Chapter 1V

The principal walked to the microphone, and thanked the Coach and his fencers for their demonstration. He then reminded the student body of that evening’s football game, then dismissed the students, who left the gymnasium in a jostling rush.

The Coach waived his four fencers together. “Nice job out there,” he said.

“Principal didn’t say anything about when we practice,” said Annie.

The Coach winced, and tapped his fingers against his forehead. “Must’ve forgot what I told him about Monday and Wednesday afternoons.”

“Forgot?” said Double-J. “More like he doesn’t care. Look, we were great entertainment for this afternoon, but let’s face it, we’re an afterthought here. This whole thing  was  a joke, a waste of time.”

“That’s enough,” said the Coach. “Look, if I had been paying attention I would have spoken up and reminded the principal to say something about practice. You want to be angry at someone, be angry at me, all right. The principal had to talk the football coach into letting us have this demo, so I’m not going to hold a grudge against him for not mentioning practice. Look,” he said, staring directly at Double-J, “the demo is over. Let’s turn our attention on what happens next, and not worry about what’s done.”

“Excuse me?” came a voice from outside the fencers’ circle. The team turned to the speaker.

Chapter 1U

Double-J turned to the juniors and raised both arms, his foil pointed triumphantly high. The juniors returned a cheer of appreciation.

“Fencers, salute!” called the Coach over the cheers. Double-J turned to him suddenly and saw Rex already standing back at the starting position, his mask off and tucked under his left arm, foil in his right hand pointed down and towards his opponent. Double-J quickly returned to his starting position, his body language suggesting he was trying to hide embarassment, but not completely succeeding.

Double-J took off his mask, and holding it by the back strap in his left hand pointed down and towards Rex. As the two fencers made eye contact, Double-J noted the wry grin on Rex’s face, and gave a playful raise of his eyebrows in response. The two fencers then raised their foils to their chins, and extended their hilts to the other in salte. Polite, appreciative applause rose from the student body. The two fencers then turned to the Coach, Double-J saluting with the hilt of his foil briefly while Rex followed his salute with a deep bow to the Coach.

The Coach bowed slightly toward Rex, turned and nodded at Double-J, then motioned both fencers toward each other. Rex and Double-J stepped forward, and shook with their left hands.

“Looks like we have a new captain this year,” said Double-J, loud enough for both Rex and the Coach to hear but not loud enough to be heard over the polite, appreciative applause for their sportsmanship.

Rex looked at Double-J with puzzlement, then turned to the Coach. Double-J turned grinning at the Coach, only to see him shrug his shoulders. Double-J’s smile disappeared.

Giddy

“I feel giddy, like a schoolboy feeling the vicarious thrill of his favorite sports team crushing their arch rival.”

Chapter 1T

Double-J and Rex stepped back, as if pushed by the force of their colliding weapons. The Coach looked at Bernie, then Annie, neither of whom raised a hand.

Double-J advanced two quick steps forward, causing Rex to shuffle backwards. Double-J stopped, but as Rex began to step forward, Double-J lunged strongly, his foil extended in line with his right arm and his left arm continuing the line and parallel to his back leg. Rex’s parry was late, his timing thrown off from his advancing.

Annie’s arm shot upward, and as the Coach called halt, a cheer rose from the juniors. Rex let his shoulders and head droop forward.

“Attack from my left!” cried the Coach into the microphone. He pointed to Annie, and before she could say yes, the Coach announced, “touch on my left! Score, 3 touches for Double-J, 2 for Rex, which means we have a winner in our short exhibition bout!”

The Stranger

The first-person narrator in Albert Camus’ novel is probably the most spectacularly obtuse protagonist of any novel I’ve read. The majority of his observations border on ludicrous banality. I found it rather interesting, what he’d been telling me; I hadn’t thought of that before. The narrator often sounds like a bus passenger who suddenly starts talking to you about the trivial details of his life, with a sincerity that tells you the speaker really, truly believes that the drivel coming out of his mouth is actually worth relating.

And it’s this staggering level of banality that makes the narrator’s murder half-way through the novel almost inexplicable. Of course the narrator makes no attempt to explain his action, other than to say that in effect the sun got in his eyes, so what the reader is left to do is figure out how this unspectacular man could commit such a horrible act. And that’s where the great ideas from the novel come from — not from what the narrator says about himself (because that’s pretty worthless), but rather from the reader’s ability to make sense out of a senseless act, a senseless existence.

Cold Sounds

The temperature was far below freezing. The air was crisp, still, as if the cold had frozen the wind itself. The smallest noise — a car passing on the road over the hill, a bird’s call, a branch breaking from the weight of the snow — streamed unimpeded through the night, journeying alone through the frigid air until it landed on his reddened ears. It seemed to him that the sounds this evening were more eager to reach him, were anxious to escape the cold — a silly thought, he knew, but he felt such extreme thinking was fitting on this frigid night.

Chapter 1S

The two fencers stepped toward each other slowly, Rex holding the tip of his foil knee-level to his opponent, Double-J holding his foil at waist-level and parallel to the ground. Still several feet away, Doube-J extended his arm straight, wrist now at eye level with foil tip pointing down at Rex’s chest; Rex flinched slightly, then relaxed and continued to advance when he saw no immediate attack was coming. Soon each was within striking distance of the other, the tip of Double-J’s foil pointed hungrily at Rex’s chest, with Rex’s foil still pointing down in mocking invitation.

Double-J stepped forward quickly, and Rex brought his foil up quickly to parry. Double-J disengaged, his foil ducking supplely under Rex’s attempted parry, and lunged towards Rex’s right shoulder. Rex met the disengage with one of his own, continuing the motion of his initial parry attempt then bringing his foil under Double-J’s, then blocking the attack — a circular parry.

Rex’s riposte was strong, but the extra time required for his circular parry allowed Double-J enough time to react and parry. Double-J brought his back foot forward, and lunged again; Rex’s parry was late, but the tip of Double-J’s foil passed over the top of his opponent’s shoulder.

Rex jumped back quickly several steps, but immediately lunged when Double-J stepped forward. Parry-riposte, counter-parry and second attack — neither fencer scored a touch.

Chapter 1R

The Coach turned back to the microphone, only to see Rex already leaning over it and, staring straight at the senior section, raising his foil into the air and shouting, “Double-J, I accept your challenge!” A roar of approval came from the crowd, with the loudest sounds coming from the seniors.

The Coach looked over at the principal, who smiled wryly in return. The Coach shrugged, and the principal looked at his watch, then looked up and nodded as he extended two fingers.

The Coach walked up to the microphone and motioned Rex aside. The chant of dub-ul-jay from the juniors had grown louder, more coordinated after the roar from Rex’s pronouncement. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the Coach cried, “we have time for one last touch!” The crowd shouted its approval, even the juniors stopping their chant to participate.

Double-J turned to Rex, and pointed with his left arm. Rex responded with a flamboyant bow, right leg extended back as he leaned forward, then suddenly stood upright and whooshed his foil in front of him.

The Coach motioned Rex and Double-J to resume their starting positions, and for Bernie and Annie to come in closer for judging. He also motioned with his hands for the crowd to be quiet, knowing that given the excitement in the air this would not be entirely possible, but the crowd at least was able to lower the volume enough for everyone to focus on the bout.

The crowd noise having reached what he perceived to be the lowest he could expect it to get, the Coach sliced down between the fencers with his right arm, and yelled, “Fence!”