I immediately advance, taking two steps forward, remembering the strategy that Rex taught me in practice a couple weeks ago — beat the opponent’s blade, extend, disengage when the opponent beats back, lunge and hit. I advance to within lunge distance, get ready for the beat, but Francis has already started to attack, extending his arm, the tip of his foil threatening my chest. I’m not beating any more, I’m parrying his attack, but when I move my foil across my body to block his attack I hit nothing but air, and by the time I realize he’s disengaged he’s landed a touch on my right shoulder, his blade arcing up and to his right, the “2 o’clock bend” that Coach Dan’s always asking of us.
The scoring machine beeps, and Francis turns immediately, walking back towards his starting position. I’m still too surprised to move. “Halt,” Coach Dan calls, unnecessarily. Francis is talking to MZUREK again, and above their inaudible chatter I hear them both say Paris. It’s like I’m not even here.
“Back to your starting line,” I hear Coach Dan say to me. I excuse myself, walk back. Coach Dan calls the score, “1-0,” and calls for us to fence again. I step forward, but this time Francis is on top of me before I can take a second step, arm extended again. I move to parry, clearly seeing him disengage this time — won’t work this time, sucker! — and immediately bring my foil back across my body (lateral parry from 4 to 6, I hear Coach Dan’s voice in my head).
And I hit air again. The disengage was a feint, he’s brought his foil back up in line with it’s original position, aimed right at my exposed chest, my foil far out to my right blocking an attack which isn’t coming, at least not from that area. Francis lunges, lands his attack; the scoring machine beeps, Coach Dan calls halt, and Francis turns quickly again, talking to MZUREK again about Mike Paris as he returns to his starting line.