“Not Chess” by Gordon Cash

From Fabula Argentea, here is a nice little vignette by Gordon Cash:

In a rare idle hour, I watched the two ancient-looking men play chess. The Parks Department had installed several granite tables, each incised with a chessboard and flanked by two concrete benches and enough space for kibitzers. Players needed only bring their own pieces. At one table, the two men sat.

It was such fine weather—bright sunshine, clean-smelling air, sounds of breezes ruffling the nearby trees—that many people were in the park, playing checkers or chess or backgammon, jogging, or just sitting. Something about these two men was different.

After maybe ten minutes of watching, I noticed one thing. They were not playing chess at all. My chess is beginner-level at best, but I know how the pieces move. The men concentrated, exchanged a few words between moves, sometimes took a piece from the board, but their moves were random.

I thought they were just too senile to know what they were doing, so I hesitated to move closer. Finally, I did anyway. Within earshot, I discovered that, if their moves were random, their words were clear and focused.

The first ones I made out plainly were, “The doors into the movie theater were directly under the screen.” The speaker moved one of his bishops, not, as always in chess, along a diagonal.

The other man responded, “The Florey Theater, named for an early real estate developer.” He took one of his knights, not in the path of the bishop, from the board and set it aside. “Good one.”

Errant-bishop smiled. After a minute’s thought, One-knight ventured, “Free parking lot off a one-lane, one-way street that nobody knew about.” Less than confidently, he pushed a pawn forward.

What is going on? Read the whole thing at Fabula Argentea.

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