I’ll get back to the battle for Middle Earth shortly, but this “moment in sports” is just too good not to share.
It was Gus’s first summer baseball tournament this past weekend, and after the highs (2-2 with a home run!) and lows (some tears shed from a rough pitching outing) of the Arlington Thunder’s first game, we zipped out with his pal Jack for a quick bite before game two.
One burger later, we found ourselves with a little extra time on our hands (they don’t call it fast food for nothing). As we wended our way out of the parking lot, just past the pediatric dentist which either had a volcano or the world’s worst abscessed tooth on its roof, was the familiar red bull’s-eye of Tar-zhay.
“Ooh, please can we go? PLEASE!?!” the boys erupted in unison. “Why in the world would you want to go there?” I asked, mentally ticking off the bathroom cleaner, kitty litter, and fresh underwear on my shopping list. “For the toys,” they said, completely incredulous.
And so we headed in, their bodies pulled directly into the vortex of playthings on the far side of the great maze of consumerism. After the requisite boy teasing (“Oh, you want this Hello Kitty purse!” “Well, you want this Teletubbies play set!”) Jack settled into the Nerf weaponry section, deciding whether the projectiles looked more realistic in a solid palate or in camouflage, while Gus was staring-down the super-hero figures (Never, EVER, call them dolls…Seriously.).
For while Lord of the Rings is still his major fiction passion, I finally broke down a week ago and allowed him to start watching Batman Begins, the first of the Christopher Nolan trilogy. For while The Dark Knight, and from what I am seeing, The Dark Knight Rises are extremely dark, very adult tales, I felt that the first film was, while certainly not cartoonish, is a story an 11-year-old could handle.
Indeed I felt the realism of the film might actually be useful in offsetting the fun, but desensitizing levels of violence in other Super Hero films he had been watching lately, most notably the new Marvel movies like The Avengers, Thor, and Captain America. Indeed, I found that, at least for Gus, giving him more context actually helped him put the violence in better perspective than the “harmless” violence in the more comic book-style movies, just as Lord of the Rings helped him with processing what happened to his cousin on 9/11.
Needless to say, Batman Begins is now his favorite of all the Super Hero films, and he looked lustfully at the five-figure Batman/Catwoman/Bane figure set selling for a robust $22.99. He had a gift card sitting at home from his birthday party, and when I told him I would spot him the money and just take his gift card when we got home, the box left the shelf at the speed of avarice.
After a big win in the second game, we trekked our way back home and celebrated together with a Chinese dinner. Of course, our table at Asian Kitchen became a battleground as Gus and Jack created their own Dark Knight Rises plot, which consisted mostly of guttural noises as the five figures beat the unholy hell out of each other.
Our table was actually in a fairly high-traffic area, as it nestled next to a large tank which housed two gorgeous serpentine white fish. Children and adults like would stop by to look at the undulations of these lovely creatures. The boys would take the occasional peep up to answer a question or take a bite of food, then it was back to Gotham with a vengeance.
That is, until they came.
Four platinum pigtails attached to two beautiful young ladies bobbed their way toward the tank—toward us. Dressed in matching magenta summer jumpers, the Pink Ladies’ approach immediately triggered my son’s girl-dar. “Quick, hide the toys!” Gus commanded, as Jack had his back to the approaching storm. “Huh? Why?” Jack retorted. Gus’s huge blue eyes widened in an urgency that bordered panic. He nodded his head toward the Pink Ladies as subtly as possible for an 11-year-old boy, which of course looked more like a muscle spasm. Jack swiveled his head, and I could swear it just kept turning, Exorcist-style, back into place. And, in a flash, all evidence of Bane, Catwoman, and Batman were gone. Just two boys sitting politely with their hands resting under the table. Nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.
“Uh, pretty cool fish, huh?” Gus blurted as the Pink Ladies stood mesmerized by the spectacle. “Yeah, they’re beautiful,” said the taller one, a small smile creeping on her face as she glanced down at the table. The boys looked at each other, their arms moving toward the center of the table as if seized by a magnet.
About ten seconds later, the Pink Ladies made their way back to their table. And about ten seconds after that, Bane and Batman battled once again. And if ever there was a clearer battle between the boys they are and the men they are becoming, I have not seen it.
Me, I’m rooting for both sides to win.