202 Checkmates

by Rion Amilcar Scott

(from the collection Insurrections)

In my eleventh year, my father taught me defeat.

I sat with my back pressed on that old, scratchy brown couch. Tom chased Jerry across the television screen and then the image dissolved into a white dot in the center. I turned to see my father holding the remote control in one hand and a crumpled cloth cradled in the crook of his other arm.

What are you doing with that rag, Daddy? I asked.

It’s not a rag, girl, he said. It’s a mat.

He unfurled the dirty checkered mat onto the coffee table and dropped a handful of chipped and faded black chess pieces in front of me. He started setting up the white ones without looking at me. I tilted my head, watching my father curiously.

 

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