Chapter 4.4C

“And then,” continued Coach Dan, “it was Rex’s turn to surprise me.”

Rex smiled, looked down at the lights reflecting off the brown tiled floor a moment, then looked up and addressed the party. “I told Coach I wasn’t the right person for the job. Then I told him that I had been talking to Double-J about who should be captain.”

Annie turned to Double-J, still standing by himself off to the side, away from the lights in the darkest spot in the room. The joy that had been on her face disappeared, replaced with a look that conveyed concern, amazement, and anger, feelings that only increased when she saw that the snake of his smile appeared to have grown.

“Care to tell everyone what you said?” asked Rex in Double-J’s direction.

Double-J shrugged. “Not particularly,” he said, drawing a ripple of nervous laughter in the room. “Think everyone’s figured out what’s going down, anyway.”

Annie felt eyes turning directly at her — first Double-J’s, then Coach Dan’s and Rex’s, and then if by silent cue everyone else in the room turned in her direction, as her mouth fell open.

“Right. Double-J and I agreed that there was only one person who had everyone’s respect on this team, one person everyone could look to, only one person with both the fencing skills and leadership ability to be this team’s captain. And that person,” Rex said, extending his right arm in her direction, “is Annie.”

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Chapter 4.4B

Placing his left hand on Rex’s shoulder, and raising his right arm toward the bright lights above the dining hall, Coach Dan cleared his throat dramatically, and spoke.

“Before Rex and I make our big announcment, I would like to again thank Carl and Pamela Hutchinson, not only for their generous hospitality this evening — dinner was superb — but also for their continued support of the Bark Bay fencing team.” Polite, sincere applause, even from Double-J. Coach Dan clasped his hands in front of him, and continued.

“As you know, we have been functioning without a team captain so far this season. Now this is not that unusual, given the highly individualistic nature of fencing — many of the teams we compete against do not have captains, function fine without them.”

“The Academy has a fencing captain,” Annie said quickly.

Coach Dan nodded in her direction. “True. And the last two years, we also had a captain.” There was a brief silence as the memory of Miles, as well as the desire not to speak his name, arose in everyone. “Back then I saw there was a clear need for a captain, a leader who could help define our team’s identity. We were still the new kids on the block, and having someone serve such a visible role was crucial to our development.

“But it’s a new year, a new season, a new team. Many familiar faces, but some new. When we began practicing in the fall, I had no idea how you all would interact with each other, could not see what team you might become. What I did know was that if I appointed a captain,” — Annie could see that Coach Dan was now looking beyond them, was focused on Double-J — “the entire team would begin to revolve around that person, like moons pulled into orbit by the gravity from a powerful planet. I wanted to see every one of you — develop a bit first, before deciding if you even needed a captain.

“And then,” Coach Dan said, turning to Rex, “the Tuesday before Thanksgiving break, I had a conversation with this fine young gentlement. I said to him, ‘Rex, I think this team could use a captain.’ He agreed, and then I think I surprised him — I asked him why he agreed with me.”

Coach Dan nodded at Rex, who recognized the cue and continued, “We have a lot of — strong personalities on the team,” he said, Annie sensing that he was also now addressing Double-J directly. “There is no shortage of advice given at practice. If anything, there’s too much advice, isn’t there, Butch?”

Butch nodded swiftly. “Yeah. You remind me to keep my back straight, Annie tells me to concentrate on my footwork, Double-J says I need to pay attention to my arm position, then Coach Dan talks for five minutes about keeping distance — it’s overwhelming.”

“It’s a difficult sport,” Coach Dan said quickly. “There’s a lot to take in, and I agreed with Rex’s analysis on the babel of advice at practice. And that,” he said, extending his right arm towards Rex, “is when I asked Rex to be this year’s captain of the Bark Bay Fencing Team.”

“YES,” Annie said, clapping enthusiastically. She looked to the teammates around her, who also began clapping, then turned to Double-J, who remained standing to the side of the room, not clapping, a sarcastic smile slithering onto his face as he saw Annie looking at him, the smile freezing into position as Double-J pointed back to Coach Dan.

Chapter 4.4A

“Where’s Double-J?” Coach Dan asked as Annie approached.

“Outside, having a smoke,” Annie said, pointing in the direction of the kitchen. Coach Dan turned from her, called Butch over to him, asked him to get Double-J, finally turned back to Annie, who stared intently at him and asked, “What’s up?”

Coach Dan paused visibly a moment, Annie detecting in his face the quick formation of a plan, a response that would be as much calculation as communication. Then he smiled, the mechanism of his cunning seeming to come to a rest, and said softly, “I have an — announcement to make.”

The sound of wet sneakers squeaking against the tiled floor came from the kitchen. “Hey Coach” Double-J said as he entered the dining room, trailed by Butch. “I already know what your big announcement is, so can I just get going?”

“Five minutes,” Coach Dan said, holding up the palm of his hand to Double-J, all five fingers extended, looking as if he were trying to cast a spell that would cause the young man to stay. Double-J shrugged, thrust his hands in his coat pockets, stood to the side of the room, the melting snow from his sneakers forming a pool at his feet.

Coach Dan called for Rex to stand next to him, then motioned with his right arm for everyone to gather in front of them. Butch turned to Double-J, pointed to an empty spot on the floor next to him, his offer met with a wry smirk and a shake of the head. Butch raised his eyebrows, turned to Coach Dan and Rex, shifted his position again so that his back was not turned to Double-J, making sure there was a clear line of sight between the speakers and the reluctant member of the audience.

Chapter 4.3Z

Annie walked into the kitchen, the door closing swiftly, leaving Double-J alone in the cold winter night’s air.

Jimmy looked up at the sound, his body arched over the sink. He turned to Annie with a smile. “Are you a fan of the Tigers?”

Annie looked at him, confused. Jimmy pointed at his body, over his heart. “Your shirt,” he said.

Annie looked down, saw the white of her fencing jacket, and a moment later she finally understood Jimmy’s reference. She had put on a baseball shirt with the Detroit Tigers’ logo earlier that evening, was still wearing it under her jacket.

Annie nodded, then shook her head. “Not a fan, no. I just like that old English D,” she said, walking past Jimmy into the dining room.

Rex was shaking hands with Annie’s silver-haired father, thanking him for the evening’s hospitality. “My pleasure,” Carl Hutchinson replied through his glistening white teeth, before motioning for Rex to approach closer.

Annie walked into the room, taking a path close enough to remain within earshoot of the conversation between Rex and her father, while distant enough to conceal her intent to eavesdrop. Over the murmur of other conversations, she was only able to hear individual words her father whispered — Johnson (a name she had heard Rex mention before — yes, that man from the state, Child And Family Services), attorney, fight — before Coach Dan called her over.

Pardon the interruption

This holiday morning I decided to change my blog address to keighahr.wordpress.com. Being a guy, I decided not to read the instructions; being impatient, I didn’t read the on-screen prompts; being overly confident in my own techno skills, I decided there was nothing I could do that couldn’t be undone.

After a frantic fifteen minutes of thinking that I had suddenly lost nearly two years worth of blog posts, I decided to approach this project with the attention it deserved.

So here’s the deal — if you go to my old blog address, drkenrogers.wordpress.com, you should be redirected automatically to my new address, keighahr.wordpress.com. I’ll decide later whether to abandon drkenrogers entirely, or use it for writing other than my novel project.

I think I’ve got the redirect working right — fire off a note to me (subject line of “Hey Einstein”) if you run into any problems.

And if you’re at all curious about the significance of the name Keigh Ahr, I’ve added an explanation to my About page.

The Hobbit

Wanted to re-read this classic, delightful tale before the first of two Peter Jackson movies debuts later this year. What struck me this time was the amount of narrative interruption, moments when the narrator addresses the reader directly. It doesn’t happen on every page, or even every other page, but it happens often enough to stand as a motif:

It was just at this moment that Bilbo suddenly discovered the weak point in his plan. Most likley you saw it some time ago and have been laughing at him; but I don’t suppose you would have done half as well yourselves in his place.

I have never heard what happened to the chief of the guards and the butler.

What would have happened if the door had still been open I don’t like to think.

This is neither the tiresome, self-important voice of a “post-modern” (whatever the hell that means) narrator breaking the fourth wall between author and reader, nor evidence of Tolkien’s immaturity as an author (I haven’t studied this point I’m about to make, he writes with respectful trepidation, but I’m confident there are far fewer of these moments in “The Lord of the Rings”). These passages are seldom yet regular, seem strategic rather than accidental.

While it’s easy to think that Tolkein is addressing his readers in these passsaages, it’s important to understand that is the narrator, not the author, who is speaking at these moments. The narrator speaks as someone indirectly involved in Bilbo’s adventure, perhaps one charged with telling the tale. This makes the narrator of “The Hobbit” a character with a vested interest in the story’s acceptance. Rather than breaking down a wall between author and reader, these passages create another wall between the text and the reader — wall being an ill-fitting metaphor, perhaps stage would do better.

In “The Hobbit,” Tolkein creates a clever, subtle narrator who appears often enough to remind us that we are experiencing Bilbo’s adventures as a tale, told by a non-participant who nevertheless is closer to events than we are as readers. It is a story not only about dwarves and horrible monsters and the feats of heroes, but also about how such stories are told.

And in conclusion, I do so hope the two upcoming movies are far superior in quality to my above attempt at litery analysis.

Chapter 4.3Y Revisited

[Wasn’t satisfied with how I ended my last post, so I’m giving it another shot]

Annie heard the sound of a car door closing in the crisp winter air. They’re home, Annie said, motioning down the fire road in the direction of the Johnson’s house.

Double-J continued walking, scrunch-scrunch, turned his head in Annie’s direction, said Look, if you and Bernie — then stopped when he didn’t see her beside him. He turned fully around, saw Annie had stopped, stood still, looking at him.

I’m sorry I hit you she said.

Double-J nodded. Annie could not see his face, but thought she saw in the dark outline of his posture a feeling she had never seen in Double-J, not in all the years they had known each other, not through all their hours of fencing together, not even in that brief time a year earlier when they had been dating. For the first time, Double-J seemed regretful.

A cold wind swept acorss the fire road, bare tree limbs shaking in the background, and that feelign of regret — at least that’s what it seemed to her — disappeared, replaced with his usual aura of confidence. That’s OK he said. Things — happen.

Annie walked up to him, spread her arms to embrace him — then stopped as she saw Double-J silently raise his hand, turning back and resuming his walk towards the Johnson’s home.

They walked side by side, . . . [the rest of Chapter 4.3Y resumes here and continues to its end]

Chapter 4.3Y

Scrunch scrunch scrunch. Ahead of them Annie saw the lights of the Johnson house appear through the dense trees, about five minutes away.

Bernie helps keep the mood light at practice Annie said. The team needs that balance.

Double-J shrugged. If you say so. I just don’t trust him.

Do you trust anyone?

Double-J grunted. Don’t make this about me. Bernie wants something from you, needs you for something — don’t know what he’s after, but there’s something, it’s obvious to me. You need to look out for yourself.

Annie laughed. Why suddenly are you being so protective?

Dunno. Probably because I almost wrapped you around a tree back there.

Annie heard the sound of a car door closing in the crisp winter air. They’re home, Annie said, motioning down the fire road in the direction of the Johnson’s house.

Annie, said Double-J. She turned, saw Double-J had stopped, stood still, looking at her. She could not see his face, but she heard in his voice, and saw in the dark outline of his posture, a feeling she had never seen coming from Double-J, not in all the years they had known each other, not through all their hours of fencing together, not even in that brief time a year earlier when they had been dating. Double-J was regretful.

I’m — sorry.

Annie looked at him, then beyond him to the fire road they had walked down. It’s OK. You couldn’t have seen that deer coming, it was an accident, things happen.

Double-J looked down. Yeah. Things happen.

He began walking again. Annie walked up to him, spread her arms to embrace him — then stopped as she saw Double-J silently raise his hand, and walk past her.

They walked side by side, the dirt of the fire road finally giving way to the crumbling asphalt of the county road. They turned left, crossed the county road, Annie feeling the weight in her feet finally lift as they walked onto the Johnson’s driveway. There was a pickup parked near the house, fresh tire tracks leading up to it. Lights shown in the house’s windows.

You call your parents first Double-J said.

Annie shook her head. Call for a tow first. I’ll be OK.

I’m sure you will. She turned to him, saw that he was smiling broadly, no hint of sarcasm in his face.

A moment later, they were at the front door. Double-J pressed the doorbell, the sound inside quickly followed by footsteps. A moment later, the door opened.

Chapter 4.3X

Double-J turned and resumed walking down the fire road, with no indication to Annie that she should follow, as if attempting to abandon her as they had both earlier abandoned his derelict car.

Annie rushed up beside him, prepared for a reaction which did not come from Double-J, who stared calmly down the road in front of them as they scrunched-scrunched along.

They walked silently for several minutes, until a movement of light above them caught Annie’s attention, causing her to point upwards and say, Look at that.

Double-J looked up, saw broad streaks of white light against the black sky, appearing as thin white clouds might look against the blue light. Yet instead of rushing across the sky like clouds, the lights pulsated, side to side as well as up and down, moving with the energy of life.

Northern lights, Double-J said.

Annie smiled, said They’ve seen queer sights. Double-J groaned. Annie asked, Were you there the day Bernie recited “Sam McGee” during practice?

Double-J shook his head. Sorry I missed it.

It was impressive.

What, that he can quote doggrel from memory?

It’s a fun poem —

Oh, he’s all about having fun Double-J said, now looking at Annie again. He’s a real clown, always retelling good jokes he’s heard, or writing some song parody. Ever wonder why?

This ought to be good.

Because it’s safe. It’s entertainment without offense. He doesn’t take chances, because he’s afraid. He’ll never do anything original, won’t put himself on the line like that.

Chapter 4.3W

Double-J raised his right hand slowly, rubbing its back under his chin. He turned aside quickly, spit loudly, then turned back and glared at Annie.

Temper, Double-J said. It’s your only weakness. That’s why you can’t beat Franics Pine, in foil or epee — he knows how to push your buttons, get you flustered. You stop thinking, you start reacting to what he’s doing, start fighting his game, on his terms. You’ll never beat Francis until you get your temper under control.

Annie smiled sarcastically. Now you’re sounding like Coach Dan.

Double-J shrugged. He’s a control freak. Doesn’t mean he’s not smart.