Friends and Enemies

“Edge weapon.” Stepping towards his starting line at the makeshift strip, Myles looked down at the blade of his saber with amusement. “How charmingly inprecise.” Lifted his gaze, catching Double-J’s eyes — “Johnson, you DO know that the only reason saber is still considered a legitimate competition weapon, is to keep the Russians from leaving the FIE?”

“This ain’t Russia.” Double-J extended his right arm up and out, the saber he held forming a line that extended from his shoulder to a point on the ceiling above and past  Myles’ head.  “And this ain’t one of those stupid point weapons.” He brought his weapon down swiftly, blade audibly cutting the distance between the two teens. “Seems to me, saber’s the closest thing we got in this sport, to a weapon a person would actually use in the real world.”

“HA!” Myles rocked his hand back and forth, the blade of the saber he was holding waving like a solitary strand of uncooked spaghetti. “What the hell could anyone do with this thing? Break up a robbery?”

Coach Dan’s chuckle was faint yet distinctive under the current of conversations among the team. He lifted his chin, arms still folded and body leaning against the short stage wall — “You love birds want a ref?”

Myles turned and nodded, but Double-J’s voice shot out — “Nah. This’ll be quick.” Myles glanced back at his opponent, smirked, and after a salute more obligatory than sincere, put on his fencing mask as Double-J did the same.

The two teens crouched down, right arms bent forward; Myles slapped his thigh with his left hand, and the two teens stepped toward each other aggressively. Myles slashed towards Double-J’s head; two thin blades of steel collided, the crisp sound catching the attention of the other team members. The blades slid off each other, hitting the other fencer in the mask.

“YA!” Double-J’s left arm bolted in the air like a victory flag.

“Nah, that’s mine.” Myles stepped back, raised his left hand, brought his blade down and past his open palm. “My attack landed, before your parry.”

“My parry.” Double-J pointed the tip of his saber directly at Myles’ chest. “Can’t talk your way outta this.”

Rex!” At the sound of his coach’s commanding voice, the freshman (not only the tallest in his class, but already close to being the tallest at the entire school) jogged over from the canvas sacks that carried the team’s equipment. Coach Dan unfolded his arms, pushed his body off from the wall, spoke in a hushed but direct tone with his student.

Without further discussion, Myles and Double-J returned to their starting lines, charged at each other again at Myles’ command. Double-J’s metal wing slashed at Myles arm, Myles following the attack with his own. As if in unison, both competitors raised their arms, exclaiming.

“His attack.” Juan had approached the combatants, pointed at Double-J.

“Missed,” Myles shaking his head. “Knew he was going to be short, so I countered.” Pointing to the sophomore — “his remise came after the counter.”

Double-J yelled, the force of his exclamation almost as startling as its vulgarity. His point threatened Myles’ chest once again — “Not LETTING you STEAL this from me!”

From behind his gray metal mask, a frown could be seen to grow on Myles’ lips. Lifting his left hand gently like a man retrieving his wallet in front of a nervous mugger, the starting point guard who had lead the boys’ basketball team to last year’s Division Three semi-finals grabbed the bottom of the mask’s cloth bib, pulled it slowly up and away from under his chin until his face, now smiling, was visible, the mask coming to rest like a turtle on top of his head. “Johnson — you DO know this is supposed to be a friendly — ”

“There’s no FRIENDS in fencing!” Double-J gave no indication he would even consider removing his mask. “The very MOMENT you get on strip and point a weapon at me, you’re the ENEMY!”

“Excuse me?” Three sets of eyes turned towards the soft voice coming from the elongated body approaching them. Rex had been, along with Double-J, one of three students to attend the first practice in October, and while that third student had long since left and been forgotten, the freshman and sophomore had developed a close friendship, one that strengthened as the team’s membership had exploded after Myles’ arrival. “Coach Dan — ” a slender pipe extended behind Rex — “he asked me, to be your ref?” His voice rose with each word, the inflection changing from declarative to inquisitive, as if he were suddenly questioning the reason for his arrival.

[“Gray Metal Faces,” March 15B]

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