The Cameron Column #99
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The Rules of War
Copyright 1999 W. Bruce Cameron
http://www.wbrucecameron.com

      Though no monuments have ever been erected in recognition, nor any medals awarded to the soldiers, the fiercest battles in America's history were fought in the creek down the street from where I lived as a boy. Every weekend the children from the neighborhood would assemble in rag-tag formation in my front yard, readying their toy weapons for the grueling combat to come.

      Like the Pentagon, we were always fighting the last war--WWII, to be precise, which was easier to comprehend than any of the other wars available to us. Specifically, we battled the Germans, since the Japanese, whom we knew from the Godzilla movies as people who could talk without being in synchronization with their lips, seemed a much more formidable enemy.

      Normally, we would spend anywhere from an hour to two days debating the rules of engagement, which had to be crafted to address this specific situation:

      Soldier: Got you!

      Enemy: No, you missed and then I got you!

      Then we had to deal with Drake, who always wanted to have super powers. Shut up Drake you can't have super powers in a war, we would scold. Well how about if I am just invisible, he would ask. No Drake you can't be invisible. Well maybe my gun is a death ray, he would whine. Since his gun was, in fact, the plastic handle from his Dad's barbecue grill, it couldn't possibly be a death ray--there were some who wouldn't even allow that it was a weapon. Shut up Drake, your gun shoots charcoal briquettes, we'd taunt. MAGIC charcoal briquettes, he'd counter.

      Then we would vote unanimously that Drake had to be a German, because by now we were so irritated we all wanted to be able to take a shot at him. We always backed down when Drake protested, however, because one time we wouldn't let him be an American and he went across the street and told his Mom, who to our complete and utter horror came back across the street and told us we couldn't make Drake be a German if he didn't want to be. You don't let a MOM get involved in a war, for crying out loud!

      Then we would have to rule on what constituted a hand grenade. Calvin always voted in favor of golf balls, since his father went to the driving range a lot and had turned their garage into something of an ammunition depot. However, when Calvin let loose with a golf ball there was no telling where it would wind up, and ever since he beaned Mrs. Mordy in the forehead, the adults in the neighborhood had been short-tempered. Tennis balls were soft, but after you tossed them you had to chase them down, and it somehow seemed un-military for everybody to stoop shooting to go running after a bouncing hand grenade. Mud clods were almost perfect-they even exploded a little when they hit something--but they were so available they had a tendency to turn every battle into a mudball fight.

      Okay, so no hand grenades. Next we had to think about reincarnation. Since there were never more than a dozen of us, the war would be over pretty quickly if you stayed dead once you were shot. So usually you had to count to at least 100, and no skipping numbers either. I have the power to bring people back to life, Drake would claim. Shut up Drake no you don't. Some of the younger kids looked concerned that maybe they couldn't count all the way to 100. So don't get shot, the battle-hardened veterans would advise. We used to have a rule that each army had a medic, who dispensed an M&M to the dead soldiers to revive them. That ended when Drake was medic and ate all the M&Ms and then claimed to be immortal.

      The hardest part was left for last: Everyone knew how the war turned out, so of course nobody wanted to be on the German team. Sometimes, after a few hours of arguing, everybody would be too angry to fight a war, and we all just went home.

      There's probably a lesson in there somewhere.


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Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1999
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