Yet endings were equally if not more difficult, as concluding a task always left him with a feeling of not having done well enough.
He always found that starting was the hardest part of any task, because actually beginning something made him fully realize how long he had delayed setting his mind to it.
“Bernie, I really don’t give a crap whether you stay on the team or not,” said Double-J. “Happens all the time. Kids come out for the team, they get into a few practice bouts, think it’s pretty cool. They eventually see how much work it takes, they move on. Kids like you have that luxury, Bernie. You have options — something doesn’t work out for you, go on to the next thing. Me, I know I don’t have anything to look forward to after I graduate. Much as I complain about this place, I know it’s all downhill from here. So I’m throwing myself into this as much as I can, going as far as I can get, because I want to accomplish something I can look back on and be proud of. You don’t need fencing, Bernie, but me, this is all I got.”
“I’ll wait until your parents get here,” said Coach Dan to Kassandra and Butch, both having just declined their coach’s offer to drop them off at home. Coach Dan took a book from his briefcase and sat, left leg extended, on the floor near the cafeteria door.
“I don’t think it was song and dance,” said Butch, “just people trying to make sense of how the body works. And yeah, they were wrong about how the humours worked in people, but what they saw was that people had certain personality traits, and this was their way of making sense of why people acted the way they did.”
“Yeah, and they were wrong,” said Double-J. “Nobody’s born to be a certain way. As a kid you learn how to act from your parents and other adults.”
“But then how come two siblings can be totally different? Same parents, same upbringing?”
“Not the same, no way. Second kid gets treated by the parents differently than the first. Birth position has a lot to do with personality. First born are leaders, middle children are rebels, last child’s spoiled.”
“I don’t know,” said Butch. “Bet there’s a lot of exceptions to that. You can’t convince me that some people are born with desires, compulsions that they simply can’t ignore. It’s in their nature to be competitive, or social, or intellectual. Hey, look at athletes — there’s a lot of natural born talent there.”
“But what you don’t see, what none of you clowns on this team sees, is that it takes a lot of training to be a great athlete,” said Double-J. “Nobody can succeed on talent alone. An athlete is made, not born.”
“In Shakespeare’s time, they believed that people were made up of four different fluids,” said Butch. “They called them humours.”
“Yeah,” said Double-J from two rows behind. “Blood was one, and phlegm, and I think two types of bile?”
“Yellow and green bile, I think. Or was green bile phlegm?”
“Yellow and black, I think those were the bile colors. Yeah, you had these four humours inside you, and each had a different effect — blood was where your courage came from, the biles made you irritable, and I have no clue what phlegm did.”
“They had a whole science behind it,” Butch said. “You were supposed to have all four humours balanced in you, because if you had too much or too little of one of them, you’d have some kind of illness. They gave you foods and medicine to help you balance out your humours.”
“Wouldn’t call that science,” Doube-J said. “More like mysticism, religion even. Doctors back then didn’t know what they were looking at, so they came up with this wacko theory that sounded good. Just another BS song and dance to make people feel good about stuff they didn’t understand.”
“Sounds like you’re fighting with some inner demons.”
“No, it’s nothing personal like that, what I’m struggling with. Not demons, or voices. Best word I can use to describe it is juices. Each emotion is like its own juice, and when your emotions are in line it’s like a perfectly blended drink. But when one of those emotions runs too strong, it throws off the entire mix, and nothing you can add to it will eliminate the taste that one juice has added.”
“You sound like someone from the middle ages, talking about the four humours.”
“They didn’t know what they were looking at back then, but they could see the outward signs, and they were just trying to put a name to it. They knew even back then that the psyche needed to be in balance.”
Bernie looked down, scratched the back of his head. “I just . . . didn’t think you really wanted me there.”
Annie looked at him, confused. “This has got to be the weirdest conversation I’ve ever had,” she said. “Why wouldn’t we want you there? Don’t you remember, we’re a team, all that we’ve only got each other crap you and Butch are so enthusiastic about?”
“Look,” said Bernie sharply, looking up. “I . . . listen, I don’t want to bother you anymore –”
“Bother me? I’m the one who came here!”
“All right, all right. It’s just . . . I don’t know . . .”
“You want me to leave you alone?”
“How about tomorrow?”
Bernie shook his head.
“OK then. See you in school Monday?”
“I dunno. Depends how I’m feeling?”
“Think you’ll be too sick to go to fencing practice?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t KNOW, all right? Look, if you really want to know the truth, I’d like you to leave, OK?”
“What if I don’t feel like leaving?”
“I don’t care how you feel. I just want to be alone.”
“How about I stay, and you leave?”
“If that’s what it takes — ”
“Was that the reason you didn’t come to the Pizza Place tonight? Because you knew I’d be there?”
Bernie sifted through the canvas bag, occassionally grasping a foil and holding the tip up to his face. First one, then a second, a third.
“Looking for something in particular?” said Coach Dan.
“Well, I don’t want to sound like a prima donna,” said Bernie, “but I’m looking for one that doesn’t have that much of a bend.”
“Stand up,” said Coach Dan. Bernie stood, and as he took a step forward Coach Dan held his palm up to him, saying “No, stay there. Want to show you something. Rex, over here a minute,” he called, waving to Rex.
Coach Dan motioned Rex to stand a few feet apart from him, the two of them several yards from Bernie. Coach Dan pointed his foil at Rex, the tip several inches away from Rex’s chest.
“Is that a hit?” asked Coach Dan. Bernie shook his head.
“Is this a hit?” he said, moving the tip of his blade forward until it rested on Rex’s chest. Bernie craned his head forward, and said “Yes.”
“Had to think, didn’t you? Little uncertain, yes?” Bernie nodded. “Now — how about this?” Coach Dan extended the foil forward, and as the tip pillowed into the tunic at Rex’s chest, the blade bent in a tight parabola.
“No doubt this time?” asked Coach Dan. Bernie nodded. “And now you see why having a ‘bendy’ foil is actually an advantage?”
Decided to test the theory that “The Dark Side of the Moon” is oddly synchronous with “The Wizard of Oz.” I started my iPod at the MGM lion’s third roar, as had been recommended to me. Didn’t notice much synchronicity at the beginning — Dorothy’s opening jaunt down the dirt road is well underway when the vocals begin on “Breathe”, and having “On the Run” in the background during “Over the Rainbow” diminished both pieces.
The experiment didn’t pay off until I saw Dorothy running through her house, looking frantically for her family as the twister bears down on her, while listening to “The Great Gig In the Sky” — now that was a genuinely cool experience, well worth repeating on its own. “Money” is also an appropriately freaky soundtrack for Munchkinland, which believe it or not is an even more bizzare sight when you don’t hear the midget voices.
But for the rest, I’ve got to say there’s not much there. Yeah, Dorothy starts down the Yellow Brick Road around the time “Any Colour You Like” starts . . . yeah, “Brain Damage” plays during the Scarecrow’s dance . . . yeah, the concluding heartbeats sound during the Tin Man’s appearance . . . but these links seem more accidental than harmonious. If someone honestly feels that these two great works are in sync, all I have to say is that they must have been pretty drunk at the time.