#103 – Battleship

I completed my second mentoring session with Ernie today, this time in the school library. Having him anchored at a table (instead of running amok on the playground, like last week) provided my first opportunity to chat with him, man to man. But he acted so closed-mouth at first, I began to think I’d do better reading him his Miranda rights and interrogating him.

I guess I hadn’t asked the right questions though. Once I brought up the subject of his favorite movies, the kid’s gums didn’t stop flapping. Nor did he hesitate in the least before voicing his clear choice: Aliens versus Predators. In his not so humble opinion — as he explained at length — that particular movie as well as the entire series of Predator films represented the culmination of American cinematography.

Why did Ernie so love those particular titles? Well, as he put it, mostly because “Predators are the most bad-ass aliens in the world!” He backed up his assertion too, describing with gruesome specificity the thousand and one ways in which a Predator can eviscerate his prey. The lawyer in me admired the lad’s attention to detail and factual recall, while the concerned citizen in me chillingly noted the twinkle in his eyes when mentioning arterial spray.

After listening to my mentee wax rhapsodic about the Predator killing machine, I decided we’d chatted enough for one afternoon. I suggested playing a game and he agreed. To my relief, the library’s collection included a title we both enjoyed: “Battleship!”

Whenever I play Battleship, I’m always meticulous about recording each of my guesses and my adversary’s guesses on the boards, so I can keep track of them. I consider myself an accomplished combatant too. Nonetheless, in twenty minutes battling against Ernie I failed to score a single hit. I couldn’t understand. As I figured, my methodical system should’ve uncovered at least a couple of his ships amidst the zones I’d blanketed.

Ernie sank three of my vessels; but our time expired before he achieved complete victory. When the moment came to reveal our boards, I discovered three of his ships positioned in spots I’d definitely attacked and a fourth ship that hadn’t even been placed on the board! When I asked Ernie if he’d cheated, he flashed a shit-eating grin and said “Yep.” And when I questioned why he’d cheated, he simply responded: “I like to.”

I remember the program administrator saying she hoped each mentor and mentee would bond and continue their relationship as the child progressed from grade to grade. From what I’ve seen of Ernie thus far, I suspect it won’t be long before our mentoring sessions see a change of venue … to whichever state correctional facility the youth is sentenced.

Our future mentoring locale?

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