Way of the Warrior

 

The Allure of the Martial Arts

 

By Tom Robotham

 

YOU CAN DO IT!

That’s what the direct-mail flier assured me as I stared at it one evening last September while I sat slumped in my favorite easy chair with a beer in hand.

I promise to make you a martial artist!

I have to admit, I was intrigued. I’d always been drawn to the martial arts. I like the combination of grace and power that are at the heart of karate, judo and related disciplines. I have a long-standing interest in Eastern philosophy. And, as silly as it may seem, I still harbor the boyhood fantasy of being able to flatten two or three bad guys with ease, at lightening speed.

But I also had two good reasons to doubt the claim.

First, I’m a skeptic – especially when it comes to ads promising personal transformation of one sort or another. Chalk it up to experience with those Charles Atlas propositions in the back pages of 1960s comic books – the ones that appealed to the 98-pound weakling cowering inside most of us – and to the self-help books that became so popular a decade later. In the end, I concluded long ago, they are all the same – big on motivational language but short on substance.

The second reason I doubted the assertion was that I have neither the body nor the soul of a warrior – the aforementioned fantasy notwithstanding. I’ve never been very strong; my reflexes are average, at best, and I’ve always had a low pain threshold. Add to these handicaps the baggage that I’ve acquired in middle age – a beer belly, stiffening joints and recognition that I don’t heal as quickly as I used to – and you’ve got the makings of…well, what? A bookish writer-editor, perhaps, or just your average-Joe – but not a modern-day samurai, certainly, nor anything close to it.

I probably would have tossed the flier in the trash were it not for the fact that I’d already met the man making the promise and had come to like and respect him. Bill Odom, a retired Army colonel, had opened Norfolk Karate Academy in Ghent’s Palace Shops 18 months earlier, and for the last six months, my 12-year-old son had been studying there. In the course of a few conversations, I had taken note of Odom’s impressive credentials: A sixth degree black belt, he had been studying the martial arts since the age of 10 – and throughout his 25-year career as an Army Ranger, which included a stint as an infantry brigade commander in Korea, his practice had remained a high personal priority. Along the way, he had also earned a Ph.D. in history from Ohio State University and had taught at West Point.

Credentials mean only so much, of course. I’ve met many individuals who had stellar resumes but nevertheless seemed like snake-oil salesmen. When Odom talked about the martial arts, however, there was no hint of salesmanship in the negative sense of  the word – no sense that he was trying to rope you into something or that he was the sort of person who would over promise and under deliver. Everything he said, it seemed to me, was imbued with sincerity, authenticity and humility. Moreover, it was hard not to notice his almost boyish enthusiasm for the enterprise.

My self-doubt remained but so did my preoccupation with the subject. Throughout the fall, I found myself reading more about it. At the same time, I recognized that books can take you only so far. The theories are fascinating and important; but in the end, karate and related disciplines are applied arts. By late October, with my 50th birthday a mere eight months off, I came to the conclusion that the only way to erase those self doubts and get to the bottom of my growing curiosity was to climb into the ring, so to speak. The next time I dropped my son off at class, I told Odom I was ready to join. And on Halloween night, as children across Hampton Roads dressed in their costumes, I donned my crisp white gi, cinched the white cotton belt around my waist, and went off to the studio.

THE CLASS I attended that evening was held not at the Palace Shops but in a renovated warehouse on 45th Street, just west of Colley Avenue. Odom had purchased the building a few months earlier, having quickly outgrown his space in Ghent. The phenomenal growth of the school suggested that Odom had filled a void – there’s a program at ODU, but there aren’t any full-fledged martial arts schools on Norfolk’s west side – and that the Ghent/ODU/Larchmont area is a natural location for such a school.

Odom recalls one specific evening when this dawned on him, not long after he had retired and moved here to take a civilian assignment with Joint Forces Command. "I was sitting down there on Colley outside San Antonio Sam’s watching the people go by," he recalls, "and I said, ‘These are karate people; these are martial arts kind of folks’." By that he means that the martial arts tend to appeal to educated people who value cultural diversity. That’s especially true, he says, with his way of teaching, which is a little bit more cerebral than most.

"This is not a fighting gym per se," he says. "We don’t bang at each other and say, ‘OK, the least bloodiest is the best’."

The apparent opportunity notwithstanding, the decision to open the school did not come easily. Odom, an "Army brat" as a child, fell in love with military life while enrolled in an ROTC program at Purdue University back in the late 1970s, and he says he loves it still. But his love of the martial arts pre-dates his entry into the military by almost a decade – he began studying in Thailand when he was 10 – and when he hit his mid-40s he realized that if he was going to open his own school, he had to do it soon.

"I wasn’t sure that five years from now I’d have the energy to start anew," says Odom who, at 5’6" and 160 pounds is still in superb physical condition. "If I can’t physically demonstrate things – if I can’t walk the talk – then I’m not going to be very credible, especially as a startup school."

He decided to make the leap from military to civilian life, and in April of 2004 he opened the studio in Ghent. From the start, the school attracted a wide range of students –five kids and five adults, including a 65-year-old man, were among the first to enroll.

Within a year, he had 100 students. The need for more space, combined with the fact that an adjacent business wanted to expand into his Ghent location, led him on a search for a new site, and eventually he came upon the 45th Street building. It had a leaky roof, a leaky foundation, drainage problems, no bathrooms, no air conditioning, no heating, inadequate electrical service, inadequate parking, and a host of other flaws. But it also had the one essential feature: a large open space, unencumbered by support posts.

Odom decided to go for it and took ownership last June.

"The first classes were reminiscent of the days in Thailand," he recalls, "with very thin mats on top of concrete, no A/C in mid-summer, and concrete and drywall dust everywhere.

"But we made it."

Indeed he did. By mid-fall, the 6,000-square-foot space was dry, freshly painted, climate-controlled and featured new mats and heavy bags, changing rooms, restrooms, an office, and waiting and reception areas.

IT WAS IN THIS environment that I stood for my first lesson in the Korean martial art form known as tang soo do.

In Japan, where karate developed as a descendant of the Chinese martial art of kung fu, the hall in which martial arts are practiced is called a dojo. In Korea, it’s a dojang. Regardless of the name, it is not a place to be entered into lightly. In all martial arts traditions, it is "The Place of Awakening" – an indication of the close relationship between the martial arts and Zen Buddhism.

"A dojo is a miniature cosmos where we make contact with ourselves – our fears, anxieties, reactions and habits," writes Joe Hyams in his classic book Zen and the Martial Arts. "It is an arena of confined conflict where we confront an opponent who is not [really] an opponent but rather a partner engaged in helping us understand ourselves more fully. It is a place where we can learn a great deal in a short time about who we are and how we react in the world. The conflicts that take place inside the dojo help us  andle conflicts that take place outside. The total concentration and discipline required to study martial arts carries over into daily life."

Such high-minded theories are of little interest to some martial arts students. They simply want to learn to fight. And ironically, getting caught up in ideas about what you’re doing is contrary to the spirit of Zen, which stresses, above all else, the importance of "nomind" – of dwelling, utterly and completely, in the moment.

The ideas appeal to me, however, and I quickly learned that they also appeal to Odom. They appeal to him in part because of his nature and in part because of what he describes as a "cosmopolitan upbringing."

Odom was born in 1957 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, but when he was three, his family moved to Thailand. His father, an Army officer, was a Southeast Asian expert and fluent in Thai. His mother was "a country girl who became a gourmet cook."

"I grew up in many respects as a minority," he recalls. "I never felt any different, but it gave me some perspective on things that the average American doesn’t get. I value that experience a lot and have tried to impart some of things I learned as a kid to my kids." (Odom is married and has two sons.)

While living in Thailand, Odom remembers, he was isolated from mainstream American pastimes like basketball, football, and baseball.

"The other thing I didn’t have was much television," he says. "I spent a whole lot of time as a young kid entertaining myself reading encyclopedias and comic books. And comic books were a major influence, I think. You grew up with the notion of the superhero".

Odom says his favorite was Daredevil "because he was the guy who really didn’t have any powers; he was doing it all because of his development."

"When they started offering tae kwon do as an after-school program in 1968, I signed up. The classes were held on a concrete slab in a semi open air shelter, two or three days a week. "

"Two o’clock to three o’clock in the afternoon in Thailand," he remembers with a shake of his head. "You ain’t seen hot." But Odom stuck with it, and two years later, he earned his black belt, first degree.

FROM WHERE I stood on Halloween, the prospect of getting my black belt seemed remote, to say the least. It occurred to me that Odom and I are close to the same age, but that my background is starkly different from his. Although I was born and raised in a borough of New York – one of the most diverse cities in the world – my neighborhood was largely homogenous – white, working class, Catholic – and I had all the diversions that Odom lacked. Moreover, while Odom was drawn to the military life, I spent a lot of time in my mid-teens dreading the prospect of going to Vietnam. I remember floating the idea of becoming a conscientious objector, if it came to that, and being surprised when my parents shot down the idea as dishonest. I realized pretty quickly that they were right. I wasn’t unconditionally opposed to war – not even that one, at the time. I was just scared. I knew that in the end, I would have to go if called.

Much to my relief, the draft, and then the war, ended before I turned 18. I’ve always been thankful that I didn’t have to go. But I’ve wondered, on occasion, if I would have benefited from a stint in the military and everything that it is designed to develop: a strong body, mental discipline, teamwork and a willingness to do one’s duty, however unpleasant the prospect might be.

I shied away from military service because, to my 1970s way of thinking – essentially I was a late-model hippy – the armed forces turned individuals into mindless drones. I’ve since realized how distorted this notion was. The military officers I know make up a diverse group, with strong individual opinions and sensibilities. But they’ve been taught to subordinate their individual needs for the greater good. In our hyper-individualistic age, there’s something to be said for this. We tend to think of radical individualism as the supreme counterweight to the herd mentality, but to my mind, it is not. The great paradox of our culture is that the quest for individual contentment and immediate gratification has created a herd mentality of consumerism. The notion of sacrifice for the greater good, by contrast, is rooted in development of individual character.

These are some of ideas at the heart of bushido, or "way of the warrior" – which in turn is at the core of all the martial arts. (The do ending in bushido, tang soo do, tae kwon do, etc., means "the way.")

Educator Inazo Nitobe, in a 1905 book titled Bushido: The Classic Portrait of Samurai Martial Culture (Tuttle), writes that bushido was the "code of conduct of the samurai" – "a child of feudalism" – but it "still illuminates our moral path." Among the virtues it emphasizes are rectitude, politeness, sincerity, benevolence, honor and simplicity of living."Luxury," Nitobe writes, "was thought to be the greatest menace to manhood."

I had heard all this before I came across Nitobe’s book, but I hadn’t realized, until reading it that the samurai’s training was so multidimensional. It consisted, according to Nitobe, of fencing, archery, jujitsu, horsemanship, calligraphy, ethics, literature and history. Reading this, I was struck by the extent to which all of it appealed to me: the arts and humanities, needless to say, but also horsemanship, which I’ve always loved, fencing and archery. (When I read that one subject – mathematics – was "conspicuously absent [from] the bushido course of instruction," I was really sold!)

THE DOJANG at the Norfolk Karate Academy reflects Odom’s respect for the roots of his particular martial arts tradition. Exercise reps are counted in Korean. Students frequently bow to the instructor and to one another. And at any point in his classes, Odom may momentarily depart from demonstrating a technique to talk about its evolution in the context of martial-arts history. Perhaps most noteworthy is the work of calligraphy that hangs on the front wall. Within a black frame is the word "bushido," spelled out in beautifully rendered Japanese characters (see pages 22 and 36). The artwork was presented to Odom in December by his longtime teacher; James K. Roberts, a Hawaiian-born career Army infantryman who saw combat in Korea and Vietnam, and later opened a school in Northern Virginia, where Odom spent his high school years.

It was from Roberts that Odom learned tang soo do, which differs from tae kwon do in that it relies more on the hands. Tae kwon do emphasizes kicks. Tang soo do incorporates kicks as well, but it literally means "way of the Chinese hand," Tang being a reference to the Tang Dynasty. (In this way, it is very closely related to Japanese karate.)

In tang soo do, as in most other martial arts, one earns colored belts as certain groups of skills are mastered. Beginners always wear white, but the other colors sometimes vary by school and style. Subsequent ranks at Norfolk Karate Academy are yellow, green, blue, brown and black.

Odom is quick to note a widespread misconception – that once you get your black belt, you’ve mastered the art. Not so, he says. Once you have your black belt, you can truly begin the journey toward mastery.

There are rankings for this phase as well. Black belts progress by "degrees," typically taking two years to get their second degree, three more to get third, and so on. For this reason, it is extremely rare to reach the highest rank, 10th degree. Odom got his third, however, when he was still in high school. He earned his fourth in 1985, and continued to return to Roberts whenever possible for instruction and testing. He was awarded his fifth degree in 1998 and his sixth degree in 2004. In between these advancements, when his military assignments took him far from Northern Virginia, he would train on his own.

His office is a testament to his dual pursuits. On the shelves and walls are a mix of Army medals and tournament trophies. (He was a nationally ranked competitor in his youth and an AAU national champion at 42.)

THESE KINDS of achievements, as I said, seemed far out of reach as I took my first classes, not only because I hadn’t trained as a child but because I had spent far too  many hours as an adult in desk chairs, easy chairs and bar booths.

The reality of this negligence hit home when we began the first class with 200 jumping jacks – an exercise I hadn’t done since high school gym class. I finished – barely – and was relieved to discover that the rest of that first class was less physically demanding. The mental challenge was another matter. The foundation of tang soo do and other styles of karate is made up of patterns of movement called forms. The first form, kibon I, consists of 20 movements, each of which combines a lunge with a punch or block.

The forms are not designed to be used in sparring or for self-defense. Odom likes to call them "tai chi with attitude." I like to think of them as the equivalent of scales or etudes for a musician – not full expressions of the art, but rather building blocks of technique. At the same time, they have their own intrinsic beauty – at least when done correctly. (Mine, early on, were reminiscent of the halting, clunky scales I played on the piano as a young child.)

Over the next few weeks, I polished my form – but just when I thought I had it down,  Odom would point out a flaw, and I would have to fine-tune it. Moving through the forms at this stage, with all sorts of do’s and don’ts swirling through my head, reminded me of an old Zen story about an ant and a centipede. The ant, having watched the centipede go about his business for some time, could no longer contain his curiosity. "How is it that you can move all those legs at once without getting them tangled up?" the ant asked.

"Why I don’t know," the centipede responded. "I never thought about it." He proceeded to reflect on the ant’s question – and from that day on, he was never able to walk again.

Having grown self-conscious about my form, I seemed to be getting worse, not better. But in time, I was able to relax and internalize Odom’s corrective measures.

White belts don’t spar, but Odom would partner us up and have us take turns hitting thick torso-sized pads (he calls them Spongebobs because their shape resembles that of the cartoon character) or smaller hand pads. These exercises, I found, while a lot safer than sparring, still carried risks. Throw a front kick without curling your toes back, for instance, and you’re likely to break, sprain or jam one of them. Punching a bag, by the same token, can result in a sprained wrist if you fail to employ the right technique.

Then there were my cardiovascular limitations. The first time I engaged in mock sparring, I started out feeling fairly confident. My punches and kicks had been looking pretty good during standard reps, and I was pleased to note that my technique held up as I began hitting the bag. I relished the precision of the strikes, the power I was able to generate and the sound of impact. As I grew winded, however, all of this went by the wayside. My kicks got sloppier, my punches weaker. I couldn’t fathom the idea of doing it while also receiving blows to the body and head.

CHRIS COOK, a tall, lean 30-year-old, has no such reservations (see page 33). A green belt at the time I joined (he’s since moved up to blue), he couldn’t wait to get into a ring – a real ring, with full contact fighting. Last fall, without any experience in a fight competition , he registered for a King of the Ring contest in Hampton – two brutal, five minute rounds with limited protective gear (Cook wore a mouthpiece, cup and fingerless gloves) and just a few restrictions: no groin strikes, eye gouges, or elbows and knees to the head when on the ground.

"He did very well against a slightly larger, but less-skilled opponent," recalls Odom, who accompanied Cook to the tournament. "The guy appeared to be ready to bang on his feet, but was at a loss once on the ground. He was strong and able to keep Chris from immediately subduing him, but it was just a matter of time. Chris was in command throughout the fight."

Cook’s primary advantage was his skill in jujitsu, a weaponless self-defense system developed in Japan that uses throws and holds to neutralize an opponent. Unlike Western wrestlers, who rely at least to some extent on raw strength, practitioners of jujitsu rely primarily on leverage and the maneuvering of their own bodies around an opponent’s. (Jujitsu literally means the "soft" or "gentle" art.)

Today, in much of the world, the preferred form of jujitsu is Brazilian, thanks to the efforts of a man named Helio Gracie and his sons. Odom met Gracie’s oldest son, Rorion, while commanding the infantry brigade in Korea. He had invited the Brazilian martial-arts pioneer to the base to give a seminar and was so impressed with the technique and teaching method that he brought Gracie back several times. The Army has since incorporated Gracie techniques into its general training manual.

Odom supplements tang soo do training with instruction in the Gracie method because he believes it is more practical and more immediately useful than karate is as a method of self-defense.

"The beauty of Gracie jujitsu is that it’s very realistic," says Odom. "It provides that little bit you need to get out of a real situation where you can stand up and run away. The idea of hitting someone and hurting them is not practical [for beginners] – and I think for most people it’s not desirable."

In any event, while a skilled practitioner of tang soo do can be a formidable fighter, it takes years to master the art. Techniques from the Gracie method, by contrast, can be learned very quickly.

In my time at the Academy, I have found that I much prefer the repetition of forms, kicks and punches to the self-defense work. I’d like to think that if I ever do get into a scrape, the Gracie techniques I’ve learned will come in handy. But the real attraction for me lies in the potential grace and power of tang soo do. Odom can relate to this. "I love the way bodies move," he says. "Had I not gotten into this, I would have been a gymnast. It goes back to Daredevil. The ability to do things unaided, without equipment, to be able to fly – those things always fascinated me. The flexibility, the jumping – it’s just very cool. And that’s one of the reasons I focus so much on forms. I love forms and still practice them just because I enjoy it."

At the same time, he says, the soldier in him wants to teach people to fight so they can protect themselves. And he believes the credibility of his school depends upon his ability to do so.

"I want people to say [of any of our students], ‘Yeah, he can hit; his jujitsu’s good; you don’t want to mess with him. But he also has beautiful form."

In striking this balance, Odom has attracted an interesting mix of students. Some share Odom’s love of form; others, like Cook, are focused on the practical application, if not for self-defense in the street then at least for full-contact sparring and tournament bouts.

When I mention this to Odom – that Cook and I seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum – he offers a characteristically positive observation: "In many respects it almost puts you at the same end of the spectrum. You’ve got a different approach to it – he’s got a physical approach, you’ve got a philosophical approach. But both of you are extremely interested in the warrior aspect of life."

I appreciate the sentiment, but one thought lingers in my mind: At the moment, Cook, the practical fighter, could kick my philosophical butt.

COOK STANDS out in the class by virtue of his forays into competitive fighting. But he shares with every other student something far more important – an unconditional willingness to help fellow students. And camaraderie, I’ve come to realize, is yet another benefit of studying the martial arts – at least at Norfolk Karate Academy. At various moments over the last few months, I’ve received help and encouragement from high-ranking adult students, other beginners who have mastered techniques that I happened to have missed or forgotten, and even some of the kids.

There’s friendly competition, to be sure, especially in sparring, and some of the older teenagers and younger adults go at it pretty hard. But there’s always an atmosphere of mutual respect for fellow students. This is especially evident during tests for promotion to a new rank. Invariably, someone will make a mistake. Students who are watching simply sit quietly at such times – then applaud enthusiastically when the test taker eventually prevails.

Odom gave his biggest test in December – approximately 20 students were up for promotion – with Roberts and other grand masters (8th degree or higher) on hand as judges.

I was not among those being tested, but I watched with interest because I wanted to get a glimpse of the challenges that lay ahead. The test for yellow belt is brief but not without difficulties. Candidates perform a series of kicks and punches, Kibon I and II, more kicks and punches on pads held by a partner, self defense maneuvers in response to a series of mock attacks, and finally, the breaking of a single pine board with a front kick.

Candidates for higher ranks perform more forms, more advanced self-defense techniques, a round of actual free sparring, and the breaking of two or more boards. For brown belts and black belts, the boards are replaced with concrete blocks.

The highlight of the December test was the performance of the school’s highest-ranking student, a 35-year-old ODU grad student named Larry Carter. He was testing for his third degree black belt. Because there are so many forms at this level, Carter had taken part of the test the night before. His performance was impressive throughout. But the most spectacular feats came at the end. In preparation, Carter had three students stand on one side of the dojang; each held a pine board at eye level, a few inches apart from the one adjacent to it. Directly across the room, two other students held a single, two-inch concrete patio block at eye level. In between these two stations, he set two cinderblocks on end, a foot or so apart, and bridged a pile of three patio blocks across the divide. After taking a moment to concentrate, he moved swiftly to the first station and promptly sliced through the three boards in one motion with an open hand; next he moved across the room and broke the single patio block with a jumping back kick. Finally, he moved to the center of the room and with one forearm strike smashed the six inches of concrete that had been resting on the cinderblocks.

Earlier, some of the brown belts had attempted but failed to break single patio blocks; the sound of their flesh smacking against the block underscored the difficulty of this feat and made Carter’s performance all the more remarkable.

Perhaps even more noteworthy, however, was the event as a whole. Indeed, two images from that morning have stuck in my mind: the culmination of Carter’s test, and Odom standing in front of the group, lined up in rows by rank, with his longtime teacher and mentor behind him. Odom had come a long way, not only from his days as a kid in Thailand, but in just the last 18 months. If anyone needed proof that the Norfolk Karate Academy had hit its stride and was thriving, this particular morning provided it.

Roberts is a stoic individual, but he was clearly proud as he presented Odom with the aforementioned work of calligraphy – a work that had for years hung in the dojang where Odom studied as a teenager.

SIX WEEKS after Roberts’ visit, Odom told me I was ready to test for my yellow belt. It was such a minor hurdle compared with what I had witnessed a month earlier, but it was significant for me, nonetheless. It was a psychological mark of progress, after all, for all the reasons I mentioned at the outset of this article. It was also a good time to take stock of the benefits of what I’d been studying.

There is the exercise, of course – and the fact that, as many students have noted, karate is a far more interesting way of working out – and therefore more motivating – than many other forms of exercise are.

There is also the gratifying sense of being a part of something – part of a group of people who take an interest in one another, and part of an ancient and revered tradition.

And yes, there is the fact that I am learning to fight after all these years. I don’t know whether there’s a warrior instinct in all of us – or even in the heart of every male. But there’s a streak of it in me, and channeling that is healthy.

Most important for me, though, are the effects on the mind – the development of concentration, patience and the ability to remain calm in the face of threats. When Hyams, who studied with Bruce Lee and other masters, wrote in Zen and the Martial Arts that karate helps us deal with conflict in everyday life, he wasn’t talking exclusively about physical confrontations. Studying karate and related disciplines can certainly prepare you for such encounters. Hyams ends his book, in fact, with an anecdote about a run-in he had with a hostile stranger one night in Los Angeles. He remained calm and ready to fight if need be, he says. But since he was neither afraid nor anxious to prove anything, he was able to resolve the dispute with words and avoid an escalation of violence.

The martial arts, however, can also teach you how to deal with more common conflicts: the everyday violations that upset your personal harmony, from aggressive drivers on the Interstate to surly clerks or co-workers.

Hyams recalls that before he started studying karate he would often react with hostility to such disruptions. He subsequently learned never to lash out in anger – for that is the  surest path to self defeat, not to mention regret.

I can’t claim to have mastered these lessons, nor do I believe that earning a black belt will necessarily bring every student to a state of Zen-calm. But I’ve seen enough to know that it provides a framework that can help you get there.

I thought about all of these things after Odom presented me with my yellow belt, and I often think about them still as I put on my gi to go class.

How long will I stick with this? I’m not sure. Life sometimes gets in the way, as they say. Some students have been waylaid by injuries, others by waning interest or lack of time. I myself have a history of quitting such endeavors. But Odom says that if I stay on track I could have my black belt by the end of 2008.

The prospect remains inconceivable. But to dwell on this would be contrary to the spirit of the whole enterprise. Two ancient bits of wisdom come to mind. One is an old Chinese saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The other is the notion that it is not the destination but the journey itself that matters.

I was mulling over these two ideas when I went to see Odom in his office a few weeks ago to interview him for this article. At one point in the conversation, he showed me another work of calligraphy that had been presented to him as a gift. I asked him what it said, expecting that it would be some poetic gem of ancient wisdom.

In a way it was, but there was no aura of mysticism to it. "It says, ‘Shut up and train,’" Odom told me with a smile.

I smiled as well, understanding that no further words were necessary. 

 

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