News From Home 20, Part II

After about six or seven minutes of teasing, Mr. A seemed to become bored with his tactical superiority, and decided to engage, perhaps sensing that this thing would have to be fought at some point, and may as well get it over, but perhaps also sensing that some of the sting had been drawn from his opponent. This time, he allowed the Colonel to close with him, and as their wheelchairs collided, their sabres clashed. The ring was surprisingly loud, reverberating through the wood, and was a chilling sound. Having locked swords, there was something of an impasse, as a trial of strength proved inconclusive. On paper, Colonel Briggs may have been a favourite for upper body development, being ex-military, and only recently a retiree from ‘Iron Man’ contests – those murderous triathlons for the super-fit. But Mr. A had been pushing a wheelchair for some years now, and I knew from experience that he could arm-wrestle gorillas twice his size. It seemed now that if anyone was winning, it was Mr. A - slowly, slowly pushing Brigg’s sword away, and taking up a fresh position. Mr. A also started laughing. I don’t think his intention was to humiliate Briggs – I think he was really just having a whale of a time. Over and over again, their swords locked, and Mr. A forced his opponent’s weapon away, or aside, or down. We had reached about minute fifteen of the contest, and the Colonel was beginning to tire. Both men were sweating, but Briggs was breathing hard, and Mr. A’s parries were becoming easier, and with the ease, his laughter rose in pitch. Suddenly, as Briggs paused to gather his strength, and as if the moment had been pre-arranged, he knocked Brigg’s sword from his hand, reached over – and cut the end of his nose off!

It was as if time had stopped. Mr. A held his pose at end of sword-cut, Colonel Briggs was frozen in shock, and we seconds were not believing what we saw, and remained rooted to the spot for long moments. After an age, there arose a crescendo of a howl from the victim, and the spell was broken. I never knew a nose could hold so much blood. There was really no need to say it, for the fight was over, but Sanchez and I, in perfect chorus, yelled, “First blood!” Sanchez rushed to Brigg’s side to offer aid, medical kit in hand, and bandages were applied. Mr. A, rather thoughtfully, reached down and picked up the severed tip, and handed it to Sanchez. “Keep it on ice”, he said. “I don’t think we brought any”, said Sanchez. “I did”, said Mr. A.