Charlie heard a ting from inside the cafeteria as he approached the double metal doors. He didn’t recognize the sound, which seemed to him almost like a pin dropping on a concrete floor, but he guessed its source based on the activity he knew was taking place inside.
He pushed against the metal door on the right (as heavy as he remembered it from his school days), making a ka-klak loud enough to announce his entrance to anyone inside. But as he walked inside the nearly empty cafeteria, he noticed that none of the few occupants seemed to notice him.
There were about a half-dozen of them, assembled in the center of the large room. Two students (both boys, Charlie guessed) stood several feet apart, facing each other. They were dressed in white uniforms that covered their entire bodies and arms, and wore metal masks. They held thin metal swords in their hands, each sword pointed at the body of the other. One student stepped forward, again, the other stepping back; they stopped, and repeated their motions in reverse.
Between the two students, outside the line of their pointed swords, stood a man (a teacher, Charlie guessed), his gaze shifting back and forth silently between the two. On the other side sat three other students, dressed in the same white uniforms but not wearing masks, watching attentively the action between the two masked students.
Charlie had known there was a fencing team at Bark Bay High School, had seen the flyers, heard the morning announcements over the intercom. But he hadn’t known anyone on the team — well there was Myles of course, but if you were a student at Bark Bay you had no choice but to know everything Myles had done, whether it was quarterbacking the football team or leading the basketball team in scoring or setting the conference home run record, or deciding to give this new sport of fencing a try — and until this moment, walking across the dusty tiled floor of the cafeteria, Charlie had never actually seen fencers in action.
The student on the left stepped forward quickly and lunged forward, his sword aimed at his opponent. The next several actions were a blur to Charlie, bodies twisting and swords colliding, until suddenly the man whose back was turned to Charlie commanded them to halt. Charlie stopped as well, watched as the man waved his arms and spoke words he couldn’t hear to the two fencers — and then, to Charlie’s surprise, the man turned to him, and greeted him with a bearded smile.
“How can I help you, my friend?”