The third Tuesday
MY GRANDMA AND YOUR GRANDMA!
The Bird had not paid attention to the sound of the cafeteria’s metal double-door klack open, but Rune’s ejaculatory bellow was too loud for her to ignore.
Sittin by the bay-ah. The Bird didn’t recognize the last word sung by Annie, sitting behind her, but it definitely sounded like bay-ah.
Rune was now walking swiftly into the cafeteria, hand raised over the greasy curls of his hair. A manic snarl crossed his lips moments before his mouth erupted in another explosion —
MY GRANDMA TOLD YOUR GRANDMA —
I’m gonna set your flag on fay-ah
TALKIN ‘BOUT — Rune was merely shouting, making no attempt to sing.
Hey now — There was a giggle in Annie’s singing response.
Hey now —
Iko iko un-day!
WHOOA-OH! Rune’s arms flailed wide and down as he walked obliviously past The Bird, the manic look in his face gone, Anne continuing to sing behind them, jock-a-mo fee-na ai na-ne, jock-a-mo fee na ne.
“Watch your distance.” The Bird heard more of Mr. Jacobs’ echo than his direct voice. He was on the far end of the cafeteria, standing to the side of Rex and Mr. Saunders, their faces hidden behind gray metal fencing masks.
Har un hur The Bird couldn’t make out the words coming from Mr. Saunders. She saw Rex step forward and lunge, his long thin arms and legs extending from his body like a giant pair of scissors. Mr. Saunders parried, his blade tinging against Rex’s, but the red rubber tip at the top of the tall teen’s weapon landed emphatically on Mr. Saunder’s left shoulder.
The Bird heard unintelligible yet clearly encouraging words from Mr. Jacobs, who stepped between Rex and Mr. Saunders and clapped twice. She had been to enough practices to recognize this was his signal to end the current activity. Rex and Mr. Saunders both took a step back, pulled their masks off from their faces, both glistening with sweat.
“Line up.” Mr. Jacobs pointed down to the floor, at a line where the black tile gave way to white. The cafeteria floor was predominantly black, with rectangular islands of white that accidentally formed convenient fencing strips.
The Bird waited for Annie to approach the line that Mr. Jacobs had pointed to before rising, and walking to the line. She took a position at the right end of the line next to Rune, who had rushed next to the line to stand next to Annie, Rex at the far left.
“For today, Daniel?” The Bird didn’t understand why Mr. Saunders sounded disappointed.
“I guess. No one, for sure.” Mr. Jacobs’ answer did not make sense to The Bird. “Thought we’d have Micky today, but she’d have been here by now if she was.” The Bird’s eyes widened in recognition, as she quickly scanned the line, one two three four. Mr. Jacob’s must have said Juan, not one.
The Bird saw that Mr. Jacobs was now looking directly at her. “Too bad you weren’t there at the tournament Saturday, my friend. You missed some good fencing from your teammates!” The Bird heard a grunt from Rune standing next to her.
Mr. Saunders walked beside Mr. Jacobs, pointed toward the line of fencers. “Rex here — “
” — took second in epee!” The exuberance in Annie’s voice was amplified by the joy of her smile as she looked up at the tall teen, who blinked and nodded with a shy grin.
Mr. Jacobs applauded, looked with seeking eyes at each member of the Bark Bay High School fencing team until they joined in the applause. “And Annie, you — “
” — eh.” She did not sound pleased at all. “Shouldn’t have lost in the quarters.”
“Top eight, top eight! In a strong field!” Mr. Jacobs led the team in another round of applause. Rex cleared his throat. “Don’t forget, Double-J — “
” — would have won saber, if he hadn’t run out of gas.” Annie sounded frustrated.
“Think about this time last year.” Mr. Jacobs had his hands extended in front of him, fingers fanning, palms down. “We were at the same tournament, and other than Myles, I don’t think we had anyone win a DE.”
“Micky.” Annie’s voice was overfilled with certainty, as if she were reading from the tournament results sheet. “Micky beat Jane in her first DE.”
Mr. Jacobs blinked. “All right, perhaps, but that was it for her.” All eyes in the room turned to Annie, who seemed momentarily uncomfortable with the attention before nodding curtly. “My point is, you all have come a long way since last year.” He paused, looked intently at Rune. “You did some good work in your pool bouts.”
“Yes.” Annie had turned, placed a hand on Rune’s shoulder, the greasy-haired teen almost staggering under her grasp. “I saw some nice touches.”
The dismissive snort from Rune nearly echoed against the tiled cafeteria floor. “You mean, from my opponents, right?” A nervous giggle rippled through the line.
“Next tournament’s at the Academy, two weeks.” The Bird sensed that Mr. Jacobs was evaluating the team’s response before continuing. “Won’t have the college crowd this time.” She remembered Annie telling her parents at the team party how the Bark Bay fencers frequently competed against colleges, simply because there were so few high school fencing programs in their area. She felt Mr. Jacobs’ eyes focus on her. “But we have another team outing, a different one, planned before then.”
“Were you able to get a bus?” There wasn’t much hope for an affirmative answer in Annie’s question.
“Didn’t ask. School policy says we need a minimum eight students, and so far we’ve only got five — “
” — six. Rune says he talked to Double-J at the tournament Saturday, got him to say yes.” Rune nodded in confirmation.
“All right, six. That’s still two short, so unless we get people like Juan or Micky — “
” — both no, talked to them today. Big Paul’s also a no, Little Paul said he’d think about it.”
“O.K.? Coy?” The Bird wasn’t sure whether Mr. Jacobs was naming other students, occassional team members whom she had yet to meet, or making a comment about either of both of the Pauls.
“Told them last week, and Zeph too, but, nah, no way.”
Mr. Jacobs clapped his hands. “No bus, then! We’ll meet here, in the parking lot, Thursday at 5.” The Bird felt his focus shift towards her again. “Are you joining us?”
The Bird said no, then yes, she would be goinig with her mother.
Mr. Jacobs blinked, the short dark curls of his hair and beard waving as he nodded and took a step towards the line of students. “I’m really looking forward to this. Met the stunt coordinator, guy named Ed Nestor — ” he leaned in The Bird’s direction — “said he knows you.”
Yes, she replied, Mr. Nestor had met her my mother back in Hollywood, and had moved to the city about the same time she and her mother moved to Bark Bay.
“You used to live in Hollywood?” Rune sounded like a child opening a Christmas present.
The Bird shook her head, and said her mother had moved away before she had been born.
“Anyway, Ed showed me what he’s got planned for the finale.” The Bird was relieved to hear Mr. Jacobs’ echoing voice cut short her conversation with Rune. “This won’t be like most stage fencing.” He grimmaced and, in a lilting voice that sounded almost painful, mimicked the sound of two blades lightly touching, twitching his head left and right quickly with each sound. “Ting-ting-ting.” He waved a dismissive hand. “This is going to look like a real fight, like Hamlet and Laertes are really trying to nail each other. Thank you, again, for making this happen.” Seeing that he was looking back at her, The Bird looked down with a shy smile.
“And to answer your question — ” Mr. Jacobs’ voice seemed to bend in the air as he turned while speaking to look at Mr. Saunders behind him — “yes, looks like we only have four today. So let’s get on with practice.”