Chapter 6 – February 14C

Tap-tap on top of the mask. “Again.” Forward, back, back, back, forward, back — “What should you be doing?”

Rune hesitated. Lunged. An impatient parry, Coach Dan’s voice inflected like a cartoon character, “Naow naow naow! Get that arm out, little bit with each step!” tap-tap “Again.”

Forward, back, forward, forward, back — “get that arm out — ” back, back — “good” — forward, forward, back. Stop. “Lunge.”

Rune barely moved. “What goes first?”

The teen pulled up. “My arm did go first!”

Coach Dan swiped his foil across Rune’s right shin. “No it didn’t. Your front foot was leading your arm.” tap-tap “Again.”

Rune sighed, looked around quickly. The large cafeteria was almost entirely empty, tables and benches folded into the walls, the windows to the kitchen closed, a stale odor of marinara the only evidence of the room’s primary use. To his right, Rex and Annie spared each other, their grunts punctuated with the occasional sharp laugh. Beyond them, the canvas sacks containing the Bark Bay High School fencing team’s equipment lay in disheveled heaps on the tiled floor, masks and jackets and foils spilling out of the openings like abandoned packing material. He heard Butch talking in excited tones behind and to his left, probably to Little Paul, who’d made a surprise visit to practice this week.

tap-tap Rune shook his head, “sorry.” Forward, forward, back, forward, back, back. Stop. “Lunge.”

As he pushed all one hundred and twenty three pounds of his body forward from his back leg, the high-B student resigned himself to his coach’s judgment. “What goes first?”

“Hey, I get it.” The teen stood straight, pulled his mask up from his chin, lifting it onto the top of his head, exposing his face red with sweat and frustration. “I’m trying.”

Coach Dan pulled off his mask just as swiftly. “I can see you’re trying. And I’d wish you stop.”

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