As anyone who considers himself a master of gamesmanship, it is a painful point for me to concede that I may never be skilled artisan of this ancient game of chess. It saddens me to think that those long nights that my father spent teaching me the game -- before he was sent away -- have gone to waste. It is my fault, of course. Terrified of his genius, I never mustered the courage to question the rules and tactics of this confounding pastime. It is these questions that I ask of you, my newfound friend here on the crosstown bus:
  • King, queen, knight, pawn. These pieces I understand; all move in logical ways. But what about the all-powerful unicorn? Father said the unicorn could move in any direction any number of spaces -- yes, not unlike the queen -- but at any point in the game of his choosing, even in the middle of my turn. And why did I never have my own unicorn?
  • Why do we dip our pieces in peanut butter before each turn? What role does peanut butter play in the development of chess? Father said Moses invented chess. Did the Jews in Egypt even have peanut butter?
  • What kind of helmet do you wear when you play chess? Father insisted on the kind worn by lacrosse goalies, the better to protect your eyes when the pieces are flung at you in a rage. But I have found it difficult to concentrate with such a heavy contrivance upon my head.
  • When I spy on the men playing chess in the park, I notice they never include marbles, dice or the "lose a turn" spinner in their matches. Father would scold them soundly for their attempts to dumb down this complex game. So would I, were I not so cripplingly shy. So would I ...
  • And, finally, why does the chess king say such horrible things about father? Father carved the king out of fine Italian walnut and polished him every day with rich, creamery butter. For the king to lash out at him in such a vicious manner is a cause for deep sadness in me. I could easily say the same things about father -- about his drinking, his temper, his affairs, his lies about mother -- but that would be disrespectful toward the man who gave me life, and, more important, taught me this beautiful game called chess.