Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” is a well-known, time honored classic that, to this day, is often praised for its wise, philosophical perspective on armed combat. Being in my line of work, it should then come as no surprise to you that there was a time when I once studied this work in great detail. Okay, okay; so I skimmed through it once during a commercial break while I was watching Everybody Loves Raymond, it still makes me somewhat of an authority, and as such, I feel righteously empowered to tell you that most of it’s just a bunch of crap.
There was, however, something in there about “knowing your enemy” that made at least a little bit of sense to me, and, not being one to waste good insight, regardless of where it might have come from, I took the liberty to modify that particular bit of wisdom and include it into my own personal “Guidelines of Warfare”, the entire text of which is printed below:
1) Know where your enemy is2) Shoot at him a lot
While never having received quite the critical media acclaim as other publications dealing with the same subject matter, many laymen have embraced my philosophy for its simplicity, no-nonsense approach, and ease of implementation.
As proof of my own confidence in this strategy, you should be aware that at this point, I jumped to my feet, aimed my gun in the direction of Zodar, and started scratching my trigger finger.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
I paused and glared out through the smoke – steel eyed, adrenaline pumping – watching for any movement. I wasn’t sure if I’d hit him or not, but I was pretty certain that I’d at least made a valid point to him regarding my current mood. Then, just to make sure he didn’t think I was kidding, I let go a few more.
BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, moose. I stopped again and gave him time to chew on it a while.
“I see you’ve changed weapons on me,” Zodar said from somewhere on the far side of the room. “You’re carrying an automatic now too.”
“No, I’m not. I just reload really, really, fast.”
There was a moment of hesitation before his reply, and when it finally came, it came with a hint of uncertainty.
“I . . . I guess you do at that,” he said.
He was rattled. I could feel it. And about time, too. Up until now, Zodar had been playing with a stacked deck, showing trump after trump. But I’d finally found a card that he couldn’t match; when it came to pulling a trigger, nobody was faster than Dick Lassiter. Now if I could just get a good look at his furry ass, I’d square my sights and end this once and for all.
I risked a quick glance down at my feet. Jimmy was as horizontal as a man can get, either still cowering or sound asleep, I couldn’t tell. I gave him a nudge with my foot and, moments later, he was up by my side.
“Time to button him up,” I said.
My gun still raised, we started moving slowly toward the other side of room. Normally, we would have started moving quickly toward the other side of the room, but we had to stop every two feet to climb over those damn metal rails. But it was either that or walk between the rails and look like a couple of idiots zigzagging back and forth.
We were halfway there, and I was straddled over another railing, when I saw a soda can skitter across the floor towards the roller coaster. A soda can with big old honkin’ antlers that is. Sorry Zodar, not this time. I wasn’t falling for that again.
I took a bead on him, but just as I pulled the trigger, my foot slipped off the metal bar where some punk kid had spilled ice cream on it or something. Luckily, I only fell about six inches, at which point my fall was broken as the railing came into firm contact with my crotch.
What should have been the period at the end of the sentence instead slammed harmlessly into the floor several feet behind the scrambling can, sending chips of concrete screaming into the far wall.
And speaking of screaming, I was doing a little of that myself as I stared at the ceiling and admired a few new constellations that I hadn’t noticed before. Jimmy had seen what had happened and reacted accordingly.
“Duuuuuude!” he said, “Oh man, that had to hurt.”
In a typical male sympathy reaction, he grabbed his own crotch with both hands and – half-staggering, half-hopping – limped around in circles, sharing my pain.
“Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Oh dude, you’re hatin’ it. Ohhhhh, man, that’s gonna leave a mark.”
I grit my teeth and focused all of my energy in an attempt to clear my head. After what seemed like an eternity, a few of the stars at last flickered and went out. Then, in the lowest tone of voice I could muster, I said, “Jimmy, help me down.”
“Right. Help you down,” he said.
Very slowly – and very carefully – Jimmy helped me raise my leg over the bar until I was once again standing gingerly on terra firma with both feet. I took a few tentative steps to see how my motor skills were working. Definitely not 100%, but I’d recover. As the last of the fog lifted from my mind, I became aware of an unusual mechanical hum and, seconds later, of lights flashing.
“Quick, Jimmy!” I yelled in a voice that was still a little high in tone, “He’s getting away!”
With no hope of jumping the rails in my present condition, we ran/hobbled along the forced pathway as fast as we could toward the roller coaster, now alive and starting to move. Zodar was in the front car, back in full moose form. He was smiling at us as he raised his automatic.
Jimmy and I were sitting ducks. Hell, we probably even looked a little like ducks, moving back and forth across the room as we maneuvered through the human cattle chutes. Didn’t matter though.
I was mad, and I wasn’t thinking about taking cover now. I was thinking about where I could find a good taxidermist.
“I’m sorry it has to end this way, Lassiter,” Zodar said smugly. “Unlike my former country, I will not fold under the pressure of a capitalist regime that exists solely to oppress the – ”
Fortunately for us, at that moment the front car of the roller coaster, with Dr. Pontification still firmly in its grasp, disappeared from view on its way into the darkness of Space Mountain.
Hey, you snooze, you lose. He had his shot.
Unfortunately for us, the remaining cars of the coaster were following the first in a smart, orderly fashion.
“Hurry, Jimmy!” I urged. “We’ve got to get on that coaster!”
Finally, mercifully, we rounded the last bend of the rails and came into the clear. Most of the roller coaster was gone from view now, and the few cars that remained were rapidly disappearing as they picked up speed.
Fighting pain, nausea, and fatigue, we ran as fast as we could across the loading platform and jumped into the very last car just as it slid behind the wall.
We crumpled to the floor and were enveloped by darkness.