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Mark trudged into the Fencing Academy of Bakersfield (FAB: the owner has a strange sense of humor), fencing equipment slung over his right shoulder. He discovered that whenever he got upset, fencing was a good way to vent some frustration. Stepping inside, he immediately realized that coming on the night he was rejected by North Carolina was a mistake. Opening the door of the academy he saw two groups of high school foil fencers, each distinguishing where they attended school by the colors on their socks. As soon as he laid eyes on them, one final realization hit: he could not fence on a college team now. A wave of despair hit him as if a truck had run him over. He proceeded to find a spot on the floor to set his equipment down, and saw the best spot was near the Fencing Master's desk.
"Hi Mark, how are you doing?" came a voice from behind a stack of notebooks and paperwork. Mark looked up to see John Anderson, the academy's resident Fencing Master and owner, glance up from his notebook to great his student.
"Not too well I'm afraid," replied Mark.
"Why not? How did your meet go last week? Don't tell me you lost!"
"No, we won, 14-13. 1 won all three of my bouts, including the deciding one."
"Then what's there to be upset about? Get your stuff on and go fence the old farts. They need some excitement." By 'old farts', John meant the academy's core group of four competitive epee fencers, aged from thirty to forty-two. They called themselves 'old farts' because they were the oldest group of fencers at the academy, plus they were the oldest Epee fencers in their division. John himself was forty, and usually included himself in the group.
Mark watched as his instructor, dressed in the black uniform of a Fencing Master, walked off to give lessons to the high school kids. He watched as John led them in footwork drills, moving into some simple bladework drills. Watching them, he lamented the fact that he would never again be a part of such a group. He thought back to his freshman year, and all the friends he made. Being a part of something and having so many people supporting him made helped to get him through high school, and helped him be a successful fencer. But now, it was all to come to an end ...
"Hey Mark, are you going to fence, or are you going to stand there all night?" came a voice from the adjacent fencing room. Mark jumped, being taken away from his reverie, and looked to see who it was. He saw, dressed in fencing whites, Michael McEntyre and James Murphy, two members of the old farts. These two were at every competition in the area, as well as tournaments at the national level. James, the more obnoxious of the two, was standing on one of the four strips in the other room, hooked up to the electrical scoring equipment and waiting for Michael to hook up.
"I don't know. There doesn't seem to be much point," Mark replied.
"Why not? You beat me occasionally. I'm not that menacing, am I?"
"No, it's just that the high school season is over, and I just found out that North Carolina doesn't want me. Now I'll have to go to a small college that won't have a fencing team. My career seems to be over."
"What do you mean over? So you're not going to fence for a college. Maybe next year you can transfer. Anyway, you can fence in the United States Fencing Association like we do."
"I don't know. I don't think I'm good enough for that."
"Sure you are. You don't have to be a fencing god to join. You're better than a lot of epee fencers, especially from this division. I mean, do you like fencing?"
"Yes, but. . ."
"But nothing. If you like doing something, you find a way to keep at it. Fence in the USFA. At the very least, you'll stay in shape if you manage to transfer to a school with a team in a year or two. Now hurry up and change, we're old and can't stay out here forever."
With that, James and Michael saluted each other and began to fence. Mark hesitated, lost in thought about James' comments, then made his way to the locker room. Perhaps he's right, Mark thought as he walked off toward the locker room. Maybe I don't need a team. I can beat the people who fence here, and they're the best in the division. Maybe I can do pretty well on my own.

Click for Chapter 4 - coming 9/14/98
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