“What!” Jason screeched, freezing in place.
Calvin grinned, simultaneously ridiculous and threatening in his black eye mask. Utterly appealing in his tight red tank top and perpetually messy hair. He held the volleyball like a weapon. “You have to lose a piece of clothing every round until you find your way out of it.”
Jason glared behind his own mask. “This isn’t a strip zone!”
“It is if I say it is.”
“Damn it!” Jason was torn between grinning and groaning. “How did I let you talk me into this?”
Calvin smirked. “Quit stalling and lose the shirt.”
Jason sighed and stripped out of his t-shirt. He thought about making a crack about not seeing strip zones in the rule book, but there was no book because there was only one rule:
You’re not allowed to play Calvinball the same way twice.
And, of course, Calvin had a much better grasp of the general chaos he’d invented.
“Did you have a strip zone when you played with tiger?”
Calvin paused for a moment, still a bit thrown every time Jason mentioned Hobbes so casually. Then he laughed. “And why would I want to see that damned tiger naked? No, no.”
“What’s the score?”
“Master to Newbie. Your play.”
Jason nodded, then started running – two seconds later Calvin figured out Jason was running at him and with a yell started fleeing. Back and forth across the maze of croquets wickets and other maltreated sports equipment, scoring points and losing them, crossing into and out of zones in a storm of chaos that made sense only to Calvin.
With a triumphant cry, Jason tackled Calvin, both of them landing with an oomph in the ground – barely missing a misshapen wicket.
“Wow, you actually caught me. Must be gaining some muscle or something, geek boy.”
Jason laughed, wishing it were true. But he was panting rather heavily, and Calvin seemed barely affected. “You were just laughing too hard.” He reached out to grab the mask that had come loose when he’d tackled Calvin. “You lost your mask. I think that’s a chastity penalty.”
“A what?” Calvin looked surprised, which pleased Jason immensely. Maybe he was getting the hang of this game after all.
“Chastity penalty.” He levered himself up. “For the next Z rounds.” He sauntered back into the middle of the playing field. “My turn right? Am I still in the strip zone?” Tossing a very pleased-with-myself grin over his shoulder, Jason toed off his sandals and then his shorts. He picked up the discarded volleyball, tossing it in the air over and over while waiting for Calvin.
Calvin looked at him. “I never should have taught you this game.”
“But I’m having fun!”
“Good – because last one to the power wicket has to jump into the pond!” And he took off like a shot.
“Hey!” Jason dropped the volleyball and chased after, but this time he was no match – when he reached the red-painted wicket, Calvin was standing their waiting like a very smug cat. “No fair.”
“All is fair in Calvinball,” Calvin replied, then wrapped his arms around Jason’s waist and kissed him hard.
“Hey – chastity penalty.”
“Power wicket can clear any one penalty of the person who tags it.”
Jason thought for a moment. “You’ve never done that before?”
“No,” Calvin looked offended.
“Exactly.” Calvin kissed him again. “And you still have to jump in the pond.” A grin. “And you’re still in the strip zone.”
“How come I’m in the strip zone and you’re not?”
Calvin laughed. “Because once a zone is entered, it’s cleared for all other persons.”
“Right. I’m not walking around here naked.”
“Then there’s going to have to be a penalty,” Calvin replied, clever fingers tracing Jason’s spine, slick on sweat-damp skin.
Jason licked Calvin’s lips, tasting the remains of super blue raspberry bubblegum. “What sort of penalty?”
“You get a choice,” Calvin said. “You can surrender points to transfer to the make-out zone, sing ‘I’m a little teapot’ or go with door number three.”
“Right,” Jason said cautiously. “What’s door number three?”
Calvin pretended to think. “Not really sure. But I think it has something to do with lemonade and perhaps my bed.”
“Right then.” Jason slipped out of Calvin’s arms and at the top of his lungs began to sing ‘I’m a little teapot.’