I started writing this idea I had for a novel, and I just came up with this.
After long contemplation, he finally laid down his knight, a position in threat of my bishop, one pawn, and a rook. If he takes the bishop, my pawn takes him. The pawn, my rook, the rook, my queen. But no, he’d find a way. He’s beaten me every time we’ve played, either through anticipation of my next move, or through sheer genius. The man lifted the scotch to his mouth, sipping smoothly and delicately, exchanging the glass for his cigarette. I watch him, admiring not the habit, but his form and style. After a long drag, he set it back down and looked up at me.
“Don’t rush it.” He told me, as I began touching every piece, worried about him losing his patience.
“I don’t know where to go.” I replied, discouraged.
“Sometimes, there’s no where good to go at first.” He said.
“Then what’s the point?” I asked.
“Sometimes, sacrifice is necessary for the greater good.”
“Sacrifice?” I wasn’t sure of the term.
“It means to give up something you want, for a better outcome for everything else.” He told me, his lesson.
“But there’s too many. Which one should I sacreefice?”
“You need to think ahead, anticipate.” He paused his lesson for another drag of his cigarette.
“anti, cipi pate?” I asked again. Why such big words?
“anti-ci-pate.” He said, correcting me. “It means to look at what’s ahead of you, what could come where.”
“But how do I know what to anti-ci-pate?” I asked.
“Practice, mostly. But sometimes you won’t.” he said.
“What then?” I asked him. He laughed a bit, doing his sip and drag routine again, taking no hesitant second to collect his words.
“Then, Benjamin, you always go with what seems Good. What you think is Right.”
“Okay.” I looked back down. My rook was a good piece, same with my bishop. But he why would he take them, I’d take him? He wouldn’t let his knight be taken by a pawn, that would be disgraceful. The queen, an honor. But my father was unpredictable, I think. Either I was too young to catch his method, or too naïve of the game. Regardless I was lost. I looked back up at him, he was smiling at me. Why did he think it was so funny?
“What’s Good?” he asked me.
“I don’t know.” I replied.
“What’s right in your head.”
“Saving my rook.”
“Because, it’s good.” He laughed at that.
“What?” I asked him, annoyed.
“They’re all good, Benjamin. Their value is different, but they all have it.”
“What would you do?” I asked him.
“Use my head, anticipate that option, decide then.”
“But what about right now!”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“Because then you’d never learn for yourself.”
“Errr.” I moved my rook five paces forward, taking his bishop. I smiled. I was happy with that, it felt right. His pawns sat in front and to my right, but not diagonally. I was safe. He put his hand to the same knight, moved it backwards, and took my rook where it sat. I screwed up. I didn’t see that move on the board, the possibility. I looked back up at him, him examining me.
“See, I sucked anyway.” I complained to him.
“Why did you make that move?” he asked, genuinely curious, or maybe being mean.
“I don’t know. Felt like it.” I said.
“You felt like it?”
“Yeah, seemed right to do.” He took the last inhale of his cigarette, putting it out gracefully, the ember dying out as he rolled the bud against the glass tray.
“Feelings aren’t enough.” He told me, having more sternness in his voice now.
“I’m sorry.” I said, not knowing what else to say.
“Don’t say your sorry, Benjamin.” He corrected me.
“Feelings come from the heart, from intuition. They’re good intentioned, but can be blind and reckless. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” I replied. I think I did. I don’t think he thought so.
“Making choices on feelings alone is impulsive.”
“What is impulsive?” I asked.
“Doing something without thinking it through. Without any vision of what could happen, of whether it’s good or not.” He said.
“Okay.” I knew what he meant now.
“So my heart is bad, then?” I asked him. His sternness faded, I think the comment humored him.
“No, your heart is not bad, Benjamin.” He said.
“A heart has a lot of good in it. It holds your wants, your needs, all that you crave and desire.”
“Yeah.” I said.
“But, because of that, it can be selfish. It can make you go after all those desires, without any concern for anyone else. That’s why we need our minds.” He sipped his whiskey.
“Your mind is what thinks, evaluates, it gives sense to your heart.”
“Eeevalue-ate?” I asked.
“The same as anticipate.” He told me.
“Okay.” I said. I looked back down at the board, thinking through my next step. So one rook was gone, but I still had the other, by my king. I did a move he taught me called a Castle, where you block in your King with a wall of pawns, with a rook to the left of it, the best fortification. I moved my knight up to an open, unthreatening space, provoking one of his pawns and his king. He looked down at the board, beginning to think through his next move.
“Dad?” I asked him. He looked up at me, one eyebrow raised.
“What is it, Benjamin?” he asked me.
“So what’s better, my mind or my heart?” I asked him. He put his eyes back down to the board, being silent for a minute. Maybe I stumped him, or maybe he was afraid to answer, but he wasn’t as naturally on for an answer as usual. He moved his hand to his chin, scratching the dark beard that curved round his face. He lifted his scotch, circling the glass in his hand, the ice following the momentum of the spin in the gold liquid it floated in. He took another sip and set it down, looking at me.
“There’s no better. They both have value.” He told me.
“Which has more?” I asked him.
“The mind.” He shot back quick. Maybe he wasn’t stumped as I thought.
“Why?” I asked him. He snickered to himself.
“Because, without it, you’re no less impulsive than an animal.” He told me