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An Ear to Play by Lyle John L. Balana


he reporter cleared his throat, shaking off the tension in his young shoulders, and begun one of many questions. “So, Monsieur Dechard, of all the tests you have taken, which was the hardest one?” The famed contestant Daqueir Dechard was in the room. It did not look like an interview room at all; it was lined with the white-and-green bricks of a public, well-used building, gum and cobwebs vying for space in the dusty grooves of the walls. There was a smooth, yet dirtied, glass panel on top of each wall. It was impossible to tell if they were meant to be moved aside, for ventilation, or if they were meant to offset some unforeseen budget cut. But Ser Dacqueir did not mind. This room would do. “In all the years of my life,” the great savant began, “I have taken plenty. It would be a waste to walk you through the things I have seen and the hardships that I have met. As you very well know, I have been a prolific son of the quiz-shows. I begun in Vetrinali, where the professor Venkoff un Standgrich plied the streets on his motor-car platform, blaring a challenge to both rabble and resplendent. Answer me! The Professor had said. And I answered this call, and here I am.” Dechard shifted in his seat. Perhaps the plain wooden plank was too much for his sedentary derriere. “But in truth, the hardest challenge was in a certain journey that I have chosen to undertake. This is a very curious test, dear sir, because up until now I have had not the answer that I seek. And I hope, that one of these days, I would come upon a very satisfying reply.” The famed person Daqueir Dechard looked at the reporter, and his eyes were heavy behind the even heavier eyebrows of his face. “When I was a youth in Vetrinali, I was what they would call a scalawag. I spent my days playing in the mud. I shaped armies out of the clay, yes, with my very hands I made worlds.” Dechard’s eyes, which never left the reporter’s own, twinkled as he said this. “There were wonderful wishes, oh, so many wonderful wishes, that I never wished to let them go. I held them close to my heart, like cards, and day by day, I would play. I would measure, in my grip, four to five handfuls of the substance, and then create at my behest all the treasures of the world.” Dechard licked his lips, and the moustache that it wore over its upper part rippled like so many waves. “Here was the hardest challenge, o reporter, one which I have barely dared to answer. It is this: what, in Vetrinali, could young Dechard wish for, in his heart of hearts? What was his desire?” The reporter shook his head in confusion. He did not know; why was Dechard asking him this? “Think, mister reporter. What would old Dechard want?” The quiz-champion seemed urgent. The lip became chewed, tossed all over the teeth, a bone of red sinew that threatened to break into an array of wounds. “It is of paramount importance that you answer.” The reporter’s face became white. He did not know. He was not a quiz champion. Suddenly, Dechard rose from his seat, no longer awkward. His great brown palm, outstretched and terrible, smacked against the reporter’s face, filling his vision with darkness, his nose with the sour smell of cold sweat. The feeling was but for a moment, as Dechard, in a very un-Monsieur manner, slammed his head against the desk. It was hard enough to break skin, but not hard enough to wound bone. The reporter’s brain rattled against his skull, knocking him unconscious. Blood crept from the sizable gash on his scalp, brushing past his cheek and his open, drooling mouth in a sluggish puddle. Dechard threw off the coat around his shoulders and stomped away from the table. He stood by the door, as if expecting it to open automatically, then, filled with the inner rage of the impatient, he slammed his meaty fist against the wood. Once, twice, thrice; the sound rang hollow. Before he could go through with the fourth, the door was sucked to the side, not by hinges but by a pneumatic joust



Joust Volume 1  
Joust Volume 1