Chapter 5 — January

Character perspective: The Bird

The first fencing tournament of the competition season is held at the university. Coach Dan introduces Jimmy, his new saber coach, to the coaches from other schools. Annie asks about travel arrangements for the following Tuesday; Coach Dan has arranged for the team to attend a dress rehearsal for a production of “Hamlet” in which The Bird’s mother is appearing.

Meanwhile, The Bird is sitting alone at home. Realizing she’s become bored with her solitude, she considers whether she should have accepted the invitation from Mr. Jacobs (she can’t call him Coach Dan) to come to the tournament as a spectator, but since she does not consider herself part of the team, she concludes she made the right decision.

At practice the following week, the team discusses the results from the tournament on Saturday. The Bird has an awkward hallway conversation with Butch about the production they are going to see later that week.

On the way to the theater the night of the dress rehearsal, The Bird and her mother, Janet, have a difficult conversation about the teen’s poor grades. The Bird asks questions about her father, which Janet refuses to answer.

Arriving with her mother at the theater before the other members of the team, The Bird meets Teddy Jasper, who introduces himself as her mother’s business associate. The team arrives, and they meet Ed Nestor, an old friend of her mother’s and the production’s fight choreographer. Ed and Coach Dan demonstrate stage fencing to the team. Janet, playing Gertrude in the production, joins them. As the team walks into the seating area for the start of the dress rehearsal, Janet tells The Bird that Teddy will be her new agent; remembering her mother’s bad experiences with agents in the past, The Bird pulls Janet aside, and the two argue violently.

The Bird joins her friends in the auditorium. Sitting alone in the far back, the team whispers their comments as the performance begins. During intermission, The Bird feels lightheaded, and Annie helps her to the bathroom. Feeling better, The Bird returns with Annie to their seats as the performance resumes. Angry throughout the play, Double-J leaves abruptly; The Bird faints, and when she regains consciousness she discovers she is in the world of the play, in Elsinore Castle, the actors not playing roles but actually living them, except for her mother, who commands her daughter to leave immediately. The Bird soon finds that all the members of the Bark Bay High School fencing team have entered the world of Hamlet with her, but for some reason none of them can see her.

Coach Dan works frantically to find a way for the team to get back to their world, but Double-J decides to disrupt the play as much as he can, Annie goes on a futile mission to rescue Ophelia, and Rex attempts to live in this world permanently. The team comes together again for the play’s last scene, performed in the cafeteria where they practice. When Janet, who’s been joined by Teddy Jasper in the production, threatens to leave and potentially leave the team stranded, The Bird takes the poison intended for Gertrude. Janet takes the poison with her, and as mother and daughter die, The Bird is returned to her seat in the auditorium, her friends unaware of what has happened.

As they leave the theater that evening, The Bird calls Mr. Jacobs aside, and for the first time addresses him as Coach Dan.

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