The Academy 4L

Annie continues her back and forth, back and forth, dashing back out of range whenever Francis closes in, cruising in close when he relaxes, the swiftness of her motion preventing her opponent from gaining his timing.

I hear Coach Dan grunt with impatience next to me. He knows it won’t take long for Francis to reset. Annie’s got the advantage now, but she needs to act soon, or it will be gone and might not come back.

I see a runner with green shorts passing on the track — then suddenly Annie’s pounced on Francis, her green light’s illuminated on the scoring machine. Touch right, 8 – 6.

Francis charges at her when the bout resumes, but Annie’s ready for him, her riposte is true. Touch right, 8 – 7.

This time when Coach Sarah calls for the bout to resume, they both advance quickly, each committing to an attack with complete disregard for their opponent’s action. They lunge at each other, neither caring to parry, each intent only on hitting the other. And they both succeed, the red and green lights of the scoring machine buzzing harmoniously.

“Halt,” calls Coach Sarah. She looks up at the ceiling, then over to Francis on her left, Annie on her right. The two fencers rise out of their lunges and stand attentively, their faceless gray masks searching her smiling face expectantly.

It’s all up to Coach Sarah. As director, she has the responsibility for determining who initiated the attack and therefore has right of way. Since nobody parried to take right of way away, it all comes down to who started first. It looked to me like Annie started her lunge a split second before Francis, but I’m just a spectator and my opinion totally doesn’t count. Will Coach Sarah see it that way? Or is she going to give the benefit of the doubt to her student? Which way will the Academy handle this — will they bend the rules in their favor and exploit their home-field advantage, or be the condescending host granting a favor to the poor working-class stiffs from Bark Bay?

Coach Sarah closes her eyes, and talks slowly. “The attack came,” she says, left arm extending out (Francis’ side, I knew she’d play favorites) — “from my right,” her arm coming across her body and pointing at Annie, who shakes her fist and squeals. Francis nods, and turns back to his starting line.

Touch right. 8 all.

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