The Bird sighed, her face tired. She then asked how long he had believed Coach Dan was merely having a mid-life crisis, a question which amused Double-J. “Been on to him almost from the start.”
But, she replied, you stayed on the team anyway.
“Yeah.” He grabbed the remaining bit of his italian sausage sandwich from his plate, thrust it into his mouth as if it were about to escape. Soft pop music from overhead speakers mingled with conversation from other tables, don’t ask me why, could you get to it, in the first part, fastball, sometimes people say, what works for me. “In spite of all his pretentiousness, Jacobs knows fencing, he’s a good coach. Myles — ” he snorted — “he had all the speed and coordination in the world, but didn’t know how to use it. When he started, I beat him easily, any weapon. Jacobs, he taught him about distance, tempo. Setting up your opponent, making him fight on your terms. Once Myles understood how to fence, that’s when he started winning, competing at the state level.”
Then Coach Dan, The Bird asked, wasn’t the reason he left the team.
“Nah. Had my own reasons.” He tilted his head back, glanced up at the ceiling.
Such as — she seemed to force herself past her uncertainty — Annie.
Double-J brought his glare down, looked across the table with a focus he generally reserved for competition. “You think — ” then the anger in his face dissipated yet did not disappear, like a liquid stain brushed from a pant leg. “What Annie does, who she schtupps, that’s her business. What the fencing team does, that’s none of my business neither. And based on what you just told me, with people not showing up and those that do not really interested in fencing — before long, it’s not going to be anyone else’s business soon.”
The waitress returned to their table, asked The Bird if she were done with her salad. You too, a-HA-ha-ha, then they said it was clear. The Bird asked if she could hang on to her salad for a bit longer. Double-J lifted his red plastic tumbler — “Refill.”
It will be ready at the office. The Bird said she didn’t understand, the team had been so active in the fall, what had gone wrong. The burly teen sitting across from her blew air past his lips — “Seems to me, it was bound to happen. Last two years was an aberration, the team was mostly Myles’ sycophants. Now that he’s gone, reality’s set in. Fencing was never gonna make it in this town, it’s too infatuated with spectator sports like football. Bark Bay wants to be entertained, and unless you understand fencing it just looks like two beekeepers charging at each other with fishing rods. They might think it’s amusing, but entertaining, no way. Fencing just won’t work, around here.
“And if you ask me — ” he leaned back in his chair — “that’s how it should be. Bark Bay don’t deserve to have a fencing team. It takes a degree of sophistication to appreciate the sport, and that’s a commodity in short supply in this town.”