The board was still quite full when Jack checkmated his opponent in the first game. He wore a grin on his pointed, 14 year old face.
“Again.” grunted the big man across from him.
Jack’s long fingers were already repositioning the figures on the board. The second game was much the same as the first. Only this time Jack’s grin was a bit nervous due to the deepening of his opponents glower and the shifting of the two huge, dangerous looking men standing on either side.
Jack obediently rearranged the pieces and wondered how long this would go on.
Five games later, he was still wondering. He rubbed his cold white fingers on his faded blue jeans. They were cold despite the fact that it was a warm day and the sun was sifting through the leaves above and resting heavily on his shoulder. He was no longer grinning.
“Why don’t we just call it a match?” Jack asked. He really hoped that the man across from him would just give up.
So they played again. And again. Jack won every time. Of course. He always won this game.
“I can see that you really want to win,” Jack tried to make conversation during one of the games. Usually this was met with silence, but this time the big man responded.
“Listen kid. I’m the best in the world at this game. It is not that I want to win. It is that I will win.”
“Oh, ok. I see. I’m sure you’ll beat me eventually.” But Jack didn’t mean that. No one ever beat him.
Jack was hungry. He glanced at his watch. They had been playing for 5 hours. Game after game of chess.
“Can we have a lunch break?”
Jack sighed and resigned himself to more chess.
The big man was beginning to loose his patience. He slammed his pieces down and growled every time Jack took one of them out.
Jack began to feel sorry for him. “I suppose I could let you win…” he began.
“No!” the man practically yelled. “I will beat you fare and square. Play your game as you usually would.”
Their double audience was bored, but perked up a bit when their boss showed his anger.
“Yes sir.” You can’t do much but submit when you are just a scrawny teen and your opponent and his gang are not.
Jack was starving and tiered. But his game didn’t change and the big man never won.
“Look, sir. I can’t help winning,” Jack finally said. “This game is like, part of me. I can see every piece in every possible set of plays from every possible move. It’s all just there. I don’t even have to think. I just play. I don’t always even want to win. I just can’t help it. Please, just let me resign, or quit and go home.”
“If you quit,” the huge man spoke through clenched teeth and strained jaw, “you will not have a home to go to.”
“Yes sir, we can keep playing.” Jack quickly rearranged the pieces. “Again.” he sighed.
It looked like he wouldn’t be able to talk himself out of this one. He wondered why he had bothered to accept the challenge in the first place. He wondered how this game would ever end and he toyed with the idea of purposely loosing. It would be the safest rout, but it somehow defied the very core of his nature.
That’s when a pretty, slender, soft voiced lady entered the porch carrying a tray with four glasses of lemonade on it.
“Uncle,” she said, “Are you going to play that game all day long?”