Gray Metal Faces – October 3

KA-KLAK. Butch instantly recognized the burly figure now striding through the double metal doors from Friday’s demo. His name was unusual, but what it was he couldn’t remember; this dark-haired dynamo had certainly left an impression though. Let me know when you wanna fence with a real man’s weapon. All conversation in the large cafeteria stopped as the newcomer approached, then pointed at Butch, his black moustache drawing a dark line under his eyes.

“New kid, right?” Butch nodded. “Hey Annie, get him geared up, I’ll work with him.” He extended his hand like he was about to stab Butch. “Call me Double-J. Stands for John Johnston, a name so boring you gotta have a good nickname.” Butch reached without looking for the hand, his eyes fixed on Double-J. “Problem was, never liked the sound of JJ since the first time I remember hearing it, and by the age of eight, realized that no matter how I objected that was gonna stick to me like a facial birthmark. But then this one day that summer, my uncle called me JJ, and when I tell him not to call me that, he says, well we’ve got to do something about that double J in your name. And it seemed to me, that sounded so much more original, creative than any other nickname I’d ever heard, for me or anyone else, that’s when I decided that being Double-J was what I needed to be called.”

“Double-J.” Butch spoke the name like he was trying on a jacket he wasn’t sure he would like.

“Good to meet you.”

“My name’s — ”

“Jesus, COACH!” Double-J had abruptly stepped over, in front of Dan. “Not those damn tennis balls again?” He snatched the rope from Dan’s hands, grabbed the yellow ball in his right hand, walked over and held it up to Butch. “These things are useless. They can’t fight back. You don’t need to worry about making mistakes, because there’s no consequence if you fail. They lull you into a false sense of accomplishment. They don’t teach you any skill that will be useful in a bout. Seems to me, this isn’t any kind of practice for fencing — it’s a game.”

He tossed the ball and its attached rope back to Dan, put his right arm around Butch’s shoulder, pointed to Annie with his left. “Listen, don’t listen to the ballerina here. How many bouts have you actually won?” Annie folded her arms across her chest. “This game is about quickness and aggression. It’s combat, not a dance. It’s up to you, but you can either choose to look good like the princess over here, or actually win bouts. Your choice.”

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