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Vagabondage, Creative Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1723

Creative Essay

Just as Mikel took his first sip of Guinness, she pawn-forked his knight and rook. Before he could even cringe correctly, the chime of the chat-message came through his computer speakers and he saw “gg” in the chat box.  The Guinness went down hard and sour as Mikel blushed with rage.  How can she say good game? We’re only on move twelve!  But as he analyzed the position he saw that the game was, in fact, as good as over. He was down a minor piece, cramped for space, and he also had a set of doubled pawns on the f-file. He had no chance for counter-play.  In a matter of a dozen moves or less she’d be able to force him trade off pieces and then they’d be in an end-game where, a full pice down, he’d be at her mercy. Mikel stared at the computer screen in disbelief while his clock continued to tick down.

Should he type something into the chat-box? A sarcastic retort? An excuse?  What was the reason he kept losing to her? He couldn’t answer any of the questions and this fact made his pulse race. He felt shamed. Even though there was no way she could possibly see or understand his present emotion, Mikel felt she somehow knew, as though they’d enter into a mind-meld with each other. He knew she was British because everyone at the RapidRook online chess site had their nationality’s flag next to their  name.

Of course he couldn’t be sure Vagabondage was a woman, he simply assumed she was due to her username.  His own username was Titanpawn because he was known in the chess world as the “mighty pawn” due to his prowess with the end game. It was his way of almost exposing his identity.

Before he knew what he was doing he typed: Skype? into the chat box. His message rang through and he waited for a reply.  His clock showed forty-five seconds back when her reply chimed back.

She typed: Just move.

Now Mikel felt bile rise in his throat and his hands started to shake a little. His face burned and prickled while sweat leaked out from the hairline on the back of his neck. His palms felt light and sweaty. The number 2150 flashed through his mind again and again: his UFC rating at its highest. How could he have lost, what now ten to twenty games to this — Vagabondage — in the past week?

He typed into the chat-box: What’s your UFC rating?

His clock was at twenty-seconds when her reply came back: Time. And what’s a UFC?

            He laughed out-loud as his time expired.  Now she was just being a bitch. Anyone who played well-enough to beat a former state-champion who had at east fifty tournament victories to his name had to have a UFC rating. He could look her up online easy enough: after-all how many British Grandmaster women rated 2200 or higher could there be?

The bubble flashed over the board that said “White Wins” and she immediately logged off. just as he was about to congratulate her on her win by calling her a liar.

***

Ray was around the next morning, dressed in a faded pair of jeans and an old Polo shirt. he looked like he was getting ready to clean house. But when Mikel walked into the kitchen to get a bowl of cornflakes for breakfast, he saw a bunch of bowls, bags, measuring spoons, pans and packets on the counter, so he knew it was baking day not cleaning day. Baking day, Jesus, was it Sunday already?

“What are you baking?” he asked Ray.

“Nothing special. A peanut butter pumpkin pie.”

“Oh, like the one we had at Claudette’s?”

“That’s right.”

“On Thanksgiving, right?”

“Yes.”

Ray let his “yes” trail off a bit ominously. Mikel poured milk over his cornflakes wondering what might be wrong. He couldn’t think of anything.

Ray cracked and egg and let the white and yoke spill into a big mixing bowl. “All this baking stuff costs a lot actually. I went to the store and spent over a hundred dollars yesterday.   I’m really not doing well financially.”

Something about ray’s middle-aged homosexual accent on the word “financially’ went straight through Mikel. he suddenly remembered and his ears prickled as he blushed. “Omigod,” he said. “I owe you for the rent don’t I?”

“Yes.”

“OK, I just need to run to the bank this afternoon. Don’t worry, I’ll have the cash to you later today.”

“That’s fine. I don’t want to bother you. If you’re ion a financial crisis, or there’s something about the room you don’t like…”

“Don’t be silly,”  Mikel said. “I’ve money in the bank and I love it here. Haven’t I been saying so?”

“Well, you don’t seem to have been writing much lately. I just wondered if you were having a hard time.”

“I’m working, “ Mikel said. her heard his own voice go up a notch with indignation.

“Oh, are you. I’m sorry then, I didn’t mean to pry.”

“No problem. And — again — I really like the room. I’m quite comfortable here.”

“Yes, I suppose you are. Given that you’d probably be homeless otherwise.”

“That’s true,” Mikel said softly. He finished his cornflakes, feeling as though he’d just been checkmated.

***

Sometime later his cell-phone buzzed and Mikel picked it up while still staring at his monitor.  He was studying a rook-pawn endgame. He kept his eyes fixated on the sample game and spoke into his cheap, static-charged phone. It was Lyla who wanted him to go out for a drink. He told her he was sorry but that he couldn’t make it. He was busy working.  She laughed at him and said it was the third time in so many weeks he’d blown her off. he apologized again and promised they’d get together in a couple days. She pinned him down to an exact time: 7:30 PM on Wednesday.

After he hung up from the call, Mikel powered down his phone, and  studied a couple of rare opening gambits with black and two weird openings for white. His head hit the pillow just as the sun was coming up. As he fell asleep he lay in his twin bed in his cold rented room and tried to imagine what Vagabondage looked like. Tomorrow he’d sweep her under the rug with what he’d learned in the course of just one short afternoon. or had it been a couple of days or more? Didn;t matter, he was going to crush her and show her what happened when an amateur, no mater how talented,  went up against a battle-hardened semi-professional player such as himself.

***

His cell phone was buzzing and it was still dark outside. Had he just gone to bed or was he just getting up. Who the hell was calling his cell phone when it was so dark outside?  Mikel answered the buzz.

“Hello?”

“Where the hell are you?”

“Lyla. Hey, what’s up? Why are you calling again?”

“Again? I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for three days. Your cell phone’s been off.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Right. And you were supposed to pick me up to go out for drinks tonight. Twenty minutes ago to be exact.”

“I was. Wasn’t I?”

“Yes, what’s the problem, why aren’t you here?”

“I haven’t been feeling well.  I thought I’d be better by today. I guess I just slept the clock around or something… We’ll have to make it another time.”

“I don;t know, Mikel. You’ve got a crappy car, a weirdo gay roommate, you;re divorced and you make a half-assed living as a freelance writer. I don’t see why I even bother with you.”

“You like my hair?”

“Oh, very funny. What little you have left of it. OK, we’ll go out some other time, but I expect it to be soon.”

“I promise,” Mikel said.

***

When he finally found Vagabondage logged in to the RapidRook site, they played five games and she beat him handily each time. She rushed his gambits, floored his unorthodox openings, and twisted his end-game tactics into shreds. All thew while she typed snide responses to his efforts to be cordial. He started to feel sick to his stomach.

He kept smelling the old pizza boxes and dirty socks that had piled up in his room. He made a mental note that he probably should pick up a little before he let Ray into the room. fortunately Ray was pretty standoffish these days. He’d rarely seen him in fact.

A little while later, he took a break from studying a series of traps in the King’ Indian Defense and while eating a dry peanut butter sandwich on semi-stale bread, decided to give Lyla a call and see if she might want to get out for drink.  His cell phone was out of minutes and service days. He noticed also that his clothes were stained and wrinkled. he felt a scruffy mid-beard on his cheeks and chin. His back ached, his head swam and his neck was stiff and sore.

The one thing he was certain of was that he was going to beat Vagabondage. One way or another he was going to punish her the way she needed to be punished because her impudence at  defying his superior ability could not go on unchecked. fir her own good, and certainly for his peace of mind, he needed to beat her. maybe a number of times. For proportion.

The line of play he needed was something off the beaten track but suitable for quick-study. he wanted to catch her just as she was feeling superior.  Finally, he chose the Hedgehog Opening. He started studying online and kept going until he heard ray getting ready for work the next morning. A white enveloped slid under his door  just a few moments before he heard Ray’s truck pull out of the driveway. the envelope had his name very neatly printed in pencil on it.

What could be so touchy that he had to write it in a letter and put it in a sealed envelope? Mikel wondered.

He sure didn’t understand people, but one thing he did understand was chess. he logged on to the Rapidrook and waited for vagabondage to log in. once she did, he had a thing or two to teach her about the finer points of the middle-game. Today would be the day she found out what it was like to face a Titan of the game.

If it took all night, she’d finally find out who was boss.

 

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