A search for Nerf toys on the Target website today resulted in 58 items. A Toys “R” Us search yielded 115 items. I haven’t done a count recently, but I think it’s fair to say that the number of Nerf guns and ammo accessories in our house is somewhere between those two numbers.
Over the years, my two sons have accumulated an enviable number of Nerf weaponry. Among them – the Nerf N-Srike Barricade RV-10, the Nerf Rapid Fire pistol, the Nerf Rapid Fire rifle, the Nerf N-Strike Ammo Bag Kit with special camouflage darts and some kind of Nerf weapon that shoots out something like 100 darts in a 2-second time frame (I like to call this one the “you’re all in time-out indefinitely Nerf gun.”)
“Leave some on the shelves for the other kids!” I always say. But our relatives and friends seem to share another opinion. I suspect they are all in cahoots to see who will purchase that one last Nerf product that will finally push me over the edge I’ve been teetering on for so long. I’m sure they’ll deny it and say they only want my kids to be happy.
The thing about Nerf products isn’t the weapons themselves. It’s those little foam darts with the rubber tips. Of course, the genius Nerf marketing people focus on the good qualities of their product line. Specifically, that kids can shoot them indoors without risk of damaging property, life or limb.
Pretty much the worst thing that can happen when shooting Nerf darts in the house is that the ones with the suction cups on the ends, when shot at windows and mirrors, will stick and then leave little smudge marks upon removal. Not that this is a small thing. Because really, who has time to be unsticking Nerf darts from all the windows and mirrors in the house and then wiping off smudges? But I agree that actual breakage would be worse.
In any event, what I have learned from my vast experience with Nerf darts is something that the Nerf marketing geniuses will never tell you, and that is that Nerf darts multiply in the night. And no, I’m not delusional. They multiply. Multiply like rabbits. Every night. It’s like the second you shut out the lights and turn your backs on those little devils, they start in, and then they don’t stop until you wake up in the morning and are surrounded by little foam darts that absolutely, positively were not there when you went to bed at night. And yes, I have proof.
Every day as I walk from room to room, I gather up Nerf darts. I don’t even think about it anymore, such is the strength of this habit. It’s like turning off lights. Because God knows I turn off a lot of lights as not a single one of my kids has yet mastered the art. Turning on a light is no problem for them, but turning it off – impossible.
By the time I go to bed at night, there are no Nerf darts to be found. They are all safely secured in their rightful place behind closed doors, or in the trash, whichever spot I happened to get to first.
But in the night, like I mentioned, strange things happen.
Thankfully, one of my trusty black cats, Spook, has been trained in the art of espionage, sabotage and capture. Spook is sneaky and sly. Like me, she understands the plague of the Nerf darts and she alone is my ally in the mission to stop their evil plot to take over my house. Like dogs that need a special job to feel like they are contributing to the household, Spook has devoted her life to our joint Nerf dart elimination mission.
By morning, captured foam darts are scattered throughout my bedroom. Spook is usually passed out among them. Now you might be thinking that the Nerf situation in my house can’t be all that bad, given that I’ve got my special covert agent feline assigned to the nightly locate-and-capture mission. But here’s the problem. I’ve also got a miniature schnauzer with a heart of gold but a brain the size of a pea. Like Spook, he also relishes the idea of having a special job around the house. His special job is to not pee in the house. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like that job very much and so we constantly remain at odds with each other. For my mentally challenged little dog believes with all his heart that a far better job for his special talents is to kill the Nerf darts that Spook collects.
Now you and I all know that Nerf darts are not alive (though they multiply – a true enigma!) and don’t really need to “die” in the typical sense of the word. One can merely dispose of them in the trash or put them in their rightful container and be done with the whole mess until the next round of dart reproduction the following night. But this whole reality is lost on my “special” dog. And so he kills the darts, one by one. He bites off the little rubber tips (their heads?) and then dismembers the remaining foam body by chewing them up into about five thousand pieces and then spitting the pieces out all over the room.
This scenario repeats itself night after night after night. Which, of course, is extremely unpleasant for all involved (me).
But I offer up my story not for sympathy (though I will not turn it down), but as the proof I promised – proof that the darts really do multiply. Because one would think that, given that there were a finite number of darts to begin with, eventually there would simply be no more darts to locate, capture and dismember. That after something like, oh, maybe the 500th night, Spook would have captured and Pretzel would have destroyed that final Nerf dart and then we could all go back to living our lives as we did before Nerf weapons were ever introduced into our household.
But the strange thing is, that day never comes. There is never a final Nerf dart. There is never a last dart standing.
So when my sons get the whim to load up their 100-dart high speed Nerf revolver and aim it at my glass office door when I’m in the middle of an important conference call, they can always miraculously locate 100 foam darts, no matter how many I have thrown away and how many my dog has destroyed. I have stopped trying to figure out the how or why. I just accept it as one of those great mysteries in life. The same way I’ve accepted that no matter how serious the punishment is when my boys do choose to shoot those 100 darts at my office door during an important conference call, they will continue to make the same mistake time and time again.
But that lack of judgment, I suppose, is a topic for another day.