What Champions are Made of
I sometimes wonder if all martial artists are masochists. I mean why would anyone want to purposely put him or herself in a situation where they would get the snot beat out of them? That exact question was running through my mind the day before the big state tournament. I shook my head, trying to chase the thought out of my brain. Positive, I must think positive! I will do my best. I will not be nervous. And most importantly, I will not make a fool of myself!
"Kacey!" The sound of my mother's voice broke through my reverie. "Kacey! Mira and Cole are here!"
I looked up at the clock. It couldn't be four o' clock already! I ran to the top of the stairs and shouted, "I'll be down in a second!" I rushed back into my room and grabbed my overstuffed gym bag off the floor. Sometimes, my brain will die on me if I happen to be in a big rush and it was no different this time. I turned around in circles, trying to locate my overnight bag and muttering, "Crap, crap, crap." I finally stopped spinning and stomped my foot. "ARGH!" I shouted, "Where is my STUPID BAG?"
Mom must have heard me, as she called up the stairs, "It's on your bed!"
Sure enough, there the bag sat, right out in plain sight. Feeling extremely stupid, I snatched off the bed and hurried down the stairs, stepping on my cat's tail in the process. It yowled in pain and ran off to sulk. "Sorry, Kitty!" I called after it. I don't think he accepted my apology because I heard him hiss at me. Oh well, I'd have to make it up to him later.
Mira grinned at me. "You ready for the big day tomorrow?"
I rolled my eyes. "I've been trying to convince myself I am but, no, I'm not. What about you?"
"Truthfully, I'm not either!" Mira replied.
Cole slipped his arm around Mira's shoulder. "You'll do just fine, baby," he said reassuringly. "You'll both do just fine."
"We'd better get going, if we want to make it to the motel by dark." I said. "We still have to pick up Rory and Nate."
"Right. Cole and I still have to get our stuff from my car."
The three of us hustled outside. I dumped my gear into the back of Mom's minivan and then helped the other two with their stuff. Once we finished with that, I ran back into the house. "Okay Mom!" I cried, "We're off!"
"Good luck, kiddo," Mom said, giving me a hug. "You'll be back tomorrow then?"
"Yeah," I replied, "We're coming straight home after the tournament, but it won't be until very late. Thanks for letting us use the ‘van."
"No problem. Now go kick some butt!"
"I'll try," I laughed as I went out the door. I skipped out to the ‘van and jumped into the driver's seat. "You guys ready?" I said to Cole and Mira. No answer. I looked in the review mirror and rolled my eyes. They were in the very back seat, talking softly to one another, gazing lovingly into each other's eyes, and doing all the other disgusting and exasperating stuff couples do. "I guess so," I mumbled as I backed the ‘van out of the garage.
Now I could bore you with all the details on how we picked up Nate and Rory but since I'm a generous mood, I'll spare you just this once. Suffice to say that we did get them and their stuff packed up. Honestly, I never realized how much junk five people needed to take with them. It looked like we were going on a month's cruise in the Bahamas, not traveling for a few hours to stay in a motel overnight. And so it was with great anticipation, a lot of excitement, and no small amount nervousness that we set off on our adventure...
March in Michigan is the start of some of the most frustrating months of the year. The weather can never seem to make up its mind on what it wants to do. After freezing our behinds off all through winter, it warms up enough that we can go without coats or jackets. Some optimists even break out their summer clothing! Unfortunately, those wonderful days come to an end all too soon as we are inevitably punished for the warm weather by weeks of freezing cold. It just happened to be one of those weeks.
"HOLY CRAP!" I shrieked as I slammed on the brakes. We were driving up the I-75 and had just hit a pocket of heavily falling snow. An opaque whiteness surrounded the ‘van and I could only see a few feet in front of me. It lasted for a few minutes and then just as suddenly as it started, the snow stopped.
"What the heck were you yelling about?" Rory demanded. He rode shotgun and therefore was in a position to criticize my driving. "It was just a little bit of snow!"
"Will you shut up?" I replied irritably. "It just surprised me, that's all."
"Meow! What's got you in a bad mood?"
I tore my eyes from the road to glare at Rory. "Well I don't happen to like side-seat drivers!"
"Don't you mean back-seat drivers?"
"No, I meant side-seat! You are riding up front after all."
Rory stared at me in disgust. "You are such a gump."
"Oh shut up, Rory," Nate piped up from the back. "You're the gump!"
Did I mention that Nate and Rory disliked each other? Yes it's true. Ever since the day they met in the dojang*, the two always seemed to irritate each other. I sighed involuntarily as the guys started to bicker. It was going to be a long weekend.
It was dark when we reached the motel. We were far enough north so the air still had a crisp bite to it. The sky was clear and I took a moment to gaze at the stars. There weren't streetlights in our area so the night sky shone forth in all its beauty. I didn't stare too long however, as my toes were starting to go numb.
Rory walked over to the office/house to get the keys to our rooms. The motel was owned and ran by his father's wife and her family. They were extremely generous as we were staying there for free. He unlocked the door and we found ourselves in a tiny hallway with a door on either side. Those led off into the two rooms that were ours for the night.
"Well," I said, "Who sleeps where?" I tend to ask redundant questions since we had originally planned that the girls would share the small room and the guys would take the other, larger one. I think it stems from the need to make sure nothing changes on me while I'm not looking. Usually people just give me an annoyed look before patiently (or impatiently) answering my question even though the answer is common knowledge. So imagine my surprise when Cole spoke up.
"Well Mira and I were hoping we could share the smaller room, and you three could take the other. There is a cot in there so y'all will have your own space to sleep."
I looked at them with one eyebrow raised before asking Rory and Nate, "That okay with you two?"
They shrugged indifferently and said, "Sure."
"But let's not make it common knowledge," Rory added, inclining his head towards the office.
I'm not one to argue much so I agreed to it also. After all, Mira and Cole were engaged and it wasn't any of my business. "Alrighty then, let's get the stuff out of the car." I waited until they had all filed out before letting out a sigh. Sharing a room with two teenage boys that couldn't stand each other? What had I gotten myself into? It was going to be a long night.
* Dojang~~A Taekwondo** school
** Taekwondo~~A Korean marital art, the literal translation is "the way of the foot and the fist" but also means "the art of kicking and punching."
We had a wonderful lasagna dinner with Rory's father and his stepfamily and then we returned to our rooms. Unfortunately there was one major unpleasant task to do before turning in for the night.
"Watch out for the cord!" Mira cried just seconds before I almost tripped over it as I came out of the bathroom. I stumbled and did a half hop over it before crashing onto my cot. Rory and Nate burst out laughing from where they sat.
"Nice going, Kacey!" Nate chuckled.
"Yeah with moves like that, you're sure to win every match tomorrow," Rory added sarcastically.
I rolled my eyes and didn't answer---I was not about to dignify that with a response. I looked over at Mira, who had calmly gone back ironing her dobalk. "Ahhhhhhhhh," I said, "So that's what I almost killed myself over. Good idea actually."
Mira grinned. "What? Getting yourself killed? Just kidding, I know what you meant. You can use after I'm done if you want."
I got up and went to where my dobalk* hung. After inspecting it carefully, I said, "Yeah, I think I will. It got a little wrinkled on the way up here."
Mira looked at the two guys. "Either of you need to use this too?"
"I do," Nate said, "but I don't know how to iron."
"Well now is a good time to learn," I said sweetly.
A half-hour later...
I groaned because I knew what was coming. "Yes, Nate?"
"Which way are the sleeves supposed to lay? How do I do the pants? This is so hard! I can't do this!"
I looked over at what he was doing. "You're putting more wrinkles in it than you are ironing them out!" I exclaimed. "Ugh! MEN! You're all so helpless!" I snatched the iron from Nate's hands and said, "I'll do it."
"Thanks Kacey," Nate replied gratefully.
It was almost midnight before we all got ready for bed. Nate and I used what little floor space there was to stretch while Rory was in the shower. I was glad I had brought sweatpants instead of the usual boxer shorts I wear to bed, especially since I was rooming with two guys. I must have lost quite a bit of weight since the last time I wore them however, since Nate was laughing at how big they were on me. He was in the process of doing the splits just then, so I pushed him over and laughed at him for a while.
"Alright," I said after I had finished stretching, "It's after twelve. I need to sleep since I'm driving again tomorrow. You can leave the TV on but not for long alright?" I climbed into my cot and pulled the blanket over my head to hide from the light.
I heard Rory come out of the bathroom a few minutes later and then soon after Nate exclaiming, "Rory, get out my way! You're blocking the TV."
"I am not! Stop your whining!"
"You are too! Kacey make him move!"
I pulled the blanket off my head and glared at the pair of them. "Rory move will ya? There's space on the other side of the room so you don't have to stretch right in Nate's viewing area."
"Fine!" he grumbled.
I hid back under the covers and silence reigned for a few minutes. Suddenly the three of us heard a blood-curdling scream. We all jumped up, ran out of our room and dashed into Mira and Cole's.
"What happened?" Rory asked Mira, who was curled up on the bed.
"I saw this giant wasp," she replied.
"Yep," Cole said, "and I killed it then flushed it down the toilet."
"Wasps at this time of year?" I asked incredulously. "Strange." The five of us talked for a bit longer before Nate, Rory, and I left. It was after 1:30 am.
Nate turned off the television and climbed into his bed. Rory got up and switched it back on.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I wanna watch some TV," Rory replied.
"Yes but the rest of us want to sleep," I pointed out. "We have to get up early tomorrow, you know.
"Only for a half-hour?"
I sighed. "Fine. Thirty minutes and that's it."
I knew I should have insisted that he turn the stupid thing off when Nate proceeded to fight with him about it.
"Rory! Turn it off! It's keeping me awake."
"I don't have it up that loud, idiot."
"Yeah but it's the light!"
"Pull the blankets over your head like Kacey did."
"No because then I'll get hot! Turn it off!"
"No you shut up!"
"WHY DON'T YOU BOTH SHUT UP!" I yelled. "I'M TRYING TO SLEEP!"
They both stopped arguing with each other and started in on me. "You shut up Kacey! Yeah Kacey, you suck!"
I pulled the covers of my head and glared at them. I probably shouldn't have let them talk to my like that since I was a higher ranking belt and one of their instructors. It does destroy one's authority over them. Then I shrugged mentally. It's not like they had ever listened to me in the first place. I let out a long-suffering sigh and turned over so my back was facing them. It took a while but I did finally fall asleep.
It must have been about four o'clock in the morning when the overhead light switched one. I slowly opened one eye only to see Rory prowling around the room. "What now?" I moaned.
"What the heck are you doing?" Nate asked angrily. "Turn off the light!"
"Shhhhhhhh!" Rory looked around and said. "Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" I asked.
"I heard a buzzing. I think there's another wasp in here."
"I didn't hear anything," Nate said. "Now turn of the light and go back to bed."
"I heard something," Rory insisted. "Now shut up and let me see if I can find it."
"Kacey! Make him turn it off!"
I had finally given up on dealing with these two. I buried my head under the pillow and said irritably, "Oh be quiet Nate and let him look." Then I closed my eyes.
The next thing I knew, my alarm clock was buzzing in my ear. It was six in the morning---the day of the tournament... and I had only gotten three hours of sleep.
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