There is no such thing as an exciting game of chess. Unless you’re dealing with someone who has a very warped perception of the concept of fun, that is. There’s no physical activity, there’s a long time between moves, and if you make conversation with the other player, you’re liable to be given a death stare. And yet, like many things that aren’t fun, I find myself playing chess over and over. While in England, I blame it on Giggles.
Giggles, you see, is a man who would get along swimmingly with the French existentialists. He wears black most of the time, is very smart, and has a sense of humor that could be called scathing. He also has a prediliction for playing chess.
We sat in a place called Coffee and Corks (now, sadly, gone from Canterbury and existing only in memory). Coffee and Corks was a small coffee shop, with comfortable sofas and recliners draped in red blankets. A couple horribly out-of-tune guitars were placed around the lounge. Some board games were in a cabinet. Hendrix played over the speakers. The other people in the shop looked like they should be attending an indie film festival. But there was something unmistakably good about C&C, and it was a fantastic place to go have a chat or just space out for a while with a good book. Or, as Giggles and I did, go and get immensely frustrated over chess.
We’d been playing the same game for an hour and I’d been out of americano for about half that time. Giggles’s espresso sat ignored, now cold, to his left as he hunched over the board, eyes darting from piece to piece. I cleared my throat. “I’m going for another coffee. Want anything?”
“Sh,” he responded. His fingers drummed on the table.
I stood, navigated through the very small gaps between the two tables and couches, walked to the bar, and ordered a coffee. I returned to the table to find that Giggles had crossed his remaining bishop to my side of the board and taken a knight. He sat back in his chair with a big grin on his face and said, “I have you now.”
I looked at the board for a few minutes and found that, while he’d gone into my lines, he’d left a gap open on his own front. I moved a rook from its safe corner on my left, across the board, and said, “Check.”
“Fuck,” he said. He bent back over the board and drummed his fingers.
My phone vibrated on the table and the screen lit up.
“Shut that up or I’ll chuck it through the window,” Giggles said.
I picked up the phone, saw that I had a message, and read it. It was from Dixie and only read: “Ha ha!” I hated text messages for this very reason. It was impossible to tell what sort of “Ha ha!” this was. Was it a Nelson from The Simpsons sort of laugh? Was it a victorious laugh? Was it, maybe, a mis-text—meant for someone else? Why would he—“Oh!” I said.
“Will you be quiet?” Giggles said, clutching his bishop and glaring at the board.
I ignored him, brought my laptop out, turned it on, opened my browser and saw that I had a new e-mail. It had the subject line ‘Fiddler on the Roof casting,’ and I gulped. I opened it, read a few lines, and shouted, “Ha ha!”
“If that’s not because a cure for cancer’s been found,” Giggles said, “I will be very upset at the distraction.”
I shut the laptop, grinning like a madman, and said, “I don’t see why you’re upset. It’s going to end in a stalemate.”
“No it won’t.”
“They always do.”
“Yes, but not this time. Why did you laugh?”
“I got the lead.”
For the moment, Giggles forgot the game, leaned back, and said, “Hey, grats, man. When do rehearsals start?”
I opened the computer again. I scanned through the e-mail. “Dunno. We’re having a cast viewing of the film soon, though.”
“That counts as a rehearsal?”
“No, but it counts as... a viewing of the film. I guess.” I blinked. “Look, I got the part! Whee!”
Giggles leaned back over the board and moved his king forward. I took his queen. “Shit,” he said.
“The stalemate approaches,” I said.
“No,” he responded.
I sent Dixie a text reading: “Whee!”
Giggles took my queen, and I said, “Look, it’s a stalemate. We don’t have much in the way of offensive units left, let’s just shake hands and leave it at that. I wanna go have a beer.”
We shook hands, went to have a beer, and that turned into five, then six, then so on. By the time I got back to the flat, I was barely able to stand but still ginning like a madman. I ran into Zaf in the hall, gave him a big hug, and rambled drunkenly at him. He smiled the confused smile, nodded, and backed away slowly.