A Marriage Revealed on the Paintball Field

The Battlefield of the Paintball Republic

We suit up in camouflage flak jackets, protective face masks and gloves and then, after a thorough briefing, we’re each handed a weapon:  a shotgun about the size of a .22 gauge hunting rifle outfitted with a large hopper. Finally, we are handed the ammunition and we dump it into the hoppers by the hand-full. Dozens up on dozens of marble-sized pellets.

Chock-full of the cornstarch-and-food colouring.

That’s right. It’s Family Feud, the Paintball Edition.

Round One has parents facing off against kids. My husband starts strategizing before we’re even out the door.

“This is what we’ll do,” he says.

He is speaking too loudly, I think, but I keep my mouth shut. If the kids are listening, it won’t matter. They won’t achieve any stratetic advanatage because I haven’t heard a word he’s said. I am too busy formulating my own plan, a strategy that will take advantage of my small stature, agility and – granted I am forty-five years old – relative speed.

My skills lay in stealth and laying low. He stands up tall, firing often, willing to take the shots.

When the referee blows the horn, my husband takes off sharply to the right, and runs straight out of bounds. I dive into the tall grass and slither into enemy territory. The moment I pop up to get my bearings, I am stunned by a vibration against the side of my face, then the powdery taste of cornstarch seeping through my mouth-piece. My sharp-eyed older daughter has pinged me right in the facemask. Not two minutes later, my husband tags her from three-hundred feet outside the perimeter.

“Hey!” she yells. “You can’t do that!” The referee agrees and the kids emerge victorious.

We switch up the teams for Round Two: Attack-and-Defend. My younger daughter and I take up positions in a small plywood shack called The Mansion. She scrambles up top to the lookout position, while I tuck in downstairs beside an open back window.  Suddenly, I hear shots coming from behind me – the front door is wide-open leaving me vulnerable. I dive behind  a broken piece of plywood. On my way down, I see the red bandana marking my husband’s arm. I quickly roll sideways, take aim and hit him with my first shot.

“You should have just run and touched the house,” the ref tells him later. But no, the object of the game, from my husband’s point of view, is to tag me, even if it means taking his team down with him.

When we switch positions, I don’t fire a single shot. Focussing only on reaching the house unscathed, I drag myself across field and swamp, to a position of safety behind the ref tower. I can hear the flurry of paintball fire and then a voice yelling “mercy!” Dropping my gun, I sprint the last 10 feet, and shout “house!” as I slam my hand on the wall. The air horn blares.

“It’s just like our marriage,” my husband observes. “Neither of us listens to the other and then we both go off and do our own thing.”

“Yeah, but we’re happy,” I say.  He nods and laughs.

“Indeed we are,” he says. “Paint-spattered and happy.”

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