Dixie and Darby have had the awkward conversation that had to be had for them each to be comfortable. Dixie told Darby that although she was sad sometimes when she thought about her Aunt Myrtle, she didn’t want Darby to be different around her because that made things worse. So Darby promised that he would be the same teaser and tormentor that she was accustomed to and has kept his word. (They secretly like each other very much… well maybe it’s not really a secret anymore?)

Dinah has settled in to her new room at the Insect Inn. It’s not quite as spacious as she’d like but she doesn’t spend much time in it. The Fancifulls in Oh Valley are much more physically active than she is in her own community, The Hills. She’s learning about sports – especially RAIN BALL. She’d never heard of the game before. Honey (Bumble bee) explained that its originator was born in the Oh Valley, but that unlike Basketball’s originator, James Naismith, RAIN BALL has not become widely popular outside of where it was first played hundreds of years ago.

The whole community comes out to play the game. There’s no set schedule. Teams are quickly organized when Oh Valley’s Community Prognosticator, Belvedere (Senior Bumble Bee), notices a change in the sky. Big dark clouds come rolling towards their community. Time for a new game of RAIN BALL. All the Fancifulls gather in the community park. Teams are easily built. First two Fancifulls to the park are Captains and as each Fancifull arrives they fly to a team captain alternately. There’s none of that choosing teams in Oh Valley. The Fancifull way ensures no wasted time debating whose going to be speedier or “dartier” and no-one is ever made to feel bad for being chosen last.

The rules of the game are simple. It’s sort of like paint ball, with rain drops being the paint. What makes is so much fun is its inclusiveness. Unlike paintball, where, once you are splattered with paint, you are out of the game, in RAIN BALL, when you are touched by a rain drop, you are not done playing. Your new roll on your team becomes that of a helper, a “SHELLY” nic name for SHELTER by hovering over a team member who has not been touched yet by a raindrop. The SHELLY umbrellas gradually increase in size as more Fancifulls are touched by raindrops and convert to SHELLIES. Everyone on the team must work together to ensure that they retain one dry Fancifull.

Strategies abound. With the increasing frequency of raindrops falling, decisions must be made on the fly, as to which dry Fancifull the rest of the team will SHELLY over. There could be 3 or 4 dry Fancifulls on the team and a thicker shelter over a single Fancifull might secure their victory over the other team. By the end of the game, there could be as many as 2 dozen Fancifulls of many species flying over a dry Fancifull teammate. The length of the game is indeterminate. It can progress very quickly and be over within 2 or 3 short minutes, depending on how the rain shower progresses. Other showers remain light and the Fancifulls find that the rain ends with no clear winning side. That doesn’t deter them. Everyone has taken a break from their daily tasks and has had fun and laughs together.

Dinah finds the game delightful. She had no idea how quick and agile she was! That’s a required skill in RAIN BALL. Thinking it was a bit silly at first, she saw how much fun everyone was having, then realized that by joining in, she was having fun too. Dodging rain drops can be easy at first but as the intensity of the rain increases, the game speeds up and everyone has to try much harder to not be splashed.

Dinah, being a dragonfly, has extremely good vision and can see 360 degrees around her ALL the time. This includes seeing above her without tilting her head up. Dragonflies can see raindrops as they are about to land on themand can dart out of their way before they get wet. (Wouldn’t that be fun? Seeing the raindrop and moving out of the way before it splats on your head?) She was flying on her own for quite some time, darting left and right out of the way of the falling drops. Then she became a “SHELLY” in a large mass of flapping wings. It’s surprising how easy it is to build a unified formation with all the different types and sizes of wings around her.

Everyone on the team worked together She was flying with Gabriella and Grommet (Grasshoppers), Brighton and Baxter (Bumble bees) Milly, Molly, and Monday (Moths), Lily and Lexie (Ladybugs), as well as Flutter, Fanny and Bianca (Butterflies). They were all playing together to keep Delta, their fellow dragonfly, dry.

Fancifulls that arrived to make up the opposing team were: Darby and Dixie (They’re, not surprisingly, together a lot since their conversation.); Billy and Bernie (Bumble bees); Bella and Brianna (Butterflies); Grady, Gryffin and Gracey (Grasshoppers); Louie, Leah and Larry (Ladybugs), and Mazie and Milton (Moths). The few remaining Fancifulls were watching from their vantage points and cheering all the fantastic maneuvers performed by their friends.

It’s not very long before all the Fancifulls are back at their inn, drying off and comfortably watching the rain outside while “bench-racing” – replaying the ducking and diving, bobbing and weaving that had taken place during the game. It really was quite invigorating and so cleansing!

*** Note – A RAIN BALL game is never initiated if Belvedere hears thunder when he sees the dark clouds settling in. All Fancifulls play safe.

Who won??? Well…. in the end, Belvedere, whose a Senior Bee, and like your author is becoming quite forgetful, was the game’s official. He made a decision to call it a draw because he forgot his glasses at the Inn and couldn’t see a clear winner.

Here’s hoping a raindrop doesn’t SPLAT you on the head today,

Sue, Axie and The Fancifulls

** (Sue is scratching her head wondering where that story came from as it’s sunny out today. Must be from a 25-year old picture she recently posted on FB of friends mugging for the camera before they began their paintball game.)