“You’re not tired,” Double-J says. Guess my lie wasn’t safe. “I saw the tournament sheet when I walked in.”
Coach Dan tries to interrupt, “I think,” but Double-J continues.
“You’ve had enough, haven’t you? You’re embarassed because you got your butt kicked today, and you just want to go home and feel sorry for yourself. I say,” turning from me to Coach Dan, “let him. Let him go pout in a corner somewhere. He’ll get over it, find some convenient alibi to explain it all away. He’ll come back to practice on Tuesdays, just as overconfident as he was at the start of today.”
Double-J turns back to me. “You don’t want to practice, work on your skills so that you might have a better chance for success in your next tournament– fine. Your choice, it’s a free country, least that’s how we like to imagine it. Just don’t come crying to us when you get the same result, Biscuit.”
Double-J turns away, chuckling. Coach Dan looks at me quickly, and the regret I see in his face is not over what Double-J has just said, but that Coach Dan hadn’t been the one to say it. He turns away.
Annie turns to Rex, “we’ve got to get ready for epee.” They need to take off their lames, need different body cords. Rex looks down at me, tells me “don’t let Double-J get to you,” then turns away with Annie.
It’s just me with Butch and Kassie. “I’d like to keep practicing,” Kassie says, pointing to an open area of the green rubber floor of the field house, where she had been practicing with the Academy team during the tournament. I suddenly notice that Butch is now carrying a uniform, mask and foil. He must have picked those up during Double-J’s speeach. “You coming?” he asks me.
“I — don’t know. Maybe I’ll — catch up with you. I don’t know yet.”
Butch and Kassie nod, walk over to the practice area. I’m standing alone, next to the canvas sacks that contain the Bark Bay High School fencing team’s equipment. Everyone’s off doing what they need to do, Double-J starting his first sabre bout, Coach Dan directing, Annie and Rex preparing for epee, Butch and Kassie practicing along with a few of the Academy fencers.
And me, doing — nothing. Just standing there, doing nothing. Because that’s the only thing that feels safe for me to do at this time.
End of “The Academy”