Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Chess Master

The first match ended almost before it began. I should have seen it coming. The first pawn of mine that was taken resulted in check-mate. So as suddenly as we started it was over. I don’t take losing easily and wasn't going to let that happen again, despite my lack of experience in playing chess, compared to the 72 year old retired English teacher with an Afro that was sitting across from me. 

The pieces were quickly retest which wasn't hard considering the brevity of the first match. The board was then rotated and play continued. Things were different this time. Play progressed, a queen was captured, castles consumed, knights knocked out, and pawns bishops bagged until finally I had his king trapped with no means of escape. My cunning and daring strategy had somehow outwitted the years of experience that guided the pieces opposite of mine.

Anyone else observing this scene would probably have difficulty believing their eyes. Here is an old man playing chess, which isn’t a surprise, but the fact that his opponent was barely a third of his age. Not a common occurrence especially which his opponent is there by choice and not out of obligation or any other ulterior motives. The old man’s junior, if he were common to his generation would expect to mercilessly distract by his phone and other outside forces, but somehow managed to keep these at bay. They formed what many would call a lopsided friendship. 

From an outsider’s perspective we had very little in common at all, but they couldn't be more wrong. Despite the many years that separated us, we had a lot in common. We both had the same sarcastic and ridiculous sense of humor, loved music and played the guitar, and liked to make fun of each other and others. Despite our physical age differences, our minds are both about the age of 13, which makes things almost too fun at times.

Once upon a time we were both working janitorial on weeknights cleaning the offices at a truck depot. It was probably the nastiest job that I have ever had. Especially the bathrooms, which were at times tainted by trucker blowouts. The only thing that made this bearable, and the only reason I was even there was because we had so much fun together. One night my “supervisor/boss” strategically hid himself in one of the back offices that I always got around to vacuuming last. As I opened the door I found a dirty rag flying at my face, and heard an unearthly yell. Needless to say I was quite startled and once I had my wits about be I found and old man literally rolling around on the dirty carpet with short bursts of giggling escaping at sporadic intervals.  

This is only one example of the many adventures that shaped and forged this unlikely friendship. Despite all of the fun and practical jokes, there were times when we would discuss more serious in an often light-hearted way, but knowing that deep down we both recognized the true importance of these more heavy matters.

As with most friendships time and circumstance would take us far from each other. Even with the many advantages with modern communication, we would rarely talk to each other. However whenever circumstances and time would permit we would make plans to go get a cheap senior discounted mean at a fast food restaurant, or for the first time, a friendly and competitive match of chess. Either way, whenever we would get together it was awesome because we both would be practically the same person that we were the last time that we met. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks and when you’re as hard headed as me, change is slow and far between. I am always looking forward to the time that we get together. I also start to feel a bit older too when, we get to reminisce  about the many good times that we have had in the past.

My mom would always tell me growing up that friends would come and go but family is the only thing that will last. While she was right about basically every friend that I've had growing up until know that has been relatively close to my age has moved on for some reason. Marriage, graduating, military, and careers all seem to pull those friends of mine from my life. However I can truly say that I've had one friend that despite distance and changes in my life has always been there, and can without a doubt make me laugh. I don’t even want to think about the time that will come when he literally won’t be around anymore. At any rate before I know it I’ll be the one on the experienced side of the chess board, reliving my younger years with some punk kind.


  1. What a great narrative! Very easy to relate to because I have had similar experience. I liked the description of the chess game but feel like there is more detail that you could add. For example, what thoughts were going through your head? What strategy did you use to win? What sensation did winning bring you? Ect. Also, maybe I missed it but I didn't notice a book of mormon tie in. If you did have one try making it more obvious because I read this twice and couldn't find it.

  2. I love your characterization of this old man and your friendship, that your minds were 13 year old boys and that he would jump out at you and giggle on the floor. I love that he is constant in your life and maybe even has become your family. I know I have senior friends whom I call grandma and grandpa- my adopted ones. He seems like a beloved friend and I want to hear more of your stories. I feel though that you could put more religious concepts into your writing. I don't recognize any Book of Mormon references in there, maybe I am just not looking hard enough, but if you could make it a little more apparent, that would be fantastic!

  3. LIke Jeremy and Haily, I think your essay is the Bee's Knees. Your use of humor is awesome! Haha. You made cleaning those bathrooms sound truly horrible. You allowed us to get to know this old man. Now, for the next draft, just find a way that this relationships relates to the Book of Mormon. A theme, or a character, can easily relate. You will rock it.