I hear the big metal door to the right open clangly, and three more Academy fencers walk in, names on their legs. They’re carrying short metal boxes, a couple inches high and a foot square.
“Finally,” Coach Sarah calls, following with a command to clear the area where we’ve been drilling. Rex goes off to help with setup, and as I stand aside Butch comes up to me. “What are those things?” Butch says. “They look like metal pizza boxes.”
I remember that this is Butch’s first tournament. All of our practices in the Bark Bay cafeteria have been non-electric, he hasn’t seen this equipment before. “It’s a cord reel,” I explain, walking over to where one of the boxes has been placed on the floor. “There’s a plug at the end,” I say, reaching down and grabbing the three-pronged plug, laying outside a small hole. As I pull the plug up to show Butch, a shielded electrical cord uncoils from the box through the hole. “We’ll be using different weapons today, they’ll have a small outlet inside the hilt, next to the grip. There’s this body cord, when you put your jacket on one end of the cord will go through your sleeve and out through your wrist, the other will do down your back. One end of the body cord connects to the foil, the other end,” I say, holding the plug from the metal box up, “connects to here.”
I then point to the other end of the box. “See that cord that goes out the back? That goes to the scoring device. When you register a touch, the device lights up.”
“What if you hit off target?” he asks.
I nod. “That’s what the lamee’s are for — that’s another piece of equipment you haven’t used yet. It’s this gray vest with wires in it. Your body cord will have an alligator clip, on the same end that connects to this device. You clip it to the back of your lamee. These foils we use today, they also have a sensor on the tip, not the rubber tip we use in practice. When pressure’s applied to the sensor, it looks to see if it can make a circuit to your opponent’s lamee — that’s what the alligator clip does, make a circuit. If you hit off target, your foil doesn’t make a circuit, and a white light goes off.”
I look at Butch, and though I can tell my talk about electical circuitry has confused him, he nods in agreement with enough confidence to let me know he gets the jist of my explanation.