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Exclusive Writing Challenge; DeusEx Vs. Intrepid

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posted on Jan, 3 2006 @ 03:33 AM
I know, I know...already? I'm having a stroke of brilliance, tonight, I think. Anyways, I grew up in Montreal, on chess and the Illiad. Not so much a fable as a parable...


Montreal, a sunny day in June. Westmount Park is filled with the screams of joyful children. The big oaks cast shadows across the swings and playground. Parents watched and chatted amongst themselves. A dog lapped water from the pond as a a few of the more carefree teenagers waded through it, jeans rolled up to their knees. A father and son sat at a table, playing chess despite the noise.

The father stretched as he settled in, looking over the perfectly aligned plastic pieces. His were black. The son looked up at him, eager. Chess with his father was a rare treat. The father nodded.

"You may begin, Mordecai."

The boy smiled widely, moving a pawn towards the center of the board. The father countered easily, the black knight hoping the line of pawns. The click of the piece hitting the board was lost among the screams of happy children.

"Your moves are predictable, Papa. You always open like that."

"And you lack patience, my son. The game has just begun, and you call me predictable. Do you remember the name of this opening?"

"Alekhine's Defence, Papa."

"Good boy."

The son advanced his knight, then patiently waited as his father considered his next move.

"Protecting your pawn?"

"Protect your pawns, and they'll protect you."

The game played out solidly. The father was aggressive, as the son strove to protect his pieces, always a little ahead.They traded bishops, pawns. The son was abnormally conservative, the father almost reckless. Eventually, the odds began to tip in the son's favor.

"You castled. Learned from the last game?"

"Yes, Papa, have you?"

The game continued, until half the pieces from each side were gone. The father's turns became longer and longer. He lost more and more pieces. Finally, it came to the point where the son could take his father's queen, and the father could do nothing to prevent it.

The boy's hand reached for the rook threatening it. His father held up a hand.

"Mordecai, stop and think."

The boy frowned up at his father. He was only ten, but he knew how to play chess.

"You fell into my trap, Papa. My rook moves to H7 and takes your queen."

He moved the pieces. He grinned and held up the black queen for his father to see.

"See? And my rook is protected by my bishop, so you can't take it."

The father's head shook, a dark silhouette against the bright Montreal sky. A great gusting sigh rushed across the chessboard at the young boy. He was confused, was his father disappointed? He had captured the queen, surely a good thing. There was a trickle of fear in him now as the seconds stretched by.

"No, son. Shahmat."

The boy looked across the granite board. Sure enough, checkmate. A knight had slunk across the board, pinning his king in place behind its wall of pawns. The sole escape was blocked by the father's bishop, fianchettoed unnoticed in a corner.

"But...that's not how you play! You protect your queen, it's your best piece!"he exclaimed, dismayed and confused. The father smiled.

"Your best piece, but not your most important piece. The point of the game is to capture the king. The king is the lifeblood of the board."

"Yes, Papa, I know. But why let your queen be captured to do it?"

"Chess is like the game of life. Sometimes, my son, in both you must sacrifice something dear in order to win the game. Do not think that by shielding something you are protecting it."


posted on Jan, 9 2006 @ 05:28 PM
Jean was walking along the fairgrounds taking in the children laughter and the screams of those on the rides. She was nibbling on a caramel apple trying to keep the light fall breeze from getting her auburn hair stuck to it. Not a typical Friday night but she had to get out. She hadn’t had a date in months. Not that she hadn’t been asked but after a failed marriage and relationships too numerous to mention she just wasn’t up for the Dating Game. She feared that she was turning into her mother, who likewise was disaster on the relationship front. Her father Gene Harmon, after whom she was named, had left them when she was three, or so Mom had said and hadn’t seen him since. Subsequent fathers came and went.

She walked past a ring toss game where a young man was trying desperately to win a prize, probably a stuffed animal for his girl. The girl was jumping up and down in anticipation. Young love. Jean smiled wanly. Those days were far behind her. She would loved to have had any relationship that would work but found that she invariably sabotaged them. Feeling antsy, unfulfilled, even with the nicest, most caring of them. She didn’t know why, there was something that was missing, something that couldn’t be filled.

The fall light was ebbing and the carnival lights were taking over, illuminating the grounds with their flashing brilliance, calliope music ringing out loudly. She passed a dimly lit tent, incense wafting out of the small opening. Madame Lucine was painted on the tent red calligraphy. Her curiosity piqued she lifted the flap and entered the tent. Madame Lucine was an elderly lady, sitting behind a folding card table, wearing a farcical muumuu. Her wrinkled face was mischievous but not unkind.

“What can I do for you, my dear?” said Lucine.

“I’m not sure, just wondering what it is...”

“You are looking for love, my dear. I am here to help you find it. Please sit down.” The older woman motioned to the chair in front of younger one. Jean pondered this for a moment, This old lady it probably a charlatan. Something about the look in the Madam’s eye prompted Jean to take the seat though.

Lucine reached down and lifted a box to the table and opened it. She took another look at the younger woman and nodded. “For you, the crystal ball”, she said. Removing the sphere from the box, she placed it on the table and put the box on the ground.

“Before we continue dear, would you weigh my hand with $20?” She stretched out her withered hand.

I knew it thought Jean. She looked into the old woman’s eyes once more and saw that there was something of other intelligence there and reached into her pocket for the funds. She placed a 10 and two 5 dollar notes in Lucine’s hand, who then put them in the box and closed it.

The old woman leaned in close to the ball and looked into it intensely.

“You have been looking a long time dear but you do not know what it is you are seeking”, she continued, “What you seek you may find tonight. The love you are looking for will be found in an older man. The choice is up to you. You will either find it or you will remain unfulfilled.”

The old woman looked up at Jean, there was compassion in her eyes, “I wish you well dear, follow your heart and make the right choice.”

Jean was perplexed, That’s it? She stood up and left the tent. Night was in full swing. There were few children about now and more couples. She was to meet an older man that she would love? OK, what older man? She saw a few here and there in the crowd. She shook her head, passing this off as wishful thinking. It was an interesting way to part with $20 though, Jean thought.

The night was turning chilly and Jean decided to call it a day. She left the grounds on her way home. It wasn’t far, 15 minutes at a mild pace. She walked passed the Starbucks and wondered if an evening latte was in order. She decided against it and continued on the intersection. As she approached it a large man came from around the corner and knocked her down, HARD.

“Are you OK little lady?” he said, reaching down and helping her up with rough hands. He was well into his 60's, with close cropped white hair, cut flat on the top. Jean had a feeling about this man. His words moved her.

“I’m alright”, she said, noticing a strong smell of alcohol on him.

“I’m terribly sorry”, the older man said, “Can I buy you a coffee?”

Jean was reminded of the old woman’s words, “What you seek you may find tonight. The love you are looking for will be found in an older man.” This was the man? She could hardly believe that she could find love here. He was much older and obviously a drinking man. He did move her though.

“No, thank you”, Jean said. He patted her on the head.

“Good night then, little lady”, he said and continued on the way the she had just come.

Again Jean was moved by his words, they was right but it seemed all wrong. She watched him walk away, wondering if she go after him. She decided against it and continued on home.

Jean was preparing herself for bed, reflecting on the evening and still disturbed by the words of Madame Lucine and her encounter with the older man. She didn’t know what it was, she was missing something. With these thoughts in her mind she went to bed. It was a restless night.

The toast popped and Jean buttered it. She poured herself a coffee and went to the table and put both on it. She went to the door and opened it, reached down and picked up the weekend edition of the Sentinel. She returned to the table, sat down, took a sip of coffee, opened the paper and reached for her toast. Her hand never made it to the plate. The article wasn’t a headline but it was on the front page. Here was a picture of the man that had knocked her down last night, the title of the article was, Sailor Slain in Botched Mugging. She read the piece. “Bosuns Mate Gene Harmon of the Persephone was slain in a failed robbery last night......”

The words of the old woman came back to her as tears streamed down her face, “You have been looking a long time dear but you do not know what it is you are seeking.” And, “I wish you well dear, follow your heart and make the right choice.” This is what she was missing the night before, it wasn’t the love of a man that was missing in her life, it was the love of a father. She hadn’t followed her heart. She was glad that she had seen him one last time but it could have been much more. From this time on she would follow her heart.

posted on Jan, 9 2006 @ 05:40 PM
Wow DE, helluva piece. Easily rereadable. Nice work.

posted on Jan, 9 2006 @ 06:03 PM
Thanks, Intrepid. Yours is pretty amazing too...very descriptive. reminds me of La Ronde at night.

Judges, go to and confound us our language.


posted on Jan, 23 2006 @ 07:28 PM
A good story, intrepid.

As the reader, I was able to follow her, not only physically, but her thinking as well. Within the first couple of lines, I learned of Jean's past and the father she never knew. That grabbed me, because I myself have never met my father...he is only a conception wrought from the sparingly few comments I have been afforded by family members (mother's side). What I do know is that he, a Canadian Army Major from Winnipeg, met my young mother in war-torn Holland early in 1946. I have a name and a face from a photo...that's it. So you can imagine my interest.

Jean and I have something in common.

That said, the story quickly ran from the Mystical Lucine to the chance encounter with her father. Jean's disappointment at the lost opportunity after reading the Sentinal story was quite poignant and a sad note to end on. The lesson I took from the story was that one should follow their heart. Jean should have taken up the offer of the coffee. Had old Gene sat down and learned her name and she his, a very dynamic situation could have developed at Starbucks.

I'm almost sorry that turn of events wasn't explored...but,'s your story and an enjoyable read at that.

The best paragraph, in my humble opinion, was the second, where Jean watches a young couple in love and then reflects on her own abilities in relationships, or moreso the lack thereof. I learned who Jean was in those few sentences and the story lent itself well to that paragraph as the tale was told.

Now, to the critique...

There were a number of errors in grammar which made it more difficult to read. The first line was marred by "taking in the children laughter" and that just makes the reader stumble. I counted about a half dozen similar mistakes and that's too bad because the story really is very good.
There were a few sentences which weren't really sentences...for instance: "Feeling antsy, unfulfilled, even with the nicest, most caring of them." This would never make sense by itself and desperately needs a "She Was" at the start.

Don't let this harsh criticism bother you, have the ability to tell a story. The descriptive quality is very good and the reader is easily transported through the fairgrounds and the landscape of Jean's mind.

All this really needed was a good cleanup for grammer. The story stands above those small mistakes. You could have easily make this into a much longer story and that says a lot about the content that is in there.

A touching tale with a good message. I felt the events were pushed a bit, like you wanted to tell it all in a rush, but as a reader, I was left wanting to know more. I'm willing to bet you could write chapters and chapters between the paragraphs you gave us.

I wonder if I'll ever bump into my father...he'd be in his nineties by now, though...

.edit for grammar and spelling

[edit on 23-1-2006 by masqua]

posted on Jan, 23 2006 @ 08:31 PM
A very tight short story, DeusEx...expertly presented. The play by play on the chessboard reflects reality in so many ways, doesn't it? The thoughtful moves by the young lad and the seemingly reckless but careful defence by the elder speaks volumes about the way of things.

It reminded me of that oft told joke about the old bull and the young bull looking down from a hilltop and into a valley full of grazing cows. The younger wants to rush down and copulate with one, the elder would rather walk down and copulate with them all.

Moral of the story?...think things through before acting.

I'm glad you set the scene first, though...Montreal in early summer, a park and children, oaks and dogs...these were very important. Doubly important since your concentration went from place, time and location to primarily the game, using excellently formed conversation and thoughts while quickly moving through the gameplay and then on to providing the moral.

As for critique, I found only one mistake...I prefer to think the black knight was hopping, not "hoping". It's a small mistake, but it does make me misstep early into the story.

Another criticism would be the terms used; Alekhine's Defence and Shamat would only have meaning to those who play...shutting out those readers who don't. It wouldn't have hurt to explain them, perhaps, but it could also confuse some readers even further, knowing chess myself a bit.

Regardless, though, the moral of the story comes through and the purpose of the writing is clarity itself.

Lastly, though, I wanted very much to see the father through your words. I pictured him with a trim little beard and longish peppered hair. (Mordecai Richler style) His hands were strong, yet lean and spotted a bit with age. I saw kind eyes, light blue and slightly watery looking. You could have fleshed this out much more. The same goes for the son...I had more trouble visualizing him at all .

That's it, though...a very nice compact story, well told and carrying a valuable lesson.

It's going to be tough on the judges, trying to ween a winner out of both of your submissions in this contest. You and intrepid were well-matched.

Someday, I hope I have the opportunity to test my mettle against such worthy opponents as yourselves.

posted on Jan, 27 2006 @ 07:12 PM
my my, how I can follow up such excellent critique, thank you Masqua, I agree with your assessment of both stories.

DE, amazing, I just read it again for the 3rd time and it was as enjoyable as the first, definitely one that can become repeatable. The classic game of chess over which many lessons have been learned has a timeless quality to it. As always, your execution of the story, grammar, etc is exceptional.

Intrepid, wow, that one tugged at my heart strings too, it felt very personal, though I know you weren't writing for me, it seems as you were. It was good story and your characterization was very good, but I agree in that grammar being your biggest weakness in the story.

Round Three to DE

DE and Intrepid, I very much enjoyed reading your works. You pushed each other well and I think you were both successful in the different styles of the challenge. I really had fun with this and look forward to bringing in others into the challenge. However I do need help with critiques and while some have stepped to plate, not enough have shown interest in helping me offer you writers the critique you so deserve. But regardless, look for new challenge ...I'll work out the details soon.

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