1. The Man There’s a little village up north, yet untouched by modern strains, Where plain folk in stilted thatched huts, lived midst fields of yellow grains, Now the best known of this poor lot was an aged but gentle souse, Who was hired to tend the five rooms of the school’s unpainted house. He was scraggly, grimed, unshaven, but he had this bristly charm, And there’s only few that knew it, he once owned a thriving farm, From his daily grind he’d get off and retire to his rick’ty bench, Where he’d take to bottled rummy for a needed late hour quench. By his bench there was a wood slat, he had etched on it a chessboard, By his side there lay a brown box where his rough-hewn pawns were stored, He would then call in the young ones, play a game or two with them, And he’d also play their elders, come up with some classic gem. 2. The Challenge This old chesser placed his chips on one achievement in his life, T’aint because he never mated, though he nearly took a wife, 'Twas that he was never mated in his years of playing chess, And those years were more than fifty, which he lived through strain and stress. Then one day into the village rode a well groomed, well-oiled man, Hailed no doubt from near the city ‘coz of how he waved a fan, Seemed he heard about the geezer being touted far and wide, And he now was set and willing to upend the village pride. “Let me boost the pot,” he told them, “with this bit you won’t regret, Give your town a big advantage that not everyone can get, My clear win against this old man and your town shall fete my fame, Otherwise, a school donation shall be placed in his good name.” 3. The Play Soon as not the issues were joined, 'twas agreed, the game was on, Crowds of gawkers felt no respite as they played from dusk till dawn, Beads of sweat began to dribble down the forehead of the dude, Couldn’t bear his adversary ne’er once saw a Rubik’s cube! Then, it came to him in mid game, spied a breach in his foe’s theme, Paused a bit but spared no moment setting up a clever scheme, Down by two pawns and a king’s rook, still he dared a queen’s gambit, Thought this was a goldarn good move well beyond his foe’s ambit. Felt the hick would surely bite it, he would greedily take the bait, Then in grief he’d knock his king down to concede the ensuing mate, But just when the old coot perked up, poised to make the fatal capture, His tired BP zoomed up sky-high, caused his arteries to rupture! 4. The Aftermath He swayed wildly on his two legs, stood as though he was still able, Then he swooned and came down stone dead, crashed atop the make-shift table, Shattered bits and pieces flew by, kings and queens fell to the ground, Screams and shouts befouled the night air, sowed confusion all around. At the risk of condemnation that I’m such a spoil sport, I can see I’ve gone on too long, I must cut my story short, Still if you had paid attention to the buzz of years before, You’d have heard this same old story above the sound of someone’s snore. But the final word’s our schoolyard, where a bust sits, dedicated To the one who, till he left us, played good chess, was never mated, At the back are four new schoolrooms paid by him whose name’s now moot, Though we heard he once was chess champ, had a Ph.D. to boot. Don M. Ferry is a poet living in the Philippines. Featured Images: “Hereford Chess Club” by Thomas Leeming.