[I’m starting a short narrative today that may find its way into my novel, perhaps in chapter two. Like I did with “Giving Voice,” I’m beginning with the hope the title will come to me at some point.]
“Come watch.” Her thin, powerful legs pushing up from its squat, Annie kept her eyes on The Bird as she rose above the khaki sacks that contained the equipment used by the Bark Bay High School fencing team. The sophomore then pointed with her right thumb behind her, as her brown pony-tail drifted off her left shoulder. “Rex and I will trade a few touches, and we can talk to you about what we’re doing.”
The Bird did not move from her seat on the tiled cafeteria floor. The freshman looked up at Annie, and asked if she could watch from where she was. Annie pursed her lips, peeked behind her at the floor, then called to Rex — “We’ve got space, over here.” She then walked into the center of a rectangle of white tiles, one of several in the sea of the floor’s black tiles. Rex was perhaps a dozen yards away, in a different island of white, having just finished a bout with Juan. The tall junior waved Annie over to him, as if he hadn’t heard her proposal.
Annie began to repeat herself, but The Bird softly objected, said she could watch the two of them fence where she was. “Hey” — Annie turned, nodded in acknowledgment of Rex’s call, looked back quickly at The Bird — “It’s your first practice. Just watch, make a mental list of questions, we can talk about them when I’m done. OK?” The Bird said she would try, and Annie, swiftly picking up a mask and foil from the equipment sacks, hustled off towards Rex.
The Bird was glad that Annie had spent so much time with her alreadty. Her appearance at practice that afternoon had essentially been an accident; she had attended a tutoring session after school, and had been given permission to stay in the building until her mother arrived. Sitting in the guidance office, she had grown hungry, and asked if she could get a snack from the vending machines in the cafeteria; a bored administrative assistant replied by wordlessly twitching her head toward the door. Walking down the wide hall, The Bird then heard the sharp tinging of thin metal and sneakered feet thumping on tile, and immediately recognized the sounds, from the assembly the previous month, when those two boys fenced and that teacher talked about the fencing team.
She didn’t know why she had approached that teacher after the assembly, and hadn’t given fencing any thought since then; she didn’t even remember the teacher’s name. But when she’d heard those sounds echoing up from the cafeteria that afternoon, she’s felt the same mysterious draw of irresistable curisosity that had struck her during the assembly.