Chapter 2L

“Target practice,” Coach Dan said, nudging the tennis ball to initiate it’s pendulum swing from the light standard. He motioned to Butch to line up behind the suspended ball, and retrieved a foil from the canvas sack. “Best part,” he said, punching the tennis ball with the tip of his foil, “is that it never fights back.”


He had an acne cyst at the top of his nose, between his eyebrows, which would routinely fill, then drain. Yet even when empty the cyst seemed engorged, a visible furuncle on his forehead.


A popular song played on Butch’s radio. Double-J groaned audibly, causing Rex to smirk and shake his head. Annie turned to Butch, asked him to change the station, but Bernie said, “wait.”

“You actually WANT to hear that crap?” bellowed Double-J.

“I like that song,” Bernie said.

Annie nodded, adding that Bernie had said he had like a similar song last week.

“What else do you like?” Double-J asked. He named a few other recently popular songs. Bernie nodded.

“You know those are all songs about divorces, break-ups,” Double-J observed. “That tells me your either intimately familiar with the subject, or aspire to the feeling.”

“Not really,” said Bernie. “What I like about these songs is their honesty. The singer has nothing to prove to their ex-lover – they’re not going to get anything in return, there’s no ulterior motive.”

“Tell that to their accountant,” Double-J replied, drawing a laugh from the team.

“So yeah, they’re professional musicians. But their inspiration has to come from somewhere, has to have something other than a monetary objective. Yes, they want to sell records, but if that was their only motivation their music wound sound contrived, wouldn’t feel authentic. It’s in the breakup somgs where musicians become honest about themselves. You don’t see that degree of honesty mcuh of anywhere else, and that’s why I like these songs.”


“We’re nothing like each other,” Annie said. “I’m intellectual, you pride yourself in your poor grades. I’m empathic, you’re a borderline sociopath. I’m a team player, you’re an anarchist. Face it — we’re antipodes.”

“Anti-what?” said Double-J.



He approached the car bent at his knees and waist, as if it were a cactus, a prickly cholla that if not handled with the right degree of caution would harm him.


“You’re such a noisy fencer,” Coach Dan said. “Your arm move,ents are too broad. Move your foil with your fingers, your wrist, not your forearm. Your upper arm should move as little as possible – parry by hinging off your elbow, not your shoulder.”

Bird on a log

She had expected her last day at the job would be an emotional one, filled with heart-to-heart conversations and an evening of drinks and laughter after work. And yes, she was disappointed when her goodbye conversations were treated as perfunctory obligations by those she had worked so closely with for so many years. By noon, she realized there would be no party this evening. But as she left the office for the last time, she realized her casual dismissal was in line with her entire nine-year career at that job. She had never felt at home there, always felt she was in transition. A memory suddenly came to her, from a time she had visited her grandparent’s home in the country on a wintry weekend. She had been looking out the kitchen window at the birds, landing briefly in the back yard and quickly flying away. One bird, though, landed on a log and remained, not frozen (it hopped up and down the bark, head twitching up and down quickly), but unlike the others seemingly interested in some aspect of the yard. She knew the bird would eventually fly away (which it did, moments later), but in that brief time she wondered what could have made that bird choose to stay for such an extended period. Leaving her job that day, she knew she was like that bird, knowing it would not remain in place long but comfortable to stay for a moment.


He had moved into town almost a decade earlier, yet still never felt comfortable, at home. He still felt as if he was in a layover, no longer where he had been, not where he wanted to be, and no interest in staying where he was. He was prone to cheap, sensational distractions, something to take his attention away at least temporarily.