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WHAT IT'S LIKE
BY GAVIN McCALL
I shot a soldier today. The first time it was a good shot, lucky. The log he was lying behind was too skinny for him, and from where I was hiding behind a fat stump I could see his butt sticking out, so I shot it.

Even behind his mask, he looked surprised when he looked to see who shot him, so I donít think he knew I was there. Or maybe he just looked surprised because thatís the way you look when you get shot in the butt, even if itís just paint. After I shot him, his teammates took the hill next to our base and shot my dad and brother and the rest of my team, except for me because I knew how to give up by holding my gun up over my head.

The next time I shot the soldier, we were face to face, hiding behind two big metal cans the paintball people put there for us to hide behind. We were taking turns poking our heads out and shooting at each other the way good guys and bad guys do in cowboy movies and police movies. Then I started thinking, if heís taking the same turns as I am, why shouldnít I just pop out and shoot out of order, right before he sticks his head out? So I did.

It worked, sort of, but I also learned why people donít do that in a real fight, or in the movies. I got hit too. I could see my paintball flying towards him when he was still looking out, and the ball dipped down enough to smack him in the head. It made the top of his mask and his short hair turn all bright green. Then his shot hit me right in the middle of my mask, and all I could see was yellow.

I got shot two more times that day, but not by the soldier. I didnít see his green-smeared mask again until after our games were over and everybody was back at the tables, taking their masks and padded shirts off and emptying the extra paintballs from their guns. I stopped from emptying my gun to go talk to the marine. I wanted to tell him to make sure he didnít shoot with somebody else thatís like me, that doesnít know how to shoot in order, that doesnít know how to not make both guys lose.

But instead the only thing I could say when he looked up from undoing his boots was Is that what itís like?

He asked me Is what what itís like?

Shooting, I said. I pointed at his camouflage bag with a sewed patch that said S. MORRISSEY in big black letters.

No, he said after a little while. He started to take off his boot. I donít think so

I couldnít make myself tell him what I wanted to tell him so I walked back to Dad and my brother and we drove home.

Now when I think about paintballing it makes me wonder if maybe I helped the soldier anyway. I wonder if maybe when he got sent away and started shooting at people for real heíd watch his butt and not shoot with people who donít know how not to hit and get hit at the same time, but I donít know. I didnít tell him. All I could do was ask Is that what itís like? and I wish I told him what I wanted to tell him but I didnít and now I canít anymore.

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