Lessons in the Art of War: Part One
Recap of a daring rescue
There are three rules I like to follow at the beach:
Avoid getting my shoes sandy.
Avoid getting my skin tanned.
Avoid getting my hair wet.
I’m not a big fan of sunshine or sea spray, though I do enjoy building sandcastles and collecting seashells. But sometimes even that gets old. So when our hosts in Florida treated us to a beach-side barbecue in March, I got to try out my kite. It was a petite purple nylon thing with two green tails, tailored for traveling.
Flying conditions were top notch: clear skies, steady wind, no crowd in sight. Most of the company was either swimming further down the coast or chatting by the barbecue grills. With help from a friend, my kite was airborne in no time. Everything could have been perfect if a jealous tree hadn’t decided to hold it hostage.
That tree had no business growing by the beach. It was coarse and stubby, less than half the height of its long-legged, coconut-bearing cousins. Its hair was a maze of branches that tapered off into haphazard split ends. Dead leaves and bits of bark littered its base, evidence of past temper tantrums.
My friend tugged on the string a couple of times, trying to pull the kite free. The leaves hissed and tightened their grip. I threw some pebbles to knock the kite loose. Stray twigs rained down, forcing me to duck. I tried again, this time with a branch. Ominous cracks rang through the air before the tree spat it at my feet. I picked it up and saw missing limbs.
Tree: 1 Us: 0
I looked at my friend, face solemn. How could we defeat the enemy unarmed?
Luckily, someone came prepared. Seeing our distress, fellow blogger/violinist/martial artist Kevin Yang offered the services of his Chinese sword. This was accomplished by taking off his shoes, climbing the tree and jabbing the branches. But the kite was too far up.
General Yang gathered his troops for a full-frontal assault. Three orchestra guys simultaneously launched rocks, twigs, and a tennis ball at the canopy, while a fourth sent intermittent blasts with a bright pink Frisbee.
But the cunning tree trapped the Frisbee in its clutches. Attempts to free it with the tennis ball failed when the tree took that hostage, too.
Tree: 2 Us: 0
“We need something heavier!” General Yang barked.
Someone ran back with fresh ammunition: an unopened bottle of water. With renewed vigor, the troops resumed their attack. In the meantime, I was trying to ease the kite loose with the string. Maybe jiggling would work?
I stood on tiptoes, edging my way around the bushy-haired beast while gently tugging left and right, left and right. At one point the kite shifted, giving me hope---but it was a vicious ruse, designed to trap the kite even higher in the branches.
“It’s not looking good,” my friend murmured. “We might have to cut the string.” My heart faltered at the words, just as someone yelled:
I glanced at the front lines in time to see the water bottle miss one of our allies’ heads by inches. A close call. Team Orchestra gathered for a brief, tense discussion. Uncertainty and doubt hung thick in the air.
Tree: 3 Us: -1
They decided to give the bottle to one who could throw fast and far. His goal was to recover either the Frisbee or the tennis ball, then use their combined strength to aim for the kite. It was the best chance for success.
“Should we cut it?” my friend asked.
“I don’t know.” I replied, one eye watching the flying water bottle. “Maybe.”
“More to the left!”
Their aim was improving. Once they even hit the Frisbee, though it didn’t fall down.
“There’s too many leaves in the way,” my friend added. “The string’s getting stuck on all of them.”
I squinted at my kite, a pitiful, crumpled mess fifteen feet up. Every tug on the string only tangled it further in the branches.
“All right, let’s do it.” I agreed, jerking swiftly. The string snapped and fell limp in my hands. My connection to the kite was broken.
Around the same time, a collective wail rose from our troops. I looked back and saw five empty-handed boys. I looked up and saw light reflecting off a plastic water bottle nestled snugly in the branches.
“You have got to be kidding me....”
To be continued...
May 18, 2012