Convos with Chris in the morning can be like this:
“Are you a better man today, Chris?” I ask Chris, which is our way of greeting.
“You know it, Thom.” And I get my ginger ale, and because the store is empty, we talk while leaning elbows over the counter.
“Whatcha doing this weekend?” Chris asks.
“Got some writing to do. Isaac Asimov was asked if the world were to end today, what he’d do,” and I pop the tab to the Bundaberg.
“Know what he said, Chris?”
“He said: I’d type faster.”
Chris leans back and laughs: “Got a question for you” and points. “You’re always walking and thinking,” and he gestures in a circle, “Is this, like, predetermined what you write? Like, do you figure it out, then put it on paper?”
“A little bit. I get a sentence or two, and then,” I make a swooping gesture, “It’s flow. Taking the walks is readying the flow.” There are a thousand bottles behind Chris on the shelf; I haven’t bought any.
“If I knew Braille, Chris,” I say, “I’d write with my eyes closed.”
Chris has hands that are hidden in his sleeves, but suddenly they’re out.
“Thom, it’s like video games, like, the reality ones where you have to think and build and it’s on the fly. I’ve always got a PLAN,” he emphasizes, “But there’s a point you gotta think or act on instinct or something.”
“Do you play chess?”
“Me and my brother Sly play,” and Sly is the reticent son who mans the shop in the evening, hair knotted behind his head, never a forthcoming word.
“Chess is big at our house,” Chris continues, “And Sly once set up a chess board in the house and said: one move a day. He and my Dad play all the time.”
“One move a day? I like that.”
“Yeah—he’s like a mathematical genius. He said, ‘Let’s slow our play.’”
And I snap my fingers, and swig my ginger—“That’s a brilliant idea, Chris.” And for two seconds I think.
“I’m gonna do that with my Kid. He’s already beating me at cards. I can’t take the humiliation.”
“But slo-chess…I like it. What’s your favorite piece?”
“Oh—the knight. I like the ‘L’s. My dad calls the bishop ‘The Minister.’ What’s yours?”
My eyes do a chessboard, and I think to all the little men moving their moves.
“The Minister,” I say, “Like what your Dad calls him.”
Because moving fast and moving slow requires the middle, which is, as the Bishop goes, diagonal.
Chris and I knuck; at home, I set up a chessboard, magnetic, one that I inherited from my Grandpa, the pieces clicking into their starting points. Click, click.
“Cayde: I’ve got a new game.”