Kenneth was never good at the endgame. He'd brokered a strong opening.

Pawns to the front like conscripted Irish brigades. Battles pitched to be lost. The whole left rank of pawns went happy to their gallows, just to change the gravity of the board, to get "out of book", to escape the dead liturgy of anything resembling any game that had already been played. Game was about story, and there was once a time that story ruled game, Kenneth mused, precociously deploying his queen and trading all manner of material for inertia. Check. Game was about story. Everything had once been about story. Before the caliphs banned the representation of people and animals, the smooth wooden abstractions we still dare to call kings and pawns had been such. Faces, they had. And what religion condemned to facelessness, statistics had soon enough come to condemn to soulless ritual. The conventional opening lines were soon derived. E2-E4. The whole god-damned game had come to be a contest about which bespectacled businessman could remember the longest algebraic sequence. E2-E4. C7-C6. A phonebook has more secrets. Revealed check. Knight forks white's rook. "Have you ever played before?" Sarques asked. Like a befuddled monk, struggling to digest the sight of a bare and gleaming savage chest. "No." (The plains indians worked up some hilarious shit to tell Ponce de León.) They say that time passes more slowly when you're new at something. The secret to a long life is to approach what you can with raw consciousness. Once you've figured out the brakes and the turn signals, the whole drive to Austin will be swallowed up in lost time. Did we already pass through Waco? When? Gautama talked about mindfulness only for neutered archons to make recipes for it. Repeat this phrase one-hundred times. I'd smile, too, at that. bB3-a4. Fuck. Check on the long diagonal.

Queen forked Fuckfuckfuck. Sarques was visibly more comfortable now. Kenneth had never been good at endgame. To live as oneself is a solitary venture. Sarques opened with a Fischer line and followed up with variations wrought by Kasparov and Deep Blue. To invent was to rail against the whole cultural memory of the thing, all its prior art, every sage and mathematician who'd tried their hand, as oneself alone. Black chessmen now were lifted from the board at every turn. Check. Check . . . Check.

And I have known the eyes already, known them all-The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase, And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin, When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall, Then how should I begin To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? And how should I presume?

Check. Queen. Fuck. Checkmate in three.

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .

Pinned and wriggling. King to C8. Awaiting the close of the sequence, Kenneth for the first time noticed a black square to his diagonal. The bistro table underneath the

chessboard was checkered black and white. There were still moves yet. An endless territory to explore, where algebraic notation had no reign. KC8-Bistro Table. -"You can't do that." -"People are always telling me that." Sarques laughed sincerely. He'd gotten what he'd come for, and Kenneth had gotten his. -"Then what's the objective of this new game you're playing?",

No answer was forthcoming.

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