I don’t know what I was expecting to see when I turned to look at Francis Pine, but I didn’t expect this from the opponent in my first fencing bout of the day — he’s got his head turned, having a conversation with another Academy fencer (MZUREK on the legs) off the side of the strip.
“Next week?” Francis asks. “Two,” replies MZUREK. Francis nods, asks “You talk to Paris? He coming?” “Should be. He usually travels with Midland.”
Now it comes to me — he’s talking about Mike Paris, the top foilist from Midland High, in the city. I can’t believe it — Francis Pine is literally looking past us, past today’s tournament with Bark Bay. Well OK, it’s not official, more like a practice, but we’re scoring it like a tournament, but this guy couldn’t care less.
Coach Dan walk up to the middle of our strip, stands to its side, in the referee’s position. He looks us over, see we’re connected. “Test foils,” he commands, waving us toward the middle.
I walk up with foil extended, mask held in my left hand in front of my face. Francis walks up as well, while still talking to MZUREK. He’s not even looking at me as we tap each other’s lame with our foil tips. The green and red lights on the scoring machine light up.
Francis turns away from me, still talking to MZUREK. I’m not even sure he knows I’m here. He puts on his mask as he reaches his starting line. I can already see several spots where the blue tape marking our lines is coming up. I have a little trouble getting my mask on — the damn bib always gets caught on my chin, I have to grab and pull it down — and I can still hear Francis and his buddy talking.
I finish adjusting my mask, walk up to the starting line and crouch down into position. Coach Dan looks at me, and winks. “Fencers ready?” he calls. “Yes,” I say. Francis finally stops talking to his friend, and when he nods, Coach Dan calls, “Fence.”