“So how long’s it going to be,” asked Double-J, “before you quit the team?”

Bernie looked at him with undisguised surprise. He opened his mouth, yet no words came out.

“Please,” said Double-J quickly as he faced his palm to Bernie. “I’m not interested in hearing a defense that you don’t even believe.”

“What makes you so damn sure?”

“Polite profanity is no subsitute for courage, my friend. Weren’t you in drama club last year?”

“What does that have to do with fencing?”

“Stay focused. I remember you were on the track team in junior high, when I helped Coach Dan with the sprinters. Heard you were on the debate team as well. Know what I see? I see someone who can’t handle adversity. Somebody who gives up whenever he faces an obstacle.

“Fencing is deceptively easy. It’s easy to score some touches, win some bouts when you’re bottom-feeding. But then you get to the serious competition, you start facing people who aren’t in this sport to enjoy it, but conquer it, people who want to win. Then it gets difficult, the results aren’t there any more. People like you, you quit when those things happen. If something isn’t given to you, you run away. You don’t earn anything, fight for anything.”

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