An Ear to Hear

By Midnight Rose

It was a long peaceful afternoon in the subterranean community. To pass the time, father and son waged a gentlemanís war of chess in Vincentís cozy chamber. Overhead, levels above, a subway train clattered by on its way to Queens. Down a short hall, the ever-present clang of pipe-code messages could be heard on the passing pipes. Two children were laughing and playing beyond the back-lit arc of amber, orange, and blue stained glass which separated Vincentís chamber from one of the tunnel junctions.

Father fondly watched his unique leonine son ponder his next move. From across the tiny round table, Vincentís huge bulk made him a formidable foe, not to mention his brilliant, strategic mind. He was leaning forward in his seat, his elbows propped on the arms of the carved chair, hands folded, still in thought. The exotic features of his golden son were unreadable, deep-set blue eyes shifted in their careful study of the pewter soldiers on the ebony and ivory battlefield. Father had witnessed this sight of total concentration many times; his son moving from his statuesque posture only long enough to execute his move.

Today, there was a subtle difference, so faint Father could not put his finger on it. The inner stillness of his son was not serene. The tunnel patriarch noted that Vincent often cocked his head slightly and seemed to almost inwardly cringe.

Convulsions or seizures were Fatherís greatest fear for his son who was more than a man and so precariously walked the fine line between human intelligence and beast instinct. He was always alert for signs of neurological problems. Father was also sure that the cause of Vincentís uneasiness was not the empathic link his son shared with Catherine; the parent had learned to recognize this in his son. No, the irritation was from an outside source and apparently, the annoyance was growing.

His move made, Vincent sat back in his high-backed chair. His golden head and attention turned toward the arc of glowing apricot and blue. The youngsters in the adjoining chamber had been joined by a couple more and Father determined they were the cause of Vincentís exasperation.

"Vincent," the elder man said softly. "ÖIs something wrong?"

Fatherís answer was the violent snap of his sonís gilt head to the opposite side. Vincentís head dipped. His eyes were shut and his jaw was set, then a low growl passed through the clenched teeth. Vincent looked as if he was in some sort of excruciating physical pain.

Father was alarmed. "Vincent, what is wrong?" he repeated.

Whatever it was passed and Vincent drew a long, deep breath and started to rise. "PleaseÖexcuse me a moment, Father," the deep resounding voice rumbled. The huge, golden son ducked out of his chamber leaving Father very perplexed.

The laughter from the tunnel urchins ceased when Father heard the familiar deep, rustic tones that were his sonís. The conversation was incoherent, but the distinct tone of disappointment from the youngsters was not.

The tall, tawny man returned and went straight to the cluttered shelves of an antique hutch in one corner. Vincent dropped a slender silver object into a homemade clay jar; the purple irregular-shaped container was a gift from one of the children.

"What do you have there, Vincent?" Father asked. His son had yet to give an explanation to what was bothering him; however, it was apparent Vincent was satisfied in having removed the irritant.

His leonine son took down the misshapen earthenware and dumped out one of its many contents into the palm of his huge, clawed hand. He presented the object to his parent.

"A dog whistle." Vincent answered.

"A dog whistle?" Father parroted in surprise. He took the slender brass object and rolled it between his fingers as his son returned to his seat placing the clay jar on the table between them.

"You can hear this?" Father asked in amazement. He knew his sonís hearing was exceptionally sensitive and sharp but not even he knew exactly what sounds Vincent could hear which were above or below the normal human frequencies. Vincent rarely indulged personal physical information voluntarily. Father had his own conclusions but respected Vincentís choice of privacy.

The golden head of heavy locks cocked slightly. "I can hear it quite wellÖunfortunately."

"I did not realize your exceptional hearing included frequencies not audible to Ö" Fatherís mouth worked awkwardly. Normal ear? Human ear? "AhÖ.most people, " he finished rather lame.

"It is well within my range," Vincent replied. "Think of the highest pitch you can hear and find unbearable."

The parent shook his head in disbelief. "Vincent, even after all these years, you never cease to amaze me."

Father reached for the misshapen pottery and was surprised at the number of dog whistles it contained. There were new whistles and old, some of steal, of brass, and of wood. He chuckled, "This is quite a stash."

"A lifetime worth." A shy smile sneaked across the exotic leonine features; the cleft mouth was ill equipped to show one but brilliant blue eyes danced merrily. "I confiscate every one that has been brought BelowÖand blown. Today, Jeffrey was kind enough to surrender the latest addition to my collection."

Father nodded and a comfortable silence fell between father and son for a moment. Suddenly, mischief reared in Fatherís eyes as he thoughtfully twirled a dog whistle of brass between his thumb and index finger. " HmmÖ"

Vincent tipped his head in question. The parent leveled his eyes at his son, "Now I can make sure you come when I call."