Chapter Seven (Containing a section on the validity of Bonetti's Defense.)Submitted by Tom Sorrell at 2013-08-09 14:16:12 EDT
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A distinguished, elderly gentleman with gray-white hair peeking out from beneath a stocking cap walked through the door with nothing in his hands. His face was tired, but his eyes were as youthful as his body was old. He glanced at Lesley at his desk and smiled, then looked around the classroom.
A group of girls in the corner were whispering and staring at the stains on Lesley’s shirt. Two boys in front of him were pointing and laughing. A girl in a B.U.M. equipment sweatshirt was chomping away at her gum like a cow chewing cud. C.C. was chewing her bottom lip and absently picking at her cuticle. Lesley was sulking next to her. The old man cleared his throat, then nodded at C.C.
“You should have made your move at the party,” he said, in an English accent. “It was your move, after all.”
Lesley looked up at the man and frowned.
“You talkin’ to me?” he asked.
The old man chuckled. “You’re the only one here.”
Lesley smiled, appreciating the old man had understood his reference to Taxi Driver. The old man smiled, knowing Lesley didn’t understand what was happening.
“Who are you?” Lesley asked.
“No one of consequence,” the man replied.
Lesley frowned and shook his head. The man was dressed in black. For some reason he reminded Lesley of an extra from Candleshoe with Jodie Foster – an oddly specific-reference, to be sure, but Lesley supposed there was something to it.
“Where’s Mr. Anderson?” Lesley asked.
“Who?” the man replied, grinning.
"My Algebra teacher. Mr. Anderson.”
"Never heard of him.”
Lesley frowned. He looked around and saw no one else in the room was paying attention, then he noticed how slowly all of them seemed to be moving. The girl with the gum had started to blow a pink bubble. It was taking forever. Lesley turned back to the man.
“Something is happening…” he said, nervously.
“But you don’t know what it is, do you Mister Jones?” the man asked.
Lesley shook his head.
“How do you know my name?”
The old man smiled and shook his head.
“I have a question for you, Lesley. Where are you right now?”
“I’m in my classroom for first period Algebra,” Lesley replied.
The man shook his head. Lesley frowned like he was crazy, then looked at C.C.. She was in the middle of a quick glance in his direction, but was moving so slowly she seemed to be staring. Lesley watched her for a moment, then waved his hand in front of her face. It moved at normal speed, but he saw strange tracers moving with it. He turned to the man.
“What is happening? Why is everyone else moving so slowly?”
“Are they?” the old man asked, cryptically.
Lesley titled his head, annoyed, then looked over at the girl still blowing a bubble and pointed, dramatically. The old man chuckled, softly, but said nothing. Lesley rubbed his eyes, looked around, then rubbed his eyes again.
“Is this a dream?” he finally asked.
“Call it what you like,” the old man replied.
“Are you going to answer any of my questions?”
The man just smiled. Lesley sighed and turned to C.C.. He frowned, sadly.
“Did I ruin things with her?”
The man paused. “The two of you will always be connected. She’s your Pearl.”
“What does that mean?” Lesley asked.
The man shook his head. “I wish I could tell you.”
“Am I ever going to be with her?”
The man said nothing. Lesley looked at him pleadingly.
“Please,” he said. “I must know.”
The old man frowned.
“Get used to disappointment,” he finally said, softly. Sadly.
Lesley’s shoulders slumped. He looked at his hands and watched them turn white as bone. He tried to breathe, but the wind had vanished from his lungs. The old man’s answer had given birth to a festering rot in his heart. Lesley grasped at his chest while a searing pain coursed through his veins. The decay pulverized cells, boiled his blood and laid waste to any life it found. Lesley aged, rapidly, turned to ashes and collapsed into a pile on his chair. The man frowned.
“Don’t be so melodramatic,” he said. “And pull yourself together. I have a lesson for you.”
A featureless figure rose from the ashes, becoming a wooden puppet with a long nose, then a generic human boy, then Lesley Jones. He sat back in his chair and winced in pain.
“Back still hurts?”
“It’ll go away.”
The man looked at the chalkboard. A piece of chalk lifted from the tray. Lesley blinked, hard, then looked at the man.
“Are you moving that with your mind?”
“Of course,” the man answered.
“How?” Lesley asked, a little too eagerly.
“All in due time, Mister Jones. First we must begin at the beginning.”
Lesley frowned. The chalk squeaked on the green board as it wrote…
SWORDPLAY THEORY AND PRACTICE
“Swordplay?” Lesley asked.
The old man smiled. “The Sword is the ultimate weapon.”
Lesley nodded, confused, as the chalk wrote the following:
Lesley chuckled. “Will I learn Bonetti’s defense? I hear it’s best used when terrain is rocky.”
The chalk stopped writing and landed in the tray. The old man chuckled.
“If you'd like,” he said. “Do you know anything about it?”
Lesley shook his head.
“What about Rocco Bonetti? Ever heard of him?”
Lesley frowned. The old man grinned and pulled down a projector screen, then sat at the desk next to Lesley. A moment later the door opened and a headless body entered with an A.V. cart.
On the cart was a silver plate holding the body’s head. The face had a beard. Its hair was long and curly. The eyes were wise. The old man smiled at the head, then nodded towards the back of the room. The head’s eyes looked that way. The body’s arm pointed.
“Yes, thank you.”
“No problem, Bob,” the head said, as the body maneuvered the cart through the rows of desks. When it passed Lesley, the head whistled. The body stopped the cart. The head grinned.
“Hey kid,” it asked. “You ever been dunked in a river?”
“Leave the boy be, John,” grinned the old man, whose name was apparently Bob.
Lesley shrugged, but the head named John was serious. Dead serious. And it was waiting for an answer. Bob pointed at a clock on the wall.
“We don’t have much time,” he said. “Lesley must learn why Bonetti was not one to emulate.”
“Now don’t go ruining the movie for the boy,” John’s head said.
“I most certainly will not,” Bob replied, surprised. “Why on earth would I do that? It’s such a wonderful film.”
John smiled as his body set up the reel on the projector. Lesley turned to Bob in a whisper.
“Who is that guy?”
Bob smiled. “He’s the head of our A.V. Club.”
“I am not,” John said. “Not anymore. We got a new guy.”
Bob touched his forehead. “Oh, that’s right. I forgot about Stanley.”
John’s head would have shaken in frustration if it were attached, but it wasn’t, so it just kind of sat there on the silver plate, looking up at Bob and saying…
“Ever since he showed up we’ve been runnin’ ragged. He made Phil the Narrator read the script 38 times and Stanley still wasn’t satisfied when I left to come here. He should be along shortly, though, I hope.”
Bob nodded as the body finished loading the reel and flipped the switch. The projector clicked to life and everyone turned to the screen. Blackness faded in to the dock of a port city. A subtitle flashed saying this was England, 1569.
The door to the room opened and a man burst through it. He hurried over and stood behind Lesley, who looked up at him and squinted as the man apologized to Bob and John for his tardiness. He smiled at Lesley, who shook his head, amazed.
“You look like Phil Hartman,” he said. “From SNL.”
Phil was the only one Lesley had recognized, which made Bob and John chuckle, softly. The narrator stuck out his hand out and grinned, hugely. His teeth twinkled when he smiled.
“Hi there!” he said. “Phil Hartman, from SNL.”
Lesley bowed his head, slightly. Phil smiled.
“Phil’s the AV club’s narrator,” John said. “We’re lucky to have him. He’s the best.”
Phil checked his watch, then turned to John.
“Hey, thanks fellas. Happy to do it, but hey, can we make this quick? There’s a Brocktoon convention in a few minutes. Tom needs me there … for support.”
They heard a scream in the hallway, then the sound of running feet.
“Come on, Phil!!” shouted a man, who sounded a lot like Tom Hanks, as he banged on the door while running past it down the hallway shouting, “Brocktoooooooooon!!”
The voice faded like a train whistle in the distance. Lesley chuckled and looked at Phil.
“I love that sketch,” Lesley said.
“Sketch?” Phil asked, completely serious, then he turned to the screen with a grin.
Lesley turned too and watched a sneaky-looking man with jet black hair vault over the side of a boat onto shore. The man looked around in disgust and spat, then shook his head and walked with perfect posture towards Buckingham Palace in the distance. Phil narrated.
“This is Rocco Bonetti. You may remember him as the creator of the Bonetti Defense, which was mentioned in the Hollywood movie, The Princess Bride.”
Bob smiled. Lesley nodded. The screen faded to black, then cut to a clip of the duel between Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black. Phil turned to John’s head, concerned.
“Did we get Reiner’s permission for this?” he whispered.
“Nah,” John replied. “But he owes us for The Story of Us.”
Bob and Phil chuckled. Lesley turned.
“The Story of Us? What’s that?”
“Never mind,” the three of them said, in unison.
Lesley frowned. Bob shrugged.
“You’ll find out eventually,” he said. “Now watch the movie.”
Lesley turned back to the screen. Bonetti was sitting in a huge room at the head of a square table, drinking brandy and counting money. Phil checked his watch as he narrated.
“Rocco moved to England in 1569, where he set up an academy known as Blackfriar. Bonetti claimed to be a master of the sword – the only one in the world – and volunteered his services to the noble class … for a fair price, of course.”
On screen a group of men walked into the room clad in purple, their skin clean, their posture erect. They carried swords and seemed very happy with themselves as they sat at the table in front of goblets resting on sheets of paper. Also on the table were dozens of inkwells, quills, and a large red gob of sealing wax to be used for correspondence by members of the Academy.
The men raised their glasses in a toast to themselves as a man walked into the room wearing rags, his skin caked with dirt and blood. Bonetti pretended not to see him.
“Commoners could attend the school if they were willing to pay a few year’s wages to receive substandard training by one of Bonetti’s lackeys while he hobnobbed with the nobles,” Phil said.
Lesley frowned. “So basically it was impossible for a commoner to be trained well because the head of the school only cared about rich people?”
Bob nodded. Phil continued to narrate.
“Bonetti and company convinced themselves they were unbeatable sword masters, despite having never tasted true combat. They were a collection of fakes, playing with swords, celebrating their greatness, and mailing a barrage of letters to anyone they felt like threatening.”
The screen changed to a large man sitting in an English pub. He was reading a letter, silently, and drinking from a large mug while Phil narrated the letter.
“Austin Bagger, thou art born of swine. I, Rocco Bonetti, double-dog dare you to a duel. Arrive at the great hall of Blackfriar in a fortnight to meet your certain demise at my superior hands.”
Austin Bagger crumpled the letter and finished his mug, then put it down and called for another. The screen faded to later. There were six empty mugs on the table now. Bagger slammed the one he was drinking from down and wiped the foam from his beard. He pulled the letter from his pants and read it, again. He grew angrier and angrier at each word Phil narrated.
“You’ll be sure to recognize me. I, Rocco Bonetti, will be the handsome one running you through with my rapier before finding your wenches and breeding with them. I look forward to our duel and its inevitable aftermath. Signed, Rocco Bonetti – creator of The Bonetti Defense.”
Austin took another drink, then threw the mug across the bar. He screamed, slapped the table, grabbed his sword and stumbled out of the pub. The screen turned black, then faded in to the great hall at Blackfriar, where Rocco sat at the head of a large, square table, surrounded by nobles. Very intoxicated, Austin Bagger barged in and screamed at Bonetti.
“Signior Rocco,” he shouted. “You are thought to be a master with your weapon. You take it upon yourself to hit any Englishman with a thrust upon any button! You take it upon yourself to come over the sea, to teach the valiant noblemen of England to fight? I say you’re a coward! Step outside, if you dare. I am come to fight with thee!”
The projector began to click. The screen turned white and Lesley’s eyebrows raised. He looked around, confused. John’s head frowned and glanced at the machine. The film had run out.
“That’s all we have, I suppose,” he said.
Phil turned to Bob and pointed at the door. The old man nodded.
“Great to meet you,” Phil said, shaking Lesley’s hand.
Lesley smiled as Phil sprinted from the room, leaving the door open. John’s body began to remove the reel from the projector. Lesley turned to Bob.
“What happened next?” Lesley asked.
Bob frowned. “Let’s find out,” he said.
Through the open door they heard the creaky wheels of an old cart in the hallway. An man’s gentle voice was repeating one word, over and over.
“Book?” he asked.
“No thanks,” voices replied.
The cart entered the room. It was filled with books and was pushed by an old man with a raven on his shoulder, which crowed, loudly.
“Jake says hello,” the old man said to Lesley, who nodded at the man and waved at his bird. The man pulled an old book from the cart and handed it to Bob. “Here’s your book.”
Bob nodded thanks, then turned to Lesley.
“I’m going to read from George Silver’s Paradoxes of Defense, written in 1599.”
Lesley nodded. Bob opened the book and read aloud.
“Signior Rocco ran into the street and let fly at Austin Bagger, who most bravely defended himself, and presently closed with him, and struck up his heels, and cut him over the breech, and trod upon him, and most grievously hurt him under his feet.
“Yet in the end Austin of his good nature gave him his life, and there left him. This was the first and last fight that ever Signior Rocco made, save once at Queen Hith, where he drew his rapier upon a waterman and was thoroughly beaten with oars.”
Lesley laughed. Bob closed the book and handed it back to the librarian, who put it on the cart and left the room with a smile. Lesley waved, then heard a piercing shriek that continued as the chalk jumped from the tray and moved to the board. The room began to warp and shake.
John smiled at Lesley. His body waved. The chalk started to write a math equation.
“Until next time, Lesley.” Bob said, bowing his head.