Gray Metal Faces – March 9A

Try absence of blade this time. “Allez.” Here you go buddy, take that center while I show you my entire target area. Hesitates — hasn’t seen this before, doesn’t know what to do. Step forward, he backs up, matching my tempo, this is working perfectly. Attack, here comes the counter don’t flinch, EEEP EEEP. “Attack left, is tooch.” Awesome, got it tied at 4. No valiant comeback, going for the WIN.

The coupe conveyed its occupants east on the county road, three point two miles past the Gulf station, eventually turning into the driveway of a house seemingly far too large for its two occupants, its windows dark.

Tires crunched the soft gravel; hitting a hidden pothole, the car jerked down to the right, splashing the partly frozen water underneath, then righted itself as the vehicle regained level ground. The car stopped before the front door a second later.

The Bird thanked Double-J for the ride home; he inhaled into his right cheek, kchk. “No problem. Good talking to ya.” Clearing her throat (which she rarely did), The Bird then suggested he come in for a while. She examined his face, saw the briefest glimmer of a smile, then a look of serenity delivered with a conviction that would, she thought, have pleased her thespian mother — “Awright. If that’s what you want.”

His slender passenger unlatched the coupe’ door, swung it open with a push of her right hand without looking. Catching Double-J’s gaze, she smiled at him with her eyes, then waited for him to begin exiting, before swinging her legs out into the crisp night air.

She walked swiftly up the front steps, then flipped a switch to the left of the door, an overhead light beaming down on her. She turned, saw Double-J approach. She held up a hand, her face hidden in the shadow thrown down by the light.

Double-J stopped and held his arms up, as if pleading. She then told him why she had called him that afternoon, at the shop. How she was worried about the fencing team, and had tried to talk about her concerns with Coach Dan, and Annie, but — she said they listened, but for some reason couldn’t understand her.

“So you thought — ” there was a tone of victory in Double-J’s voice — “why not talk to the only sensible person on the team?”

She explained that the two of them were part of the team, but were not part of the team’s social circle. That they were both more comfortable looking at the team from the outside. And because they were both, in their own way, outsiders on the team, she thought he might be more receptive to her concerns.

The burly teen nodded up at her — “All right.” She continued, explaining that she knew asking for his help would be a long shot, but she had to try. And when she finally called him at the shop, the first thing he heard was his anger, saw no indication he’d changed his mind about wanting anything to do with the team. And then — her lips turned up — then, she said, he asked when her mother was bringing in her car for the new brake pads she’d ordered.

His eyes widened, head nodding down to the left. “Figgered since they’d come in — “

She told him, she continued, that the earliest her mother could come in was Thursday. Because she was working in the city through Wednesday, would be home late each night. And after she’d said that, she added, he’d changed the subject back to the fencing team, and all of a sudden he was like sure, he would be glad to meet with her, but it had to be Tuesday, or Wednesday. That he were working evenings, the rest of the week.

Double-J dipped his head down, closed his eyes. And began to grin. Lifted his head — “I believe you are insinuating — ” opened his eyes, grin spreading — “that I have an ulterior motive.”

A cold brace of March wind whipped against The Bird’s face. Then, she said he was trying to get her to do what he’d wanted.

He nodded. Then raised his palms gently up at her, approached slowly. Lifted his right foot, placed it on the first step. “Seems to me, that all I’m trying to do — is go to that place you’ve always wanted to see me at.”

He waited, looking up at her. The Bird took her hands out of the coat pockets, said she had one more question — was there anything someone could say, anything somebody could do, that could change his mind about the fencing team, make him come back to practice, show up for the regional tournament at the end of the month.

Double-J was shaking his head before she could finish her question. “There ain’t nuthin’ there for me, no more.” And then his left foot raised, landed on the second step, The Bird waiting for him as he continued to ascend towards her.

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