They are on the swings together at the park up the street, Stephen in the left swing and the boy in the right swing.
“MiGs at two o’clock!” the boy yells. “Break right?”
They swing higher and harder.
“You got one coming around on you, Ice,” says Stephen.
“Can you get him, Mav?” says the boy.
“I’m on him.”
Stephen makes jet sounds, then missile sounds, then an explosion. “Splashed that bogey!” he yells.
The boy says, “Okay, now we’re the 101st Airborne. Get ready for the drop!”
They swing as high as the small jungle gym allows, and the boy yells, “Go, go, go!”
They leap from the swings, land hard, do forward rolls, and pop up to grab play rifles they placed in the grass.
“Down low, Lieutenant,” says the boy.
“Yes, Captain,” says Stephen.
They hit the dirt and weeds with their chests. They scan the hot, empty field with their rifles. “Platoon of ten moving at 10 o’clock,” says the boy. “I got the lead.”
He opens fire, making an automatic weapon fire with his mouth. Stephen opens fire too.
“Platoon leader down!”
“Tail of the platoon down!”
They hear a jet overhead, and now bombs are falling all around them.
“It’s a trap! Fall back!” the boy yells.
They jump up, and they execute a fighting retreat from the park to their house and up the driveway. The boy opens the gate, keeping his foot in front of Peanut’s face to keep him from escaping. They slip into the backyard.
“Establish the perimeter!” the boy yells.
They have a bag of stuffed animals, and now, they set them up in a line facing the front yard and the family room. They also put out additional play guns and pistols next to each of the stuffed animals.
“I’m gonna radio for an additional drop!” Stephen says.
“Great idea, Lieutenant!”
They both hustle to the six-foot-tall wood fence. They gently toss their rifles onto the playhouse roof, which backs up to the fence. Then they take turns scaling the fence and getting onto the roof. On top of the roof, they each have an assortment of 6-inch plastic Cabbage Patch dolls, army men, and plastic monsters. They have tied two strings to each arm of each character, and at the ends of the strings are H-E-B plastic bags, carefully folded so as not to tangle when launched.
“Lieutenant Laws requesting additional drop support. Do you copy? Over?” He repeats it and then yells, “Colonel, the Russians are about to overrun our position!”
Stephen looks at the boy. “All right. Drop permission granted and drop initiated.”
Now they take turns tossing their plastic men off the roof. They count one-mississippi, two-mississippi as each man’s parachute unfolds and they flutter to the ground.
“Dude, six seconds for Lee!” the boy says.
“Bobby got seven!” says Stephen.
They toss the last couple of men down, and then the boy says, “Now us!”
He jumps high into the air and hits feet first on the driveway payment before dropping into a roll. Stephen lands right next to him.
“The first line is breached!” the boy yells. “Paratroopers, form up!”
They place the men in line about three feet apart from the garage to the playhouse.
“Now to the machine gun pits!” the boy yells.
While Kevin was still there a week before, they had gotten bored, and their mother had told them to dig holes in the garden and then fill them in. Instead, they each dug holes deeper than four feet, and they had positioned their plastic tanks and army men around to play. They had left the holes and the mounds of dirt, and now, they use them as trenches and earthworks.
They hop into separate holes, and the boy yells, “Man the machine gun, Lieutenant! Here they come!”
Stephen begins making the sounds of a machine gun firing. The boy shoots his rifle. Then he reaches down to the bottom of the hole where he has placed two grenades. These are real pineapple grenades that he bought at the GI Surplus store and that are now inactive. He throws the first to the middle of the grass and makes an explosion sound. At least twenty Russians die.
“You’re doing great, Lieutenant! The line is holding!”
Stephen keeps firing. The boy tosses the next grenade, and now at least twenty more Russians die.
After a few more minutes of shooting, they notice that Peanut has grabbed one of the Cabbage Patch characters and is trying to chew him into pieces.
“Dang it, Peanut! You’re killing Lee!” the boy yells.
“Maybe he’s a Russian dog,” Stephen says.
“Cover me,” the boy says. And he dashes from the hole to retrieve the chewed up figure. Stephen makes machine gun fire noise.
Once the boy has it, he walks slowly back to the hole and says, “Wanna go make lunch?”
“Yeah,” says Stephen. “I’m hongry.” He says the word like it has an “ah” sound.
When they enter the back kitchen door, their mom is finishing emptying the dishwasher.
“Who won?” she says.
“The Americans, of course,” says the boy.
“We had to parachute in the Green Berets,” says Stephen. “It was close.”
“Sounds good,” says Mom.