Double-J ripped his mask from his head, saluted Jimmy with the sincerity of a man thanking a police officer for a speeding ticket. He did not offer to shake hands, a violation of etiquette that Dan chose not to challenge for practices. The burly teen, his thin wires of sweaty black hair protruding from his head as if charged with static, walked swiftly over to the team’s equipment sacks, followed by Dan.
“I take it you’re being here tonight — ” it was the first practice Double-J had attended in a month — “means you’re fencing in the tournament Saturday?” Experienced high school fencers were able and encouraged to compete at State’s tournament.
“Yeah.” For one of the few if not only times that evening, Double-J looked up and made eye contact with Dan. “Heard Diaz was finally going to compete, for once. ” Hector Diaz, in his prep year at the Academy, was last year’s state champion in sabre, defeating Double-J in the quarters by three touches.
Double-J turned his back to Dan, who unzipped his jacket. “That’s what Coach Gavvy tells me.” Double-J let the jacket fall to the floor, his coach’s presence no longer a seeming concern. Dan bit his lip. “Everything going OK for you?”
Double-J flinched, like a jittery fencer adjusting to an opponent’s disengage. The glance he turned and shot back at Dan was filled with wariness. “There’s nothing going on with me. At least, nothing you need to know anything about, or that I care to tell you.”