“Yeah, I do enjoy the practice more than the competition. When we practice, we’re a group. During a bout, or a tournament, it’s just you. Practicing is a social experience, but competition is anti-social — you’re not even allowed to talk! Remember that time I said ‘nice job’ to my opponent, and the judge gave me a warning?”
Her family was comfortably middle-class, frugal both by temperament and necessity. They were wealthy enough to afford what they needed, but not wealthy enough to replace aging appliances or tools. Household items were never temporary, but rather indispensable parts of their home, with their own names. They didn’t have a bucket in the home, but rather they had The Bucket, which they would call to (“where’s The Bucket?”) to fill such vital tasks as moping the floor, carrying dirt, and waiting by a sick family member’s bedside. Being as useful as it was, The Bucket would become a source of argument, because you were just going to have to find some other way to plant your petunias, I need The Bucket to help me wash the car.
The wooden footings of the old piers rose from the river’s surface, then abruptly ended at uneven breaking points, and looked like decaying brown teeth. Edwards had been a renowned port in the days of wooden ships, a focal point for the minerals, furs, and lumber of the area. When more modern forms of transportation opened trade opportunities in other ports, the rocky terrain and rolling hills that surrounded Edwards made the town less enticing for merchants. The town suffered immensely for decades, and over three-quarters of the population left; those who remained, though, took their survival as a sign of their strength, their perseverance. The memory of Edwards’ glory days as a bustling port were long gone, but its spirit of survival remained.
His creative instinct was along the lines of Mad Magazine, familiar jokes and routines with new subject matter.
The scope of his artistic genius was limited to composing lyrics to pop songs, lyrics that told a mildly sarcastic (never challenging) story about his job, his friends, eminent politicians or celebrities.
He could enjoy the world so long as it filled him with wonder, but when novelty gave way to familiarity, discovery to routine, he would lose interest. The discipline required to understand rather than be amazed was not nearly as interesting.
The smell of damp linen hung over the equipment. The coach laundered the jackets and neck guards in the spring, at the end of the season, and in-season laundering was rare. By the second or third practice most of the team had identified a certain jacket, mask, and weapon as their own.
“Fencing is won with the feet.” Lead foot pointing forward, trailing foot pointing to the side, eight inches apart, heels in line. Advance — lift the lead foot, toe first then heel, push and extend, now lift the back foot (lift, lift, don’t drag, lift), bring forward. Retreat — lift the back foot (Scott, you’re dragging, gotta lift), push back from the front leg, plant the back, raise the front toe (lift, keep your knees bent that will help), then the heel, step back (lift!). Lunge — extend the front leg, push hard off the rear leg, full extension.
“You didn’t see that ending coming?” Bernie asked.
“No, because I wasn’t looking for it,” Billy replied. “When I see a movie, I don’t like trying to figure out what’s going to happen, like you always do. Me, I prefer to take it all in — the characters, dialogue, the scenery. You know, I heard Mr. Shepard say once that back in Shakespeare’s time, at the front of the playhouse they would print the plot of the play, so when you were going to see Hamlet, you already knew what was going to happen. Called it the ‘argument,’ was what Mr. Shepard said. People did that back then because they were there to hear what the playwright wrote, and how the actors played their parts. They didn’t care about surprise endings.”
“Didn’t know thou likest Shakespeare.”
“Shakespeare? Hate Shakespeare. But people back in those days, they had it right about the argument.”
He looked up at the cloudness night sky, stars speckled in the blackness. He heard no noise, save for his own breathing, the sound of which seemed an intrusion upon the stillness.