Clarence knelt in the grass, large backpack weighing him down. He probably should have zipped it back up after getting out his sunscreen, but it was too late for that now; his victim was making his way cautiously towards him.
Poor bloke doesn’t stand a chance, thought Clarence, hands on his remote control, ready to activate his trap.
His target was almost in range. Just one more step…
Clarence pushed the button on his home-made remote, causing the trap underneath his target’s foot to latch on.
“Ow!” shouted the man in the trap. “Clarence! What the devil, man?”
Clarence jumped up from his hiding spot. “Not all of us are athletic, Steve! Gotta use our God-given talents as best we can.” Clarence saluted his friend – still trapped and trying to pry himself free – and ran ahead, swiping one of the flags attached to Steve’s waist as he passed.
It had been nearly two decades since Clarence had played a game of capture the flag. Growing up, it was his favorite past time. Now, he preferred video games and building things – like his traps. But, when the letter invite came from his childhood friends for just one more game (for old time’s sake, according to Missy), he had to oblige. After all, what better way to test out his new burglar traps than in a friendly game of capture the flag?
Clarence stopped next to a wall near the sidewalk that separated the two sides. He could still hear Steve cursing behind him. Clarence chuckled.
Peeking over the short stone wall, Clarence could see Missy pacing back and forth a ways off. Missy would be guarding their flag. There was no sign of Logan, their other team mate. Clarence would have to be careful.
A body slammed into the wall beside him, making Clarence practically jump out of his skin. When he saw who it was, he punched him in his big, beefy arm.
“Jumpy much?” asked Donavan, gripping a shovel with one of his massive hands. Clarence wondered if he could have been as large as his friend was if he had just eaten his vegetables.
“Don’t do that!” said Clarence. “You about broke through the wall and gave me away!”
“Please,” said Clarence. “Missy’s about as deaf as they come.”
“Yeah, but her psycho cats sure aren’t.”
Donavan winked. “Leave the cats to me.”
Without another word, the big, hulking man brought down his shovel and began digging a hole underneath the wall. A minute later he had shimmied through the hold and was out on the other side. Clarence shook his head. Some things just didn’t change.
Hoping to use Donavan as a distraction, Clarence poked his head around the side of the wall and, finding it all clear, snuck into enemy territory. He crept across the grass, listening for any indication that he was being followed. It was quiet, which Clarence found odd, considering Donavan was heading towards the other team’s flag. Clarence doubted he would even try to hide, relying on his shovel to get him out of trouble.
As if on cue, a loud, manly scream erupted from further on. Clarence dropped to the ground, hoping his green striped shirt would help him blend in with the grass. Donavan ran past Clarence’s hiding spot. As he ran, he walloped himself with the handle of his shovel over and over.
Clarence realized why he ran. Missy’s cats had found him and latched themselves to his body. They were quick, too, because every time Donavan took a swing, the cats would move out of harms way. Clarence shuddered. Missy had a reputation for surrounding herself with evil, vicious cats, whose claws were sharp as daggers and used them as piercing weapons.
Clarence sunk as low to the ground as he could. The last thing he wanted were a few puncture wounds on his body.
This is why I work on computers, he thought. No deranged cats trying to kill me there.
As the sounds of the terrified Donavan faded in the distance, Clarence knew it was now or never. Missy’s cats were preoccupied, Steve was most likely still trapped, and no sign of Logan meant he would be on the attack, trying to capture Clarence’s flag. He sure hoped Mia was in position to catch Logan if he got too close.
Scrambling to his feet, Clarence took off at a run, backpack jostling as he went. He scanned the area as he ran, searching for his target. The flag had to be nearby.
Something moved on the ground not twenty yards in front of him. He looked closer, hoping it wasn’t another bloody cat. As the breeze picked up again, Clarence saw a white flag billow up from the ground. He looked up from the flag. There, clad in her bright orange pants to match her fiery hair, stood Missy. They locked eyes.
Clarence did some quick calculations in his head. At their distance from the flag, Clarence would have an extra six seconds before Missy got close enough to steal the flag back. It would have to be enough.
He took off at a sprint, running straight for the flag. Missy ran, too. His mind raced as fast as – if not faster than – his body. At her current speed, he would have a bit more time than anticipated. She was slower than she used to be. Good; he could use that to his advantage.
He neared the flag and slid on top of it, grabbing it with his free hand. He held the remote in his other hand. Clarence quickly pushed himself up and started back towards his side of the playing area. With no cats to chase him, Clarence was all but home free.
He let out a puff of air as something wrapped around his torso, pulling his arms close to his side. He dropped the flag. Oh no…
He looked over his shoulder as he struggled to keep from being pulled backwards. Logan had showed up with his blasted lasso. He was trapped!
Missy slowed to a walk, breathing hard. Clarence could see the pleasure in her eyes as Logan slowly reeled him in. Clarence struggled, but the rope was too tight.
An idea struck him.
Without thinking to make sure it could actually work, Clarence turned and ran towards Logan. Missy, now next to the modern cowboy, jumped back in surprise. Clarence dove to the ground face first, as he had no use of his arms. But it was enough.
He dropped the remote as he fell, and it landed just in front of his face, and his last trap fell out of his open backpack and rolled towards Logan. As it neared, Logan went to kick it away.
Bad move, buddy.
As Logan’s foot connected with the trap, Clarence smashed his face down on the remote, activating the trap. Logan howled in pain.
“Why you yeller-bellied…!”
Clarence didn’t wait around for what would inevitably be a string of profanities. Logan, in shock and pain, had released his hold on the lasso and was now trying desperately to free himself. Clarence shrugged off the lasso, grabbed his remote and took off towards where he dropped the flag.
He picked it up at full speed, not daring to slow down. Missy would undoubtedly be right behind him. Clarence neared the wall. Either he could take some extra time and go around, or use the hole Donavan had made earlier. As tired from running as he was, he didn’t want to take any more time and energy to take the long way around.
He bee lined it for the hole.
Clarence closed the gap faster than he thought possible. So this is what it’s like to have an adrenaline rush, he mused. He ran, mere feet from the hole. Victory was achievable! As a kid, he had never been able to do well carrying the flag. He smiled. How things have changed.
He neared the hole, ready to dive in.
Clarence stopped dead in his tracks. Steve had vaulted the wall, landing right in front of him. His leg looked thoroughly chewed up from his trap, though; it had done well.
Clarence looked up and noticed a white flag billowing in Steve’s hand.
“Nice try,” said Steve. “But it looks like we win.”
Clarence dropped to his knees, realizing how incredibly out of breath he had become. After all that work and planning…after being mere feet from winning, Steve had once again stolen the show, making Clarence – and his team – lose in epic fashion.
Some things, it would seem, just didn’t change.