Footsteps from his left, Coach Dan recognizing from the sounds that he was being approached by Jimmy Saunders (light footfalls, long strides) and Pat Williams (heavy, rapid steps), fencing coach at Midland.
“Since when were you able to hire a saber and epee coach?” Pat’s question sounded more like an accusation.
Coach Dan waved a hand in Jimmy’s direction. “He’s getting paid the same as you and I, my friend.”
Pat grunted dismissively, like he was expunging a virus. “Probably get as much respect from the administration. What do you teach?”
“I don’t teach.” Jimmy’s voice was as smooth as a pane of expensive glass. “I run a catering business. Squisito.”
“Ah!” Pat’s dark eyes brightened. “Heard about you guys.” Confusion crossed his face. “I thought you guys were Italian.”
Jimmy smiled, held the blink of his eyes an extra I get that a lot moment. “Yes, black men from Louisiana know how to cook pasta.”
“Been meaning to ask about that.” Coach Dan waited until Jimmy and he made eye contact before proceeding. “Why Italian, not creole?”
“Because I’m a smart businessman, Daniel. Tried creole, Cajun when I first moved up here ten years ago. Year later, I was almost bankrupt.” Coach Dan heard more of Jimmy’s native accent than usual. “I’d made some contacts with other caterers, so I started asking questions, got answers to what I’d already pretty much figured out — people around here didn’t have a taste for what I was cooking.” Jimmy shrugged. “So I looked up a few recipes, came up with a new menu. Made more in my first month than from the entire time I’d been here.”
“In other words, you adapted.” Coach Dan’s face beamed with satisfaction. “You analyzed your situation, found the flaw, and made the necessary correction. Exactly like I ask my team to do on strip.”
Pat snorted, shook his head. “Fencing’s not a metaphor for life, Dan. It’s a sport. Their skills’re the only things your students have with them on strip that do them any good, and the only thing they take with them when their bouts’re over is their score.” And then Pat left abruptly.