The last of the fog begins to fade in the early morning light as the sun eases over the horizon. Dew still dripping from the perfectly cut grass collects on the knee-high white socks and white New Balance sneakers of the Operation Enduring Freedom veteran as he surveys his pre-dawn preparations. Is this Red Dawn? Are there foreign invaders to repel?
Worse. It's Easter morning, and all of the children of the family, including his own son and daughter, are coming for an easter egg hunt. With the eggs hidden, and more than a few surprises, he slides on his Oakley M Frame sunglasses and goes to the shed to change over.
Thirty minutes later, his wife’s sister and the three accompanying children arrive. Sunday morning breakfast is, as it usually is, an al a carte affair served for everyone’s convenience in the kitchen.
Waffles, sausage, eggs, biscuits are flung around by the unruly mob of prepubescent gremlins while everyone catches up on the latest in report cards and extended family drama. But not Dad. Dad is finishing the last of the Chili Mac MRE from his forward position.
The best stand alone MRE saved for the calm before the commencement of the day’s events. Mom was quiet on this point, and his absence from the gathering, as having intel assets embedded with the enemy is always a prudent approach to counter insurgency operations.
Finally, the time comes. The children, though freshly sated on breakfast treats and aware that easter baskets awaited them, were ravenous for the promised glories of many plastic eggs in the yard, and for the challenge of collecting more high fructose corn syrup than the others.
The rules are laid out as the adults settle into lawn chairs with steaming coffee mugs. Upon a signal from Dad deep inside the tree line of the shrubbery marking their property line, a glint of light from his signal mirror, Mom releases the horde upon the battleground.
At first, the children sense nothing amiss. Dad has always made the easter egg hunt a challenging but reasonable affair, so it is no surprise that after a few minutes only two eggs have been found. Their contents on the other hand began to concern them. One held a stack of circular paper discs, with “BX/PX – 25C” on them, the other a small pile of moist brown mush, which smelled an awful lot like the stuff in the tins that Dad would flick hard before opening.
Dad had decided to give them the motivation of PX pogs and dip so they wouldn’t give up too easily. Bait for the trap.
The children began to split up in order to search in more difficult areas, hoping to strike it rich while they were alone. Their first and most devastating mistake.
The first child to reach the wood pile was completely obscured from the view of the others as the bush suddenly became bipedal and snatched him from the ground, keeping him silent as he was whisked away.
Moments later, there was a short yelp from behind Dad’s shed, and then silence. Mom smiled behind her coffee cup; this day had been a long time coming, and she was particularly proud of the pit she had helped Dad camouflage behind the shed. Two down, four to go.
Mom’s sister began to feel a little concerned but couldn’t place her finger on why… The remaining children were going in and out of view. A small, pudgy fist lifted an egg into the air with a triumphant air! Against the stated rules, he did not bring the egg back before opening it.
Rules are rules for a reason, as he immediately discovered; this container was less of an egg as it was a victim initiated foam explosive. Silly string burst forth from the ovoid container with a compressed will now free to the world.
Dripping foamy goop behind him, the boy ran inside.
Another brightly colored egg shone from the inside of the water hose reel attracting the attention of a little girl. She too decided to break her egg open early, in clear violation of the rules of engagement, but instead of exploding foam, the container held chocolate! Paydirt!
Stumbling to unwrap the delicate foil, the girl crammed the chocolate into her mouth, bit down, and immediately began spitting the candy onto the ground, trying desperately to cleanse her palette of the novelty chocolate that tasted somewhere between olives and licorice. She rushed inside to the nearest sink.
One remains, still ardently searching for the multicolored candy caches, but Dad is still in the wind. The young girl approaches the fence line where the array of bird feeders is mounted.
Perhaps a splash of color was poking out from behind the grass below? As she bends over to pick at the splotch of crabgrass, a solitary ‘thwok’ rings out over the yard. From a prone position between the base of the garbage cans, Dad fired his Nerf sniper rifle, with specially modified foam darts with air foils and a weighted body.
The dark blue dart flies true and hits the girl, center mass. She should have moved from cover to cover.
Mom stands up as Dad exits his covered position. The fight is over, and the operator smiles as Mom brings him a beer and kisses his cheek. “Alright, Rambo, you had your fun. Let’s give them the real eggs.”
“Real eggs? What real eggs?” he says, as he slings the Nerf rifle and gazes toward the still rising sun. A warm wind blows across his face. Dad frowns as he remembers where he is. “Just messin’. Let's go in.”