Nobody move or the old man dies.
My son is holding a finger to my head. Sandwiched between his forefinger and my temple is a loop of a rubber, which is stretched menacingly taut by his other hand.
“What’s it to me?” Asks my daughter calmly, aiming her own finger-triggered rubber band square at his chest.
“Hey!” I shout, alarmed. I don’t know which concerns me more, the threat of being snapped hard in the head with a rubber band or learning that my daughter could care less.
As I consider my situation my other son leaps silently from behind a doorway leveling a Number 19 band at his sister. He is wearing a slit shoe bag over his head like a ninja hood. “Go ahead and shoot,” he tells her, cool like an assassin.
Sensing an imminent chain reaction that will most likely lead to a smarting thwack on my head, I quickly swing my own loaded finger toward the Ninja.
“A Mexican standoff!” I yell excitedly.
“A what?” says my daughter. puzzled.
“A Mexican standoff! It’s a situation where there is no winner. A deadlock. If any of us shoot, we all die.”
I am very pleased that at this point in summer, when my kids could easily be battling the August doldrums lost in computer games, glued to insipid TV shows, or retreating to the sanctity of headphones in their bedrooms, they have instead banded together to assassinate each other with rubber bands.
I feel like we are one big happy family again.
All because someone recently discovered a massive tangle of rubber bands in a drawer, the byproduct of years of lashed junk mail forced through the mail slot.
It occurs to me that the fate of the rubber band may be fastened to the fate of the postal service: as the mail goes, so goes the rubber band.
Because while there are still a few exciting things we can do with rubber bands—like hold broken remotes together or produce tie-dyed shirts—there are many more rubber bands than we actually need. I bet even the Wright Brothers only twisted a handful to power their first flight at Kitty Hawk.
This leaves a lot of idle rubber bands available to idle minds. A lot. And as my kids quickly discovered, the wrist can conveniently hold an inexhaustible supply.
One fling later and the war of 2013 was on.
First, a little history. The rubber band, as we know it, was invented by Robert Perry in 1845. To demonstrate its stretchy characteristics he pulled the band tight between his two hands, accidentally striking his brother in the forehead when one end slipped from his grasp.
Later he discovered his elastic band could also be used to hold bundled papers together, but by this time the rubber band had already made its way into combat.
It is a little known fact that the rubber band inspired the famous quote which is still in use today: Careful, you could take someone’s eye out with that!
When he was a boy, my father fashioned rubber band guns with sticks and clothes pins and battled his brothers on a farm in Kansas. They shot cows for target practice.
A generation later I was given a detention in 7th grade for firing a rubber band at my teacher.
This was actually an accident. In the midst of a yawn, a small rubber band stretched across small hooks on my braces sprung free from my mouth and hit my teacher on the back of her neck as she was explaining the concept of algebra on the chalkboard.
It was too good of a shot to plead extenuating circumstances, so I suffered through 30-minutes of solitary study hall confinement after school as a POW.
So I feel it is my duty as a parent to indulge childish warfare, even if it means I am likely to die by snapped rubber. My kids are now teenagers, and these innocent days of espionage and crimes against humanity are numbered.
My kids and I are locked in our standoff position, frozen. Given the accuracy of flung rubber loops, I realize I am probably in the worst position should anything go wrong. I am still at the finger end of a long stretch of rubber pressed hard against my head.
“Lets all be calm about this,” I say. “Everyone lower your weapons . . . on the count of three . . . one . . . two . . .”
That is when the rubber bands fly. That is when I am stung sharply on the head for being a traitor.
That is when we all reload and roll for cover.
That is when I feel alive once again. Like a kid stretching the dead of summer.