange land for one reason. And that reason was good enough to send millions traveling afar each day to evangelize the consumer driven faith that we all knew quite well, discount shopping. Korea was heralded as the cheapest shopping Mecca closest to Okinawa and when most of us went there, we went to pay homage.

"This plane is cool. I've never ridden in a C-130 before" I said.

"Yeah I know. We've been on all those other planes and this one is coolest." responded Tony. "I wonder what Korea will be like."

"Cold and white; it's getting cold in Okinawa these days, so it must be freezing in Korea. I heard there might be snow as well. I wonder if it will look like scenes from M.A.S.H."

I was done eating my C-130 provided sandwich. And as expected from military prepared food, it wasn't great. But a combination of turkey and bacon on any sandwich made it good enough. I swallowed the last bit of my tasty morsel and I drank the last of my drink as well. Ah tsu-bu-tsu-bu, it tasted great. Nothing quite like an orange pulp drink to finish off a sandwich. With nothing left to consume and not liking the grease the had built up on my hands, I turned to my brother and asked, "Tony, do you see a bathroom around here?"

"I think it towards the back." he said and pointed towards the rear of the aircraft.

I stood up and began my trek. Though muffled, the constant rattling of the propellers could be felt throughout my body. The magnitude of the vibrations seems to ebb and flow every time I took a new step. The loud hum was resonant everywhere and it seemed to move up a few decibels as I began to wander. As I sifted past the last group of passengers and reached a set of empty red mesh seats, I spotted something that I thought I would never see while traveling on an airplane. Startled, I was too shocked to say a word. Perplexed, my mind went searching for an anecdote to capture the moment. Suddenly a rush of laughter ran throughout my body, and when it reached my lips, I could do nothing but smile. Hmm, I mused. So this is why military travel was cheap. We were nothing more than cargo. Sitting there was a collection of families; not made of real people, but the symbols of the families that traveled on this aircraft. Bounded to the floor with a large green cargo net was the traveling gear of the passengers. Below the mesh was a mound of luggage, boxes, bags, and strollers that created a collage of color that gave life to the otherwise bleak world of dark steel blue-green walls that encompassed us. I could see my family’s suitcase, it was blue, and it was a Samsonite. I could feel it laughing at me; overjoyed too remind me that not everything could travel comfortably during flight. Like our suitcases, we travel in luggage class. And what made me smile the most, was the fact that one word came to mind, "cool." I liked the fact that we traveling like cargo in a C-130 heading to Korea; it felt awesome.

I regained my thoughts and looked around. I noticed that there was no restroom in sight. It must be at the front of the aircraft, I thought. I turned and began to walk towards the cockpit. But before I went out of sight of the mound, I stopped and took a last look. Once again I grinned and thought of silly things, "OK luggage you win this time. "


"It's freezing out there!" Tony yelled. "Are you sure you want to go look for that game?"

"Yeah, I'm almost ready. I know we can buy cheap copies of computer games in Korea for a buck, so that's what I'm ready to do." I replied. "We already spent the last two days buying clothes with Mom and Dad, and now I need time to buy my stuff. Plus we got new shoes and new jackets already."

I just got out of the shower and with the toothbrush in my mouth I proceeded to get dressed. After donning some old jeans, a t-shirt, sox, and a sweater, I went looking for my new jacket. There it was lying on the chair next to my brothers new jacket, shining in all it's glory was my brand new light blue Members Only jacket. It was an imitation, but it looked great. I didn't care that it was fake; I just wanted a new jacket.

"Do you know that jacket cost $80 at the BX?" said Tony.

"Well not this jacket, you mean the real ones. Not the Korean specials." I had a big smile.

Tony was smiling too, "Our jackets cost $15 each. What a great deal! Too bad we can't wear them until we get outside."

"Yeah, that's one thing about Korea that I'll never understand. Why is it so freak'n hot in the hotel and freezing cold outside? Oh well at least the shopping is cheap."

"Alright, let's go." said Tony. We grabbed our jackets and left the room.

We journyed through the sweltering heat of the hotel lobby and stepped outside into the cold. Though we puffed warm mists of air with every breath we took, the sun was out and the shine from our freshly made blue and black jackets was all we really noticed. "New jackets and cheap games, here I come Korea," I said to my brother. He smiled too, and off we went.

A few hours later, I found the games and my brother found more clothes. Now, we were ready to go home.


Space-A travel was what they call it. Learning how to spend the entire day at the MAC terminal waiting is what I called it.

Korean food was ok, but 4 days straight is too much for me. I couldn't wait to get back home. I wanted to eat a sa-ba bento, a bowl of tempura udon, and the ya-ki-to-ri from the cart guy just outside Gate Two. But first, I'll ask mom for some ka-re ra-i-su. Nothing in the world beats that on a cold winter day.

A familiar chatting was in the air. Tagalog, I could hear it, and the voices sounded familiar. It was my dad, he always seem to find another Filipino where ever we were. It must be some kind of Pinoy powered instinct; two Filipinos in any relative vicinity independent of traveling direction would automatically gravitate towards each other and make contact. Luckily Filipinos and heavily bodies don't run the same physics; otherwise Kepler Law’s would be in trouble.

"Michael and Tony, this is Mr. and Mrs. Marino. They are here shopping as well."

"Hi, nice to meet you," I said.

"I have two boys around your age. Armand and ..."

"Bert," I guessed?

"You know them? Wow that's great. My boys are good boys. I'm glad you guys get along," said Mr. Marino. “You know, Pinoys need to stick together.”

"Armand, sure, but Bert, well, it wouldn't call it getting along," I said in silence.

Thus, we entered a conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Marino about the Marino boys, our high school, and life at Kadena AFB. By the end of it, I really wanted to get the heck out of Korea.

Luckily for everyone, we managed to find a C-141 back to Kadena, but the dreary thoughts of being stranded in Korea for one more day felt all too real. Grinning from ear to ear I couldn't wait to get back to home.

Space-A travel is common to military brats around the world. However, running into your friends parents in a distant air force base while on a shopping trip, is pretty rare. Maybe fate was telling me something, that no matter how far away I go, I'll always find a way to run into my life-long friends. These days whenever I speak to the Armand's dad, I always remember running into him and his wife at the MAC terminal in Korea.

Chapter 20 - The Outfield

As we waited for the next Okibus, I could see the gate guard waving-in the midday traffic. It was a good Saturday and the warmth of the spring sun was upon us. The sky was an endless blue and the air felt refreshing. Next to me was a duffel bag. It was filled with memories. Memories of many who have played the game and memories of summers past that me and my brother shared. It was green, a bit ragged, and slightly torn, but it was our duffel bag and in it where the tools of the game. Today would be another memory for it to hold, so we waited for the bus that would take us to our game.

"Do you think we'll have enough people today?" asked Tony.

"I think so, I told everyone that you are coming, so I think everyone will be there. Plus I called the 3-Ds last night just in case." I replied.

"Good, I guess we'll have enough. Let's just hope the field in Lester will be free for us to use." said Tony.

"It should be fine, we've never had a problem on a Saturday. I'm just glad that Hillary let you out today. Anyways, here's the bus, I can see it coming." The orange and white bus was coming down the main road. It would be here in a minute.

Our conversation was interrupted, a familiar voice began speaking from behind us, "Hey Mike, hey Tony how's it going? I'm ready to play."

I turned and saw him. He was carrying a mitt. "Hey Darin, good afternoon, why are you down here?" I asked.

"I live here...by Gate One. Just a few houses from those over there." he replied as he pointed to the houses next to the gate.

"Donny wanted to know if you wanted to play D&D tonight. Are you free?" Darin asked.

"Might be, I'll have to call my girl to see if she wants to do something first." I replied.

"What" inquired Darin? "You have a girlfriend?" My brother leaned over to catch the news.

"I'm not sure, we see each other every day a school and we hang out on the weekends, but it's only been a few weeks. I think so, but we haven't spoken about it." I replied. "Hey here comes the bus."

As we were boarding the bus, Darin asked. "Do I know her? What's her name?"

"You might know her, she's in our grade and she might be in one of your classes."

"Hey Darin, hey Mike" yelled a voice from the back of the bus.

I looked and saw two friends, both with mitts and eager faces. They seemed ready to play.

"Man I'm gonna hit a home run today." said Derek as he gave us a demonstration of his swing.

"I can see that you guys are ready for some ball." I replied.

"I just want to be outside and throw the ball around. Mike are you up for D&D tonight?" said Donny.


"Can anyone pitch?" asked Darin.

"I can," answered Tony.

"He's pretty good, so it should be a fun game. I know Bill can pitch as well. I'm not great, but I can if we need more pitchers." I added.

My brother looked at me smartly and smiled. I'm sure he was thinking, "OK, if you think you can."

We all sat at the back of the bus and spoke about playing the game. The bus left Kadena, took a left turn and started down the busy highway towards Camp Lester.


Most of us gathered on the field and some were taking batting practice. My brother was on the mound pitching and Bill was at bat. Joe, Ted, and Bert were waiting for their turn at the backstop. From there they could heckle Bill, trying to disturb his swings. Jeff, Ricardo, and the others were in the field. The radio sat on the dirt next to the dugout blaring away. Back in the dugout, I sat on the bench trying to solve priority one, food. I was opening a bag of e-bi-sen when Chad came in.

"Hey Mike how are things?" he said.

"Fine, ta-be-ta-i ka?" I asked as I showed him the bag of shrimp chips.

"No thanks. But you know today is a great day. It's clear, sunny, and I think we have enough players to field a real game." he said jovially.

"Yeah I think so, I'm glad I could get Darin, Derek, and Donny to come out today. We finally have a lot of people." I replied. "It's a great day to play ball."

"Plus I feel great!" he said. "By the way is Johnny coming today?"

"I think so, but he's not here yet. He's busy with the school play, so I didn't see him all week. However, I heard that Johnny and Trisha didn't work out, so hopefully he's down about that." I replied.

"I don't think so. I talked to him about it and he said that he wasn't really interested in her anyways. Johnny said that she felt the same. So he should be fine." Chad replied.

"Alright, sounds good. You know him better than I do. But you know, it's funny that I'm the only survivor from our bet. I didn't really know what I was getting into, so I certainly wasn't expecting to be the last one with a girl. Fate is an odd creature. Speaking of which, I can't wait to see her again," I said. "She's really amazing and when I'm with her time flies. I just hope the gang doesn't blow it for me, she's a clean wholesome kinda girl."

"Mike I gotta tell you something. You are not alone." he said with a smile.

"Yeah I know, my brother and Joe have girlfriends. And I heard that Joe's new girl is really hot."

"No, not them. I'm talking about me. I'm seeing someone right now, and she is amazing too. We went out last weekend and last night." Chad was smiling.

"What? I thought things between you and Anna were over weeks ago." I asked. "Didn't she get back together with her boyfriend?"

"It's not Anna I'm seeing." Chad replied.

The lone voices of our conversation were broken as Ricardo yelled, "Alright let's get started!"

"I'm gonna win myself a scholarship. Now Tony pitch it right down the middle." yelled Bill as he readied his bat.

Tony pitched and CRACK, Bill sent the ball flying towards an empty outfield.

"Ready?" asked Chad enthusiastically.

"Let's do it." I responded as we got up and ran towards the outfield.


No runs were scored that inning and I managed to shag two fly balls at center-field. Once again our side returned to the dugout. It was our turn at bat and we fared no better. I managed to make good contact with the ball, but the line drive went to close to short. Bill was there and he's too good of a player to miss it, so he didn't. As I walked away from first towards the dugout I heard Bert say "Is that all you got?" Usually I would say with something brash, the kind that would contain a four letter word, but today I was in too good of a mood to respond. I could tell Bert was a bit disappointed that I didn't say a word.

"You're out Jeff!" yelled Bill, "Get out of the dugout slackers."

"Take the field. It's my turn at bat. Tony I'm gonna knock one over the fence." said Joe with a smile.

As the opposition came into the dugout, Chad, I and the others ran on to the field. Two runs were scored while we were in the outfield, but at least Johnny had time to join the fun. He was late, but he brought his music collection. As we entered the dugout once again, I noticed that the music had stopped.

"What band are we going to play next" yelled Johnny?

"KISS!" said Jeff.

"Scorpions" yelled Derek and Darin.

"How about something with more soul," added Ted?

"How about the Outfield?" Suggested Chad, "I like the title track".

I was about to say Def Leppard, but I liked the song 'Your Love' as well. The name seemed to match my mood today so Chad's pick was a better one. "Johnny do you have the Outfield?" I asked.

As the boom box started to play, Chad, I and a few others in the dugout could be heard humming the song.

I was getting hungry again, so once again I began the search for my oasis. After a few restless moments I found it, crumpled and next to my mitt. But this time, it was mostly eaten. Damn! Someone ate half of my chips! With a slight smirk I thought, "oh well, at least the thief ate only half the chips."

With a few chips in my mouth I managed to ask," Chad what were we talking about, earlier?"

"Girls." replied Chad.

"Oh yeah, speaking of which, who's the girl?" I said.

"It's Trisha." he said with a smile.

My fingers lost their step and I dropped my bag of chips. "Shit," I mumbled as I picked up my food. A few chips were sprawled on the floor but I was quicker than the 5-second rule so nothing was lost. I looked up and asked, "Wait. How did you end up with Trisha? Isn't she Anna's best friend? Wasn't Johnny going out with her?"

"Yeah. But after things weren't going well with Anna, Trisha and I started to talk and talk. The more we talked the closer we got, next think I know we are on a date." he replied. “Plus Johnny told me he wasn't interested in Trisha anyways."

"Wow that's great news. No wonder you seem so happy today. I'm in a good mood too, I guess today really is a good day." I said with a smile.

Thus we entered a strange conversation about girls and possibly girlfriends. I never thought I'd be discussing this subject with anyone, but since Chad and I were both novices something seemed to click. We spent the rest of the inning talking about music, movies, and of course our girls.


It was the third inning and Chad, Ricardo, and I were in the outfield. There weren't enough players to field all of the infield positions, but playing without a 3rd baseman and a catcher would do. The sun was beaming down and the humidity was wearing on us. Everyone was sweaty by now, but all of us were having fun; however, I knew that two us in the outfield were having a bit more fun than everyone else. It was a good day.

Suddenly a burst of laughter from my left caught my attention. I turned and saw Chad laughing, almost doubled over, and pointing to my right. I turned to my right and looked. Ricardo had his shirt twisted and wrapped around his shoulders. Most of his chest was exposed. But what made us all laugh was the cap we wore. It was the inverted backside of his shirt that he ran though the hole where you head pokes out. Looking at him, I began to laugh as well. He looked like a Caribbean banana girl without the fruits that would normally sit on top. Or maybe he looked more like a older bald Ricardo with a white dome, either way he looked silly. Either way, he made us all laugh.

"It's hot, we're losing, and I need a rally cap" said Ricardo while grinning ear to ear. "So, let's play ball!"

Chad and I were still laughing almost to the point where it began to hurt.

Johnny was at bat. Tony wound up and readied to pitch.

"Stop!" yelled Johnny. "The music stopped playing. I need to change the tape."

"No! Just flip it over and press play." yelled Chad. "Let's play the first song one more time."

"Fine." said Johnny.

As the music started to play, Chad yells at the top of his voice "Josie's on a vacation far away, come around and talk it over."

For some inexplicable reason I joined him and yell "There are some many things that I wanna say, you know I like my girls a little bit older." in unison.

"I just wanna use your love tonight." yelled Ricardo as he joined us.

Then our outfield started to sing,

"I don't want to lose your love tonight."

"I ain't got many friends left to talk to-oo, no one’s around when I'm in trouble.

"You know I'll do anything for you..."


We sang that song happily until it ended. We even managed to make a few plays while singing. It was too much fun. An hour later the game ended. We got on the Okibus and headed back to Kadena.

Derek asked, "Why the heck were you guys singing that song during the game? You guys looked like dorks."

"Got me," I responded "Chad started it and for some bizarre reason I joined him." I didn't really feel like telling him why both of us were acting so stupid, but then again, I don't think either of us really knew as well.

"Well at least we won and I got in a few good hits. Maybe you guys will win next time." said Derek.

"Maybe, but I think we won too." I replied.

"What," said Derek? "You were on the losing team, how can you win? Mike, sometimes I don't get you."

"Never mind."

I carried a big smile as I walked to the back of the bus to join Bill and my brother.

I'm sure singing that song in the outfield made us look like a bunch of dorks that day, but for the three of us, it really didn't matter. We were having too much fun and somehow singing allowed us to express it better. I never could have imagined the effect that little stunt would have on the gang. But from that day forward, whenever we played baseball or softball, Chad and I would sing that song the first time we took to the outfield, even without the boom-box. Over time, others learned the lyrics and sang it as well. For those who have always wondered why we sang that song, now you know. We were all following the voices of two love struck teenagers, two innocent kids frozen in a moment of time, who didn't know how else to express an emotion they really didn't understand. Sometimes the best traditions come from the purest things.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Chapter - 19 Ranger Ric

Mother nature was having that time of the month again and without reason the rain was coming down hard. Though it was the beginning of summer and the heart of typhoon season, no storm was in the forecast for today, nevertheless Camp Lester looked miserable outside. I wasn't in a great mood either since I wanted to be outside, and to top it off, I was stuck in Jeff and Ricardo's house.

As I looked out the window, I couldn't help but to say what was on my mind, "Too wet to go out, too cold to play ball, so we sat in the house and did nothing at all. So all we can do is..."

"Why are you reciting that, it's not story time." snapped Ricardo.

"It's not nap time either, but a nap sure does sound good if we decide to do nothing. It's too wet to play football out there, and that's what we were going to do. I even have my cleats. Jeff, do you guys have any milk and cookies?"

"I'm sure we do, why?" asked Jeff, he was on the other side of the room with Chad, Armand, and Tony.

"Because staying inside with friends somehow feels like daycare, and if we are in daycare then I might as well eat milk and cookies."

"Stop whining. You're being a kid again Mike" injected Ricardo.

"Me? I'm not acting like a kid." I smiled and responded smartly. "I am a kid."

"I'm just a sophomore you know...well I guess not officially until school starts in a few months."

Ricardo seemed annoyed, but not as much as I was hoping for; something was on his mind, I wondered what it was.

"What do you think is the best rock band? Van Halen is OK." said Chad.

"U2 is the best." shouted Ricardo.

"I like Scorpions and Yes," I said. "But Def Leppard is the best!"

"I think REO Speedwagon is really good," added Chad.

"KISS is the best band in the world!" shouted Jeff.

"What makes you think that?" asked Armand.

"That's easy because..." replied Jeff as he walked over to the cassette player and turned it on; the air-drum solo followed suit.

"I wanna Rock and Roll all night...and party every day!" shouted the radio and Jeff.

I noticed that my brother didn't chime in, but then again, he didn't like heavy metal anyways. I was sure he would rather be talking about anything else.

The conversation was going nowhere so Armand decided to change the subject to something more useful. "Who's the hottest babe?"

"That's easy, Lita Ford!" answered Jeff as he pointed to the Lita Ford poster on his wall.

"Sorry to interrupt such an important topic but... What are we going to do?" Tony asked.

"Got me?" said Jeff.

"I've got a few Robotech tapes at my house, we can all go there and watch a few." said Chad.

Tony and Armand nodded. I could tell that they thought Robotech was a better solution than spending the rest of the day talking about KISS.

"I have it! Ranger Ric to the rescue." shouted Ricardo. "Let's play war in the rain, Jeff and I just bought some new air-soft guns. You guys can use the old ones."

"What? You mean we run around playing cops and robbers in the rain? Going Bang Bang, Bang Bang?" retorted Chad sarcastically as he holstered a pair of recently spent five-fingered shooters.

"Now who sounds like a kid?" I responded.

"These are kiddie toys, these guns shoot plastic bullets and if they hit your skin they can sting."

"Sounds cool, Special Forces is more my style." responded Armand. "It’s Rambo time baby."

Now that sounded interesting. I've shot fireworks and BB guns at friends before, but running around with guns that could shoot plastic bullets that are a painful but not dangerous...hmmm...that didn't sound too bad.

"Oh, that's a different story." I said "O-mo-shi-ro-i ne, o-shi-e-tte ku-da-sa-i".

Tony leaned over and told a confused Armand, "Mike said, sounds fun, tell me more." Everyone else except Armand had a Japanese mom; the rest understood what I had said.

Ricardo began to sell the game to everyone. In a few minutes, we all got our guns and were ready to get wet. It felt like a bad idea to leave a dry place, run amuck in the heavy rain, and to play war, but since we had nothing better to do, we went ahead with it. So like a pack of lemmings, we followed Ricardo into the chasm.


We must have been playing for over three hours. Luckily the heavy down pour had abated during most of our matches. We were all wet, but not completely soaked. We weren't cold either since Okinawan summer storms came down as warm rain. Foot trails surrounded us; sneaker tracks in the mud, sneaker tracks in the grass, and sneaker tracks on the road with orange plastic pellets scatted everywhere. Finally, the heavy rain started to come down.

"Let's get out of here. It's starting to come down hard." I said.

"Last game." shouted Ricardo "And we are going to win this one, right squad?"

"Yes, sir Ranger Ric!" shouted Chad and Jeff at the same time, then they gave him a salute.

Tony shrugged, Armand smirked, and I, well, I didn't know what to think. We never said it officially, but it was team Lester versus team Kadena today.

I looked skywards towards the rain; I felt the droplets on my face, I knew I was done. But as I veered downward to the smiles on team Lester’s faces I decided that one more game couldn't hurt.

"Come on Mikey, one more game. We’re already wet." Armand was ready to go. He didn’t look tired or bored, maybe this was his style of game. Tony on the other hand, seemed apathetic. I got the feeling he would go along with any decision.

I looked at my teammates and said "What the hell, let's do it."

Showing a smile Armand said, "Go Panthers".

"Go panthers!" we said.

"Let's get this over with ASAP, so I can get dry and find some food, I'm hungry" I said.

"You guys be the attackers, we'll defend this time." yelled Ricardo.

"Fine with us," I yelled back.

We walked to the closest building and leaned against the wall. Ahh. Shelter from the rain felt nice.

"We are coming in 10 count." I yelled.

"10, 9, 8... 7, 6, 5..." Being dry feels great I thought.

"4, 3, 2" Hmm, milk and cookies, I hope they have Oreos. Oreos and milks....mmm... my mouth start to water as my mind started to drift.

"...1" then I smiled and looked at Armand and Tony.

"Stop, don't go anywhere."

Armand and Tony looked at me wryly.

"I have an idea. Let's stay here for a few minutes before we hunt them." I said

"Why?" asked Tony. "I thought you wanted to get this over with."

"I do, but I'd like to stay dry. Since its starting to come down real hard right now let's just wait a bit. They'll get really soaked if we wait." I let out a little chuckle.

Armand and Tony understood my plan.

"Mikey, nice plan, you are wise in the ways of the force." Armand was grinning.


So we stood there for 2, 3, 4, 5 minutes before we started our search. All of us were carrying large smiles.

"OK, let's split up and see if we can find them." said Armand.

Splitting up is normally a bad idea, but since we are in a hurry this strategy was the best. Especially since it was the last game and I was getting real hungry. I didn't care if we win or lose, I just wanted to eat.

"Fine, I'll go this way." I replied as I left.

10 minutes later we regrouped.

"Well I got Chad." said Armand "I found him hiding under the building over there, but I can't find Jeff or Ricardo, any luck for you two?"

"Nope" we said in unison.

“Mike and I had them pinned early, they were surrounded, they knew they were dead, but somehow they got away.” By the look on Tony’s face I knew he was disappointed. His pincer strategy was perfect, we had them trapped; this game should have been over 5 minutes ago.

"We checked everywhere, we couldn't find them," I added.

The rain was pouring now. We looked around the compound, but we couldn't find them anywhere. I had no idea where those two could have gone.

"OK, let's get Chad and call it a game." I said.

"Sounds good." said Tony. Armand agreed and left to fetch Chad from the dead zone.

A few minutes later Chad was with us and he was laughing deviously.

"Can't find them eh?" said Chad sarcastically. "So it’s a draw. Tell them and they'll come out."

"Well that doesn't seem fair." spoke Armand.

"We are winning." I added.

"Sure, but it’s not over. So how long do you want to search for them in the rain? It's coming down pretty hard." replied Chad.

"Damn he's right," I thought. Though I didn't want to lose, ending the game was the real priority.

"OK, it's a DRAW! We can't find you, you didn't kill us either. Come out it's over." I yelled.

"Come on out, its a draw!" yelled Chad.

Strangely enough, the only sound I could hear besides our voices was the falling rain. I thought that everyone would want to quit by now. What the hell were they doing? Then all four of us were yelling out that it's over and that it was time to quit. But still Jeff and Ricardo couldn't be found.

"Maybe they pulled a fast one and they are already sitting at home, nice and dry." said Armand.

Damn; they'll be eating my milk and cookies. "Those bastards, let's get out of here."

We started to leave and then Chad spoke up "I don't think they would quit".

I frowned and thought about it. He was right. They were too serious about this kind of stuff so I didn’t think they would quit either; their father was in the Special Forces.

"How about if you guys try a new plan?" said Chad with a wink and a big smile.

Obviously our current strategy was failing; it was time for a new tactic. I quickly came up with a good strategy.

"Jeff, Ricardo you guys win! Kadena gives up, we surrender!" I yelled.

No sooner than I the instant the words had left my breath, did rings of motion start to ripple across a large pond a few yards away. Emerging out of the center of the pond was a pair of drenched kids with guns raised.

"Ah ha, I told you Ranger Ric would find a way for us to win." shouted Ricardo.

Armand, Chad, and Tony started to laugh uncontrollably. I was too shocked to laugh.

"Nice Rambo style!" shouted Armand enthusiastically.

"You guys are crazy!" I said "How long have you been in that pond?"

"Once Chad got killed and you guys had us surrounded, it was looking impossible for us, but we didn't give up." replied Ricardo with Jeff nodding.

"You sat in that pond for over half an hour, you guys ARE crazy! That pond has got to be at least two feet deep and a hundred feet wide."

"I told you Jeff, we can win even with the odds stacked against us. It's only impossible if you don't try!" rejoiced Ranger Ric.

Jeff was smiling and we all knew that team Lester was the victor in more ways than one.

"OK it's over, let's get out of here!" yelled Tony.

We all smiled and started to leave, but Ricardo stopped and took a deep breath.

"I don't care what you know…" yelled Ricardo as he started sing.

"I don't care what you know…" joined Jeff as he began to sing and march in step with Ricardo.

It was an all too familiar army basic training song, we’ll at least the rhythm; I didn’t know the words, but I heard it many times in movies and in TV shows. However, I never thought Jeff and Ricardo would be singing it out loud in public.

Without thinking about it, we began to march as well. And soon, we join the song. We didn't know all of the words, said we said the easy part, "Yes sir! one, two, three, four...three, four." But by the end of the march, we were all yelling and singing the entire song.

We marched and sang that silly song all the way back to the Jeff and Ricardo's home. I felt really stupid singing that song while marching in the rain, but somehow I couldn't stop. I guess, when your having a good time with your friends, sometimes even the dumbest ideas are fun to do.

Though we played war many more times, it was never better than the game we played on that day. Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the silliness, or maybe it was the signing that made it memorable. But when I sit back and think about what really affected me that day, the moment becomes clear. It was Ranger Ric's determination about not giving up that made it truly unforgettable for me. So remember, whenever it looks like the odds are against you, "It' only impossible if you don't try."

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