I’m celebrating the release of my new humor book, I Never Drove a Bulldozer. But ever moving on to the next project, I thought I’d share an excerpt from my work in progress, the next in the series of Maggie Gorski mysteries. There’s no keeping a good woman down, or Maggie either.
“Touché,” Maggie cried as she raised her foil into a jaunty salute, then dropped into her stance.
“I believe you mean En Garde.” Cher said.
“I knew that.” Maggie hopped forward as she swung her sword wildly from side to side.
Cher took a step back. “You look like a constipated crab.”
“I’m just lulling you into a false sense of security.” Maggie lunged as Cher took another step back, neatly parried Maggie’s thrust, then reached out and lightly touched her sword into Maggie’s chest.
“No, no, Maggie.” The instructor, Jean Paul ran forward waving his arms like a demented zombie. “You must pull back into your stance after a lunge, before your opponent can riposte.”
“Tell that to my thighs.” Maggie grunted as she straightened up. “Two weeks of pilates classes, and I still have all the muscle tone of stale cream cheese.”
Cher removed her mask—every hair still in place. “Low fat?”
“Fat free. And why the hell do all these fencing terms have to be in French? The only French I can remember is, ‘Le chien est sur le table.’ Try working ‘the dog is on the table’ into normal conversation.”
Jean Paul interrupted. “Perhaps we should stick to the basics, Maggie. I want you to stand perfectly still and work on your parries. We’ll work on tierce and quarte. Tierce is to the right, wrist up. Quarte is to the left, wrist down.”
“I’ll never be able to remember all that,” Maggie said.
Cher raised her sword. “Just think windshield wiper.” She demonstrated with expert parries.
“We have fifteen minutes of class time left,” Jean Paul said. “Cher, I want you to thrust, and Maggie, you will parry. The only way to develop muscle memory is to practice repeatedly.”
“I lost my short term muscle memory when I started getting hot flashes.”
Jean Paul shrugged and walked away to torture some other uncoordinated novice.
After five minutes, Maggie’s forehead was dripping with sweat. Cher had gotten past her parries at least twenty times. Jean Paul had come over to scold her one more time. During one of Cher’s more energetic thrusts, Maggie had instinctively thrown her arm up over her eyes protectively with her sword pointing down.
“Maggie, never use Prime to parry. You blind yourself to your opponent’s attack.”
Maggie turned in frustration, swinging her sword. She narrowly missed spearing Jean Paul in the groin. “Ahem, well … I just figured that if I can’t see her, she can’t see me.” Jean Paul scurried away without a word and Maggie seized the opportunity. “I’m getting thirsty, could we take a break … someplace where they serve hot dogs and milkshakes?”
“Okay. I’m sure they’ll let us borrow the foils to get in some practice at home.”
“I saw some other swords in the equipment closet that have fat blades with sharp edges—not these little poky sticks,” Maggie said. “I bet we could do more damage with those.”
“Those are sabers, and I don’t think we need to slash at each other. You barely have the stitches out from that unfortunate rutabaga accident two weeks ago.”
“Root vegetables have it in for me, and Ted hid the meat cleaver when we got back from the emergency room. I think if I practice with the slashy thing, I’d be less of a danger in the kitchen.”
“Highly doubtful. We only have one more lesson, so I’ll let Jean Paul know that we’re going to perfect our parries at home.”
Maggie gathered her gear and waited by the door for Cher.