18 Nov



“What do I call ya?” Claude said, setting up the board.

The stranger smiled as if about to tell his favourite joke. He said, “Call me the Kid.”

“The Kid? Bullshit! What’s your name?”

The stranger nodded in Heidi’s direction. “She says she doesn’t wanna know it. Just trying to be considerate.”

“Uh-uh. Not ‘The Kid’ yeah?”, Claude shook his head, serious. “Can’t stand dickhead names like that. Years of ’em. Had a gutful of ’em. Years.”

“C’arn Claude,” Heidi cut in. “You’re every night in a bar serviced by Gidget Moondoggie.” The Stranger suppressed a laugh.

“Gij gets away with it. She’s young and stupid and drop dead. And we call her Gij. This bloke here? Nuh.”

“Sorry if you don’t like the name mate.” said the Stranger. “I just don’t have much imagination.”

“Hah!” Heidi went back to her drink.

Drinks were ordered, and the game began with the stranger winning the toss. He picked black. The drinks arrived while the players set up their defense formations. Diagonal pawns each.

“Right,” Claude said. “You’re name’s Barry”,

“Barry it is,” the affable reply.

Fifteen minutes later the battle swinging and blood drawn. Alongside the board stood two black bishops, a rook, sundry pawns and a knight. All black. Three white pawns, and two white members of the major arcana stood on the other side. ‘Barry’ had two empty whiskey glasses keeping them company. A third glass, full, sat next to the bunch.

“Have you lost yet?” said Heidi.

“No.” said ‘Barry’.

“Well let me know when it happens.”

There was a long pause as the new fish contemplated the spread on the board. It resembled an ambush. Claude moved his bishop. One step away from checkmate. It seemed over. ‘Barry’ looked up at Claude and said, “I think we should play the rest of the game by the clock, say 15 seconds?”

Claude didn’t respond, he just looked at the guy as if he was bound for self-destruction and there was nothing no-one could do about it, what a waste etcetera.

“You do have a clock yeah?”

“Yeah. I don’t use it in here,” Claude said. “My friend’d use up all his time by the second move.”

“Well? Is there a problem?”

Claude reach down and unzipped the side pocket of the backpack sitting by his feet. He took out the small double-clock and wound it for 15 seconds. He put it down. “Your move,” he said. He clicked the clock, ticking. The stranger looked at the board… 1,2,3,4,5 6 seconds; he moved some innocuous pawn nowhere. Click. Claude moves his Queen, Knight 5 check. Click. ‘Barry’ draws a forgotten rook out of some cluster of disaster on the 5th row and collects Claude’s queen!

Click, silence.

Claude’s game tocks out – 1 second,2. Three, four, five.. He moved his rook. ‘Barry’s’ knight took his bishop. Another pause 8,9,10. Claude brought out his other rook awkwardly positioning it for a strike it wouldn’t have time to make. ‘Barry’ did the same. Claude moved the knight close in, check. Four seconds left for the stranger; Claude, six. But he was stumped. The seconds bled out – three, two. He moved his king, it was all he could do. One second left for Claude. ‘Barry moved his rook to a position where it would be taken by either of two pawns. But it was check. Claude had one move left, and only two choices. ‘Barry’ still had time. There was some kind of feeling in the place, then, like in a big house where wars are declared; like the first visit to a loved one who’s terminal.

Claude sat like a rock, eyes on his king. The clocked buzzed. Time out. And for a moment everything was still as morning. And the next thing anyone knew the chess clock was exploding to fragments on the wall behind the stranger and Claude had woken up the city you never knew a man could roar ’til you heard it. And then Claude stood up like off to a job he hates and marched thru the door, closing it gently behind him.

Concludes next week.


One Response to “THE WRONG PLACE IV”


  1. THE WRONG PLACE III « STILL CHAOS - November 19, 2010

    […] Cont. […]

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