The heat index is climbing to 110 degrees. Our host for the afternoon, Scott, has thrice told us a story about an eyeball bursting as a result of what we're about to do. Even though I know it'll dehydrate me, I have my fifth beer because it's cold and it's wet. Obviously, my common sense isn't very common.
Paintball is everything your mother forbid when you were 10 years old. That's probably why it's so damn fun.
My best friend, Mike Abasolo, is getting married in two weeks. This guy has been like my brother since we were in second grade, and when it came time for his bachelor party, I wanted to make sure it would be one to remember. One broken ankle, one hole puncture wound in the hand, three ticks, 17 welts on Abasolo and 2,000 paintballs later, and I think it's a safe bet we're all going to remember this bachelor party.
Drop Zone Paintball was the place we chose to get our Rambo on. The basic package, which includes the paintball gun, CO2, 100 paintballs and the all-important safety mask, costs $25 per player.
The company sent me the waiver and release of liability forms early. Reading the contract made me wonder if I was going to get anyone killed: "may result in my injury or illness including but not limited to bodily injury, disease strains, fractures, partial and/or total paralysis, eye injury, blindness, heat stroke, heart attack, death."
Disease strains? Paralysis? Death? What the hell are in these paintballs, anyway? Hemlock?
The Drop Zone's paintball course is about 30 minutes outside of Lawrence (call 841-1884 for directions).
Of course, not everyone could play follow the leader like I asked, so we arrived first, and the two groups who didn't stay with us got lost and turned up 20 and 40 minutes later.
The six of us who were there first wanted to get started, so we began our training. Scott, the man in charge, told us the No. 1 rule: Never and I mean ever take off your face mask.
"If you take off your face mask, I will yell at you," he warned us. "It's not because I don't like you, it's just for your own safety. If you get shot in the eye, your eye will explode. I've seen it happen and it's not pretty."
We asked what it looks like when an eye explodes, and as he was describing it, the first car full of stragglers arrived. So we heard the story again. By the time the final latecomers got there, we were all experts on what happens when eyeballs blow up.
Sting of defeat
The first game took place in the Drop Zone's "castle." One team defended the structure while the other team stormed it. Many of us wondered how much these paintballs would sting when we got shot. That's probably why the first game was so defensive. No one wanted to be first to scream like a little girl. Truth is, these paintballs hurt when they hit. Once you get shot, you know it, especially if it strikes exposed skin. A shot in the jeans isn't so bad, but one in the T-shirt will make even a tough guy give a slight yelp. The first shot I took, was of course, in the eye. Thank goodness for the lecture. My mask was firmly attached to my head, thus my eyeball also remained secure.
With a bad week already in the making, my friend Matt Dunn figured he'd be the one to suffer an optical injury. On Monday he was in a car wreck. We golfed on Wednesday, and I was an eyewitness to him taking a three iron shot to the temple from a shanked swing. The ball still traveled 80 yards down the fairway after hitting him in the head. It actually turned out to be a pretty nice shot.
In game three, set in a field of woods, Dunn got caught in a crossfire between Abasolo and me. He decided that if he was going to get shot, he was going to do it in style. He jumped out of his hiding spot, shouted a few expletives, and started firing in my direction wildly. He nailed me just below my Adam's apple, a bolt that hurt enough to buckle my legs.
Now exposed, Abasolo was quickly closing in on Dunn and ready to avenge his best man. So Dunn took off in a sprint in my direction, and when he got to a creek, he leapt into it, just like our hero Rambo would do. He expected a five-foot drop. What he got was a 15-foot plunge into rocks.
As he crashed, he lost his gun and fractured his ankle. Abasolo looked down into the creek, not believing what he just saw.
"You all right?" He asked.
"Yeah," Dunn replied, reaching around for his gun.
Then Abasolo mercilessly shot him.
It's your party
This was a bachelor party, and it's a rule that you somehow have to humiliate the potential groom. We decided that in the final game, we'd wait, and after a while we would all turn on Abasolo. With a full two weeks until his wedding, we assumed the bruises would heal in time.
The final game was "Iron Man." While you normally quit after getting hit once, in Iron Man, you get shot but keep playing until you want out. Of course, my first injury came when during the Iron Man game I was nailed in the groin area. I screamed and landed flat on my back, thinking my life was ruined. Then I realized that the shot was a near miss, and the boys were OK.
I tried to compose myself and got back in the game. Suddenly, someone yelled out "Special!" Our not-so-clever code word to gang up on Abasolo. We all shouted to confirm, "Special time! Special!"
Abasolo asked, "What the hell is 'Special?'"
We responded by shooting him repeatedly.
The sad thing was, after getting pelted 10 times in a mere moment, Abasolo didn't give up; he got inspired. He took the giant spool he was hiding behind, and shoved it, rolling it across the paintball field. From behind the moving cover, he ran and fired at all of us, just like a scene from "Predator." But finally, the superior firepower became too much for him, and he went to his knees and covered his face. This exposed his back, and it became a prime target. After a couple direct hits, he called out, "I'm done! I'm done!" We stopped, knowing he'd have something to remember this day by.
No one lost an eye, Abasolo and the rest of us had a blast, and his fiancis convinced that I am the Antichrist. I think everything turned out perfect.