Honor in Training

By Tom Foster

 

Spring 1998

Thursday, May 20th

 

 

Sweat poured off his young body as he tried to focus on keeping the pain at bay.  His sensei had already told him that the first person in the class to take a wrong step would be the one who cleaned up all the equipment, which he had been good enough to scatter around the fringes of the room.  At seventeen years of age he was beginning grow tired of such practices, though he knew well enough to realize that the teachers were in their position for a reason.  They had most likely gone through the same frustrating methods at the hands of their masters long ago.

“Don’t focus on the pain people, let your breathing come in and out, slowly and easily.”  He felt like telling the older man where he could stick his breathing exercises.  Inhaling through his nose and exhaling in the same manner he tried to ignore the man, allowing his mind to drift back across the river towards home.  In only one month he and his girlfriend were going to embark on journey in their lives that they expected would bring great change in their lives.  For the last eight years of their lives he had wondered what this would feel like, knowing that eventually they would soon join the wider world outside of high school.

“Ferris, if you concentrated on what you were doing as much as you sat around daydreaming, you’d be teaching this class now.”  Looking over at his girlfriend he saw as she offered him a look that suggested he mind his infamous tongue.  Biting back the retort he felt forming in his throat he remained silent, knowing that it didn’t take much to upset his sensei these days.  Much of it had to do with the fact that of all the students that had come and gone he still remained, taking the most advanced classes and mastering whatever he was taught.  Still it wasn’t enough for this man, he seemed to always find fault in something he did.

When most people decided to push so hard it meant that they truly believed in him, though with his sensei he had the feeling that the man simply didn’t like him.  He’d been told more than once that this was just ridiculous, grown adults didn’t often make it a practice to target their younger counterparts.  Of course, it was always said by those who didn’t have to see or hear firsthand what went on in the dojo.

Standing with legs spread shoulder width the entire class had been told to keep the position about five minutes ago, during which many of them had already discovered that their muscles had begun to cramp.  He was no exception, though he had learned years ago how to ignore his body’s aches and pains enough to endure as much as he needed to.  With their arms extended in front of them the entire class looked ready to simply shake their limbs out and leave.

Sadly this was one of the only three dojo’s within fifty miles of his home.  Their instructor was indeed talented enough as well as accredited, though his failings were only known firsthand to his students.  He was impatient, overly demanding and at times pushed his students far too hard, several kids having injured themselves in years past.  Somehow he still had his studio, a moderate sized space located on the third floor of the Carden building in what was considered downtown Astoria.  The red brick building played host to private residents as well as several small businesses that took up the

 

ground level.  Fire escapes were located on both the north and south sides, though the north side was rusted so badly that it had been in need of being replaced for years.

He had the insane urge to fall forward from the stance he now held, place his hands upon the floor and swing his legs upward into a handstand.  Refraining from that notion however he ground his teeth together in frustration, the static practices that their sensei wanted them to drill over and over grating on his nerves.  This style was indeed powerful, that much had been shown in past matches he had conducted upon this very floor.  It wasn’t the style that he truly was enamored of however, since he favored constant movement over the stop and go motions of other disciplines.

That was where Capoeira came in.  He’d yet to find a discipline that could match its energy, though in truth it lacked the power of other styles.  It was far more showy, but it also offered a better range of motion and promoted a stronger sense of balance.  This had appealed to him quite readily, though the intense training he and his girlfriend had been through in the last four months had at times seemed a little excessive when taken with that of the training the two of them went through during the weeknights.

Capoeira took up only one day out of the week, though in that one day the two of them learned more about themselves than they had in years of martial arts instruction.  Tae Kwan Do, Karate, Tai Chi and now Taji Chin Na at his request and only on every other day had taught him much in the ways of endurance and control, but with Capoeira he felt a freedom that other styles did not allow for.  Aside from being illegal in the United States of America, the Brazilian art of dance fighting offered him a chance to express himself in a way that he hadn’t found until now.

The first moment in which he’d shown his sensei his knowledge of the art he had been forced to endure a lecture that had blistered his ears.  His sensei did not believe in the art of Capoeira, claiming that it was for show offs and those who were more interested in looking like movie stars.  He had been told in no uncertain terms that he was never to express himself in such a way again, not in the dojo and not anywhere else.  The words hadn’t sunk in as the teacher had hoped they would, mainly thanks to the fact that he didn’t make it a practice to listen to demands made by anyone but his parents.

Even his teachers in high school had learned what happened when they made demands upon his person, even modest demands that he could easily meet.  He tuned them out quite easily, doing what he wanted without regard to the consequences.  When it came to martial arts he hardly ever listened to his instructors, save for the man who had been kind enough to teach him and his girlfriend dance fighting.

As their teacher walked in front of the class to begin drilling them he suppressed the need to roll his eyes, knowing that the older man would not look upon such rudeness without commenting.  As he began with basic punches, both hands starting at the sides of the body, one punching out and then followed by the other, Tyler couldn’t help but wonder how he stood the monotony of his position.  No doubt sensei had his methods, but to have to do this every day, over and over, Tyler wondered if he ever just got bored of the same old thing.

This was the same concern he had expressed to his parents upon requesting that they allow him to study different disciplines.  At first they’d accused him of not paying good enough attention, wanting to switch because he didn’t allow himself to truly learn

everything he was being taught.  After this he’d come to wonder how in the world adults could be so smart and so naïve at the same time.  Being seventeen didn’t mean he was stupid or so inexperienced that his attention span was measured in nanoseconds, it just meant he was eager to see as much as he could in the time he had.

Going through the drills he let his mind wander, confident that he could still convince their sensei that he was paying attention.  His thoughts drifted to another discipline he had learned only two years ago, his skill in the art of Kenjutsu remarkable for one his age, or so his teacher had told him.  For whatever reason he felt an affinity for martial arts, whether hand to hand or with weapons.  His family did not share the same proclivity, though they seemed to understand well enough to support him through his training.  Since the age of six and five Tyler and his girlfriend Kerian had been enrolled in one martial arts class or another, picking up on several styles by the time they had reached their teenage years.

“Ferris!  Pay attention!”  He finally did roll his eyes, not acknowledging the glare that his sensei shot his way, snapping his attention back to the fore as he mimicked the moves along with the rest of the class.  Damn and hell if this wasn’t just boring.

*                      *                      *

 

“I’ve never been able to figure out why you provoke him like that.”  Tyler and Kerian were outside the building waiting for his parents to arrive, their muscles sore like always after such a strenuous exercise.  They would be fine tomorrow, but for now they didn’t even want to move.

“I dunno, maybe it’s just cause he’s an ass.”  Opening her mouth wide Kerian’s eyebrows shot up as she pushed her boyfriend roughly to the side, laughing as he pretended to be hurt.  She couldn’t exactly disagree with him, their sensei was a harsh man, but she found it hard to speak of people in such a way.

“That’s not nice y’know.”  She scolded him lightly, lowering her eyes to make her point as he rolled his own, telling her that she was not getting through to him.  “You know you’re problem?  You don’t take anything seriously enough.”

“Well golly, I suppose now I’ll just have to learn my lesson by falling as low as I can go, and then gain my way back up through humility and patience.”  She pushed him again as he laughed, rolling her eyes at his jovial mood.  Sometimes it seemed that Tyler didn’t really listen to anything or anyone, living his own life by his own means and worrying about the consequences later.

She knew he cared about life, about her and those around him, but it was hard sometimes to figure him out.  Even after having lived with his family for the last eleven years she still couldn’t understand how he lived so carefree at times and still managed to be serious during the moments he needed to.  She found at times that all she could do was grin and bear it, going along with him come what may.

Looking both ways along the road she saw little traffic coming or going, the setting sun glinting off of the tops of the town’s buildings as evening began to pass into night.  Normally they would have driven home, but a rather poor run of luck had landed Tyler’s truck in the shop with a thrown rod.  Despite being able to pay for the overly expensive job the mechanic had told him it would be several days before he could even

get to his vehicle, having been backed up with work for nearly a week.  So they were left with public transit, which did not run this late, or depending upon his parents.

The book store that lay across the street from where they stood had closed only minutes before they had reached the sidewalk, otherwise they would have been able to take a seat and enjoy a story or simply a cup of coffee while they waited.  Towns near the coast were notorious for being early risers and early to bed.  Often their hours did not extend past seven or eight o’ clock in the evening, much to the dismay of tourists who were used to other towns that stayed open all night.  The taverns were the only locations that stayed open into the wee hours of the morning, and much of the time this depended solely on how much business they received.

Tyler had been in one of the taverns in town, a place called the Wet Dog down near the docks.  He had gained entry without being asked for identification and therefore had managed to spend the next two hours in the place, seeing what the night life of those twenty-one and older was really like.  To be honest he really hadn’t been that impressed.  True, it had been a new experience and something he wouldn’t ever forget, but in all it was kind of mundane as opposed to his average night.

If he and Kerian weren’t sparring outside or out in the garage that lay separate from their home they were usually watching television or a movie with his parents.  Some nights they helped either with dinner or the dishes, performing chores whenever asked and at times just for the hell of it.  They were good children, or so they had been told.

The two of them got enough excitement without being inebriated, one of their favorite pastimes including long walks along the beach or within the woods beyond the hills that lay behind their home.  Several old logging trails lay scattered about the wilderness beyond the hills, pathways that had long ago been used to transport machinery and logs on their way towards the town of Longbeach, the namesake of the peninsula they called home.

Their house lay nearly at the end of the peninsula, only five miles away from its end in Surfside Estates, a small spread out community that had existed for a far shorter time than the town it was closest to, Oysterville.  Once the county seat, Oysterville had flourished, its primary trade, its namesake, guaranteeing its notoriety for far longer than either of them had been alive.  Now it was a small, quaint little tourist attraction, a step back in time for those tourists who were camera happy for anything that seemed like history.

“Hey there they are.”  Kerian pointed down the street as a familiar vehicle came rolling along, its bright headlights glaring despite the fact that there was still light enough to drive by.  Picking up their gym bags Tyler and Kerian walked out to the edge of the curb, waiting patiently for his parents to pull up.  It took only moments for the car to stop near where they stood, Tyler getting in back of the SUV and Kerian sliding in front.  The driver’s seat held Tyler’s mother, her grin alighting upon each of them in turn as they returned it with their own.

“So did you learn anything new?”

“Yeah, Tyler learned how to keep the sensei good and annoyed for a prolonged period of time.”  Looking back at Tyler she grinned even wider as he crossed his eyes at her, not bothering to stick his tongue out as his mother looked back.  Giving him the

usual “learn to control yourself” look she turned back to the wheel, releasing the brake after checking for oncoming traffic.  As they reached the end of the block she turned right onto Kohler Street, going uphill for another block before hanging another right.

“Can’t you go one session or even a day without rubbing someone the wrong way Tyler?”  Her tone was light as she asked this, though he understood her meaning quite well.  Both of his parents knew too well that of their three children he was at times the most difficult, seeing nearly every opinion different from his own as a challenge.  While it was quite normal it still grated on the nerves at times, since he was often unwilling to let go of an issue once it was presented to him, like a dog worrying at a bone someone had tossed in its snout.

Tyler didn’t go looking for trouble, he just didn’t let it go once it found him. As he made himself comfortable in the back seat he allowed himself to relax finally, far enough from his sensei that his nerves didn’t feel worked over.  As Kerian and his mother began to talk in the front seat he looked out the window as they drove along, watching the town of Astoria recede as they traveled along the bridge.  Large sandbars were evident to either side, several gulls landing upon them to search for a meal, their cries ringing strangely in his ears as though from the end of a long tunnel.  Working one finger into his ear he wiggled it back and forth, taking it out only to discover that the gulls had gone silent for a time.

He disregarded the strange effect, concentrating instead on the road ahead as the last section of the bridge loomed over the car, its green iron girders and beams catching the headlights as they sped along.  He knew almost every inch of the upper surface of the Astoria bridge, having traveled it by both foot and car so many times.  As they exited its four mile length he turned to look through the back window, glimpsing the bridge one more time before they sped away.  Shadows pooled along the entire length of the steel and concrete construct, confusing him for a moment as he realized that there was enough light to still illuminate its surface better than what he was seeing.  Blinking several times he lost view of the shadows as they rounded a bend in the road.  He turned forward again, frowning slightly before gently shrugging his shoulders.

*                      *                      *

 

Friday, May 21st

 

 

The next day found them in their separate classes as they prepared for another day of instruction at Ilwaco Jr./Sr. High School.  Consisting of grades seven through twelve the institution had originally been just a standard high school, and had been located upon the hill where now the Hilltop Elementary School resided.  Many years ago, when several of the teachers who now instructed at the high school had still been students themselves, a devastating fire had coursed through the building.  Much of the school had been destroyed in the process, though through careful effort and the support of the local community much of it had either been saved, restored or replaced.

To this day many sections of the old school were still not quite up to code, but as long as nothing was falling apart, people were happy.  In the high school there were several areas of repair that those in charge had been meaning to get to, but had yet to fix properly.  One of those inconsequential things was no doubt the funding that allowed

science courses to purchase the necessary materials that other schools only had to mention to receive.

Ah well, you did what you could with what you had, no complaints. Besides, Mr. Milner seemed to enjoy the time he spent on the water gathering their specimens.  With the commercial fishing license he had so faithfully kept since he was a boy it was his pleasure to provide for his classes.  Having less students than the bigger schools helped as well.  Lifting his scalpel Tyler looked up at his teacher as the older man bent over to help another student, one of the thirteen individuals who had actually signed up for Marine Biology this period.  As a morning class it had the tendency at times to be too much to easily assimilate, especially with the enthusiasm that Mr. Milner tried to instill in his students.

Tyler enjoyed the class, it allowed him to learn more about his home in an environment where the instructor actually cared and helped to facilitate learning.  Many of the teachers in this school were the same way, only a few had been here so long that they were on the verge of burning out or becoming far too jaded.  Tyler had much respect for his teachers, though at times even he realized that they wondered if he really was paying attention to what they said.  He was, but his attention was as diverse as his interests, meaning he felt it necessary to focus on more than one thing at a time.  He often found such single-minded pursuits to be rather boring, though he kept his mouth carefully shut, knowing that those in charge often didn’t like knowing that they weren’t the center of attention.

“Okay class, I want you after carefully making your incision to gently peel back the outer layer of skin, thereby revealing the innards of your sharks.  If you find that the skin is stuck gently take your scalpel along the inside to clear away any connections that remain.”  Sand sharks as they had learned did not grow to enormous proportions like other members of their race, but were still enough like their larger cousins to offer some insight into a shark’s anatomy.  Tyler easily peeled the skin of the thing’s belly back, pinning it to the waxy layer that filled the bottom of his dissecting tray.

As he peered within the shark’s body he consulted the black and white diagram they’d all been given, knowing that Mr. Milner would not get after him for moving ahead.  He was one of the best, or at least most attentive students in this class, affording him just a little more privilege than others.  Raising his scalpel he carefully eyed the miniature maze that lay within his specimen, trying to decide what to remove first.

From humble beginnings.

He started in his seat slightly as the whisper seemed to come from every direction, his glance turning left and right, going largely unnoticed by the rest of his classmates.  The only one that really seemed to notice his strange behavior was a freshman that sat behind him, a younger girl name Madeline Rohen.  Everyone just called her Maddie, or in the case of those who chose to follow the sometimes cruel hierarchy of high school, there were other names that had been affixed to her person.  Tyler knew some of her life’s history, he had talked to her enough times to get the gist that she was not the happiest or most blessed among her fellow students.

That didn’t really matter to him however.  He was still trying to figure out just where that strange whisper had come from.  It had sounded strained, as though the

speaker was in great pain.  Setting down his scalpel he leaned back in his chair, unsettled at that moment for no particular reason.

“Hey.”  Turning in his seat he regarded the freshman,  offering her a warm smile which she returned.  With wavy black locks tied back in a bun against her neck her young face was pleasant enough to look at, not overwhelmingly beautiful but definitely cute.  Her body was that of an athlete thanks to the last seven years of Track and Field, the sport one of the only joys in her life.  He knew that she was the middle sibling of four, with one younger brother and two older sisters.  One of her sisters had graduated just last year, while the other was only a year ahead of her.

“What’s up First?”  She smiled at the simple nickname, earned at their last track meet spent together as competitors.  Many of the individuals on their team had done well this year, qualifying members of their team in nearly every event.  Aside from Basketball and Volleyball, Track was one of the sports that their school tended to excel at.  Every year at least five or more athletes went to state, and this year had been no different.

Tyler had gone in both the shotput and for discus, while his girlfriend Kerian had gone for the 110 high hurdles and the 200 yards sprint.  Maddie had qualified for the 3200 meter run, though she had not placed, going home with no award but a deep satisfaction from having gone so far.  His nickname for her had come from her victory in the district championships, her hard won fight to succeed inspiring even those teammates who hadn’t thought she was worth the shoes she ran in.

He’d always liked her.  She was smart though extremely shy, leaving him at times to wonder what her home life was like.  From the way she held her head down all the time and refrained from being outspoken or even recognized he found it hard not to feel sorry for her.  That mistake had cost him only once however when she had responded to his kindness with resentment, thinking that he pitied her.  Since then the understanding between the two of them had been such that she understood his feelings towards her, while he knew that despite her downtrodden appearance she was more than what she appeared.

“Are you, um, going to be around on Saturday?”  Tyler turned back to his dissection for a moment as Mr. Milner passed them, tapping lightly on his worktable to let Tyler know that class was in session.  As soon as he’d passed however Tyler turned back to Maddie, offering her a small conspiratorial grin to let her know he hadn’t ignored her.  He did wonder why she was asking.  Despite their mutual respect they did not run in the same circles, their short conversations few and far between.  Still it would be rude not to answer.

“I guess.  I’ll probably be out on the beach or around somewhere.  Why do you ask?”  She flushed slightly before responding, which confused him a little.

“Well, I was wondering if you’d, ah never mind.”  He leaned closer to her with his eyebrows raised, trying to prompt a response from her.  She seemed to lose herself in her dissection however, her single-mindedness a defense against embarrassment.  He relented, going back to his own specimen with only one glance back.

“Well if you find what you wanted to say, I’m always around.”  He muttered the words, knowing that they were still audible enough for Maddie to hear.  Tyler didn’t see

her gentle smile as she blushed again, her heart skipping a beat as she basked in his attention.

*                      *                      *

 

At lunch he and Kerian met up in the stadium outside the school, their own private lunch area.  Normally there were a few other students present, mostly skaters and others who didn’t care to take lunch in the crowded cafeteria.  Today however there was only the two of them and Maddie, whom Tyler had invited to come sit with them.  It was a rare occurrence, but both he and Kera had found before now that she was good company when they could get her to talk.  If it happened only a few times a year then so be it.

“So what were you going to ask me in class?”  Tyler bit into a ham and cheese sandwich after asking, looking over to the freshman with his calm blue-green gaze.  Kera was thoroughly enjoying the leftovers from dinner the night before, a turkey and Swiss cheese Panini that his mother had learned to make.  Maddie had been hesitant to share their lunches with them but had cracked as they had insisted, almost thrusting the food into her hands.  After seeing the meager lunch that she had brought from home it had been easy, their decent natures not allowing them to see her go hungry.

“Well ah, I mean um…are you two doing anything on Saturday?  I mean are you going to be around?”  Wiping her lips before answering Kera looked sideways at the younger girl, wondering just what she was trying to ask.

“I was just wondering if maybe you two would mind if I hung out with you this weekend, you know if it’s not too much trouble.  If it is then that’s okay I can find something to do.”  She was stammering as Tyler and Kera looked at one another, clearly not understanding what she was getting at.

“Are you alright Maddie?”  She looked up at him with her doe-like eyes full of hope that he wouldn’t say no or tell her that he didn’t want her around.  Looking back to Kera he almost grunted in frustration as she simply shrugged, indicating that it was up to him.  Both of them knew that their Capoeira instructor, Mr. Ken Delong, had already told them that he didn’t want anyone else knowing that he was instructing them.  He wasn’t a bad man in any way, it was just that what he was teaching them would get him in serious trouble if he were found out.

Thus far only the occasional passerby had seen the three of them on the beach, their chosen meeting spot being the stretch of coast a half mile from their house.  That was fine since the average spectator most likely wouldn’t think twice about what they were doing, thinking perhaps that a martial arts instructor had been good enough to take a couple of students aside for a private session.  Around these parts it wasn’t entirely uncommon since a large portion of the children that lived upon the peninsula were enrolled in martial arts of some type.  The reasoning for this wasn’t always clear, but it had been a practice for the last twenty years.

“I just, I just wanted someone to hang out with you know?”  She hung her head, screening her eyes from the two of them effectively as they once more shared a look.  Mr. Delong had been very adamant about no spectators and since he was giving them free

lessons it didn’t feel right to bring along an uninvited guest.  Still, the downtrodden look that seemed to hang over her was hard to ignore.

“Well, we can have you meet us out near our home if you can get there.”  Looking at Kera he still didn’t see any sign of warning or silent alarm in her face, only a calm acceptance of the decision she’d already known he’d made.  Maddie’s face lit up noticeably at the reply, her fingers digging into the half sandwich that Tyler had given her.

“You gonna eat that or smash it?”  He pointed his gaze down at the sandwich in her hands as she released her grip, taking a large bite as she smiled up at him.  Thankfully it wasn’t a full smile, though both he and Kera couldn’t help but return it.

*                      *                      *

 

Saturday, May 22nd

 

 

When Saturday came it found Tyler and Kera walking to towards the beach at around eight o’ clock in the morning.  Mr. Delong, living all the way in LaCenter, would have already left from home to reach them in time.  In the past years worth of weekends they had yet to understand just why he had approached them as he had, why he would bother to make the nearly two hour drive just to instruct them for a few hours every Saturday.  There was no doubt in their minds that he could have found someone else much closer to pass his knowledge on to.

Still, why look a gift horse in the mouth?  They were both more than grateful for the chance to learn something new and had taken to the art of dance fighting with a zeal that had surprised even Mr. Delong.  Each day they’d trained they had progressed, the movements they were shown coming to them like a second nature.  So flexible were their bodies now that it was all they could do during their sessions in Taji Chin Na to not break into a smooth rhythm of constant motion as they had been taught.

“Think she’ll be here?” Kera shifted her gym bag as she spoke, slipping the shoulder strap over her head so that it rested on her opposite shoulder.  The bag bounced lightly against her left hip as she walked, her athletic curves alluring in the light green jumpsuit she was wearing.  Around them the landscape was still waking up, the smaller animals and insects announcing their existence to the world as they had daily for their entire lives.  The morning dew glistened off scrub grass and conifers alike, painting the area around them in a pleasing mosaic of color.  Houses that had been built only a few years ago lay dark as their occupants were either still asleep or not in residence at the time.

About half of the houses that were built along this coastline and farther inland belonged to what the locals liked to call ‘snowbirds’, people who were present in the more pleasant months and then left when the storm season came.  Tyler and Kera had lost track of just who was who anymore, not really caring as long as much of their home remained wild.  According to his parents and several other adults they spoke to regularly however it would no doubt not remain that way in the years to come.  Rumors had it that there were already plans to begin building houses in the far reaches of Surfside, areas that he and Kera had wandered since they were small children.

“We told her what time and where to be, so I’d hope she’d make it.”

“What do you think Mr. Delong will say?”  He didn’t answer, tilting his head as though to say that it would be best to deal with that problem once they reached the sand.

*                      *                      *

 

As it happened they needn’t have worried about either Maddie or any averse reaction from Mr. Delong over her presence.  As they walked upon the slightly overgrown trail that led from the asphalt to the gray sands of the coastline ahead Tyler felt a slight tingle run through his body.  Without being able to explain it he pressed forward at his normal casual rate, barely noticing as Kera seemed to feel the same sensation.  Both of them ignored this feeling, walking steadily towards the large dune that obscured their view of the ocean from where they stood.

The roar of the mighty Pacific was like a sweet symphony in their ears, a lullaby that had been present in their lives seemingly forever.  That it called to them was an understatement, that it was a part of them and vice versa was far more accurate.  The ocean in all its vastness had ever seemed to them like a second home that lay within their reach but so far beyond, an enticement that they could look upon yet never fully grasp.  They’d never bothered to discuss such things with anyone save themselves, figuring that either people wouldn’t understand or would simply discount their words as youthful exuberance.

As the crested the dune however both of them couldn’t help but inhale deeply the sweet scent of salt air that permeated this place.  Most people thought it quite rank, the odor of dead animals and other matter that was washed ashore not fitting in with their idea of what a normal beach should be like.  For Tyler and Kera however the gray windswept carpet that lay before them was far more majestic than any tropical resort ever could be.  Like so many places there was a power here that one could feel if they were to content to let themselves try.

Leaving their shoes and gym bags in the thickets of dune grass to the sides of the dune they began to stretch as they made their way down to where Mr. Delong, he would not abide the title of Master, and Maddie stood.  The two of them were conversing in what seemed to be pleasant tones as Tyler and Kera approached, Maddie smiling at whatever Mr. Delong was saying.  Their instructor graced them with a smile and a bow shortly after they bowed to him, Maddie watching with rapt attention the formalities that played out in front of her.

“We have a guest today it seems.  Would either of you care to explain?”  The smile did not leave his face as he spoke, though the slight edge he put into his voice escaped no one’s notice.  Maddie looked apologetically to them as they looked from her to each other, thinking up a good explanation that the man would accept.

“Well spoken.”  All three of them arched their brows in confusion as Mr. Delong laughed, a hearty and pleasing sound.  “If you had began to give excuses I would have considered this trip today a waste of my time.  Instead you sought to think before you spoke, a wise choice.”

“So you’re not mad?”  Kera winced as she asked, not quite sure that she wanted the answer.  Their instructor only nodded a few times before replying, his smile still wide.

“Your friend Madeline and I have had a chance to speak, of you mostly since it seems she was eager for you to arrive.”  Motioning towards Maddie with one hand he

turned towards her, all three of them seeing the grateful smile upon her young features.  It seemed as though she might soon pass out she was so deliriously happy, which prompted Tyler to clear his throat, indicating that he was ready to begin.  Nodding once Mr. Delong

silently agreed, waving both him and Kera over to stand upon the wet sand only a few feet away.  Patting Maddie gently on the shoulder Tyler stepped towards the older man, joining him and Kera as they began their warm-ups.

Nearly ten minutes later their warm-ups flowed easily into a practice session unlike any Maddie had ever witnessed.  She had sat in on training sessions before in dojo’s spanning from here on the peninsula to as far as Vancouver, and never had she seen something this fluid, this alive.  Watching these three people go about their workout she found herself mesmerized, unable to tear her gaze away as she watched the intricacy and precision with which Tyler and Kera executed each move.  At certain moments it was hard to determine who was the master among the three of them, so skilled did they seem.  The older man however proved at times that he was indeed the superior fighter, catching Tyler and Kera off their guard just enough to trip them up, forcing them to begin again.

After three hours time she had witnessed more action in her life than any movie screen could have ever shown, more poetry in motion than she had thought possible.  She had found herself almost crying at times, the beauty of what she witnessed stealing her breath as both Tyler and Kera seemed to flow steadily without fear of exhaustion, their bodies little more than continual motion as the sands beneath them churned under their feet.

Bowing to Mr. Delong they remained still as the older man returned the bow, dismissing them as he began to walk down the beach in the direction of the next approach.  She had already spoken with the older man before the two of them had arrived and understood that this was just a part of their Saturdays.  As the two of them came closer she rose to her feet, brushing sand away from the seat of her jeans.  They spoke in low tones to one another as she waited for them to retrieve their gym bags and shoes, patient as they each retrieved a towel to dry themselves off.  She felt as though she should have been ready for them by retrieving their bags, though that seemed as though it might have been a little presumptuous.

“Hey Maddie, enjoy the show?”  She smiled at Tyler as he spoke, her heart warming as he grinned, telling her he was just kidding.  Kera laughed at that, slinging her arm around Maddie’s slim shoulders as they began to walk down the dune.  Nothing could have made the freshman happier at that point, her heart near to bursting at the mere touch of the senior.

“Well Mads, tell ya what.  Let’s go home, get us cleaned up, and then the rest of the day is all ours, whatcha say?”  Hugging her closer Kera grinned at her, the smell of sweat and salt air seeming to Maddie the sweetest scent she had ever encountered at that time.  As they kept walking she couldn’t help but agree that such a thing would be just fine.  It would be just fine.

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