For some reason my gun wouldn’t fire.

The darkened room was silent as I stood looking around a corner, my eyes slowly adjusting to the faint neon blue lights that outlined the various walls dotting the indoor arena.

I pulled the trigger. Nothing. My once glowing laser pistol was now dim.

There were people here who wanted to take me out. I just couldn’t see them and, if they came around the corner now, I couldn’t shoot them either.

My laser tag pistol suddenly sprang back to life. I pulled the trigger to test it; a red beam of light cut through the dim room. Finally.

Then it went dead again.

“What the heck?”

“There’s a kid behind you,” the teenager monitoring the chaos that is birthday party laser tag said as he walked by.

I turned around. No wonder my pistol didn’t work. Every time a laser hit one of the sensors on my vest, my pistol went dead for 10 seconds. A third grader stood behind me, blasting me with silent red lasers every time my gun came online.

“Hey,” I said, and the little boy scampered off in search of some other sucker.

It’s not like I’d never played laser tag before. I played in college once, in the woods, and we were pretty drunk, so I don’t really remember much about it, except I woke up the next morning with a grass stain on my forehead.

Playing laser tag in a controlled environment with sugar-fueled 9-year olds was a lot safer than drunk-in-the-woods laser tag. It was also a lot cooler than my birthday parties growing up, which consisted of running around the house, eating cake, and running around the house some more until Johnny threw up and everyone had to go home. At least in this building, if somebody threw up, that would give everyone else a free shot on him.

Another kid showed up and my gun went dead again. OK, that was it. Time to get serious.

There’s a grave misconception about men, that once we’re finally grown up, have a job, family, and a couple of gray hairs in our beard, that we’re supposed to act like an adult.


I walked straight-backed through the laser tag arena, my pistol at the ready, blasting every third grader I could ambush.

“Hasta la vista, baby,” I said to a little boy in the best (worst) Austrian accent I could muster, channeling Schwarzenegger’s Terminator T-800.

“Huh?” he said as his gun went dead.

I looked at him sternly. “I’ll be back,” I said and started to walk away. Two steps later I turned around and shot him again. I don’t feel guilty about that at all. He was warned.

I destroyed a room of heavily armed third graders that day. And, yes, it felt good.

Of course, my 12-year-old niece shot me like I was a bad guy in a Rambo movie and racked up a score that made mine look like first grade math, but that’s OK, I had it coming.

Jason Offutt’s latest book, “Across a Corn-Swept Land: An Epic Beer Run through the Upper Midwest,” is available at