Coach Dan scanned the faces in the room, saw the same faces he had seen before his attempt to deflect Myles’ blow. Annie still burned amber with indignant anger; Rex’s pallid face remained passive and accepting; Bernie looked down, shame and defeat evident in his posture; Butch continued to look confused, the wideness of his eyes making his face seem rounder than usual; Kassie’s eyes darted nervously from left to right, as if she were looking for somebody or something else to come threaten her and the other members of the Bark Bay High School fencing team. Only Double-J, hanging back apart from the rest of the team, seemed truly comfortable, his face beaming with bemused appreciation as he broke the silence in the large, empty cafeteria.
“This mean practice is over, Coach?”
Coach Dan turned in the direction of the large analog clock, suspended over the metal-curtained half-doors leading to the kitchen. “Ten to five.” The fencing team officially had the cafeteria until 5, but since the janitors wouldn’t be polishing the floors for another week, they could stay a good three-quarters to a full hour longer. Coach Dan turned back to his team. “Today was — unusual, to say the least. If you’ve all had enough, I understand.”
Rex stepped forward. “But we’ve got that tournament at the Academy Saturday.”
“It’s — ” Coach Dan stopped himself from stating that Saturday was just a practice. “Go on.”
Rex walked up to one of the lines between black and white tile on the cafeteria floor. “If it’s OK, with you, Coach — ” Rex brought his right foot forward, toe just behind the line, and crouched into en garde position — “I’d like to prepare more for Saturday.”
“Yes!” Annie followed her exclamation by rushing up to Rex’ line, her head turned and left hand waving to the rest of the team, her pony-tail swishing her back. “Let’s go, guys!”
Bernie smiled meekly, joined the line next to Annie, followed by Kassie, then Butch. Coach Dan looked beyond the line, saw Double-J standing where he had been, arms folded across his chest, bemusement still animating his mustachioed face. Coach Dan raised his chin. “You want the big kids to make fun of you?” Double-J laughed, shook his head, lowered his arms and with mock enthusiasm, joined the line to Rex’ left.
“Very good.” Coach Dan got into position, facing the team a few paces in front of their line, and came down into en garde position. The short dark curls of his beard brightened as he smiled, took one step backward, and called for the team to advance.
End of “Return of Myles”