Theme XII: Belief, “Second Place”

By Hannah Treasure

He was about to be done, finished. The queen inched closer to the king, about to knock his crown right off the rosewood playing field. A clean checkmate. As grandfather pushed her ebony glow closer to victory with a single index finger, he heard a soft stirring of the skies, a small whimper from above. Grandfather’s opponent let out another pathetic sniffle while burning a hole through his white king with his stare, unable to look the approaching queen in the eye. A win on checkered wood meant more to this man than keeping his dignity in that boiling August room for the state championship. The whimper became so piercing that he startled the tears in his eyes to fall from his thick Texan lashes.

A puddle pooled at the queen’s feet as she sighed and spread a grin across her rosy cheeks. How absurd. Did he not know the real battle was dignity? Why must everyone wish to be a king, even if only by title, not blood?

Grandfather glanced at the angrily ticking red timer to his side. The opponent’s tears grew larger and larger and grandfather feared for the gloss of the board’s wood finish. He softly closed his eyes. He thought of watercolor. His gentle paints he let drip behind closed doors. Nothing was for show, it was all just for him, creating gradients and oceans the Mother Nature couldn’t even invent. He would create masterpieces, smile then crumple them into the trash. He lived not to challenge, not to win — just to have purpose. He thought of how beautifully his violin wailed at its peak, how its horsehair cried out with hope of reaching the highest note. Sometimes it made it, sometimes it just sneezed.

How entitled this man must be, he thought, to expect a win. How much he must need it.

The King’s desperation weighed heavy on him, crumpling his sickly white body like a potato sack. The queen slyly shrugged and curtsied. She moved aside the growing lake of man tears to forfeit her checkmate and walk happily from the rosewood, allowing no blood to be shed.

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