Surprise Visit Part 2

Annie rang the doorbell again, bouncing on her toes and buzzing her lips in tune to Twinkle Twinkle. Brrr brrr brrr brr BRR BRR BRR! A moment later she saw the light in the living room turn on, and Bernie walking toward the door. Annie waved enthusiastically at him and smiled; Bernie turned his eyes from her the moment their gazes contacted. He was frowning, and resumed frowning as he reached to open the door.

Annie saw the heavy white door open into the Scott’s front hallway, Bernie stepping in front. “What’s up?” Bernie asked, his voice muffled behind the insulated glass exterior door, which he showed no intent to open.

“I’m freezing my ASS off, is what,” Annie said, opening the exterior door quickly and rushing herself into the Scott’s house. Bernie had not moved. “Well, I guess you can come in,” he said sarcastically.

Annie removed her jacket. “What’s bothering you?” she asked. “You look upset about something.”

“Nothing,” Bernie said quickly.

“Did you forget about the Pizza Place tonight?” she asked.

“No,” he said.

“OK then. Why weren’t you there?”

“I . . . didn’t think I was invited.”

“What?” Annie asked incredulously. “Bernie, you were there at fencing practice Tuesday. Double-J said to meet at the Pizza Place tonight. How much more of an invitation do you need?”


Bernie’s Bad Day

I guess I would have liked to have gone out for pizza with the team. But what was the point? We’d just eat the same bad pizza we’d always eat at the Pizza Place, drink the same bad soda, like we’d done a hundred times before. What was the point?

But if I didn’t go, see, that’s what I wanted people to notice, to say, hey, where the hell is Bernie? And then they’d call me, and then I’d feel like saying yeah, hey thanks, but I don’t want them to know that I appreciate them calling me, so I say something like why the hell would I go to a dive like that, and then they’d tell me to get my head out of my ass, because that’s what I want, someone to snap me out of my bad mood because I don’t feel strong enough to do it on my own.

So I go to the Pizza Place, and it’s the same smell of soured dough that always hits me, and I don’t want them to know how much it means to me that they invited me, I gotta act like a complete jagweed and not respond to anything in a positive way. So I go through the evening not having a good time, but not having a bad time either, and all the time I want to embrace everyone and say thank you but I don’t have the courage to stand up to my bad mood and defy my feelings.


“How’s it going today, Bernie?”

Bernie smiled, looked down shyly. “Lot better than I was yesterday. Sorry about that.”

Butch smiled broadly. “Ah. Don’t worry. No big deal. Saw you were upset, decided to cut you a little slack. Going to the game tonight?”

“No. Don’t think so. I just — feel like I need time to fully recover. When I get like that, it hangs with me for a few days. Need to get over that residual nastiness.”


His pain was fearsomely motivating, yet he did not know how it would be channeled, whether he would use it to inflict pain on others or increase the pain on himself.

Surprise Visit Part 1

As she walked briskly from the car, Annie turned and waved, white wisps of steam rising from her mouth in the wintry night air. Becky waved back from behind the steering wheel, the tires crushing ice and gravel as she drove back onto the road.

Annie’s teeth chattered as she walked up to Bernie’s house. Her thick mittens could not apply enough pressure to ring the doorbell, so squealling with giddy frustration she uncovered her right hand and jabbed. “Yes!” she cried when she heard the ring from inside.

Annie put her mitten back on her right hand, and hopped on her toes, both feet at first then alternating between both feet, slowly circilng on the landing, teeth chattering, lips sputtering with a brrrr.

She turned to the door, looked through the glass door, saw the kitchen light on, as she had seen earlier from Becky’s car. She knew the Scott family well enough to know they were frugal enough to not leave the kitchen light on if nobody was home, so she had asked Becky to leave her there. She had not seen Bernie since fencing practice two days ago, hadn’t really talked to him since their night at the movies over the weekend. It was the longest they had gone without talking since that night they had first kissed at the gym.


He would often sit on the sidelines, watching the world go by wistfully. And on those occassions when he played, he was as likely to run away from the action as he was to mix it up.


Aliera is a color-blind teenaged girl with the talent and dedication to be a chamption fencer, a big heart (she always keeps her weekly appointment to play games with her disabled cousin), and no clue how to handle her interest in the handsome yet self-absorbed boy who has taken an interest in her. When she puts on her fencing mask in public one day, her grey world erupts into the brilliant fantasy colors of her imagination.

“Foiled” is a wonderful manga graphic novel from author Jane Yolen and illustrator Mike Cavallaro. While fans of fencing will especially appreciate the knowledge and respect shown for the sport, even those who wouldn’t know a parry from a remise will be fascinated by Aliera’s tale of self-discovery. It is one of those rare works that is both realistic and fantastic, as it depicts the awakening of an American teenaged girl with honesty while also coloring an imaginative world that is both captivating and surreal. I don’t think I’ve ever used this adjective to describe a book, but “Foiled” is beautiful.


All inhibitions and prohibitions had been abolished, and he gave himself over to his frenzy with a glee that surprised him. There was no planning, no strategy to his attacks now — he was attacking with fury. His objective now was not victory, but to exert as much energy as he could, to throw his fury upon his opponent. He wanted nothing more than to feast on the emotions of the moment, to thrill in his current feeling. He felt free, and his freedom made him feel guilty, and his guilt was pleasing to him.


“I don’t understand you,” said Coach Dan. “You’re probably the most laid-back student in this school, but when something goes wrong during a bout, you just lose it.”

“Cut the pious crap,” replied Double-J testily. “You’re laying into one of us at every practice.”

“Don’t go there with me, buster,” said Coach Dan. “Yeah, I speak sharply to you guys, for emphasis, to get you to focus. But I make it direct, short, and not violent, for crying out loud. I’m not throwing things around at people.”

“Well maybe you should! You know, I wasn’t saying you were doing anything wrong, all I’m saying is that you do it in a half-assed way. Me, when I get upset at myself for surrendering a touch I should have parried easily, or at a judge who’s got his head up his ass, or somebody on the team for holding up a meet — I let it out, don’t hold back. It’s healthy.”

“Oh please. You’re not blowing off steam. When you get upset you’re feasting on your emotions, satisfying some dark appetite you have anger. It’s not healthy, it’s scary.”

“I am just sick to death of your sanctimonious BS. Look, I am what I am. You don’t like me getting angry, fine, kick me off the goddam team. But be honest for once in your goddam life. Pretend for once that you can be straight with me!”