- Vol. 01
- Chapter 09
Image by Nick Simpson
KA2The pieces were as old as the two men playing them, if not older. The two men playing here had done so each Saturday evening for four decades, barring illness and adventures when their wives were alive. Four decades of shared silence, silently welcomed and always warmly admitted company to each other.
The board was the dried, curled, browned skin of some long dead animal. The colour of the squares that had long since been stamped into its surface had faded several shades towards grey. For four decades the men and the pieces had survived, three times the pieces had been damaged.
Once, when it had been taken by a rook, the white bishop had been dropped to bounce away onto the pavement. There, a grubby, soft-soled shoe had squashed down, snapping the middle in two.
Once, when packing up the pieces into the bag where they were kept during the week, the bag had split and the pieces bounced out. A black bishop snapped its head off as it landed on the hard kerb-stone.
Finally, a black knight vanished one Saturday. When setting out the board the piece could not be found. Nothing had been handed in at the bar by another patron. Both players searched pockets: deep, long and repeatedly. The pockets of the same jackets that had been worn each time they played. The area around the usual table they played at was searched. Rheumy old eyes even looking through the tangled weeds around the base of a nearby shrub. The usual bar staff shrugged and wondered not over the lost piece but showed absent willing to look as if they did care and helped limply for a short while in the search. Eventually the players sought a replacement piece from behind the bar and a small glass six sided dice took its position on the board. The die still holds that honour, always setting out in the left hand square of the black side.
KA2Further character had been given to the set by the visiting nephew of one of the players. The top of the broken white bishop had been coloured in. A black blob now anointing its wonky shape. The board also showing the attention of the colourist, a small round felt tipped face now dried into one of its squares. Further colouration had been interrupted by the arrival of the player in the room with cakes.
So each Saturday the pattern is always repeated, hours being spent in silence, eyes drifting from the board to the road outside. Small muttered conversations never saying too much, just enough to interrupt the flow of the game, to allow a move to be reasoned for the correct amount of time. Old hands gently lifting small drinks infrequently to dried, curled, stained lips as hands sometimes seek hidden objects in the corner of pockets. Sometimes, an old wrinkled hand rubs absently at the chess piece in his pocket, hidden there now for twenty years.