[Back to the NaBloPoMo prompts for today’s post: what knowledge do you have that others don’t? Another opportunity to develop background material for my novel.]

“So I’ve been doing some research.” Rune retrieved a spiral notebook from his backpack, and placed it on the green tabletop. “I’ve been asking everyone the same question — what do I need to work on to improve my fencing?” He looked down as he flipped the notebook cover open, began flipping through the marked pages. “I was going to ask Coach Dan the same thing, but then I looked at what you all had said — ”

“What you wrote down, you mean.” The bitter smile on Double-J’s bearded face spread like a virulent disease. “what you thought we said.”

Sitting to Rune’s right, Annie reached over and tapped the opened notebook. “What have you got?” Across the table, Rex leaned his thin body forward, as Double-J retained his reclined pose.

“Well — ” Rune pointed his thumb at Annie — “you told me to work on my footwork and balance.”

Annie nodded enthusiastically, her brown pony-tail dancing behind her head. “You fence with your feet.”

Rune withdrew his thumb, and waved his open left hand towards Rex. “And you said I was getting too close.”

“Don’t close the distance, let your opponent make the mistake.”

Rune’s left hand closed in a fist, as his right index finger pointed diagonally across the table at Double-J, who had looked away. “But then you said my point control sucked.”

“It’s a foil, not a tennis racket.” Double-J was still focused away from the table. “Your arm’s all over the place, like you’re being attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes.” His head shifted, his eyes focused back on Rune. “You look like you don’t — ”

“OK.” Annie’s voice had her that’s enough tone. She touched Rune’s right forearm. “Fencing’s difficult. We all struggle, get frustrated.” She lifted her chin across the table at Rex. “Remember your first epee tournament?”

Rex tilted his head back swiftly, his long thin next looking like it would snap from the force. He laughed. “One touch in the pools.” He raised his right index finger, as thin as an exclamation mark. “One!

“And Double-J, when — ”

“No.” The burly teen shook his head in Annie’s direction, the thin black wires of his hair seeming to stand on end as if electrified. “No.”

Annie frowned. “It took me a year to realize I could use my dance training to my advantage on strip.” She paused, waited for Rune to return her smile. “There’s no secret to fencing, nothing we’re trying to hide from you. Everything we all said is true, and if pulling that all together sounds overwhelming, well, like I said, it’s a difficult sport.” She squeezed his forearm. “But it’s that difficulty that makes it so great. And when you figure it out, make all the pieces parts fit together — solve the mystery of your own secret — you’re not going to have to ask anybody what you need to do next. You’ll know what the questions are, and how you’ll discover the answers.”

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