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     This morning, when I awoke, I noticed a slight chill in the air.  A certain crispness that reminds you of the sound fresh celery makes when you snap it in half.  Then I remembered: today is the day of the duel.  In preparation I hit the snooze, knowing in my heart that I will need every second of that additional nine minutes of rest.
     The day progressed as usual - hectic.  Eric asking the same questions, Joy with problems, CS with problems, a pregnant wife with problems.  Knowing that I must be "loose", I expunged the stress from my body by dosing three cups of Barry's special coffee, the kind that looks like it might have been on the warmer all night.
     I'm wound like a Swiss watch spring.  Jamie and I go to Frank and Angie's for a secret lunch.  She orders her new favorite cheese pizza (but she has no cravings).  I'm soaking up a roasted garlic and pepperoni slice and a salad, preparing my breath as a second line of defense in the event of a close match, and I find myself clenched in the heat of battle, face to face with my opponent.  Someone steals behind me and kicks my chair!  What insolence!  Who could it be?
     Jeff, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, strolls in and gets two slices.  He's making the power play and building up a reserve!  Too late for me, I suck down a glass of ice tea, think about a refill, but my hands are still shaking from that morning's caffeine overdose.  The banter from the party is revived: Jeff reminds me to check my insurance papers (Jamie's not amused), and I point out he only needs to remember three numbers, 911 (technically, only two).
     Six o'clock rolls in and I'm totally unprepared.  I've only had two diet Cokes since lunch.  I'm stuck on a problem of my own creation because I couldn't stick to, "I don't know" to one of Eric's questions, and instead started looking for an answer.  My focus has gone awry, but as I walk into the mini-conference room, I'm reminded of this morning's chill, and my inner strength is focused and sharp.  Jeff has assumed the roll of the underdog, and I don't want to disappoint him.  Besides, he must be weak from Monday's workout, and half asleep from today's lunch.
     Our hands grasp, Eric does his best to center our already contesting arms, and we clench!  I get the early lead, I've got his wrist turned... don't let up...  let him start to pull up as I take a slow breath in...  and as he exhales, turn his wrist a bit more, throwing my chest muscles into the fray, and he's down!  Oh the glory!
     Two months hence another date has been set with me, the BoneCrusher.  None may stand in my path and go unmarked...  "even the little small flowers..."


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