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Some call it “Keep Away.” Others have affectionately named it “Monkey in the Middle.” In the arena that is our vacation pool, it’s called “Death Ball.”
“Why?” you ask. Let me tell you.
The game involves a rubber ball, and in our watery bouts—which, mind you, are never for the weak—it is an inflatable sphere adorned with the terror-inducing characters from the Disney movie “Frozen.” The ball is just small enough to be gripped by most with one hand, and large enough that it can’t be held too tightly lest an opponent never be able to steal it away. It is slippery, especially when handled by children buttered with sunscreen, and it stings when it hits bare skin.
The game is blinding fast. The water churns and foams when the battle ensues.
A point is given for each possession. In other words, if one player manages to toss it to another of the same team, a point is given. If the ball is lost in a splashing, blood-water melee outmatched only by a shark attack, the one who emerges from the depths with the ball—child or shark—gains a point for his or her team. Beyond this, there are very few rules other than the bigger players must be mindful of the smaller players. Still, you can shove, grab, and do anything reasonably necessary—other than drowning or clawing your opponent—to get the ball. You can only get out of the pool to retrieve the ball. If you exit for any reason other than the need to use the bathroom, your team loses a point. If a player discerns that you’ve chosen to forego a trip to the bathroom, chancing a quick pee in the pool in order to stay in the contest, your team loses five points.
And by the way, the ball can be thrown as fast or spiked as hard as the little white-skinned Michiganders can rocket it, even if the unsuspecting receiver ends up with a swollen and stinging image of Olaf on his forehead.
You snooze, you lose, friend. This is Death Ball. Suck it up.
Okay, so, maybe it isn’t this brutal. And no one has ever peed in the pool. At least not that I’ve discovered. But as I said, the game does get pretty loud and fast-paced, and the kids love it. Although, I think the neighbors are eagerly awaiting our departure. There’s something about a vicious game of Death Ball going on at the villa next door that’s certain to ruin your backyard barbecue.
But it could be worse. You could be flipping burgers and sipping from a dram of Big House Straight Bourbon. Let me tell you, this stuff is most definitely a bare-skinned wounding from Elsa and Anna at a hundred miles an hour.
There’s a medicinal burn to the nose—something like heated polyurethane. Or perhaps it’s more the sensation of the Death Ball ricocheting off of your face toward the poolside lounge chairs while leaving behind the smell from the bin at Walmart where you first retrieved it. Sure, there’s a little bit of something sweet in there, but the burn is what’s most noticeable.
The palate gives over the taste of bitter vanilla, as if your tongue was out when you were hit by the Death Ball and you managed to ingest some of the greasy Coppertone lathered on its surface. Not good, that is unless you sunbathe with your mouth open.
I wish the finish was short, but it’s not. It’s medium. And it’s pretty much everything you get from the nose and palate, except you can add to the list an oak plank that was used to cook whitefish. In all, I think I’d much rather be in prison than drink this Bourbon named after one. And I suppose that if the Thoma family isn’t careful to take steps toward getting its Death Ball matches under control, the neighbors might place a phone call to the ones who can see to such things.