Kindred’s Special: A Christmas Ghostly Tale

New to the city and alone I decided to find a chess club to get a game or two and perhaps make some new acquaintances. The telephone book listed under Chess Clubs several and I chose the nearest to my apartment with the ad: “The smallest but friendliest to meet your every chess need.”

I found the club located on the second floor of an office building. It was heralded as “Open 24-hours every day of the year” so even though it was Christmas Eve, I found the club quarters open and indeed besides the elderly lady behind the counter that served as a small kitchen, a shelf holding several vintage chess clocks, a pot of coffee, donuts and fried cakes, I noticed one gentleman seated at a far table. After a brief introduction with the lady who acknowledged that she was the mother of the manager, I strolled over to the occupied table. He was an old man; I knew him. By that I mean old people tend to look similar. He sat, pointed towards the chair opposite, set up the chessmen, taking the white pieces for himself, and slowly advanced the King Pawn two squares. I played out my Knight to f6 that initiated the Alekhine Defense that I once coined “the desperado defense” in one of my editorial columns.

He lit up a cigar and took a long drag sending forth a smoke ring that bounced off the board, up my chest to my face.  I noticed him really for the first time. He looked like a bulldog–a lot of dog owners resemble their pet so I’ve been told. Maybe he owned a bulldog I mused. Then, too, I noticed his eyes. They were expressionless like “dead”–no sparkle or glint, in fact more like two raw eggs. His facial features were lifeless like his eyes. I thought to myself: “He sure would make a good poker player.”

The game lasted about 30 moves. He checkmated my king amid firing a barrage of smoke rings that left my mind reeling from nausea, watered eyes, and a sore throat. He said nothing, just sitting there looking at me with those sad, haunting eyes and deadpan expression. He got out a new cigar and as he lit up, I rose, excused myself and walked over to the old lady behind the counter.

I ordered a cup of coffee hopeful that it would revive me. I asked her who that gentleman was that I had just played. I said his appearance was strange, very anti-social, neither a real gentleman nor good sport, relating that his behavior at the board was really in bad taste.

Now under normal circumstances this story, this tale, would not be worth mentioning. I leave that to your judgment. All I know is I never revisited that small club. Why, you might ask? Well, as it turned out, when asking who the gentleman was that I had been playing, she replied: “Are you all right, sir? There has been no one here except you and I.”

When I gave her a description of the old man, she told me that an old gentleman that seemed to fit his mannerisms died last December 24th at that very table where you were seated.


2 Responses to “Kindred’s Special: A Christmas Ghostly Tale”

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