We're all good at something (maybe I shouldn't be quite so casual about that or vague). Sometimes that something translates into another area, sometimes it doesn't. To get a bit more specific: chess is a game of foresight, but so is soccer. Players and pieces move around the field to their objective. It's all about focus. But then again no one ever broke a wrist playing chess. This story, which was published last year in the collection The Garden of Milk and Wine put out by Rhyme & Reason, by Mo H Saidi explores the role of games in several different ways. Read his story, Blue Box, on the Current's blog.
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Playing Chess in the Mosque by Mo H Saidi
"You don't need to invent an excuse," Mr. Zandi said, "your father told me it was okay for you to come with us."
I had joined the middle school sport teams to go to another city only as a member of the soccer team. Nobody had told my parents I was also the captain of our chess team. Mother would always say, "Chess is un-Islamic and frustrates a child's mind." And Father would nod. At home I couldn't play chess at all, so I would stay late at school to practice the game.
"Why are they against chess when it is such a great mental exercise?" Mr. Zandi, the PE teacher asked me.
"Because Yazid I, the second Umayyad Caliphate, who beheaded Hossein the third Imam of the Shiites, played chess."
I got to the soccer match thirty minutes late, because in preparation for the next chess match I had been practicing the King and Queen's gambits in one of the classrooms. However, when our chess team won four to nothing because the opponents failed to show up, we ended up playing two exhibition matches against ourselves. Since our school had lost the basketball match in the morning, the outcome of this soccer match would determine the overall winner.
The well-attended match began at two o'clock, and the game was scoreless at halftime. In the second half, we lost one player to injury. The coach shouted my name. I raised my hands several times but he didn't see me. Finally I ran to him. "What can I do, Coach?"
"We are a player short," he yelled, "the striker is injured, get ready fast."
I changed quickly and soon found myself dribbling the ball around the last defendant and moving it forward into the penalty box. Approaching the goal, I maneuvered around the goalie, and had almost passed him when he blocked my left foot. I still managed to kick the ball toward the net, confident the goal would be mine. However, I tripped over his legs, twisted my ankle, and fell sideways on my knee. Right away, my ankle swelled, turned tender and red. My entire leg became heavy with intense pain, and I felt dizzy. I was flat on my back and could not move my limbs. The first aid people carried me away on a stretcher.
When we passed the coach, I asked him, "Did the ball go in?" He laughed and turned his head side to side. "Thanks for the effort," he smiled.
He nodded and said, "Barely." He looked at my swollen ankle and said, "Now you've got plenty of time to practice chess in your mosque."
Lyle Rosdahl, a writer living in San Antonio, edits the flash fiction blog & best of in print for the Current. He created, facilitates and participates in Postcard Fiction Collaborative, a monthly flash fiction response to a photo. You can see more of his work, including photos, paintings and writing, at lylerosdahl.com.
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