The second story in the Winter Prose Competition 2011 series.
The man made his way towards the shack slowly, breathing on his hands to keep them warm from the cold. With the exception of the bathroom, the shack was the only building around, surrounded by a snowcapped forest and a field that contained several bunkers and barriers made of wood, concrete, or some other material. This was the speedballing field that had been set aside for players who wanted a fast paced game, compared to the woodsball arena, which was inside the forest itself. Hardly any players ever got lost in the woods but Marcus had set up a yellow tape boundary just in case the situation arose again.
Cold wind rushed through the shack as he opened the door. He shut it quickly and tossed his jacket onto a small recliner that was located in front of a fireplace. He hadn't even made it to his desk yet when the telephone beside the rentable paintballs began to ring. He scratched his head before picking up the phone, uttering a monotone "Yup."
"This Fox Paintball Field?"
"Yes sir, what can I do for you?"
"A couple of my buddies drove up from Florida, want to try paintballing for the first time. Think you can hook us up with some gear and guns?"
Marcus stared at the rack that carried well over twelve paintball markers. Most of them were in pretty good shape, having been cleaned and checked on by himself. However it was always the groups with more than two new players that put him in a disagreeable mood. More often than not the markers would be returned in a horrible state, being covered in paint and mud. "How many people we taking about?"
"Just me and three of my buddies."
"As long as they can pay for themselves you can come on up." The person on the other line thanked him before hanging up, leaving Marcus alone. He sat on his chair for a few minutes, wondering if he should bother calling any of his friends to help him referee or be opponents for the coming party. "Let's see, Connor's still on that cruise with his girl and Frank's not going to come in this weather…" he tapped his forehead several times, wondering if there was anyone else from his old paintballing team that would like to come. A thought popped into his head and he began to dial.
"Hello Barb? Yeah this is Mark calling; yes I've been fine. You think you can get Harry on the line for me? Thanks."
Harrison "Harry" Wilson used to be his team's captain, their tactician and their primary mode of transportation. He was several years older than most of their team, having used a pump-action marker for most of his paintballing career before switching to a semi-auto. But that was a while ago and Marcus wasn't sure if the old timer would be up for a game.
"Make it snappy."
"Hey old timer, you still on the couch I saw you on Christmas Day?" Marcus said.
The old timer laughed. "Nah, got off that about an hour ago. Now I'm on the bed watching some cartoon with me grandson. Crazy kid is watching some bloody walking sponge whipping snowballs at a starfish. Anyways Barb says you wanna' ask something?"
"Yeah that's right. Some new guys are coming up to the field today and I think we'll need another player. Think you can come over?"
"You try calling any of the team first?" Marcus was silent for a minute before replying. In the corner of his eye he could see a light brown car pull up to the parking lot.
"They're just pulling up Harry. You think you can come?"
"Well no, I'm taking care of Harry Junior at the moment. Tell ya' what, my daughter's picking up a friend of hers from the airport and she's also been dying for a chance to paintball again and she tells me her friend use to play. How about I send them your way? My daughter's pretty good Mark, good enough to say she's related to a shot like yours truly."
Marcus rolled his eyes before waving at the figures standing at the door. "This time I'll let you off old man. Tell her that I can set her and her friend up with some markers and paint if they need to." The two said their goodbyes and Marcus put the phone down, opening the door for three teens wearing coats and beanies. One of them had a bag with a gun barrel sticking out, thankfully covered by the barrel condom. "I'll take it you boys were the one's that phoned earlier?"
The boy with the bag nodded and outstretched his hand. "That's us man. I'm Luke and these are my bros Jake and Ryan." The two behind him waved, shivering near the fireplace. Marcus nodded at them before taking them to his desk, asking them to sign themselves in. "So like, this is in case we get injured and stuff?"
"God forbid that happens," Marcus grunted as he lifted two boxes of paintballs from underneath his desk. "But yeah this is in case one of you guys gets hurt. But as long as you follow my instructions and don't do anything stupid, you should be fine." He grabbed two markers from the shelves and handed them to the shivering teens from Florida, adding a couple of barrel plugs, two hoppers, and a squeegee that was going to be hopefully used to clean the markers. One of the boys almost dropped his marker, thanking Luke for catching it in the nick of time.
Marcus made his way past them and grabbed his coat. "Come on then gentleman, let's get you guys acquainted with the rules."
About half an hour away from Fox Fields, Jillian Wilson did her best to console her friend while driving. Her friend's head was plopped against the passenger seat window, staring lifelessly at the trees that passed them.
"Aw come on Katherine. You've got to get your mind off of him. I mean you were so excited, like, a week or two when I told you I was taking you here after the holidays."
"Yeah well that was before the jerk dumped me." Jillian sighed and patted her friend’s shoulder, eyes flittering from her to the road every other second.
"You've got to forget about him girl. Remember how many times he said he was too busy doing something to hang out with you? Heck the jerk's probably only hung with you when you were paintballing and even then you said you kicked his butt." She gave her friend a sympathetic smile before screaming and turning sharply to the right, a passing tanker honking erratically at her.
"Well for all I know he let me win." Katherine pulled her cap over her ears, an adorable panda cap that had been given to her on Christmas day by her ex. She realized this and ripped the cap off, throwing it on the ground before crossing her arms and continuing her stare down with the window.
"Well whether he did or not you're a great paintballer Katherine. Heck you were on a team, remember?" Jillian hit the brakes at a red light and mentally slapped herself in the head. She had forgotten that Katherine’s boyfriend had also been her teammate, along with her dad who had suggested them going to Fox Fields for some 'therapeutic' paintballing. "Either way, you're going to play, whether you like it or not! And who knows," she said with a sly smile. "Maybe you'll find some cute paintballing boys there."
Katherine gave her friend a weird look and rolled her eyes. "You're hilarious Jillian Wilson, you know that?" Jillian stuck her tongue out at her sarcastic friend and stepped on the gas pedal, almost hitting a passing squirrel as they passed a sign reading "Fox Paintball Field" in two miles.