Whenever someone comments on Garbol’s wizard staff, his pool cue, and wonders if he’s satisfied with it, it always reminds him of the day he earned it.
Two of his buddies from high school also had the wizard knack, so they went through the Brothisburg Academy for the Order of the Dolmenicians together. Rolly Witherspoon was a player who got everything he ever wanted from his parents, and Hogan Lamb was a jokester.
In ancient days it’s said that wizards spent years just learning how to craft a magnificent staff that would complement their inner strengths and weaknesses, but the methods were lost to the modern world, and now each wizard had to find one that suited them, which is to say, the staff found them.
Garbol came into class late that morning because Dame Hoppner made him scrub out the toilets for calling Mark Dempsey an ‘asshat.’ He’d thought it was a bit severe, especially considering the guy was a bona fide asshat. After all, he put kale in the morning’s oatmeal.
Dame Hoppner insisted Garbol hit every bathroom and clean the toilet brush thoroughly after each one. It’s handle was wood, which seemed to soak up the water and never got entirely clean. The experience thoroughly disgusted Garbol, which he supposed was the point.
“You’re all quickening now,” said Kabberhaven. He swept his fancy walking stick across the classroom for effect. “Which means your powers will begin to align with the world, and soon you will come across your staff. You’ll know it’s yours by the way it glows in your hand.”
The idea captivated Garbol and his friends, each speculating on the kind of stick that would match their character.
Kabberhaven kept correcting them. “It complements your character, it doesn’t reflect it or match it.
“I’ll be looking for something bold,” said Rolly.
Hogan nudged Garbol. “He means flamboyant.”
Rolly chuckled. “Shut up.”
“I just don’t want anything boring,” said Hogan.
Garbol wanted something good, of course, but he hadn’t a clue what might complement his nature.
“Can we claim one of the old ones?” asked Rolly.
“You’re welcome to stroll Renn’s Hall where they’re displayed. If one of them finds you suitable, it might choose you, but that rarely happens.” Kabberhaven grinned and circled his staff with a flare that obviously meant to bring attention to it.
“Let’s all go after class,” said Rolly.
Renn’s Hall took up a large corner of the Academy’s land, keeping many lamplit galleries full of wizard artifacts and records. The staffs were dispersed throughout, in a display of their own or in with a variety of artifacts, often associated with a particular mage.
They turned a corner to find Mark Dempsey staring at a spectacularly carved staff with jade inlays and a ruby the size of an avocado pit in the finial.
“Rolly. Hogan.” He nodded to each of them. “Hello, peabrain.”
“Hello, asshat,” said Garbol.
“That’s a nice one,” said Hogan.
“Yeah.” Mark looked up at it, disappointment in his eyes.
“You didn’t expect that one to choose you?” Rolly coughed a few laughs.
“Why not?” Mark’s lips tightened. His eyes narrowed.
“You’ve got to have some pretty good breeding to merit one of these,” said Rolly.
Garbol furrowed his brows.
“What are you implying?” Mark clenched his fists.
“Oh, come on, Dempsey.” Rolly held his hands out, his voice cajoling. “Everyone knows you’re trailer trash. Didn’t your dad collect garbage? And your mom was—”
Dempsey was fast. His punch landed square on Rolly’s nose.
Rolly stumbled back and fell, then pushed off the ground and tackled Mark. As they grappled and punched, Hogan pulled Rolly off, and Garbol stepped in front of Mark as he got up.
“Had enough, boys?” Dame Hoppner marched toward them, her heels echoing off the marble floors.
“Sorry, Madam Hoppner,” said Rolly. “We’ll—”
“Don’t you dare try to smooth talk me, Mr. Witherspawn.”
Hogan cracked up, but Dame Hoppner stopped him with a glare.
“Garbol was kind enough to scrub the toilets in the Academy for us today. Mr. Dumpsey and Mr. Witherspawn, I’m so happy you’ve volunteered to do Renn’s Hall.”
“Of course, Mr. Witherspawn. We wouldn’t want to leave half a job undone. There’s two of you, after all.”
They grumbled, but both knew better than to resist.
She looked sideways at Hogan. “I suggest the two of you find alternative entertainment.”
Garbol and Hogan walked as fast as they dared out of Renn’s Hall toward the main building.
The staffs had energized Garbol, and he half expected one of them to follow and choose him, but they arrived back with no such event.
“I’ve got to do something,” said Garbol. “I feel like playing lacrosse or something.”
“You’ve never played a game of lacrosse in your life.”
“I know—but I’ve gotta do something. Maybe hockey.”
“Where the heck are we going to play hockey, Garbol?”
“You got any suggestions?”
“Yeah, headcase, I do. Let’s go to the rec room.”
Hogan led him to the back where two pool tables and four dartboard lanes took up most of the space.
“I’ve never played pool, either,” said Garbol.
“Who cares—let’s jab a few and get this out of your system.”
Garbol suddenly thrilled at the idea of playing and grabbed a pool stick off the rack. Hogan broke and sunk a few stripes. Garbol attempted many shots, but only succeeded in slop. After a few games and fruitless pointers from Hogan, anxiety built up in Garbol’s chest.
He puffed air and shook his head with every shot. “I’m really more of a baseball guy.” He pointed the stick toward the front. “Pick my shot like the Babe.” Against the background he saw the stick slightly bent. “Wait a minute.”
He tossed it in a corner and reached for the longest one on the end of the rack, darker brown on the butt-end, going into four points toward the tip. When he grabbed it, it electrified his arm and throughout his body, awakening his mind to his surroundings with vivid detail. His hand and the cue stick where he touched it flashed, then faded to a soft glow.
“Oh, yeah. This will do much better.”
He ran the table, and after beating Hogan in three straight, his pal refused to play any more.
“We’re late for class,” he said.
Bittermeier barely glanced at them as they sat down, then stopped. “You found your staff, I see, Garbol. Great job. That makes three of us today. I think we should celebrate.”
Mark walked in with a big kale-eating grin, sporting one of the staffs Garbol had seen in Renn’s hall, dark wood carved with a nature scene up and down the shaft with lions, gazelles, birds, and lush foliage. Garbol thought he could look at the thing for hours before he found all the creatures and surprises in the details. Mark’s hand glowed slightly where he held it.
Maybe there was more to this asshat than Garbol realized.
“Go on.” Dame Hoppner’s voice chirped in the hallway. “This is a proud day for you.”
Rolly hovered by the door, only half visible, his face like he’d just seen a dog eat its own…you know.
“Get to your seat, Mr. Witherspoon.”
Rolly frowned grotesquely and trudged to his desk. At his side he carried a toilet brush, a slight glow where he gripped it.
Yeah. Garbol’s cue stick was quite satisfactory.