Our car died at the very end of last year, and since then we have been “car free”. This is the official term. It’s not “carless”. Because we’re not any less without a car. Rather, we’re FREE. This is what all car free people keep telling themselves…

So. We bought a bike. And a trailer. And Friday night decided to test out our new mode of transportation. Friday night is Chess Club. My husband has been going to it for some time now, and has brought me and the kids along on several occasions to show us what goes on. But during those earlier expeditions I didn’t get in on any action, unless you call playing hide and seek for two hours with two hyper munchkins “action”. This time it was different because his sole intent for taking us there was to let me play (by watching Leo) in the tournament, and to observe me get creamed by ten-year-olds.

By the time we got ready to go it was dark. Leo giddily got his helmet on, climbed into the trailer and put his seat belt on. I put on Mitya’s helmet, walked the bike-trailer contraption out to the roadside, and mounted. Mitya jogged along in front. Thus we rode/pedaled/ran most of the way to Chess Club, a good two miles away. I couldn’t help smiling most of the way, thinking of how we must look, seeing the shadow of Leo’s trailer sneak up behind me, then pass away as we rode past each lamp post. I sort of felt like a circus bear. This made me smile too.

When we finally got there, others were already gathering, but we were not late. I couldn’t help but notice: there were little kids, youth, adults, even some elderly. They were all men. Little men, big men. And several Moms, bringing their sons to the tournament, some facilitating. None participating. I wonder why that is. I also wonder why a girl participating in this “man’s sport” would be considered “cool”, whereas if a guy came to a scrap-booking party, that would be “weird” at best…

Anyway, I was there. And I guess I was a “Mom”, but also a “girl” and also, participating. And that WAS cool.

We played four games, with clocks, twelve minutes each. I had never played with a clock before, so that was a little different. In the end, I won one game, lost two, and had a draw. The draw could have been a win, one of the losses – a draw. But they were distracting me! Like, we’re playing, and my opponent, a 14-year old guy with a blinking tick, says:

– If you don’t mind me asking, what religion are you?
– Christian.
– Really?! Me too!
– [silence]
– If you don’t mind me asking, what denomination?
– Well, we’ve been going to a Methodist church down the street, but I don’t think it matters all that much…
– Yeah, I don’t either. I’m Catholic. I just don’t understand, why are all the denominations fighting all the time with each other. It’s not good. I just tell them, “Guys. Take a break”.
– It just makes us all look bad when we argue about nonsense.
– Exactly. That’s what I think too! It’s no good arguing about that stuff. I just say, “Guys. Take a break, ok?” Because if…you’re in check, by the way. Two ways!..because if you believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, that’s all that matters. You’re going to heaven…Oh NO! I can’t believe this! (At this point I had taken his rook, which he didn’t see coming.)

That was the draw. Then I played with this other kid, maybe he was ten or eleven. SO funny. Right at the opening of the game he announced that he was going to stare down my pawn until it died. And stare he did. He also moved his pieces at incredible speed, which was quite intimidating. At one point I tried to intimidate him by putting my queen right next to his. Nobody wanted an exchange, so they just stood there.

– Hey look! They’re standing right next to each other! But nobody’s taking anyone!
– Well, they’re negotiating.
– Why?
– Violence is not the answer. This is the twenty first century, man. War is out, diplomacy is in.
– If violence is not the answer, what’s the question?
– Whatever the question, you’re not going to solve it with violence…

We continued playing, his position getting progressively better, mine progressively worse, when another kid came up to our neighbor, the Catholic fellow whom I had just played, and announced,

Arm. kid: Armageddon is going to happen a month early.
Catholic dude: What are you talking about? Nobody knows when the end will come except God alone.
Arm. kid: I’m not saying I know when it’s going to come. I’m just saying it’s going to be a month earlier than it’s supposed to be. It will be raining.
Catholic dude: We’re living in the end times right now, but nobody will know when Armageddon will happen…
Arm. kid: But…
My ten-year-old opponent: Hey, do you ever think that maybe it’s not always a good idea to talk about religion?

All this while I am desperately trying not to get creamed by a ten-year-old. Oh, and there was this precious dialogue before the tournament began:

(Two kids at a chess board, one is retelling how a game went which he played with a Grand Master)
Kid One: First I did this. (moves). Then he did this. Then I did this. Then he..well, he did this!
Kid two: Really?
Kid one: Yeah. Then I did this. Then he did this. Then I did this. Then he did this. Then I…I did THIS!
(Both start giggling uncontrollably)
Kid one: And he did…THIS. And I did this, and so he had to do this.
He stands triumphant, watching the other kid still laughing at the joke that is apparently theirs alone.

Considering what other ten-year-olds talk about, they could do worse.