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- July 2015
Chapter 4
   Thu Jul 02, 2015 1:54 am

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Chapter 2

Permanent Linkby Sonseearae on Wed Jun 24, 2015 4:17 am

I checked my phone and saw that I had about eleven minutes till the tardy bell.  I knew from experience that it took me seven minutes and fourteen seconds at a dead run to get to school from here. Unfortunately, on that particular day, I only had six minutes to get to class and so it was kind of lame – set a personal best, get detention anyway.  I glanced once more at the class, just in time to see Mr. Li sweep the legs out from under a student who was screwing around and not paying attention.  
I took off running for school.  No attempt at a personal best this morning; I was going to make the bell even at a fast jog, so I decided to take it easy.  I don't remember if I told you or not, but I'm in seventh grade.  My school, Madison Middle School, is just for seventh and eighth graders and so this is my first year here.  Mom had put in for a transfer from another hospital last year but waited until Summer to move so I wouldn't have to switch schools twice in one year.
It may not be cool to say but I don't mind school that much really.  I like learning, I just wish we could learn things we're really going to need to know once in a while.  I'm guessing that the year the first person sailed around the world, or what year the Spanish American war was fought isn't going to be of much value to me unless I end up on a game show some day.  
I ran through the front door of the school just in time to see the resident school bully, Charlie, knocking some books out of the hand of some seventh grader I didn't know.  Charlie is in the eighth grade and he's a class A jerk but he never really paid too much attention to me.  Unlike that kid who was picking up his books off the floor, I'm pretty big for thirteen.  If I had been in school with Charlie last year he probably would have tried to mess with me too, but I grew like eight or nine centimeters this year and put on almost that many kilos.  He was still bigger than me but I guess it was too close to an even match up for his liking, especially when there were kids a whole head shorter than he was around.
I made it to first period with plenty of time to spare – almost a full minute.  Getting in the door was the challenge though.  Morning rush hour was exceptionally heavy in the hallway as Christmas and New Years were over and it suddenly dawned on everyone that the next major holiday was Valentine's Day.  It seemed that everyone was busy trying to hook up so they wouldn't be the only loser without a boyfriend or girlfriend by their side for the Valentine's Day dance and I guess they decided that the best place to flirt was at the door to class.  Perhaps they figured that they could spend every second until the bell rang sucking face and still not be late that way.
I suppose, if I'm truthful, I wouldn't have minded going to the dance but there wasn't really anyone I liked enough to go with.  When the school year first started I had a thing for this girl, Alicia.  She seemed cool and all and she was certainly cute enough, but she just turned out to be a major game player.  While I was watching her and working up the nerve to ask her out, I found myself getting sick of seeing her string guys along while flirting with someone higher up the social food chain.  You know, to see if she could score there while keeping the second string on the line.  I hate that kind of game and quickly lost interest.
Anyway, first period came and went and the rest of the day went pretty fast.  Ms. Gallagher, who taught computer science, gave us a project that would be due at the end of the semester.  It was so ridiculously easy that it probably could have been started and finished it during lunch but I decided to knock my pre-algebra homework out instead.  After all, there were an entire five months for me to find a half hour to do the C.S. Project.  My last class of the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays was study hall and that got used up finishing the book we were reading in English class.  Seven minutes before the bell, I was homework free for the day.
Mom didn't get home from work till a little after four.  She knew all about my ‘stopping off at the dojo on my way home’ routine.  As long as all my homework was done before dinner, I didn't have to be home until she was.  With homework in the bag, that would give me like an hour and a half watching the classes practice before I had to head home.  I watched the clock drag the last couple of minutes and then flew to my locker, dropped off my books, and ten minutes later was outside the dojo watching Sensei Li putting an intermediate class through their paces.  Almost immediately, I had company.
“So, you're interested in the martial arts,” came a voice from behind me.  It wasn't a question.  I turned to see this guy standing there like he had been there all day.  Usually, I'm pretty aware of my surroundings, and it's pretty tough to sneak up on me, but this guy had just appeared out of nowhere.
“Yeah,” I said noncommittally as I tried to size the guy up.  You can't be too careful these days, as Mom reminds me regularly,  “Just because someone seems friendly doesn't mean he's not up to no good,” she says.  He was about thirty years old, long hair, and he was dressed casually with a ready smile.  
“Got someone in mind to beat up?” he asked.  
“What?  No,” I said suddenly, figuring out where that came from.  I guess he thought that if someone was interested in martial arts, he must be looking to hurt someone.  “I just like it,” I replied,  “Besides, the martial arts aren't for hurting people.  It's really about peace.”  
“Really,” he said, “who told you that?”  
“My dad,” I lied.
He looked past me into the dojo for a moment and watched the students.  “Your dad is pretty smart then; not everyone thinks that way.  Is he a martial artist?”  
I really wish I could tell you that my defenses stayed on high alert after this but I relaxed a bit.  I've got a soft spot for people who say nice things about my dad.  “He was really smart and he was a third degree black belt too,” I began, “but he's dead.”  
His smile faded immediately.  It seemed genuine.  “I'm sorry to hear that – really,” he said.   I decided that he might be okay after all.  
“Did he teach you anything before he passed?” he asked.  
I shook my head.  “No, he died before I was old enough.”  
“Well what about taking lessons?  Have you ever given it any thought?” he prodded further.  
“I've thought about it plenty,” I said, seeing no reason to lie to the guy about that, “but lessons are a bit out of my price range.”  
He nodded and headed for the door, “Come with me if you'd like.”  
Now I wouldn't normally have followed some strange guy that I just met anywhere but I figured that he wasn't about to try anything in front of all the people in the dojo.  Still, I hesitated as he held the door open.  “Are you sure we're not going to disturb the class?” I asked.  
“Nope,” he said casually, “parents and spouses hang out and watch the classes all the time.  It'll be fine.”  I shrugged and stepped forward, it would be nice to get a closer look anyhow.  As soon as we walked through the door the sensei beamed and bowed.  
“Master Daniel!” he exclaimed.  The students followed their sensei's lead and bowed to him as well.  He gave a quick bow back and walked over to greet the instructor.  Suddenly the sensei looked up at me with a friendly grin and said, “So, you have finally decided to come in, eh?”  I know he was just kidding around and trying to make me feel welcome but I was a bit embarrassed all the same.  
“Yes sir,” I stammered, “I mean, yes Sensei Li.”
“Ah-hah!  You have been paying attention out there.  In the future, please come in and watch any of the classes that you wish.  You are most welcome here anytime.”  
My brain yelled, “Sweet!” but I tried to maintain at least the appearance of cool, “Thank you, sensei,” I said and smiled back.  
He walked over to me and held out his hand, “I am Hu Li, it is a pleasure to meet you.”  
“It is nice to meet you too; I'm Josh,” I said, stumbling a bit as I realized that I almost forgot to give him my name.  
The man who he referred to as 'Master Daniel' had turned toward us as we had been speaking but now looked to sensei, “May we use your office Hu,” Daniel asked.  
“Of course!” Sensei Li exclaimed, “Please.”  
Daniel smiled and addressed the class, “I am sorry for the interruption, please continue.”  Then turning, he motioned for me to follow him and we headed into the office.  “Take a seat,” he said as he closed the door.  I felt a lot more comfortable with him after seeing that Sensei Li had known and obviously respected him a great deal but was still glad for the windows in the office.  He walked around the desk and took a seat and then got straight to the point.  “I have a job for you if you're interested,” he said.  “A half hour before school and a half hour after school cleaning up around here. The pay is one gi and an hour a day of private lessons.  Interested?”  
I almost came out of my chair, “Seriously?”  You know that filter you use when you're talking to adults?  You know, the one where you pretend you never even think about using certain words?  Yeah, I forgot about that for a second, “Hell, yeah!” I almost shouted and then catching myself, “Um, I mean, heck yes.”  
Daniel chuckled.  “Good.  Now, we need to clear it with your mom first.  Can you ask her to come in and talk to me tomorrow?”  
“Yes sir, absolutely!” I exclaimed, barely keeping it together, and then a thought struck me, “Are you sure it'll be okay with Sensei Li?” I asked.  
He laughed again, “This is my dojo, Josh.  Sensei Li is a student of mine and you'll be training with me.  So I think he'll be okay with it,” he joked.  “And the name is Daniel.”
I could hardly contain myself, “I don't know what to say, but thank you.”  
“No problem,” Daniel said, “what time do you think your mother can come by?”  
“She gets off work at four and works at the hospital, it's only like ten minutes away.  So maybe 4:10pm?”  
“One last thing,” Daniel said, “what's your GPA?”
“Three point six.”
He nodded and reached for a business card from the desk and handed it to me.  “Have your mom give me a call if that's inconvenient for her or she'd like to meet at another time,” he said as he stood and I realized that the world's weirdest interview was over.  I got up too, and reached out to shake his hand when another thought struck me.  
“Do you do this a lot?” I asked.  
“Do what?”  
“Well, I mean, taking on students for working around the dojo?”  I asked.
“Nope, first time,” he said.  
For some reason, I knew he was going to say that.  “I don't want to seem ungrateful,” I said, “because I'm beyond grateful, but why me?”  
He smiled and said, “People stop outside the dojo all the time to look, Josh.  They stop, peer in and leave.  Occasionally they come by a second time, or even a third.  They don't come back twice a day, every day for three weeks.  They watch through the window, but they don't see.  You don't just stand out there and watch, you study.  Every teacher wants a student like that.  Plus, even before your first lesson – even before you began watching at the window, you knew more about the martial arts than most people will ever learn.”  
I hesitated, I so didn't want to blow this but I had to say it, “But I don't know more than anyone; like I told you, I've never taken lessons before.”  His smile got broader and he reminded me of what I had said to him outside the dojo, “The martial arts aren't for hurting people.  It's really about peace,” he said, echoing my earlier words.  “Many people study for a lifetime and never learn that.”

People confuse passionate with crazy all the time. Just to be clear, I am bat-$#%^ passionate.
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