Ships and Bent out of Shape


I don’t know how you rang in the New Year, but I was dropping bombs and waging war. I know what you’re thinking: why not just make a few resolutions that will go belly-up by February and eat black-eyed peas like the rest of the population?  Why spend the evening trying to draw a bead on someone else’s submarine when I could be drinking the last of the eggnog?  The only reason I can offer you is because I am competitive to the point of needing a prescription and because I couldn’t stand the thought of losing to a six year old with an uncanny ability to sniff out my destroyer. If I was going down, it’d be with torpedoes blazing.

I humbly confess to you that this is exactly how the war stood from my side

I humbly confess to you that this is exactly how the war looked from my side

Battleships was one of many games I played with Timothy during my three day stay. With his parents out of town and his big brother off to deliver pizzas, I felt compelled to do something with the little tyke that would drag him away from a TV screen before retinal scarring set in. So we played Sorry!, Connect 4 Toy Story style, and even Tri-Ominos, but once we set up our plastic ships and the white and red pellets started flying, I knew I’d met my match.

“D3,” Timothy said in a voice that was almost as high as his hair. He’d been tossing missiles my way for some time, and he’d finally flushed out my carrier.

“Hit,” I said, as he gave a modest exclamation of triumph and I added a red pellet to my ship. “How about G8, Tim?”

He scanned his ocean and replied in the negative. “You sure are getting a lot of misses.”

“I am indeed. Your turn.”


Sigh. “Hit.” And another red pellet to an already bleeding ship. “H4?”

“Miss.” He fished out another white pellet and let me know for the third time that he was running short on Caucasian pegs. “That’s because you’re getting a lot of misses,” he clarified.

“You’ve said that before. A few times, in fact. Now call your shot.”


“Hit and sunk.” He was an entire ship ahead of me, and if I didn’t find that dinky patrol boat of his soon, this war would be over, and I’d be an occupied nation under a dictator who demanded eggs for breakfast and thought bathing was an optional activity. “J7.”

“Miss.  You sure are getting . . .”

“Yes, Tim, I know. Now make your call.”  At least he still need to locate my submarine, so I had time to redeem myself.


Make that had time to redeem myself.  “Hit.”

He did a chair dance and three nuclear weapons later, it was all over but the fallout. As I sat surveying the board with my head in my hands, I could see how he had craftily hidden his patrol boat in the backwaters of the southeastern quadrant, but that still didn’t explain how a kid with little more than a handful of birthday digits under his belt and even fewer cuspids came equipped with such devastating military prowess. And watching him race around the room and then fling his slender body headlong into an oversized pillow reserved for their dog did nothing to shed enlightenment on the subject. So as I packed up the pellets and secured the ships in their self-contained oceanic boxes, I decided this was just a matter of you win some, you lose some. Tim understood this premise perfectly: you win some games; you lose some teeth. This is life and you might as well enjoy yourself along the way.

When unoccupied by the Royal Hound, this makes an excellent spot for a nose dive

When unoccupied by the Royal Hound, this makes an excellent spot for a nose dive

A replica of the dance performed by the new czar (minus the teeth, of course) after my fleet went up in a blaze of glory

A replica of the dance performed by the new czar (minus the teeth, of course) after my fleet went up in a blaze of glory

© 2014 – Traci Carver


22 responses »

  1. Old-school games can get dangerous in our house. We’ve had a full-on tussle break out over the Candyland board. I loved your line about the cuspids … and it was painful to read about your slow by inevitable demise on the high seas!

  2. I love battleship (I bet I could even beat your little Tim) I’ve been trying to convince my mom for a good year to buy me the game, I see it in a pawn shop and she says “We can just buy it brand new.” I point it out to her in Walmart and she says “You’ll just lose the pegs and they’ll end up all over the place.” …this has happened on multiple occasions :p

  3. That’s how I spent most of my summer…sleep in while Little Guy played TV, drank tea and ate cereal with Little Guy huddled next to me, ready to annihilate me at Battle Ship…every morning for 2 months. Mornings aren’t my best time (neither are evenings) so the odds were stacked against me but his 6th sense was uncanny! Maybe the 6-8 year olds have a secret alliance?

    • I think they’re in that deadly phase in which they can focus so much longer than toddlers, and yet, they still have that unearthly instinct about adult vulnerability. They wait until they see a chink in the armor and then hit you hard. I wish I could claim that we were playing pre-dawn or post-midnight, but he truly did just skunk me 🙂

  4. My first reaction to your story was, “I forgot all about the game Battleship! I should get that for my son; he would LOVE it!”

    My second, better informed reaction was, “Dear God, no–the power would go to his head. Your ONE six-year-old fulfills the world’s quota of exultation more than adequately.”

    Thanks for this cautionary tale!

    • My friends had a treasure trove of games, and I had a blast reviving some of them. I’ve always been a huge fan of cards and word games, but even games for two people are still right up my alley.

  5. Clever story, disarming (oops!) use of dialogue, Traci, as usual.

    Tomorrow the Beaman grand-boys are coming over, so I must find a way to drag them “away from a TV screen (or video game) before retinal scarring sets in.” What’s better than board games on a cold winter’s day, except perhaps a BOOK. But it might be on a Kindle Fire (Curtis has one). Just can’t get away from those military allusions, can I!

    • Good luck tomorrow, Marian! Gadgets are great, but they pose new challenges for this upcoming generation, who are quickly becoming digital addicts. Some of my students almost walk into walls because they can’t stop texting or playing a game long enough to cross a corridor.
      With Tim, I played games because I love them as much as a kid does 🙂 I hope you find some you enjoy.

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