“My name is Peter Lynn. You made a guy vomit. Prepare for minor injury.”


When I was in high school, on two separate occasions, our Reach for the Top team went to the provincial finals and blew through the round-robin tournament, only to get publicly slaughtered the next morning in the TV round. We just weren’t morning people. I had a day like that today.

Today was the Newmarket OCC fencing tournament. Of course, the men’s foil division takes place first thing in the morning, and I was anything but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the last tournament. So I had every intention of getting a good night’s sleep last night, but my eyes flew awake at 3:00 a.m. I’d suddenly remembered that when I was in my last year of high school, there was this cute grade nine named Sherry who’d always gone out of her way to talk to me and who’d written her home address in my yearbook and made me to promise to write after graduation (which I never did), and realized that this probably meant she had a little crush on me. (It takes me a little while to catch on sometimes.) Once I was up, that was it. I never ended up falling back asleep.

Once I got to the tournament, I was running on only a couple of hours sleep, and I basically just stood there like an idiot and got hit repeatedly for my first three pool matches, losing them all 5-0. At that point, I started to get a little agitated for a few reasons. First, I definitely do not suck that badly, so I was seriously underperforming.

Second, the young kid in our club is about 13 now and has reached kind of a cocky, mouthy stage, and he was really rubbing it in. “You haven’t won a match yet?” he asked. “You haven’t got a single point? Like, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero?”

“That’s too many zeros!” I said. “Shut the hell up!”

And third, my third opponent was one of those guys who hits way too hard. He was really big and really aggressive, so he had a lot of momentum, and it was like being charged and gored by a rhino. I’ve mentioned before how much I hate heavy hitting. It doesn’t win you any friends, but it can leave deep bruises or even crack a rib, as happened to a guy in our club once.

It turns out this isn’t the only thing it can do: When this guy had his match with my first opponent of the day, who was a pretty good guy even though he’d also whipped me 5-0, he hit him in the abdomen so hard that he actually threw up in his mask. I’ve never even heard of this happening before. According to one of the women in his club (who drew the unpleasant task of cleaning out his mask as he recovered), the point of the guy’s foil had probably slipped under his rib and actually hit him right in the stomach, triggering vomiting immediately. The poor guy dropped out of the tournament immediately and felt nauseated for the rest of the day.

I started to pull things together after that. Just to change things up, I swapped out my shiny new foil for my battered old one that curves the wrong way, and I won my next match and then lost the next two but at least got some nice points against strong opponents. So I felt like I was turning myself around a little bit by the time I got called for my first DE (direct elimination) match, where I found this teenage girl named Alexandra Lyn taking my place on the piste. She’d heard the last name announced and mistakenly thought she was being called. I told her that I’d actually appreciate it if she wanted to fence my DE for me, but she regretfully declined. Do I let a girl fight my battles for me? I certainly would have in this case, since she’s freakishly good and all our female fencers are petrified of her.

Meanwhile, the judge was holding two slips of paper, one containing my name and my opponent’s name, and the other listing the names of the opponents in the next scheduled match, one of whom was the poor guy who’d withdrawn, and the judge was wondering what had happened to him. I explained that some rhinoceros of a man hit him so hard he’d puked. Then my opponent arrived: It was the rhinoceros. “… and this is the guy who did it to him,” I said to the judge. “And he was hitting me awfully hard in the pools too, so you might want to watch out for that.” I wished the teenage girl was taking my place after all, since I didn’t feel like being brutalized.

Fortunately, this didn’t happen. I still lost 15-7, but I got to show that I’d woken up and learned to fence since our earlier match. And I also got to rip open his thumb and make him bleed, which immensely gratified the nice, vomiting guy when I mentioned it to him later. So I’ll call it a successful day, because isn’t that why people learn how to fence in the first place? It’s all about avenging people.

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