Four and Six

Rex’s arms and legs unfolded like a giant scissors, the foil in his right arm coming forward and up, its blade descending down from his hand until its tip landed on Annie’s front shoulder. Before the action completed, Coach Dan had stepped between them.

“Why’d you parry four?” The volunteer coach of the Bark Bay High School fencing team was typically direct with more experienced fencers like Annie, who lifted her mask swiftly up off her face, her brown pony-tail flapping onto her back.

“He attacked four.” Annie pointing towards Rex with her foil.

“He feinted four — ” the middle-aged man spoke in an almost condescending tone he never used in his classroom — “but attacked in your six. You parried too strong to four, leaving your six open.”

Rune, standing on the other side of the makeshift fencing strip in the middle of the cafeteria floor, felt a tap on his shoulder as soft as a raindrop. The Bird’s inquisitive face greeted him as he turned, and the slender girl asked Rune to explain what their coach meant by four and six.

Rune waved his greasy hair off his pimply forehead. “I dunno the details, but I heard there’s like, eight different parries you can do in fencing, and they all got a number.” He stepped forward with his right foot pointed at The Bird, and bent his knees into en garde position. “Coach says at our level, we only have to learn two of them.” Right arm in front of him, he turned his wrist, brought the forearm across his chest. “This is called a four parry — I don’t know what one two and three are, Coach showed us once but didn’t spend any time on them, said we wouldn’t use them.” He then turned his wrist back, and swung his forearm in the other direction, to the right of his body. “And this is called the six parry.”

The Bird asked if he knew what the five parry was. “Yeah — ” Rune brought his arm in line with his body again, and lifted his wrist up to chin level — “five is a head parry, I remember that ‘cuz I thought it was cool, but since the head’s not part of the target area in foil, Coach says we shouldn’t use it.”

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