Mariana and I sipped stiff cuba libres in our parents’ backyard. We stood beneath the patio roof as my brother-in-law, Rick, and my dad prepared the grill with lighter fluid and charcoal. The first drink I slurped down produced an immediate giddying effect. I’d slept for shit the night before which is why I thirsted for that caffeine-liquor kick. At some point, while we flashed the gab, Rick mentioned these Super Soakers he had in their car trunk. He bought them to shoot around with his four-year old nephew. He typically left the water guns in their garage but he figured I might want to have a showdown with him on a hot, summer afternoon in Fremont.
I said hell yeah.
Before long, Rick stepped into the backyard through the living room’s sliding screen door holding both Super Soakers. He looked like a Mexican Terminator with those big guns in hand, small backpacks containing water slung around his shoulder. Rick belonged at a pool party in Tijuana with that beer gut and white sun cap of his. He handed me one of the water guns.
“You can make it shoot like a shotgun if you pull back on it like this,” Rick said, pumping the handle on the gun barrel, then pointing it at the patch of lawn beside us. He pulled the plastic lever at the top of the gun. It shot a gorgeous gob of water.
“Whoa, cool!” I said, pumping the gun’s handle. I pointed it at the side of the house, a few feet away. I pulled back the lever and chortled with mischievous glee when I saw the splatter of water on the wall. Then I yelped as I felt a cold wet sensation on my side. I peered down at my shirt, saw a wet spot, then looked at Rick. He was grinning boyishly. His water gun was pointed at me. He hit me with another stream of water.
“Aaaaaaaahhh!” I screamed, raising my gun to shoot him in the face.
It was on!
We stood our ground, frantically pumping the handle on our guns while we soaked each other, filling the backyard with our screams and laughter. I retreated back into the lawn, bobbing behind one of the wooden beams that supported the patio roof. Rick rushed over in my direction, ducking and scurrying around a small table while shooting in my direction. I quickly pumped the gun a few times and ran over at him, stepping into his line of H2O-fire in order to blast him, point blank, with a shotgun blast to his chest. He groaned dramatically.
Rick scampered off, disappearing in the side alley on his way toward the front lawn. I dropped my gun, slung off the backpack, and managed to wrench off my soaking-wet T-shirt.
“Your ass is mine, Hernandez!” I roared, running out into the front yard. He was nowhere in sight. I crept along the side of the house, pointing my gun toward the driveway.
“You can’t hide for long, you cock fag!” I shouted. (Back then, it was one of our favorite inappropriate insults; it was the only time I used that “f” word—sober that is. In Life Outside Rick-land, I immediately dislike anyone who utters that word.)
He stepped out and into my line of water-fire. We retreated back to Mariana’s car, parked in the driveway. We blasted it out, ducking, bobbing around the car, roaring insults that could be heard throughout the residential street (mostly me), shooting rainbows of water over the car until we ran out of ammo. Rick fled, giggling on his way to the backyard. I darted over to the hose by the front door to load my gun with water.
In the backyard, Rick cowered beside Mariana. He was hosed—soaked head to toe. I continued to shoot him without dousing my sister. Vanquished, he stepped back, covering his face. I walked up to him and delivered a shotgun blast. Rick staggered away, his back to me, while I aimed low, drenching his rear. He flopped on the lawn and rolled up into a protective ball. “Stop! Stop!” he said, laughing, holding out a hand while I soaked his crotch.
It had been some time since I had laughed with abandon.