HALT. The team recognized the sound that bounced off the tiled floor of the Bark Bay High School cafeteria, knew it came from Coach Dan, yet they also knew he was using a voice the team did not often hear. It was the voice of his father, the surgeon who demanded his house be run as orderly as his operating room; of Rabbi Epstein, whose patient insistence deserved much of the credit for Danny Jacobs being able to not just read but chant the haftorah during his bar mitzvah; of his bear of a college fencing coach, Josef, you want play go gym, you want fence, shut up, you listen. The team knew it was not a voice he was comfortable using, but they also knew that, like a welder putting on a bulky blast mask before lighting his torch, it was a voice he was not afraid to use.
“Is there a problem over here?” Coach Dan was walking away from the younger fencers, who watched him with eyes filled with apprehension, towards the teens gathered around the makeshift practice strip.
Miles took off his mask, opened his arms wide towards Coach Dan as he smiled cloyingly. “So sorry to disrupt your drilling, Coach. Annie and I were just having a little disagreement over the proper etiquette for practice bouts.”
“He didn’t salute.” Annie still had her mask on, but the outline of her clenching jaw was visible behind the opaque gray metal.
Coach Dan turned towards Miles, impatience spawning on his face with each step he took. “Did you salute?” Miles nodded. “Eventually.” Miles winced at Annie’s one-word response.
Coach Dan waved his hands over his head. “OK, you’ve saluted. You need me to explain anything else? I know you haven’t been fencing at college, but you remember what to do when somebody says en garde?”
Miles nodded, then shook his head as he turned away, walked to his starting line. Coach Dan turned to Annie, made contact with the shadow of her eyes behind the mask. When she nodded, Coach Dan turned, walk back towards his group.