I’d never been to Wilson Woods before, but I heard it was a killer place for paintball. Acres of trees out in the middle of nowhere, with plenty of places to take cover. I was looking forward to getting some friendly revenge on Pete after he ambushed me the last time. I had to admit, and I totally missed him when I walked out into that clearing. But he certainly didn’t miss me. My welts and paint-filled shirt were clear evidence.
Just for fun, this year, I decided to wear that same dark green shirt to spite him. Along with Pete would be Big Bo, James, JJ, and Steve. We’d all been friends since high school and had made it a tradition to come together every year for some friendly paintball. This year was a little hotter than most, however. Even though it was September in the Midwest, my dashboard told me it was 85° outside. One of the reasons we planned our trips for September was to have some cooler weather hopefully. Apparently not this year.
I had just pulled in the parking lot when I saw Pete’s car. Big Bo and JJ had ridden in with him, and Steve and James had driven on their own. They were all hanging out, leaning against Pete’s blue Jeep when I pulled up alongside.
“’bout time you got here, Mike,” Pete laughed. “I thought you might not show after the pelting you took last year.” We all had a good laugh.
“I’m ready,” I replied, trying to look mean, but then breaking into a smile after I couldn’t hold it.
We checked in, paid up and grabbed our guns and balls. We decided to split into two groups and face each other, along with the others who were there. An instructor showed us a map and laid out the boundaries and rules. The last man standing.
I headed out with James and JJ while Pete stayed back with Bo and Steve. We’d have a 15-minute head start to head out and find some hiding spots before the whistle blew and they came out after us. There were six other guys on our team, each with red armbands, as we headed down the path into the woods. We walked for quite a while. All the time, I was scanning the scenery, thinking of a game plan.
Eventually, we found a spot with some thicker vegetation and a few fallen trees. I grabbed some nearby branches, crouched down behind a log and placed the limbs and leaves on top of me. It was perfect.
Soon enough, we heard the whistle blow, and the blue team began their excursion to meet us. I could already feel the heat as we waited for them, dressed in long sleeves and pants to protect from the paintballs. James was next to me behind the log, but JJ was flanking us to the right, standing up behind a tree. From his vantage point, he had a clearer view as they approached. The rest of our crew was spread out. A few had gone way around to the side, in hopes of sneaking in behind them when they came.
It was dead quiet, except for the sounds of squirrels high overhead and their acorns dropping down around us. I kept watching down the way we had come, looking for something, anything. Then, suddenly the silence was broken by a paintball whizzing through the air and sailing just a foot over my head. I looked over at JJ and could tell that he had an eye on the shooter. He returned a few shots, only to have a couple of blue paintballs splat back up against his tree in return.
More shots were fired. More paintballs exchanged. Now, I could see the other team moving into view and moving from tree to tree. And then, there he was. Pete. He had seen JJ, but I believed James and I were still in good shape in our spot behind the log. He had Bo next to him, and they were progressing around to our right. I was tracking Pete until he came out from behind one more tree. Then I let one fly.
My red paintball just missed his left leg, and he looked my direction and began to unload. James and I ducked back behind the log as it got hit several times directly, with a few balls flying over our heads.
I looked over at James and motioned for him to cover me while I jumped over the log to attack. I then glanced at JJ and motioned the same. Both were good.
I counted to three with my fingers, and then both of them began to fire at our would-be attackers while I turned and jumped over the log. It was perfect. In one motion I was able to hit Pete and Bo and then make it over to a nearby tree. One of their teammates nearly got me, but I made it.
From my vantage point, I could see the “painted” ones from both teams making their way out of the battle. I heard JJ call out and looked back to see he had been hit. James jumped up to counterattack, but he got hit two. Three blue splotches right across his chest.
After all of that, it was now down to Steve and me. We could both see where the other was. He was in a perfect spot, perched between a tree that had split its trunk four feet up and made for a perfect shooting slit. And then me behind my tree. I glanced around for another spot and saw a clump of trees to my left.
I shot a few paintballs and then began to make a run for it. But Steve was too quick and cut off my path. In one last move, I dove to the ground and took aim at him from there. He shot one over my right arm right before I nailed him in the chest. Bingo!
“Not today!” I called out. “Not today.”