Between tree limbs and fluttering leaves, the early morning sun made its presence known. Tall aspens sprinkled themselves through a forest of old evergreens and on the dirt floor of the forest sat Cooper. Cooper rested against a water damaged sheet of plywood spray painted with meaningless symbols and harmless taunts like “come and get it!” It was a silly way to spend a day, but a day of woodland paintball seemed the only to cheer up a dear friend.
Cooper and Franklin had been friends since grade school. They played in marching band together, learned to drive together, filled out college applications together, had their first jobs at the same employer and generally felt that by each other’s side nothing was impossible. Even heartbreak could be managed when they were side by side.
Mending a broken heart was what brought the two to “Edgar’s Paintball Place”, a hastily thrown together establishment that relies on Yelp reviews to convince potential patrons it is not in fact a murder hut. Franklin had spent the last six weeks moaning of a love lost. Cooper gave the usual platitudes, “nothing ventured nothing gained,” and his favorite, “it is better to have love and lost than to never have loved at all.” The words fell on ears unwilling to listen.
Cooper’s patience with Franklin’s mopey mood was growing thin. The clear solution was to go into the woods and fire paint pellets at strangers. It made sense at one point; Cooper was sure the plan made sense.
Paint splattered against the plywood protecting the two young men. It sounded like a tap dancing octopus, or really violent rain, Cooper could not decide the more apt analogy.
“Hey, remember that storm we drove through before junior year finals? I thought for sure we were going to be eaten by a tornado.” Cooper laughed. He hoped memories of easier times would lure Franklin out of his melancholy.
“Jill and I drove through a storm last summer. Hail stone broke my windshield. It was scary,” Franklin replied.
Cooper sighed and checked his air-powered paint pusher.
“Coop,” Franklin said, “I have to win her back. When we get back, I’m calling her.”
Cooper’s head drooped and before he could stop himself, he screamed.
“Uuuuuggghhhh!” He croaked.
“What?” Franklin could sense he hit a nerve.
“What? You ask me ‘what?’ First off, you can’t ‘win’ people. She is not a prize. She recognized an insurmountable flaw in your relationship and was bright enough to call it off. You are sad now because emotions suck and the chemical withdrawal you are feeling is called detok. You have a right to feel upset about the end of things, but she has that right too. Calling her pleading for a second chance diminishes even further what you two once had. Celebrate what was there, take its lessons and hope it improves you as a person,” Cooper blurted. His hands did most of the talking.
A sharp pain radiated from the back of Cooper’s arm. “Friggin’ ouch,” he shouted, wiping paint off his armpit. Franklin was tagged out a beat later. They walked off the field side by side, their team flag in the clutches of the enemy behind them.
“So that has been building for a while, eh?” Franklin asked.
“We need to be on opposite teams next round,” Cooper said.
“So you can shoot me?” Franklin asked, scared.
“So I can shoot you,” Cooper confirmed.
“That’s fair,” Franklin said.