Knight and Bishop

by dschapman

A strong man with soft, pale hands taught me how to play the game of chess when I was a very young boy. He took me aside and he said to me, “I would like to teach you how to play chess.” We played and he beat me. I liked the game very much. I tried to beat him and I could not. He stopped coming. He wore blue sweaters and had blue collared shirts and was a healthy, capable human being in the nation-state of Massachusetts.

In a warehouse I stood licking a statue, in the back of the barn I humped the plastic mannequin, sliding my hand down her legs. Years later I returned to the spot and I planted a herm of Aphroditus, the celebrated Athenian transvestite. “Don’t look at the word ‘transvestite,'” I cautioned. “It is not the word you’re meant to hear.”

I filled the front yard with little herms and other monuments. I announced at a town meeting that I intended to join civilization as a mound builder, and I would start with a mound. They approved of my decision and I worked hard, almost obsessively, at clearing the trees from an empty lot and building, bucket by bucket, a terraced mound of extraordinary height and width.

Two hundred clay sculptures of modern treasures like computer monitors, telephones, and a businessman were molded and cast and then ceremoniously destroyed and buried into the mound. I coded a simply video game involving the working man’s morning routine and then buried the code on a burned-up hard drive. “This is how future civilizations were study us,” I said, “By the mounds we have built, and the things we have left behind. It is all ritual and ceremony, there isn’t a point to it. We’ve all re-converted to Judaism. The Olmec have inherited the earth.”

It was a white man, that’s who it was. A white man who taught me how to play chess. A white man wearing blue. Blue is a depressing color. He wore light blue, like a sky, full of tapered sails and trailing clouds. “What is a white man doing here,” I wondered, spinning helplessly through the rotations and revolutions of the planet. “What are all these white people doing here, in the northern wilderness, surrounded by walls? Walls. Walls.” I sat it slowly. “Walls.” Between two walls they call it, “inside.” I do not believe in inside. I have never been outside. I am in the wilderness, without a window, without a sky.

Herms are apotropaic, which means they keep the evil out. They build walls. But Alcibiades, the trigger-fingers, defaced them, and now he’s in Shoshone country.

 

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