Gray Metal Faces – October 8

The second Tuesday

Advance. Advance. Double-advance, retreat. Small steps, not so big. Advance, retreat — lift those feet, don’t drag them —  advance, lunge — ARM FIRST!

“Juan.” The stocky teen pulling the fencing jacket onto his arms seemed to fully anticipate the confused look on Butch’s face. “Joo-Won, actually.”

“Oh!” Butch had stopped pulling on his own jacket, gave no indication that Juan’s explanation provided any more clarity. “So JOO-WON — ” Butch enunciated the syllables slowly, ju – wan — “is what they call you in  Korea?”

“Never been there.” Juan looked around quickly, saw that he and Butch were the only team members near the equipment sacks; Annie and Rune had started a practice bout, while Coach Dan was reviewing the details of the en garde stance with OK. “I was born in California, just after my parents emigrated but before we moved to Bark Bay.” Juan resumed putting on his gear with greater alacrity, like he was late for an appointment.

“Oh! So — how did you get a Mexican name?”

Juan grunted. “Didn’t have a choice, really. One of my first teachers, can’t remember who — she asked what my name was, and when I told her Joo-Won, she was like, Oh, Juan.” He uttered the last two words with a hideously exaggerated smile. “Tried to correct her, but she didn’t seem to care. And the other kids, they were like, hey Juan, that’s cool. After a while, I gave up tying to correct people.” Juan turned his back, Butch recognizing the signal to fasten the zipper that ran up the rear of the jacket.

“But we’re not kids no more.” Butch finished with the zipper, turned his back for Juan to fasten his. “We know better. We can call you Joo-Won, if you want.”

The zipper fastened, Juan slapping Butch on the shoulder. “If it makes you feel better, go for it.” Butch turned, saw to his disappointment no hint of appreciation, no indication of a bond between them. “But I’ve learned that it’s not with the effort, fighting people’s ignorance. I’m gonna be Juan for as long as I live in Bark Bay — and I’ve learned not to give a damn about it.” He reached down into the long narrow duffel that contained the team’s weapons.

“So — ” Butch shook his head — “when people call you Juan, it doesn’t bother you?”

Juan stood up, and, for the first time Butch could remember that afternoon — smiled. “Only when people ask me about it.” He handed Butch a weapon with his right hand, holding another in his left.


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