Mask

The fencing mask, honeycombed with rigid narrow wires, seemed like the interior of a metallic hive for tiny bees. At the bottom of the mask, a chin rest and neck guard was attached with metallic buttons. Having been purchased second-hand from the state university, most masks had at least a few exterior dents or small breaks in the wiring, and no amount of washing could remove the stain and smell of the sweat that had accumulated on the chin rest and neck guards. The coach responded to each plead for new equipment with a bemused shrug, and a pat answer that at least sounded better than the truth, that he had been lucky to get the money for equipment in the first place and there was no question about there being any more where that came from. “The masks, they’re like the cars most people have in this town,” he would say. “A fender bender here and there, rust from all the ice and salt in winter. But so long as it gets you from here to there, people stick with their cars, until they can’t run anymore. It’s not just a matter of finances, it’s a principle, further proof that you can survive no matter what happens. These masks — a mask won’t make you a great fencer. It might help you look more like a fencer, but in the end, it doesn’t do anything for you. We don’t need new masks — we need to practice more.”

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