The next day, we just talked about life and sadness. He received many phone calls from empathetic acquaintances. He spoke at length with everyone - the dutiful son of a dead father. When he wanted to get out of the house, we went to lunch on the Sunset Strip. A local Chinese restaurant called Chin Chin’s served sympathetic spring rolls that eased his anguish. On our way home, he asked if we could stop at a shooting range. He was scared and wanted to make sure he could defend himself. We pulled in and rattled off some two-hundred rounds into targets. He was bothered by the smell of chambered smoke drifting around us. He said it reminded him of what just happened. I'd never had any practice shooting. He was a good shot...a very good shot. We returned home and just hung out. Even with the morbid sense of gloom hanging over the house, we could still be friends and laugh a little. Things were okay. He was feeling a little better when we left the house again to eat.
Around eight o'clock we finished dinner. By eight thirty, we were staring at each other across the chessboard, locked in mental combat. As I toppled his queen, he smiled and lowered his king. It fell right next to the lady. His parents were dead. I watched in silence. He stared down at the board for a long moment, then looked up.
“Do you want to know how it happened?”
Friend (def) somebody who has a close personal relationship of mutual affection and trust with each other
With one single word response, I changed the course of my life. I could easily have said no. I could have reset the pawns and bishops. I could have said I was tired and went to bed. I could have run out for ice cream and brought back my brains. I didn't. I sat there and listened.
Outside in a police car, an officer was talking on his radio. From across the board I caught the scent of spring rolls on his breath. My hand rested on a chess piece. Rook at H8. I stared into his sad green eyes as he spoke...his voice low, carrying the solemn monotony of a twenty-one gun salute.
“I went out to a movie...I bought my ticket and watched a few minutes of the film...I came home and my parents were sitting on the couch in the living room...I went back out to my car and sat staring at the stars...I grabbed my shotgun and walked back into the house...When I shot my dad, the back of his head blew out...I kept shooting... When I hit my mom, she got up and screamed...As she went down on the floor, I shot her again...The final shell unloaded against her cheek and nearly blew her face off...I vividly remember the smell of smoke...and the blood and skin flying against the walls...I took the guns and drove them out to a canyon for burial...Then I went back to the theater...It was perfect...And now I have no idea what to do.”
I am at the zoo standing outside the lion cage. The massive beast is looking right into my soul, his penetrating green eyes seducing me. I hear something in the distance and turn away from the animal. Behind me, a low growl. The sound of a cage door opening. People begin to scream. I feel a tingling sensation as my pronounced heartbeat pumps blood to my limbs. I begin to sweat profusely. Do I scream and run? Do I freeze, paralyzed by fear? Do I calmly move to the side and let the animal follow its natural instincts? At that moment, a zookeeper jumps in front of me and slams the door shut as the lion retreats back into its den.
Unfortunately, in life, we rarely have zookeepers to protect us from the brutality of our animalistic nature. Most times, we are instinctive creatures, following that Darwinian precept of survival of the fittest. Mark had killed his progenitors. I had two seconds to react.
Me-- “Mmm. You wanna play another game?” The double entendre was merely ironic.
Him--“Yea, let's play chess.”