It’s been a good day today. Money in the bank, dues are paid, I’ve got pills to keep me mostly sane for another month, and I don’t ache like I did yesterday.
It was so good that I didn’t realize something important happened a couple of days ago.
First off, Chapter Twenty-two is finished: I just put the last word down on that about fifteen minutes ago.
While I was doing a word count check I realized that I’d passed another milestone by a couple of thousand words, and when I looked back I realized that back on 19 June, I passed a quarter of a million words for this novel. In fact, it happened close to the end of the excerpt I posted yesterday.
Realistically speaking, I’m probably over the hump now, because I figured this novel will likely top out at some point between 450,000 and 500,000 words. Yeah, that’s right. I figure that because I know of all the shit waiting for my kids on down the road and it’s sizable. That means it may just take a half a million words to get that tale told.
And speaking of tales…
As the title tonight suggest, it’s no longer Recruitment Night, but rather, it’s the Monday practice night for our new junior derby girls. And as I’ve done for the last few nights, you get all of the scene tonight.
Let’s do just that:
(The following excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Three: C For Continuing, copyright 2016, 2017, 2018 by Cassidy Frazee)
Annie rolled out on to the floor and slowly circled the track, working her legs while getting a feel for her new skates. After the fitting on Saturday morning—where she was one of the first ones to show, as promised—she decided to go with the Bonts, since they felt the most comfortable on her feet. A few of the girls went with Riedell and six decided to stick with the Mota, but the majority of the girls who came for skates went with the Australian manufacturer.
As promised, all skates were waiting for those who showed for this first Monday night practice. Not only that, but the gear they used the previous Thursday was waiting, as well as a rolling bag they could use to store and transport their gear from coven to practice and back.
There was so much to learn about her equipment. When she was handed her skates, Holly mentioned they were fitted with 93a wheels and that they’d tighten the trucks if necessary, which made Annie’s eyebrows shoot upwards before she asked what they all meant. There was plenty of time. Right now she just wanted to move around the track and get the feel of her wheels under her feet.
The rest would come later.
Though, just like Annie, I started out on Riedell skates, I now use Bont skates. I’ve never tried on Mota skates, but I know a couple of people who have and love them, and if I’d tried them off first I might have been the same way. But no, I went Down Under to get my skates, mate.
And here they are while I’m changing out wheels:
The green wheels on the left are outdoor wheels known Atom Poison. They’re quite soft–and 84a if you must know–which makes them grip the pavement nicely. The wheels on the right are the ones I use at the rink, Radar Halo 93a wheels, which is a much harder wheel. Annie’s wheels are Radar Prestos of the same rating as mine, so they’ll look a little different.
(When I talk about hard and soft wheels, I’m talking about the Shore Hardness scale as measured on a durometer. The A scale is used for flexible mold rubbers, which is what skate wheels are made of, and that’s why there’s an “a” after the wheel number. The higher the number, the harder the wheel, so a Radar Halo 101a is about as hard as you can get before going up to the “D” scale. And if you’re wondering, my skate wheels–and Annie’s–are as hard as the wheels found on a shopping cart.)
But you can only go so far on hardware: it’s how you use that hardware that counts. And for that, Annie and the others have coaches–
Eventually everyone was on the track doing warm-up laps. They were only out for about two minutes before Angry, Holly, and Princess skated out and weaved their way through the girls to the center of the track. Angry watched the girls for about ten seconds before blowing a whistle attached to the fingers of her right hand. “Okay, bring it to the center and make a circle around us.”
It took about twenty seconds for everyone to stop and get into a circle around the three women. Angry gave an approving look to the girls before speaking. “You all look good out there. Some better than others, but that doesn’t matter: you’re not gonna be pros overnight.
“Tonight the real work starts. Tonight we’re going to begin learning first how to skate, then second, learning how to play derby. Some of you will move faster than others, but that will happen: everyone progressing at different rates. What matters is that all of us are at the same point when the school year ends.
“Now, I want you all to do something for me.” Angry pointed outward from herself. “Each of you, take a look to your left and then to your right. When you’re done, I want all eyes back on me.” Once every skater did as asked Angry continued. “I want you to remember the people next to you, ‘cause it’s quite likely that one of those people may not be here at the end of the school year.
“That’s not meant to scare you: it’s meant as a statement of fact. Right now we have thirty-seven skaters and I would be beyond ecstatic if all thirty-seven of you are certified and bout ready when we leave here next May. But I know derby and I know real life has a way of interfering with your progress, so it’s likely some of you will leave due to those pressures. If so, there’s no shame: all three of us have, at one time or another, needed to step away from our leagues due to our real lives.
“It’s also likely that after a few weeks or months, a few of you may decide that derby isn’t for you. I won’t lie: It’s not going to be easy to get to where you are certified and bout ready. Derby isn’t easy: as a former teammate of mine liked to say, if derby was easy, then everyone would play. And since everyone isn’t playing…” She shrugged. “It must not be that easy.
“When this project was presented to the Sports Division of the Educational Council, I was asked two question: did I want to put together the teams needed to bring this sport to the North American schools, and did I want Salem? In case you’re wondering, I said yes to both. That means I’m responsible if this program fails, particularly here, at this school. And I don’t want it to fail, not for me, and most definitely not for you.
“So I, and these women standing with me, will tell you this: if you give us everything we ask of you, we will teach you everything we know and help you develop as a skater. Nothing we’re going to ask of you wasn’t already asked of us—though, in all honesty, you’re doing this at a younger age, which is why our program is tailored to the three-stage JRDA program assessments. Still, it’s gonna require work—and if you work for us, we’ll work for you.”
We know Recruitment Night started out with 43 girls and now their down to 37, which means they lost fourteen percent of their starting pool. And that whole left and right thing? Totally possible. From my Recruitment Night there were ten of us that started: I, like Ishmael, remain to tell the story of that event. As it was relayed to me once, it’s not out of the question to see about ten percent of the people recruited at one event to stay until they certify and play. We’ve been fortunate with our last few Recruitment Nights in that we’ve retained a lot of the women who came out…
But live does get in the way of derby. We’re not paid to play: we do it because we want to. So it’s not out of the question to have players drop out for any number of reasons. Some come back: most don’t. As Angry says, there’s no shame to walk away if it’s required.
And her comment about a teammate saying if derby was easy, everyone would play? That comment was made to me on more than one occasion by my teammate, Redrum Doll, who I want to be when I grow up. And if we ever get a chance to play together, the other team is gonna catch hell…
Now that all the touchy-feely stuff is out of the way, let’s get into some rules:
Angry waited for all the nodding and small talk to diminish before getting serious. “Now, as I said I have a couple of degrees in law, which means I’m all about the rules. And one of the rules I have—” She raised her voice enough that she could be heard without difficulty. “When I say practice begins a nineteen hours, I mean I expect you to be geared up and on the track at that time. I don’t mean that four or five of you are still on the sidelines, taking your time putting on your pads while you and your teammates bullshit around about your hard day crafting spells. That shit ends right now. You wanna practice? You practice like it means something to you.
“One of the things I’m big on is cardio, and one great way of building up cardio endurance is to skate laps—fast. Every practice we’re gonna start with cardio lap, ‘cause if nothing else we’re gonna outlast whatever team we play all the way to the end. Also, one of your Level One Assessments is to be able to skate eight laps in two minutes, which works out to skating one lap of the WFTDA track every fifteen seconds.
“From this point on, for every skater who is late getting on to the track for practice, we will skate five laps for every minute those skaters held us up from getting to our work. That means—” She looked at a few skaters who wouldn’t meet her gaze. “—since three of you were a minute late and two were two minutes later, we should be skating at least thirty-five laps—on top of whatever other cardio laps I had planed for our time together.
Angry probably wouldn’t be this mean with a normal group of 14 year old girls, ’cause their parents would be up in her face if she were, but these are not Normal girls: they’re witches and they’re expect to be pushed to be the best at the best school in The Foundation. And given that a few of them besides Annie have likely killed people–you know, the stray Deconstructor that found their way on to the school grounds during a certain Day of the Dead–you don’t expect things to go easy with them.
And that “be on the track or skate extra laps” is not just something I’ve made up. Our league expects us to be geared up and on the floor when practice starts. Some league will make you skate extra cardio laps for people getting on the floor late, but since we’re adults we usually end up doing 10 laps for every minute late. Now, I’ve never had to skate extra laps because of people being late, but one time my league did have to skate 50 laps instead of 40 because I made a groaning sound after our guest coach said we’d skate 40 laps and she tacked on 10 extra for that shit. I apologized to both her and my coach when I was done and believe me, I’ve never done that again. You just take your laps.
In case you’re curious, the most cardio laps I’ve skated at one time was 80, which means I skated 14,440 ft/4,400 m in that session. That works out to 2.73 mi/4.4 km if you’re keeping track. The greatest number of laps I’ve skated at near-cardio speeds was 120 done in three separate sessions as a pack. I didn’t keep up with the pack on the last two sessions, but I did skate all 120 laps. That’s 4.1 mi/6.62 km if you’re keeping track–
But Angry is feeling a bit generous tonight…
“I’m gonna go easy on you today—but only today. Pack it up on the pivot line.” Holly and Princess skated on to the track and pointed at a bright blue line at the entrance to one turn which Angry shouted out instructions. “I want a loose pack, everyone about an arm’s length from everyone else. Princess is gonna set the pace: do not pass her. Holly and I will bring up the back and help anyone struggling. If you fall, try to fall small like we showed you Thursday night then get up and come back after the pack passes.” Holly and Angry skated to the back as Princess prepared to lead the pack. “Okay? Twenty laps, easy pace. Go.” She brought the whistle to her lips and blew hard.
Annie took off, moving partway to the outside of the track where there was more room. She clenched her teeth to set her mouth guard, then concentrated on the girls around her, making certain she didn’t run over anyone—or get run over in the process.
She was two thirds of the way around the track when she heard Angry call her name. “Annie. You’re at front of the pack. Call the laps.”
“Yes, Coach.” She waited until they crossed the same blue line from which they started. “One.”
Angry called out instantly. “Nineteen to go, freshies. Let’s do this.”
Annie smiled, certain no one saw her.
It was going to be an interesting two hours—
So starts Annie’s Derby Days. And there’s one more scene to present before I’m finished with her current torture, but in this world of mine it’s time to focus on what happens next in the novel.
And I’ve already decided:
It’s time for my kids to spend Yule in Pamporvo…