chess in strawberry fields

By Rina Rossi

To whom it may interest or bewilder,

She had a deep affinity for things that came in two pairs of 8s. To her dismay, there does not exist a multitude of objects that fit that description. Chess was the first of ideas that she was concerned with, a perfect way to spend a few hours on her 16th birthday.
At 2, she began to collect pairs of things, including, but not limited to, socks, earrings, cufflinks, and her endless collection of shoes (some of which were very “last season,” as she kept this collection of shoes ongoing for the past 14 years). At 5, she read the five books of the Torah. At 9, she proclaimed that she’d compliment well-dressed folks as those who were “dressed to the nines” instead of simply expressing her admiration for the fashion ensemble. The list went on and last left off on she driving her grandfather’s 1964 Chevy Impala Convertible along the Prince Edward Island Route 15, possibly without a license. Today was her 16th birthday, and she yearned feverishly for an opportunity to exercise her love of two pairs of 8s.
“A Roy Rogers, garnished with a maraschino cherry―with the stem long enough so you can do that cherry-stem trick of yours, right?” the waitress remarked, having memorized the girl’s order from the past three years, perfectly.
The girl nodded in agreement, and grabbed the Roy Rogers, starting with eating the cherry fruit, then working on tying the knot in her mouth. The cherry emanated with a sticky juice, which she wiped on the handles of her French market bag―an accessory that housed her rouge lipstick, wisteria hand lotion, mosaic hand mirror, and chess board. As she savored her way through the Roy Rogers, she began to trek west, towards Strawberry Fields Park, the park where she celebrated her 2nd birthday, and birthed the idea to act in such a way that paid respect to the very number of her age. To be quite frank, although collecting earrings, cufflinks, or shoe laces seemed like normal objects to collect, her collections started with pairs of scorpions, spiders, and mites, at her 2nd birthday in the park. It was quite the fiasco.
Finally arriving at Strawberry Fields, a petite girl in a baseball cap and a bottle of seltzer, wearing a shirt that read, “MY NAME IS CATE” waved her arms in the air, sitting at a picnic table in the “Games Quad” section of the park, a place where individuals between the ages of 49 and 99 frequently played games like chess and Chinese Chess.
“Hey! Looking for someone to play chess with?” Cate asked.
“Indeed,” the newly 16-year old girl replied, making her way to Cate’s table, and setting down her chessboard. The truth of the matter was, she’d never played chess before. In fact, she was given a chess board and two pairs of the required 8 pieces to play, but never opened the game to try the activity out. She found solace in the board’s aesthetic, with the combination of reds and blacks put together, and the shine produced from each individual chess piece. It was almost as pleasing as looking for diamonds at Tiffany’s. As she finally looked up to move her first piece, she looked eye-to-eye with her game opponent, the girl who clearly wanted to communicate to all visual beings that her name was Cate.
The girl moved her first chess piece, thinking hard, and attempting to harken back at what she read backwards in The Legal Chess Handbook her grandfather gave her. A stream of painful memories began to flood her brain: Cate humiliating her in front of their first-grade class, calling her poetry “trash” and “too long,” looking at her straight in the eyes when she had won a game the two were playing, thinking about “The Rat Situation” which was marked by Cate putting a rat in the girl’s lunchbox on her 10th birthday, and of course, the time when Cate cut the girl’s hair as “a favor” since her 60s-inspired haircut was apparently “out of fashion.” The girl was now making numerous successful moves in the game, causing Cate to continuously shake her head in disbelief, and confusion, stunned, and unable to devise a plan to win the game.
All of a sudden, a band stationed themselves in the park, playing tunes like Autumn Leaves, Come Rain or Come Shine, and Peri’s Scope, enlivening the legacy of Bill Evans, along with painting a portrait of jazz in the park. A catering company called “Gluttony in the Park,” began to set up a wine-and-dine table, giving out samples of champagne to passerbyers who came to watch the chess match. A ballet company began to perform a number, but quickly fell into a serious argument with the jazz musicians in the park.
Breathing slowly, the girl looked Cate straight in the eyes, whose eyes were straight down, facing the floor. She folded her arms together and took one final sip of her Roy Rogers.
“Checkmate,” she said.

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