Week #20 – Rivals

Terrin’s Planet by Terrin Munawet

The Peoria Gambit by Martin Brick

“Your friend Cody is nice,” mom said, making obligatory communication. I rolled my eyes.

“Well, we had a nice conversation.”

“You and Cody?”

“He’s the kid with the chess kit?”

“Yeah.”

“We talked at the park. While I waited for your soccer game to end.”

“He’s not really my friend. He’s … kinda annoying.”

“Don’t you guys go to chess club together? You’ve been to his house.”

“We hang out, but he annoys me. He thinks he is SO good at chess. That’s all he talks about.”

Mom paused. “He thinks he’s good?”

“Like Bobby Fischer’s second coming.”

“Is he really good just thinks he is?”

Pre-teen’s worst dilemma – admitting your rival’s aptitude. “He usually beats me,” I said sheepishly. “Sometimes he attempts a strategy he read about in a book. Then I might win.”

“Hmm.”

“What?”

“We played in the park. And I won. He didn’t seem that good.”

Occasionally mom indulges me with a game. She’s never won. Although sometimes I lighten up, give her a fighting chance.

“What was his opening move?”

“He jumped over the pawns and brought out a horse.”

“A knight? Aggressive move.”

“Maybe that was his problem. Trying too hard.”

I looked over her way to stage my disbelief face. Then I noticed her summer top. A lacy edge of bra showed through. Her face looked really clean, smoother than the faces of most other moms.

The next day I said, “Hey Cody, knight to king’s bishop three,” and punched his face.

 
A Scattering of Rivals by Beate Sigriddaughter

Peace isn’t easy. Especially in fall when red leaves float down.

My first rival was my father, by far the favorite child in the family. The rest of us were easily eclipsed by his colorful tantrums. At breakfast over honey rolls, mother explained she had deliberately chosen him. We were more accidental.

I couldn’t wait to grow up. I planned to go to the ends of the earth to avoid rejection.

I had a date for the prom in February. In April he fell head over heels for Nola, lead actress in the senior musical.

“I’ll still go to the prom with you,” he nobly offered.

“No thanks,” I said and imagined them dancing.

My best friend with Joan of Arc hair and violet eyes was summoned to bed by the man I wanted as we were sitting at the foot of the stairs, talking of immortality and oranges and a certain fairytale fox. They left me with moonlight and Green Chartreuse.

A husband left for a long-legged creature on the brink of first bloom.

An old lover’s new love already swept his front porch as I walked by.

My favorite T-shirt is yellow and tattered: a wanderer, a woman, walks on a mountain bridge. I dream of the inside of gold lit windows I sometimes see at dusk.

I have come full circle. I am grown up now. My young son is already more important. Earth has no end.

 
Mr. & Mrs. Pete by Susan Tepper

Mr. Pete is cleaning the knife with some kind of strong chemical. You don’t want your meat sliced with this stink on the blade. Yet how can you tell him so without aggravating him? Recently his wife died and Mr. Pete has been near semi-hysterical though it isn’t obvious. Not to the world at large. But you’ve known Mr. Pete since you were a little girl and he never before had a red face that looked combustible. You want to tell Mr. Pete that it’s OK to cry over Mrs. Pete. Her real name was Helga, but you always called them Mr. and Mrs. Pete. A leftover from childhood, and they liked it. When your dad was out of work that long time, Mrs. Pete would sneak an extra chop into the brown paper. Or Mr. Pete would sneak a few extra chicken pieces. Both thought they were sneaking from the other. You were little and could hardly reach past the counter but you saw, and your mother used to get teary when she’d open the meat and see the extras in there. Now Mrs. Pete is gone and he is alone with the knives and no one to sneak from.

 
Rivals by Matthew A. Hamilton

The mongoose sniffs the breeze, listens to the mass of slithering poison in the sugarcane. Evolution has taught her patience. She stands, unmoved for centuries, the art of killing heavy within her almond colored eyes.

 
Red Card by Doug Bond

Tim leaned hard with one hand on the patio table and poked the index finger of his other into a spreading waste of watermelon juice and vodka. His wife had gone in again for another recon on the stunning details of the remodel.

From where Tim stood he felt he’d already seen plenty. Grand Bay windows, period trim and wainscoting, cobblestone drive, and the peach and coral Italian inlay framing the scallop pool. That Jake Shaver, man, he really has done well for himself.

The kids, twins and just in preschool, along with Jake’s two older boys up for the weekend, were in and out of the pool and playing badminton and soccer on the well cut grass. A ball came hopping towards Tim’s feet prompting the one time high school soccer star into a little stutter step, for a perfect half volley.

The plant foot slipped causing Tim to chop the ball so far off line it toppled not only the Weber and the porterhouse beauties awaiting inside, but then rebounded up onto the deck table into the assorted liquors felling them like a game of childhood dominoes. Tim’s kids screamed and then fell in with Jake’s teens, laughing hysterically. In time, the ruckus rousted pressed faces to the window upstairs.

“Unlucky!” yelled Tim at himself as he folded over in a futile restoration by the grill, his bald head pinking from the sun.

“I think that man deserves a red card,” said Jake, nonchalantly zipping up his fly.

 
4P28 by Kim Hutchinson

He’d kept the parking space open. She used it most often, whenever she and her husband, an old drinking buddy, came to visit.

When he saw her that day, he knew. Her hipbones were fins on a ’58 Caddy, her eyes death black. He was shocked, but not surprised. Her husband had always mistreated women. A soldier’s daughter, she had carried on.

Had he known, he might have killed.

He’d been captured somehow the first time he met her. That first night, he’d watched her undress, her image unknowingly reflected in a window.

Over the years, they had become good friends. She trusted him. That day, all she wanted was to park her car and run to a distant city.

Suddenly a lieutenant again, he did the right thing. He stopped her.

At first, she wanted to run from everything, from protection, even love. He stood guard, held her hand as she stood, taking baby steps towards living again.

One evening, he kissed her. She kissed back tenderly, piercing his armoured heart.

He swallowed his fear. For months, every time she left, he worried she wouldn’t return.

He’d lived through the Tet unarmed; he would survive this. The years past had been the quiet before the battle, a long, restless wait, for what he had not known.

Now, she laughs again. He loves the sound. Just to touch her gives him joy. He walks home more quickly at night.

She comes to him.

 

Back to Wk #19 – The last time

Forward to Wk #21 – Unseen


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