“My rules are simple,” Mr. McLeod said in his usual bellowing voice. He stood in front of the group of seniors with a smile on his face. “You can’t shoot anyone who is not wearing a mask, and you should always stop shooting a person who is holding up their hands.”
“Whatever happened never to give up. Never surrender?” Juli said.
Juli was the class clown, and even though she was also the most beautiful girl in school, after the breakup with her boyfriend, she’d slowly been gaining weight that made her the talk of the other popular girls.
“Juli, as I said, my rules are simple. Please don’t try to make a joke about safety. There was a whole guidebook we all had to read for rules specific to this facility, and I only added two. The rules are there for the protection of the class, and to make sure everyone has a great time.”
“Mr. McLeod,” Arnold said, mispronouncing the teacher’s name as Mick Loud instead of Mi Cloud.
Mr. McLeod exhaled a long breath, knowing the question would get on his nerves. He rubbed his forehead for a moment before looking up and faking a smile. “What is it, Arnold?”
“What if we don’t think this will be fun at all?”
“Don’t think. Just get out there and do.”
“But is this even allowed? I thought school functions weren’t allowed to be violent? Guns are dangerous, and with all the school shootings I feel as if—”
“The owners of this Paintball Park.” Mr. McLeod started, pausing to take a breath.
“Paintball Adventure Park,” yelled one of the students before McLeod could continue, a chuckle riding his voice.
“Thank you,” Mr. McLeod said, waving them off. “The owners of this place designed the course for team building activities. That’s why you’re broken into teams.”
“Are we allowed to switch?”
“Nope. Now if you ask another question, I’ll make it my mission to hunt you down and paintball the heck out of you.”
A few chuckles rippled through the group, but Mr. McLeod instantly regretted his words. He knew a threat like that could be misconstrued in a heartbeat, especially by someone like Arnold. Thankfully, there were no other teachers around so he hoped any accusations would make the word of a beloved teacher against that of an annoying student.
“Okay, now if you have additional questions that are not related to how to operate your equipment, including the safety equipment, save them until after the event. We all reviewed each of the park’s safety rules, and if I see anyone violating the rules, or if I hear about a violation, said violator would receive a demerit. Are we clear?”
The group said, “Yes, Mr. McLeod,” in unison and the kids started to put their masks on.
Even though it was true that the event was supposed to work on team building skills, he had come up with the idea because there had been too much aggression as of late in the school. Fights were up, even though overall bullying was down, and he thought this would be a great way for kids to get some of that aggression out in a relatively safe environment.
They walked from the changing area out into the park, where they would participate in the paintballing, and as they entered the area, the kids started removing the barrel covers that prevented any accidental discharge outside the park area. The two teams automatically divided into opposite sides of the field of play and Mr. McLeod stood off to the side beside the referee.
“Didn’t want to choose a side?” the referee said. He had a name badge that read “Scott.”
Mr. McLeod grinned. “Didn’t want to limit who I could shoot.” He had to talk louder to overcome the voice muffling by the mask.
Scott laughed, but McLeod could tell Scott thought he was joking. The kids weren’t the only ones that needed to blow off some steam. It was third anniversary of his divorce, and he had stopped drinking. The punching bag at the gym just didn’t do the trick like it used to.
The referee looked at his watch and then held up an airhorn. He released a lengthy blast from it which was followed by the cheers and screams of the more athletic kids as they charged forward.
Mr. McLeod surveyed the park in front of him, excitement and adrenaline bubbling up in his chest. Giant bean bags had been peppered throughout the field of play, and it was hard to see everyone as the kids weaved in and out between the barriers. Some had already started shooting, but others wanted to get a little closer.
Nearing the middle, the kids ducked behind horizontal bean bag barriers, aiming and shooting over the top. Every so often the weaker of the lot would cry out as they got hit, but most of the students just kept screaming and laughing and crying out in joy.
Mr. McLeod tracked a couple of the kids with his eyes. He was all but invisible on the side with the referee, and he aimed to use that to his advantage. Spotting Arnold’s waddle-run, Mr. McLeod lunged forward and ran toward his prey.
He knew it would be wrong just to pelt the annoying kid until he was out of pellets, despite what his darker side told him to do, so instead, he swooped in front and fired two shots into Arnold’s shoulder blades. Arnold cried out and returned fire without realizing who he was shooting at. When he realized it was Mr. McLeod he hesitated and stared, unsure what to do.
McLeod smiled and shot Arnold twice more, this time in the stomach. Arnold bent over and grabbed his tummy, groaning.
“If there’s one thing you’ll learn today, young Arnold, it’s never to hesitate.”
McLeod started running away and fired one more at Arnold but missed. He kept going, picking targets at random and staying on the move as he went. Arnold wasn’t the only one that hesitated, but many of the kids did fire back, overjoyed to be able to hit a teacher as if dishing out payback for all the assignments and homework.
Mr. McLeod was out of breath and exhausted before he’d even finished half of his hopper, but he was having a blast. He kept going and forgot about all the problems he had, hoping his students were able to do the same.