A Game of Chess
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
“Yes.” Charles lit a cigar as he
came over to the soft middle of the room. “It’s from Tibet, with every detail
“It is a lovely board. I should very
much like to have a board like this.”
“Ah, but. I would very much like to win it.”
“In a game?”
“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?”
“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
“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
“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?”
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
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
“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
“I feel bad playing you for this,”
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
“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
“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?”
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.
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
cxb4 Re8. Qd4 Rf8.
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
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
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.”
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
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
f5 Qf7. e6
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
R8e7 Rxe7. dxe7 Qa4.
Ben smiled simply as the game went on.
Charles watched the
sparkling diamond the closer he came to victory.
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.’
Rxe8 b6. axb6 a5. bxa5 g6.
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
“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
“The pain!” cried Ben. “The terrible
pain.” He was curling his body and slinging his head to and fro. “Make the pain
“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.”
She was quite happy. Now she had a
vast finger collection. She smiled and slightly bowed, her hair sweeping in her
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
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! :)