To Win a War

The battle waged on, hot, intense, and, for the most part, silent. Slim hung over the back of a chair at the table watching intently, anxiously as the tide swung first one way and the other before him.

"Check," Andy said carefully, placing his knight one-two-and-over spaces from Jess' king. Jess' eyes narrowed, calculating his chances, his risks, and took the carved horse with his queen. Andy moved a pawn forward; Jess went to meet it with one of his own. Slim saw through his brother's scheme in a flash.

"Why," he mused silently, "Could you always figger out the other feller's plan so easily when you were just watchin'?"

Andy had brought the chess pieces home with him on his visit from school in St. Louis and since his arrival had proceeded to trounce the daylights out of his brother and friend. Slim had lost two games to him already that evening, and now Jess was taking his turn.

Andy had drawn out Jess' knight and bishop, and now was baiting a trap for his rook in an attempt to lay open the cowboy's king while Jess' queen sidled to a position on a diagonal of Andy's right hand rook.

Slim glanced at Jess, the younger man's eyes intently focused on the board before him. "Did he see the trap?" he wondered.

Out came Jess' rook to take the boy's bishop, and was in turn taken by a pawn. Slim winced. Andy was getting ready for a victorious "check-mate" a look of triumph not quite hidden in his sparkling eyes. Jess glanced up, catching the look, glad for his own sake that Andy had never learned to keep a poker face. Andy's rook advanced to the last pawn before his victory, took it, and then the boy watched in disbelief as Jess' queen flew across the board on the opposite side, taking out Andy's unmoved castle and trapping the king.

"Check-mate!" Jess said, very well satisfied.

Slim grinned and clapped his partner on the shoulder. "Good job, Jess!"

Andy was still studying the board, his face a mask of wonder and dismay. "Oh," he said at last, "I didn't see that." He was referring to the empty corridor down which the queen had traveled, and to the unhelpful bank of pawn that had quite aptly protected his king from a frontal assault while also blocking his only means of escape. "Hey, Slim…" he added, looking up hopefully.

"Not again! At least, not tonight. It's bedtime."

"Aww, Slim."

"Aww, nothin', Andy," Jess said, ruffling the boy's hair. "Ya can beat Slim tomorrow."

"Oh, no. Tomorrow it's my turn to win," Slim grinned, putting his arm around his younger brother's shoulder.

"Wanna bet?" Andy twinkled.

"I better," Slim teased, "Or you'll be splitting extra kindlin' fer the next week!"