The director's hands were following a remarkable pattern.
"Attack!" he shouted, holding up his left hand. "Parry," his right hand crossed his chest at a forty-five degree angle, upper arm parallel to the floor. He jerked the same hand up, now perpendicular to the floor, "Repose."
"Counter-Parry," he stated, drawing his left hand to a mirror image of where his right had been. "Counter-repose," he said, jerking his left hand back to perpendicular.
He wiggled the fingers of his right hand. "Preparation. . ." and then slashed with the side of his left hand into the side of his right forearm. "Attack, in preparation. Score is 5-3, Ohio State."
I pulled off my helmet, grinning from ear to ear. I slung it under my arm, pulling my glove off my right hand, and tucked my sabre under my arm. I stepped to the center of the strip and extended my hand.
"Good bout. Thanks." My oponent shook my hand limply, and stepped off the strip.
I stepped off and undid my jacket, setting down my mask and sabre. Joe unhooked me from the scoring machine, and hooked himself in. I checked on the bout score. We were tied with Cleveland State on bouts, 3-3, and there were three left. I checked my next oponent, and rolled my eyes at his name. Shaahid.
The guy had no finesse, no style. He was more like a boar charging a hunter than a chess player. He'd have made a better football player than fencer. He had no regard for the finer points of fencing, but he often won. Mostly, he did this through intimidation.
I watched Joe clean up on the kid he was fencing. It was over quick. I then watched my other teammate lose quickly to the kid I'd just beaten. I looked at Joe, sighing, "Guess I get Shaahid, huh?"
"Sure do. Stick 'em like a pig."
I laughed. "Easy for you to say. You already fenced him, and I seem to recall that you made him kinda mad last round."
Joe just smiled back.
I hooked into the scoring machine, and stepped onto the strip. I connected the mask to the jacket, and held it out for Shaahid to test. He gave me what I can only assume is his "poker face", but it really looked more like his "dumb cow" face.
We touched our sabres to our masks, and the lights went off. We pulled the masks on, and fell en gaurde.
"Ready, Fence!" shouted the director, and we began.
The first three points were unremarkable. I picked up one, and he picked up two.
On the fourth point, he landed a touch on my mask when I landed one on his chest. My light went off, his stayed dark.
He looked at the box, shrugged, and went back to his en guarde line. The score was now tied at 2-2.
On the next touch, I stepped back and made him miss. My repose also fell short, and we backed away. He came at me, and I parried, but missed his blade, which landed on my jacket. I finished the action and landed a touch on his mask.
My light went off, his stayed dark.
He looked at me, and then at the director. "Test?" came his muffled voice from his mask.
"Test," the director said.
He stepped up to me and inspected my jacket. He looked for corrosion and spots where the wire might have broken contact. He found one such spot, and tested.
His light went off.
"Fencers ready," the director said. Shaahid shook his head angrily, but went back to en guarde. I knew what was coming next, and I hoped I could counter it.
"Fence," shouted the director, and Shaahid barreled down the strip toward me. His hand began to rise and his elbow moved forward, but when I saw his shoulder begin to move forward, I braced myself for his attack.
230 lbs. was put behind that sabre, and when it struck, my blade was already in the way. It didn't do any good, though.
Shaahid's blade came down behind my guard, and landed directly below the wrist joint on my right hand. I dropped my sabre, and brought my left hand forward to signal the judge that I was hurt, and then the pain started. It was as if my entire hand had fallen asleep, and I had the distinct feeling of blood pouring out of my wrist. I dropped to my knees and tore off my glove and the mesh gauntlet over it, and stared at my hand. There was no blood, but the pain was amazing. It felt like hundreds of small bugs were running over my hand, up and down my arm, but coming out of this one spot where Shaahid's sabre had landed.
I glanced at Shaahid's sabre. He held it, standing over me triumphant, a glint of glee in his eye. His sabre was bent at a 90 degree angle across the width of the Y-blade. I had never seen anything like that before.
But his triumph died with a single look at the box.
Through it all, Shaahid's light stayed dark.
The electrical scoring machine hadn't registered the touch, and now the director was next to me, asking if I could continue. "I don't know," I said. "I'm not sure I can hold the weapon."
"I'd like to test, director," came Shaahid's voice.
"I don't know, right now?" asked the director, looking at me.
I looked at the director. "Let him," I said, and stood up, still holding my wrist.
Shaahid held out his crooked blade and lightly touched my jacket.
His light went off.
He was finally sent over the edge, and we all knew it. His hand ripped his mask from his head, and he threw it to the ground at the end of the strip. I bounced off the ground and into the wall, finally coming to rest back at his feet.
Joe, who had just gotten to me to make sure I was okay, suddenly burst out, "What was that about?" and pointed at Shaahid. The director stood up, and reached into his jacket. He withdrew a set of cards, and held up the red one. Joe wanted to argue for a black card, but I stopped him.
"It's okay. The red card makes it 4-2. I think I can take one more point. Besides, he probably won't even touch me."
"If you're sure," said Joe. "He should be fuckin' thrown out for that."
I pulled on my mask and retrieved my sabre. I stepped back to my en guarde line, and got ready for the next point.
I tested my sabre in my hand, and it responded fairly well. The pain had turned into a dull ache, and I still had most of my range of motion.
"Ready?" asked the director, looking pointedly at me. At my nod, he paused, then shouted, "Fence!"
I advanced one step, then changed direction and retreated one step. Shaahid lunged at me, and his attack fell just short of my jacket. I lunged back at him as he recovered, counting on my longer reach to succeed where he had failed.
My blade scraped his mask, and my light went off.
I recovered into a parry five, blade over my head.
The director shouted "Halt!", and held up his right hand. "Attack." His left hand crossed his chest, "Parry." Finally, his left hand shot up into the air, and he smiled, "Repose. Bout goes to Ohio State."
I handed my sabre to Joe, along with my mask. I pulled my glove off and offered my injured hand to Shaahid. He did not take his glove off, and he brushed my fingers with his gloved hand rather than shake mine.
I took myself to the training room, telling Joe to substitute another fencer if I didn't get back in time for the next bout. The trainer there looked at my wrist, still throbbing constantly, and said, "Oh, just ice it."
Rolling my eyes, I walked out and went back to fencing. I finished out the day, but for three months I had constant pain, and later found out that my wrist had been fractured by that hit. It never quite healed right, and to this day I can feel the injury.
The next year, we were fencing the same team. Not seeing Shaahid anywhere, I asked one of the guys I'd met last year about him.
"Oh, he's not exactly here anymore."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well," he said, taking a deep breath, "it seems that he wanted to join the army instead. You know he had a full ride here on a fencing scholarship, right?"
"No, I didn't know that. What was he thinking?"
"That's what we asked him. Didn't get a good answer. Anyway, not two weeks into Boot Camp, he hauled off and slugged an officer."
I was incredulous. "He didn't!"
"Damn straight he did. So he's sitting in Leavenworth Prison right now for assaulting an officer, and they've already given him a dishonerable discharge. Supposed to be there another three years, I think."
Thus the story of my fractured wrist has a generally happy ending.