It is early morning when we hear that our flight to Iraq has been canceled.
The ten of us cartoonists have a free day in Kuwait.
With an entire nation to explore, a Middle Eastern culture to learn and the coastline of the Persian Gulf to roam, we take full advantage of the free time.
We play ping pong.
The table is in a small room at the back of the hotel.
I pick an easy mark.
Cartoonist Jeff Bacon.
Here is a picture of Jeff Bacon:
I don’t want to brag, because I think that’s in poor taste, so I’ll just say this:
I beat Jeff Bacon so bad I made him squeal like the little animal that produces his last name.
Four games to zero.
He did not win a game.
Then came the excuses.
“I think I’m still jet-lagged.”
“I am so tired.”
“My leg hurts.”
Explanations poured out of Jeff Bacon like he was the Excuse Piñata.
Not content with destroying Jeff’s ping pong aspirations, I then sought to crush his morale.
I did this by spinning in circles between shots. I’d hit the ball, do a 360, and hit the ball again.
It is not easy to do. And it should not be tried at home.
I don’t want to embarrass Jeff by revealing how he reacted to my acrobatics. So I will just say this:
He almost started to cry.
Now, as I sit here, I almost feel bad for showing you his picture and potentially exposing him to more ridicule.
I know what I’ll do. I’ll alter his identity.
That Saddam mustache is probably not enough to make him unrecognizable.
I’ll need to do something else.
I’ll change his shirt.
Now, before my fellow Iraqi-bound cartoonists get ahold of the comment section of this blog and start spreading rumors about something that may have happened later that night when we arrived in Iraq, let me preempt them by saying the following:
Possibly, allegedly, later that night when we got into our base in Tikrit, I may have played a certain Family Circus creator in a casual game of ping pong. And sources tell me something strange may have happened and I may have lost three straight games.
But I don’t remember it.
Because I was jet-lagged.
I was tired.
And my leg hurt.