Black Petals Issue #92, Summer, 2020

A Game of Chess

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Mars-Chris Friend
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Sean M. Carey-Chilled Bones Under Lovely Skin
Roy Dorman-Death in the Round Room, Part IV
Lael Braday-Magical Perspective
Matt Spangler-Master Smasher
Lena Abou-Khalil-The Nowhere Man
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Gavin McGarvey-The Black Petals
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C. S. Harbold-The Whispering
Dean Patrick-Vincent's Warning
Doug Park-We Get Him Together
Joseph Hurtgen-Worlds to Conquer
Mickie Bolling-Burke-The Bringer of Darkness
Aaron Hicks-The Last Days
Cindy Rosmus-Out of Juice
Matthew Wilson-Endless Men's Hate
Michael Steven-Hell Rift
Sean Goulding-Hypnagogic
David C. Kopaska-Merkel-In the Land of Giants
Loris John Fazio-The Thing in the Woods
Loris John Fazio-The Beggar Knows
Richard Stevenson-Peg Leg
Richard Stevenson-The Alkali Lake Monster
Richard Stevenson-The Green Man

92_bp_gameofchess_kcwalker.jpg
Art by Keith Coates Walker 2020

A Game of Chess

 

Misty Page

 

 

 

          Charles showed his guest into the study for a glass of tea. After a long day of showing Ben the carpentry workshop and many handcrafted furniture pieces, the two came in for a break. Charles’ guest, Ben, was new in town. He and his lovely lady-friend had just moved in next door, so it was good to be welcoming.

          “Ah, I see you have a chess board,” noted Ben.

          “Yes.” Charles lit a cigar as he came over to the soft middle of the room. “It’s from Tibet, with every detail carefully hand-carved.”

          “It is a lovely board. I should very much like to have a board like this.”

          Charles smiled, “It’s yours.”

          “Ah, but. I would very much like to win it.”

          “In a game?”

          “Precisely.”

          “Very well, sounds splendid.” The two sat down across from one another in the fine chairs with the claw feet. “And what will you wager?”

          “My fingers.”

          “What?”

          “Eight of them, Ben said.” He smiled nearly blankly. Still looking at, but almost past Charles. “And the diamond.” Ben pulled from his jacket pocket and placed a glinting white rock on the table. Charles marveled. It was the size of a fist.

          “What’s your chess rating?” he asked.

          “400,” Ben said.

          “400? Why that’s…”

          The room was filled with silence. Charles dwelled upon the diamond. Why had his neighbor even considered giving it away? If he had something so dazzling in his possession, why was he willing to part with it? It obviously had been cut, but to never trade it in for silver or gold? To never use it to buy something? The room was filled with the soft ticking of the grandfather clock. Charles had a chess rating of 16,000, but what if his neighbor was lying? Who knew how well he could truly play? Well, even if he could play well, all Charles would lose was his chess set, a fine one, but one of many. What he would gain would be great in comparison.

          “That’s low.” Charles continued, “I accept your challenge, Ben, you will lose.”

          As they were setting up the pieces from their scattered positions across the board, a girl with bright green eyes and long, flowing pigtails came into the room. She was tall and slender for a girl of her age, and she was nearly as tall as the two men. She smiled, showing off her crooked teeth. “Oh dear,” she said to Ben, “Are you betting again?” She carefully sat two cups of steaming tea down on the tall, tiny round tables beside them.

          “We’re playing for fingers.” Ben’s voice was that of an excited boy.

          She sighed. “Alright then, I’ll get the tools, neighbor, sir… Could I borrow some from your shed?”

          Charles hadn’t paid any attention to their banter. He had taken two of each pawn into his hands when he heard her ask the question. What would a little girl need with tools? “Take care of them and bring them back, and yes, you may use whatever.”

          The girl had been Charles' neighbor’s young wife, or perhaps she was his old daughter. He had seen them together many times, and invited them both over. They were very close, always laughing together and having such spry spirits, but what exactly was their connection, Charles had to admit he did not rightly know. Only that they over-apparently loved each other very much.

          Charles held out his fists before his opponent.

          “I’ve never played chess before,” said Ben, but I’ll pick this hand.” He said. “I didn’t know you pick hands in chess.”

          “This means you’re black,” said Ben. “How do you know your chess rating if you’ve never played?”

          “That’s a good question,” he said, “I guess I shouldn’t act like I know nothing about the game. I’ve studied puzzles before, and I’ve probably played a few games. I just can’t remember clearly now.”

          “I feel bad playing you for this,” Charles said.

          e4 e5. Nf3 Qe7. Bc4 h6. O-O d6.

          “Maybe we shouldn’t do this. You’ll lose your diamond.”

          Ben peered over the pieces and took a sip of tea.

          Nc3 c6. a3 Be6. Bxe6 Qxe6. d3 Nd7.

          “No, it’s quite alright. I’ve never lost my fingers before. I’m quite alright.”

          “What? Ben, I’m not taking your fingers.”

          “But if you win you will.”

          The two had been sitting there for a moment then the young girl came back into the room carrying a portable saw table. It was slender with the guard taken off. She pitched the legs up on either side of Ben's chair so the track of the blade would run just in between him and the table. Ben placed his hands on the track of the saw. Charles watched in surprise as the girl tightened a set of small straps onto the man’s fingers, tightening them down to the table.

          “Of course I won’t, this is preposterous. Untie him this instant, young lady!”

          “Oh, don’t worry, Charles, I do this all the time.”

          “You do?”

          “Oh yes, and it’s your move.”

          “Oh, right.” Charles looked curiously at the board. His opposite was good. He moved again.

          Be3 Be7. d4 Bd8. d5 Qe2 Bb6.

          “So you mean to tell me, when you lose the game, then that saw will come on and cut all eight of your fingers off?”

          “Absolutely.”

          Bxb6 Nxb6. Rad1 Nf6. a4 O-O. b3 a6.

          He told his chess moves to the frail pretty girl who smiled and happy obliged to aid him while fingerless, moving the pieces for him.

          “But then, how will you turn the saw on? Your hands are tied down to the table.”  

          a5 Nbd7. b4 Qd8. Qd2 c5. Ne2 Nh5.

          Charles felt this was silly. There was no way any man in his house was going to lose his fingers. This was all just a game, he was sure. Some kind of interesting display of whimsical humor, a practical joke for sure. But then Charles looked again at the diamond on the table. Surely that was real. No fake anything could be mimicking the brilliance that that rock gave off. If the diamond was real, then how much of this wager was real?

          “Why don’t you try it, neighbor?”

          “Try what? Playing chess without fingers?”

          “Betting like I do.”

          “I’m not a gambling man.”

          “But you are, here we are the two of us, entangled in a bet with quite high stakes, and you didn’t seem to hesitate when I offered we play for that.”

          c3 Nf4. Nxf4 exf4. Qxf4 Ne5. Nxe5 dxe5.

          “It was harmless. Well, I would have given you the chess set, but I figured I’d indulge you if you wanted a game. So a game we are playing. You wagered your fingers.”

          Qxe5 cxb4. cxb4 Re8. Qd4 Rf8.

          Charles continued, “This is insane. You can’t bet your fingers on a chess game.”

          “Why not? Are they not my own fingers to bet what I like with them? Wouldn’t you like a set of fingers for your victory?”

          Charles eyed the girl, looking pleasantly at both of them. “Untie him this moment. Let him go, he’s not in his right mind.”

          “We can’t. We’ve already started playing.”

          Charles thought carefully and dwelled upon the board.

          f4 Kh8. Rd3 Qd6. e5 Qg6.

          “If I win, you untie yourself and move your hands away from that stupid saw.”

          “Sounds fine by me. But you have to put your fingers up as well as mine.”   

          Charles laughed. “You’re being serious. Ben, I’m not going to do that.”

          “You mean you’re going to lose?”

          Charles looked at the board. Certainly he wasn’t going to lose. “Alright then.”

          d6Qf5. Qd5 Rab8.

          So another saw was brought into the parlor room. Another track was set, and Charles' fingers were tied down on the track. The game was simple enough. Charles would most certainly win, and he would take his neighbor out to a mental clinic as soon as victory was his. Further, he’d be sure the girl was taken care of as well. Charles knew of a secret to his saws, there was a failsafe switch that would trip the blades and prevent them from moving. He could reach the secret button with his thigh. This would keep him safe, and as long as he could reach across the table with his foot, he could hit the button on Ben's side as well.

          f5 Qf7. e6 Qg8.

          In the meanwhile, could he convince his neighbor to come back down to Earth just long enough to stop this madness? Then he saw the diamond glinting on the table. There was no threat anymore, Ben wouldn’t lose his fingers, and Charles would not lose.

          The evening golden sun showed faint tiny hairs in the air through the path of the window’s light. The Cuckoo clock began to sing. Charles would not lose and he would win the diamond. He would win and be rich. He would win and save his neighbor from his insanity.

          e7 Rd7. Rfe1 Qa2. e8=Q+ Rxe8.

          “I’ve collected lots of fingers, you know.” Ben said happily. “Lots and lots. I’m quite proud of my finger collection. I’ve won at checkers, Uno and Azul. I think your fingers are pretty. I’m happy you put them up for grabs.”

          “You’re not getting my fingers, Ben. And I’m not losing this game.”

          “Very well my friend. Whatever you say.”

          Rxe8+ Kh7. R8e7 Rxe7. dxe7 Qa4.

          Ben smiled simply as the game went on. Charles watched the sparkling diamond the closer he came to victory.

“Deary, would you help me drink some of  that lovely tea?” Asked Ben. Charles watched as the young pretty woman picked up the glass and gingerly poured its contents into his neighbor’s mouth.

          Ben was thinking, ‘I will win. I have to win.’

          e8=Q Qxe8. Rxe8 b6. axb6 a5. bxa5 g6.

          Qd7#.

          And Charles won.

          “Alright now, free your hands you fool.” He said with a smile. The awkwardly tall lady came to Ben's side, and she loosened the binds on Ben's fingers. Charles smiled, “Now. That’s better.”

          Then she brought up a sledge hammer from below the parlor chess table.

          Ben sat there smiling like a round fat baby that’d just been fed candy. “You know I lied. I’ve played chess before.” Charles wasn’t listening, he was watching this strange girl before him. He couldn’t believe she would ever hurt anyone with that hammer, but then, strangely enough he was pondering how she ever got it and why it was below his little table in the beginning. “But really I’ve never lost my fingers so this ought to be the thing to do.”

          “The, the what?” Charles blinked at him.

          “Sure, why not? It must be so fun.”

          “You’re insane.” Charles said flatly.

          “I know. That’s fun too.”

          Quick as lightning she struck Ben's fingers. One moment he was smiling like a school boy, a sense of crazed excitement in his eyes, absent lazy happiness radiated out from his being. The next instant, the hammer collided with his bones and he was screaming. His eyes flickered with fear and stress. Tears and steam welled out of his face as she struck again.

          “The pain!” cried Ben. “The terrible pain.” He was curling his body and slinging his head to and fro. “Make the pain stop.”

          “What on Earth are you doing?!” cried Charles. He saw Ben's fingers were brittle, having been smashed flat, beyond repair. They were shivering. The knuckles were indistinguishable from the rest. He couldn’t look away from the sight once he saw them. He couldn’t believe what she had done.

          “Well, I always make sure he keeps good on his bets,” the girl said.

          “I didn’t want his fingers! What are you, insane?”

          “If you didn’t want his fingers, you shouldn’t have accepted the bet.”

          Ben was whimpering now, and his cries were morphing in and out of hyena laughter.

          “I said,” Charles began clearly and carefully as possible “if I win he gets untied and away from the blade.” He glared at her with rage.

          “Well, sweetheart, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still keep his end of the bargain and give you his fingers. It just means we don’t use the saw to do it.”

          “What?”

          She was quite happy. Now she had a vast finger collection. She smiled and slightly bowed, her hair sweeping in her face. “Toodle-loo.”

          Charles was struggling to tear his hands from their restraints. His heart raced, he watched the girl’s face for a trace of mind. Was she insane? She walked out. She never looked back. Charles was left there with his hands still secured onto the metal plate. Charles’ heart was racing. How could he help? What could he do? Ben was shouting in pain. The diamond was still there.






Misty Page loves to write and has written since she was a child. Her mind blooms with fantasy and adventure! She loves to tell stories and transport the spirit to other worlds in order to reinvigorate the dormant imagination! She hopes to inspire all! :)




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