The Chess King

This was their fourth day as husband and wife, or, as she liked to think of it, their fourth anniversary. She shook her head in happy, dumbfounded amazement. Here she was, a full-grown, level-headed adult as giddily head-over-heels in love as a little girl is with her first man teacher. She stared dreamily at her husband as he sat under the lamp reading the newspaper and couldn’t help but smile. She felt foolish and embarrassed and ecstatic and wonderful and every joyous adjective under the sun. She never knew love could feel like this… that she could feel like this. And she knew, knew to the depths of her electrified soul, that this love would thrive forever.

Her husband, seemingly unaware she was observing him, looked up from his paper at the wall, let out a slow sigh, bit his lip and gently, nearly imperceptibly, shook his head. Her heart instantly shattered into a million pieces. “Honey,” she cried out, “what is it? You look so sad! What’s wrong?”

He jumped, a little theatrically, at her voice. “Oh,” he said, “you startled me. I didn’t know you were there. Were you waiting for the paper?”

“Don’t change the subject, dear. You looked so sad! What is it? Is something wrong?”

He stared at her for some time, an inscrutable look in his eyes. For the first time in their relationship she felt alarmed and the sudden worry made her stomach hurt. After a while, although it seemed like ages to her, he let out another low, long sigh. He then reached his hand out for hers and quietly said, “I have something to tell you; something I think you should know.”

She swallowed hard. All her joy momentarily gave way to fear and bewilderment. She noticed her hand was trembling as she reached out to seize his. What could be troubling him? How dare any evil thing invade their perfect world! Who or what would dare hurt this wonderful man? With that last question she threw back her shoulders and her love, her powerful love, swelled up again and obliterated her fears. There was nothing that could harm him that her love could not heal!

“I have something to tell you,” he said, “something I guess I should have told you long ago.”

“What is it, dear?”

“Did you read today’s paper?”

“I glanced at it. Why?”

“There was an editorial about how chess tournaments make the news only when a grandmaster seems eccentric. When the competitors are all normal, or at least reasonably normal, you never hear about the games.”

She stared at him blankly for a moment. “So? Honey, don’t torture me like this! Tell me what’s wrong!”

He let out another sigh. “Do you follow any chess tournaments when ‘normal’ people play?”

“Honey, I never follow them even when the crazies are playing.”

“Well” he averted his eyes, “I used to play chess, long ago. I mean, I really, really played chess. In fact,” he swallowed, “in fact, I was so good I even won the championship one year. I was a master, a grandmaster. I was… well, I was the world champion.”

Her eyes grew large. “He never said a word! I had no idea! I knew he was smart, but… wow! Is there anything this man can’t do?” It was inconceivable, but her love for him suddenly grew even greater!

“That’s wonderful, honey, absolutely wonderful!” she cried, “But why should something like that depress you?”

He still didn’t look at her. “Well, it was so exciting and all. I was on top of the world, you know, winning the championship. It was great. But then,” he sighed, “then the officials did some investigating and… well, to make a long, horrible story short, they stripped me of my title and barred me from ever playing again.”

“But why, dear, why would they do that to my precious angel? What happened?”

He looked her straight in the eye then and said, “They found out I had a checkered past.”

She filed for divorce first thing the next morning.

2 Responses to “The Chess King”

  1. jason says:

    Sometimes it amazes me that someone capable of producing artwork of such soul crunching beauty is also so damned funny. I envy your magic, sir.

  2. Gene Lehman says:

    You always amaze me. I really enjoyed this and was showing it to some friends last night. They really loved the way you write. Hope all is going well. We will have to get together some time soon and catch up.

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