An Expensive Loaner

“Yeah.” Rex’s inflection rose with the awareness of what his friend was asking. “You coming?”

Double-J frowned, black mustache curling above his lips. “Nah. Stuff to do.” No conviction in his voice. “Be at Midland, week after.” Coach Dan had already told the team they wouldn’t be competing at Midland.

Jimmy waved an arm towards Rex. “Slim here, says he gonna try’n qualify for saber at states.”

“Heard that.” Nodding, Double-J retreated back to the rear room of the apartment — “hold on” — sounds of scuffing within a closet like a man moving into a new home, the three guests remaining in the small living area. Rex scanned the bare walls, searching and not finding any object to draw his attention.

“Ya, here you go.” The scuffling stopped, and a moment later Double-J returned, carrying a gray oval fencing mask, a silvery lame with sleeves that hung down just above the floor, and the distinctive thin flat blade and curved handle of a saber. Seeing Rex shake his head, the burly teen extended his arms defiantly.

Rex looked down at the equipment with reluctance, as if the offer were a practical joke. “I can’t — ”

“Not like I’m gonna be needin’ these, til Midland.” Several minutes later, Double-J escorted his guests from his apartment at the Embassy, Rex unable to prevent himself from realizing he was now in temporary possession of equipment that cost more than his family’s weekly grocery bill.

[“Gray Metal Faces,” March 13H]


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