In the next rectangle over, Annie and Rune finished their bout. Butch watched as they saluted each other, came together at the center of the rectangle, and shook hands. There was a look of satisfaction in Rune’s face which Butch had never seen before, like his friend was sharing a secret with Annie, a silent communication which no one, not even Butch, was supposed to observe.
“How’s it going over there?” Annie’s eyes bright with excitement.
“Oh!” Butch lifted the mask off his face, reversing the motion Rex had shown him earlier. “It’s going well. There’s a lot to learn, though.” His vision caught the image of Coach Dan and Double-J continuing their conversation in the far corner of the cafeteria.
“We’re all learning something new about this sport.” Rex’s voice muffled behind his mask. “I’ve been doing this four years, and I still feel like I don’t know anything.”
“Oh! You started as a freshman?”
Rex lifted the mask, letting it rest on top of his head. His beaming face showed his delight in the opportunity to tell a favorite story. “It was three years ago – there was a flyer on the bulletin boad in the cafeteria line, big one, bright colors on a black background – had a large picture of an mustachioed actor thrusting a rapier at the camera. I heard someone behind me ask who that was, and I said that was Errol Flynn, in “Robin Hood,” thought everyone knew that. So I looked at the flyer, saw it was a notice of the fencing club, and I was stunned. Fencing? Here, at this school? You’re joking, right?
“You see, I had always been fascinated by fencing. Robin Hood was my earliest memory — Robin and the Sheriff dueling in the castle, their long shadows dancing on the castle walls behind them — then there was Zorro, Three Musketeers, Cyrano — these were my superheroes, because while they were all legends, they could still all be real. But, of course, only real in a world far different than this one.
“But now — a fencing team, at Bark Bay? Was this real? I went to my first practice fully expecting to be disappointed. I remember not talking to anyone, hanging out by myself in the remotest part of the gym, not wanting to be recognized, because this didn’t seem real, I didn’t want to be disappointed. Coach Dan finally saw me, invited me to suit up, and at first I said no but he wouldn’t let me walk away without at least trying. The first time I lifted a foil, nothing felt so right in my hands. It felt like my hand was made to lift that weapon.”