Casulty of Nerf Wars

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This morning.
At 7:34am
Even though there was no school
(To honor Cesar Chavez)
I awoke to a gentle tapping
on my left shoulder.

The form of my darling daughter
Asking me
If she could have
Strawberry
Frosted
Mini-wheats.

Which is a dumb question.
Because why would I care
At 7:34am
On Cesar Chavez day.

But then, behind her,
Her brother,
Also wide-awake on the one day he could sleep in
Revealed another question

“And after that,”
he asked, his voice not nearly hushed enough
considering the fact that his mother
was still asleep about 3 feet away
“Can we have a Nerf war?”

So I lumbered down the hall
Still drunk from sleep
Which had not been chased from me
by my morning dose of caffeine

And I saw the fort they had built
(Again, on their day off)
With an overturned coffee table
and couch cushions
And carefully draped blanets

“Choose your weapon,” my 10-year-old said,
His voice dripping with taunt.

Even at 7:34am
If you’re my offspring
And you taunt me
You are going to pay.

And three minutes later,
The air in my house
Was dotted with fluorescent
green and blue bullets.

My daughter firing wildly
And darting out of the fort to grab more ammo
Like an adorable Gavroche
Who I didn’t have the heart to shoot
Though I totally could have.
Seriously.

At one point, my son yelled
“Merry Christmas!”
Before unleashing a barrage that sent me behind the couch

What 10-year-old trash talks during Nerf wars?

I replied,
“If you blot out the sky with Nerf bullets
Then we shall fight in the shade!”

First to three hits.
Those were the ground rules
With time outs to reload.
Or if a gun jammed.
And needs Dad to fix it.

But it was 2 against 1
And one of those was too adorable to fire at.
Because what if I hit her in the cheek
And she started crying?

You have to think about those things when you are a dad.

And my daughter popped up from behind the fort,
Eyes gleaming with delight
Those cornflower eyes

And with that,
Gavroche fired
And the bullet found home
A gentle tapping on my left shoulder
Like my day had begun

And with that,
With cheers of jubilation
I was vanquished.

And that is the story of how I died
In a Nerf war this morning.
I was clearly killed
And yet somehow
I felt so alive.

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