Inform and Instruct

Tommy and I have discussed the point of writing, what, if anything, it is supposed to mean, or do. I have been quoting Richard Russo from the preface of “The Best American Short Stories of 2010.” He is a novelist known for “Empire Falls” and “Nobody’s Fool.” I read “Nobody’s Fool” after my wife and I had watched the excellent movie with Paul Newman, Jessica Tandy, Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith. It was the last movie Jessica Tandy made and she was good as was the whole cast. I enjoyed the book when I got to it later, but the movie had some nice things about it as well. I liked them both. I knew Russo’s name from the preface he wrote but had never read anything else he had written until the movie. There was much to like in the novel “Nobody’s Fool.” Offhand I don’t recall any of the stories from that edition of “The Best American Short Stories.” I might if I still had my copy to leaf through, but it went back to the Goodwill. Russo’s preface I remember though, and had thought on now and again through the years.

He told an interesting story about when he was teaching at SIU and they had brought Isaac Bashevis Singer to campus to speak to the English Department. I was on that campus in 1983 for a semester. I probably would have taken a class with Russo had I stuck around but life took me another way. His success came in 1986, so he was still there teaching when I was there. I thought that interesting when I puzzled it out much later. The lecture with Singer, an author I have not read, ended with a Q and A and a graduate student posed a question to Singer about the purpose of literature, and Rosso recounts Singer’s somewhat dogmatic answer was simply to “entertain and instruct.’ I have been quoting that since I read it, though in my head I thought the instruct was about how to live your life and the entertain was the sugar coating on the lesson to make certain parts more palatable.

Years later I said that aloud in Frank Grady’s class and he pointed out that sentiment was from the Roman Poet Horace from 2000 years ago and Singer was only repeating what he had been taught. I had not thought on it too much after I had learned it as it seemed to answer my questions on the subject fine. But in my discussions with Tommy I began to wonder if I felt otherwise than the simple maxim. Part of the reason was the quote I have mentioned in the blog, that I had learned from Tommy, the Ulysses quote about before death something noble could be achieved. Another part was a recent quote from a poem in the Edwin Arlington Robinson poetry collection “Children Of The Night.” (Not about Vampires!) I read that the other evening when something sparked my memory about the poem “Richard Cory” that so many English teachers used last century to teach classical poetry construction and rhyming schemes. 

Robinson wrote in one of his poems, 

“To get at the eternal strength of things, 

and fearlessly to make strong songs of it, 

Is, to my mind, the mission of that man 

the world would call a poet.”

He went on about God a little further on and I would say writer or author instead of poet, but I thought he had something there. I am not convinced of the christian god or even some great spirit behind everything, the universe as a deity, self aware or not. But many times when a writer goes on about the glory of some god or another I find it inspiring if I consider that from my way of understanding things they are speaking of simply being alive. It may be that is what I think the purpose of writing is, to celebrate life. I don’t always know my own mind until I reflect on things a little.

And I will have to think on this. I searched for the Horace quote and found this nugget on Goodreads, 

“The aim of the poet is to inform or delight, or to combine together, in 

what he says, both pleasure and applicability to life. In instructing, be

brief in what you say in order that your readers may grasp it quickly 

and retain it faithfully. Superfluous words simply spill out when the mind

is already full. Fiction invented in order to please should remain close 

to reality.”

So what Russo wrote that Singer paraphrased was just a bit different straight from Horace. These subtle differences may be important. They also may not.

Writing Group again

Mike hurried west into the setting sun, the trees around him bathed in the early evening light, orange and gold before the darker shadows rendered everything a shade of grey. He moved quickly and bursts of anxious energy coursed through him as he tested the air. There came to him the smell of burning, not wood or leaves but sickly artificial plastic, not nature’s burning, but the waste of mankind. It shortened his breath and shut his throat and burned his eyes, tears running down his face. 

To the left and the right of the rough gravel he heard creatures moving, the muted steps skittering in deep leaf mash, but could see nothing through the darkening cover. Away and behind him the sounds seemed to be headed, and the noise of creatures both large and small, the deer and the mouse alike, leaping away from the direction he was going.

There came now, in the path he was headed, a haze of smoke. As the light had faded he could see no color, but in his imagination it was a sickly yellow, a caustic ammonia. As he headed on it worsened and he thought of turning back. It was important to him to continue. Ahead he discerned not a sound, but the rumor of sound, the waves of it deep and rumbling that he not so much heard, but felt, in his jaw and his chest, a physical manifestation of sound. 

It came now to his ears, a deep grinding, a mechanical elephant call that traveled through the ground and the mass of the biggest things around, the source maybe close maybe miles from where he walked.

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The prompt for this was “what is just over the hill or behind the closed door.” I wanted to work on description today and had no idea what lay ahead but only that it was ominous. It is the time of year for that sort of stuff. I had the goal of description and to use senses and to keep away from exposition. I thought 20 minutes was not long enough at all and once I had started I didn’t want to write about the idea I had chosen.

A pattern in my writing that I do not care for seems to be repetition. Not intended, there are clearly very important times repetition needs to be used, but needless repetition of words and phrases. I might have to look at a text on grammar, but the use of the present tense “to be” seems a source of lots of unnecessary words.

Ok, I have a book at the library on evolution and a copy of “A Confederacy of Dunces.”  I read it more than 30 years ago now and can still recall quite a bit as I play it in my head. I remember not being able to get all the way past the tone of the preface where the editor tells of what happened to Toole. It really colored my reading of it all those years ago. I don’t think it will this time, but I am not certain.

Sally Wallace

Sally Wallace passed away last year in July. Here is here obit in the Champaign Paper; https://www.news-gazette.com/obituaries/sally-foster-wallace/article_baccef8e-0b4d-11eb-a56d-308d99b27af3.html

She taught a class in Short Fiction that I took at Parkland Community College in the early 80s. The class was a joy, quite demanding, very invigorating. She gave us a checklist we had to use for everything we read for her class. It included learning a little about the writer and when they produced the material we were using, date first published and where, POV, setting, first and last line and so on. When I returned to college so many years later I used the approach to reading fiction she taught me, I think it a good method. I busted my ass for her class and she gave me an “A” which by her reputation meant something. She was approachable, but tough. I called her Sally, in and out of class, and would stop by her office and chat with her. I remember bringing fiction I had written for another class for her to read. She praised what I had written and that was pleasing to me. I thought she was an attractive woman, small and trim and fair, and quite witty. I may have been a little smitten by her.

I don’t recall much of what happened in class other than I loved being there. The classroom was bright, windows lining one wall and blackboards all the way across the other, real blackboards with dusty white chalk. One time Sally wrote an “a” on the left side of the boards and then walked all the way to the right and wrote “lot.” She said that was how far apart the space should be when a person wrote “a lot,” and if we ran it together in a paper as “alot” she would give us a failing grade. Once she said she would not eat at a restaurant that had grammar errors in their menu

She demonstrated ideas about punctuation with the sentence “Woman without her man is nothing.” Depending on where you put commas in the sentence the meaning is radically different. Woman, without her man, is nothing. Or – Woman, without her, man is nothing. She was very precise with her language.

I know I have a paper or two I wrote for her still, I found them when I returned to college searching for a 20th century syllabus to compare to a 21st. She was quite encouraging about the papers, with many handwritten notes that made it very clear she had read and considered what I had written. 

One personal story, she related that at Mount Holyoke, where she did her undergrad, they wrote their papers out longhand and one professor limited the papers to a single side of one sheet of paper. She told of writing as small as possible to be able to get all the ideas she wanted to present into the paper.  

I had not forgotten her, though had not thought of her for quite some time. When I returned to college, to UMSL a couple of years ago, in one of my first classes I was assigned This Is Water, the famous commencement address by David Foster Wallace. At the time I thought it one of the more excellent things I had read in quite some time. I had done the reading prep Sally taught and noticed in his biography he was from Champaign and his father was a U of I professor and his mother, “a grammar snoot” , was a JuCo Instructor at Parkland. After reading some of the things he had written I was honored to have been his mother’s student and could see how she could have created an environment that produced his like.

When I graduated from UMSL a year and a half ago I did a search for her and knew she had retired from teaching but that she was alive, though she had moved to Arizona. I don’t know if she would have remembered me, but maybe, my mother taught at Parkland for a while and was quite notorious and I was loud and boisterous and really cared about her class. I sent a couple of emails to Parkland college and what might have been an account she still used but got no response.

I don’t know why I searched for her the last couple of days, what prompted me, but I found her obit and thought of her fondly. Thanks Sally.   

.

Mice do not fear gravity

Thought of the day – I was in a fruitless debate with a theist on youtube and was trying to explain demonstrable repeatable evidence and used the example of terminal velocity. I should not bother with this endeavor, no minds are changed and usually it ends with the theist damning me to hell. But having been fortunate to watch and listen to a number of persuasive and theatrical preachers in my youthful religious phase I am partial to a good sermon well preached. I like the craft of it, the showmanship, even if I believe none of it. Billy Graham was a pretty good preacher, not fire and brimstone, not hard preaching, but thoughtful and eloquent, he made you think. There was a pure showman I liked as well, Billy Sunday, he would call out the devil and reproach him from the pulpit, great theater.

So I listen to a sermon now and again on youtube and comment sometimes. Usually I point out significant deviations from the christian bible, glaring discrepancies I recall from my youth. Just about any position taken by a modern american christian can be shown to be contrary to some bible verse. I comment not because I am under the illusion that I can change minds but that someone on the fence about religion can understand the thought process of someone who does not believe, to show perspective. Religion as a function of a society I am in favor of, a church can be a great social unifier, a place of comfort, and a skilled pastor can be a source of help navigating life, can comfort those in need, that job is more than just preaching. These youtube yahoos though, I would not see a fence sitter get caught up in a fringe group and give away a significant portion of their life to a charlatan or cult-like group. Life is too short give up time that you can’t get back. I try to be a rational voice in the craziness.

Lots of times though, when someone responds to one of my comments they try to make their point by making grandiose claims for which there is no demonstrable repeatable evidence. I always ask them for evidence and they often have no idea what I am saying. Paul in the New Testament writes about this in Hebrews 11 with the famous verse, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Paul would not have to have said that except someone asked for evidence. It seems even then people were demanding evidence for the claims of christianity.

But these youtube theists are not usually schooled in scientific evidence so I often use terminal velocity as an example of the sort of demonstrable repeatable evidence I am looking for. I tell them,

“if you drop an object in the air, gravity will pull it downward towards earth, accelerating until the air resistance against the shape and density of the object stops the acceleration, and the object will reach it’s greatest speed. That is called Terminal Velocity. Every time you drop an object it will accelerate until it reaches terminal velocity or until it hits the earth.”

I get replies that vary but are generally of two types, the earth or universe is evidence of a creator, and I know the truth and am a god denier and am headed for hell. I tell them the universe is evidence of itself and nothing else, and there is nothing to demonstrate a heaven or a hell exists. Generally though, when I consistently point out and deny unsupported claims I get told I am evil and going to hell. I get it, I felt a similar thing towards unbelievers at a point in my life. Truth is relative and maybe not even a real thing.

———————————————–

Again, I don’t change minds, but hopefully I can help an undecided come to a more rational conclusion. Anyway, I used the terminal velocity description today and decided to check my work and read the wiki article about it. I came across this little nugget of information that has no use to me at all, in my life now, or in any point in my past, or in my foreseeable future.

“To the mouse and any smaller animal [gravity] presents practically no dangers. You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes. For the resistance presented to movement by the air is proportional to the surface of the moving object. Divide an animal’s length, breadth, and height each by ten; its weight is reduced to a thousandth, but its surface only to a hundredth. So the resistance to falling in the case of the small animal is relatively ten times greater than the driving force.”

There you have it, mice do not fear gravity.

Groff Again

“For it is a deep and human truth that most souls upon the earth are not at ease unless they find themselves safe in the hands of a force greater than themselves.”

So I succumbed to the hype and reserved a copy of Groff’s latest, Matrix, at both the city and county libraries. I even put myself on the Large-Print list because I was like the 27th hold on 8 copies or something. Tommy was reading it and I almost bought it because we had enjoyed talking about Fates and Furies so much. Way before I thought it would be ready the library sent an email that a copy was waiting for me and it wasn’t the large print either. Maybe should have bought it to support Lauren. I dunno, I would have ended up giving it away, I don’t store books for years and years anymore and my shelf is near full.

It is about time for a harrowing. I have a number of books I had the greatest intention of reading and just have not found the interest. I started Wolf Hall a couple of times, that should be a good fit for me, I don’t know why it is not. Love in the Time of Cholera feels so familiar, I have started it several times, each time thinking I have read it before. Beloved I will re-read, when I can handle the depth. Morrison is such a treasure. The Kite Runner comes highly recommended from somewhere or another, I should at least give it a try. There is an early Eugenides and Ishiguro and a copy of In Cold Blood. Ohio and The Hail Mary Project I have read, I just need to find a good home for them. There is quite a bit of reading on that little shelf, and some good stuff as well.

But Groff is the star in ascension for me right now. Matrix is quite different than Fates and Furies. I have only read the first section but like it. I was introduced to Mary from France a couple of years ago in college. I was entirely struck by the quote,


“Anyone who has received from God the gift of knowledge and true eloquence has a duty not to remain silent: rather should one be happy to reveal such talents.”

So I am quite excited to see what else Groff is going to do with the character in the book. I sent a comment to Groff on one of her Twitters and she “liked” it. I told Tommy about it and he thought it cool. He said “You read what she wrote and she read what you wrote.” I laughed and mentioned Vonnegut had written something about an author having a readership of one and being content and Tommy said Epicurus said something like that too. We have different backgrounds he and I, but it is striking to me that we draw the same sort of ideas from wildly disparate sources. Humans seem a finite entity.

Little Fires Everywhere

“Some years later, she would drive five and a half hours, daughter in tow, to the great March on Washington, and Mrs Richardson would forever remember that day, the sun forcing her eyes into a squint, the scrum of people pressed thigh to thigh, the hot fug of sweat rising from the crowd, the Washington Monument rising far off in the distance, like a spike stretching the pierce the clouds.”

This is from Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I thought it one of the best sentences I have read in a while. Fug is a bit of english slang for a strong smell in an enclosed space. It naturally follows the use of scrum, a rugby term, a british sport, a word that completely describes bodies thrown together. Such a rich little moment in a book with lots of things happening.

The book won the Goodreads Choice Award for fiction in 2017. I wonder at times their selections, Goodreads seems to have too universal a membership to be able to consistently choose books that I find worthwhile. I mean, I read Where the Crawdads Sing at their recommendation and still don’t feel like forgiving them. I know Horace said, “To inform and to entertain” and that to be snobbish towards romance stories and mystery and crime drama is a weak position to take, but I think literature ought have a purpose. It seems as if it should, to me anyway. 

This time though, with Little Fires, I think Goodreads got it right. I don’t recall why, but what I could glean from the reviews kind of put me off of reading the book. I found a copy at the Goodwill and hung on to it for a few weeks before I started reading. Celeste Ng, pronounced “ing,” certainly wrote a strong professional book. I think it speaks to many emotional subjects in a family setting and with some pretty big life questions as well. I don’t do spoilers, read the book.

I will say that it dredged up some strange emotions. Somehow I remembered the week my Mother was dying. Our relationship was fairly strained and never really made right. But my brother and sister and I spent the last week of her life with our Mom, over thanksgiving the year she died. It was a very strange thing and another source of turmoil and confusion in the relationship, something I still have not figured out, all these years later.
 
I was away from St Louis for a week and when I returned soon spent an evening at the Taproom downtown. This was before microbreweries were prevalent, before you could find more than AB products at the 7-11, so I had been a week without a good dark beer. I was a regular at the Taproom and an oatmeal stout drinker then, so attuned to the beer that I could tell when they changed from one keg to the next. That first sip after I had returned to St Louis brought me to tears at the bar, not for my mother so much, but for having a life that was important to me, completely apart from my mother. Somehow, this book brought that memory out of me, though I can see no connection at all to the story. Ng got to that idea though, and loss, and choices. I am glad of the reading of this, despite my initial reservations. 

Writing Prompt

Mike jerked the leash against Biscuit’s pull and she was thrown back and around, away from the busy street and back towards the sidewalk. Her long frame awkward a moment before she righted herself.

“Heel, damnit” Mike cursed. 

Biscuit opened her jaws for the leash again, and Mike was angered, if she could get the leash to the back of her jaw she would cut it as easy as scissors to paper. He whipped the loose end of toward Biscuit, never coming close to hitting her, the action enough to make her shy away. Mike felt it a betrayal to use the previous abuse against her, but it did stop her from cutting the leash and prevented her from being loose on the street in the busy traffic.

“Hey you, asshole, I saw what you did, you stop hitting that dog,” a round young face screamed from a passing car, slowed to where Mike and Biscuit walked. The car screamed past them and then slowed and spun around and came back towards them, Through the passenger window the face screamed again.

“Hit her again and I will kick your ass you asshole,” the face screamed and Mike squared up to the car, and raised his palms questioningly, ready for whatever might come. Through the passenger window now, the face evaluated Mike and Biscuit and suddenly lost resolve and drove off quickly.

Mike and Biscuit continued along the busy street.

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I participated in a writing group this morning. I thought it very useful. There were about a half dozen of us in a zoom meeting. The moderator put a prompt out that was confusing to me, something about a character being watched and gave us 20 minutes to write, after which we read out loud, one by one. I had a hard time with the prompt and finally settled on what I have here. I wanted a complete scene so I sacrificed detail and description. Looking back I could have written it from the viewpoint of the character in the car and had an easier time of it. Still, from an ambiguous prompt (to me anyway, no one else seemed troubled) I felt I did ok. If I were to edit it wouldn’t be hard to take the “tell” out and just “show.” In 20 minutes though, I couldn’t find time to include a whole bunch of stuff. Like I said, I sacrificed for completeness.

I was very interested in seeing what the others wrote and it felt a minute like being back in Seely’s non-fiction class, tons of exposition and no imagery. There was some surprisingly decent dialogue. There was one young woman though, I am guessing age by her voice as her camera was off, who was clearly a writer. Published or not she had the real stuff, she just needed to practice to get cleaner. Maybe a bit heavy in the detail, a bit feminine, but skilled, a good voice. She had put her scene in a forest with a rainstorm and sounds and tactile elements. The only sense she didn’t include was olfactory, taste or smell. I have to make a point of noting olfactory in writing, it seems the last sense that writers use. I think it may be more important than many realize. I notice it mostly when it is missing.

I thought this a good exercise and I am signed up for a few more of these. I think working a prompt a good idea, I have been doing it on my own a little. One way to think of a novel might simply be as a series of prompts. I am going to outline “Of Mice and Men.” I bet there aren’t 12 characters in that short little book and not much more than 10 scenes and three or four settings. I might be surprised at what is included, but I think Steinbeck did so much with very little. I envision my story being about as sparse in scenes and settings. I think outlining that little book will be useful. It feels as if I am starting down a good path lately.

Straw Hat

I went to the Goodwill to look for a hat to wear in this scene I am in. The call sheet said “straw hat” and I can’t say any more because I signed an NDA.  I have something at the country house, a big dark brown wide-brimmed rough weave hat I wear when I cut grass sometimes. I bought it when I was doing a lot of gardening.  A ball cap is really not as good as a big hat when you are working outside in the sun. You are a lot cooler under a big hat.  I think anyway. I am not really a hat wearer, that is about the only time I wear one. I only have two ballcaps, both of them the same, white caps with UMSL on them, one in the city house and one in the country house. Sometimes in the winter I might wear one, otherwise my head covering is a hoodie I wear under a winter coat.

But the scene calls for a straw hat and I the call sheet came while I was in the city and am not going to spend more in gas than a new hat cost to get mine from the country. After the Goodwill I went to a Walmart. The producer was sort of confused when I told her I had been to a Walmart and they didn’t have one. There was actually one for 30 bucks, an ugly unfinished looking thing with the straw sticking willy-nilly off the brim. Clearly a hat a young man buys to drink beer in on a float trip or at an outdoor concert. The kind of thing a wife might mention in telling a story about how she met her husband, “and he was drunker than shit and wearing this stupid straw hat but I thought he was cute, and 20 years later, here we are.” I am not getting paid for being in this movie and there is no wardrobe budget, so I didn’t buy the ugly thing that I would only wear one time.

Years ago I had a super cheap straw fedora that grocery stores sell in the spring for $6. I used to wear it all the time until I caught my reflection one time and realized how stupid I looked. You put a snap-brim hat or a tuxedo on lots of Italian guys and they look like mafioso. It is crazy. I have some pictures of my grandparent’s wedding in the 1920s, a sepia thing near a hundred years old now and my PapaGrande is not intimidating, but one of his brothers standing right behind him looks like a cold vicious dago hitman. He was a great guy too, but the pictures of him in a tux are frightening. 

I will find something on the way to the shoot tomorrow. I called a couple of places, a Bucheiht’s and a Rural King. Somebody will have something.

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I bought a copy of The Postman Always Rings Twice while at the Goodwill. It was a popular book a generation ago. That is a great thing about the Goodwill book section; I come across stuff I would not have normally sought out, it takes my reading in interesting places. I just finished I Am Legend, a novella by a guy named Richard Matheson. Most of his stuff is horror/Sci-Fi sort of stuff from the 50s and 60s. I got it because Will Smith made a movie of the same name a while back. The movie was only very loosely based on the book and ended with hope, where the book was more final. I liked the book ending better. This guy Matheson wrote screenplays and for TV and he wrote the episode for Twilight Zone with a pre-Star Trek Willian Shatner that was the single most terrifying thing I saw in my single digit years. “”Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and in black and white it did give me nightmares. Very scary. 

There were quite a few classics, mostly together but I gathered some of them on a shelf for a picture. So many great books! One and two bucks apiece. I always want to buy them, but I won’t store tons of books anymore. There are always more than I am going to be able to get to and libraries make more sense for a heavy reader. The classics are all online now, and most everything else too – with a library card. I do like a physical book better, but that may have to change as time goes along.

I haven’t read The Poisonwood Bible or Under the Volcano or the Sparks book and probably won’t at this point. I have a copy of The Known World at home and plan to get to it.

Wingnuts

When Joe lifted the extractor from the bed of the truck he felt a sharp burning snick of pain in his right elbow and had to shift it to his left hand as he carried it into the corner hardware store. Inside the conservative talk radio droned and there was the familiar oil and plastic and fertilizer smell he had expected. Jim at the counter couldn’t readily place the nature of the extractor, the light stainless steel cylinder not registering as anything he knew about. He looked expectantly to Joe. Joe placed it on one of the stools that lined the customer side of the counter.

“This is a honey extractor, and when I cleaned it up after last season I took the wingnuts that hold this in place,” Joe showed him the bolts sticking through the bar across the top that held the rotating framework down against the extractor, “and put them somewhere safe. I did such a good job of keeping them safe I couldn’t find them this year.”

Jim laughed, “Put them somewhere safe. I have never heard of that happening to anyone before, I mean, I never did anything like that.” and grinned at Joe and felt the threaded end of the bolt.

“You are laughing with me Jim, not at me, right?”

“Yeah sure, with you, probably a five sixteenth” still laughing as he went to the bank of trays with the hundred different nuts and bolts and washers alongside the counter. He quickly located and opened a tray and fished out two wingnuts. “Here, try these.”

Joe threaded one on the bolt but it caught before it screwed the bar tight to the extractor.

“No, they have to tighten down so this doesn’t move at all.”

“Must be metric then, I don’t think I have any metric wingnuts.”

“How about just regular nuts? I would just have to use a wrench to tighten them down, it ain’t but once a year.” Joe handed the wingnuts back to Jim.

“Yeah, that will be 8 millimeters, you want some washers with that too?”

“Sure, that would probably be a good idea.” Jim went back to the trays and soon found the nuts and handed them to Joe. Joe put the washers on the bolts, threaded the nuts onto them and they screwed easily all the way down. He tightened them as well as he could by hand and checked to see that the framework rotated easily. 

“What do I owe you?”

Behind the counter Jim scanned something and tapped a few keys at his register. 

“Can you afford eighty six cents?”

“I think so and I won’t even tell anyone else you laughed at me,” said Joe as he handed Jim a dollar. “Hold onto the change till the next time, would you?”

“Sure, and when you get your honey, I might be interested in some.”

“I’ll tell the wife, she handles the business side of things,” Joe said, “see you next time.” He picked up the extractor and headed to the door. Outside the air was clear and Joe laughed again as he put the extractor back in the bed of the truck.

Jack’s Way

Jack moved the bishop with the ring finger and pinkie of his left hand. They weren’t using a clock so the extra time to pick up and place the pieces was of no matter, but the inefficiency irked Joe. He said nothing. It was enough to keep Jack focused on the game, to insert another idea would add complication. Jack planted the bishop on the D6 square awkwardly transferring control to his right index finger to hold it in place as he considered the move. This irked Joe as well, he had told Jack repeatedly they were in learning mode and not playing mode and touch move was not in effect.

“Jack, are you sure you want to put that bishop on D6? You are not going to be able to move that D7 pawn and that light-squared bishop is going to take forever to get out. Are you sure you want to do that?”

Jack considered and his long lean face dropped even lower between his thin shoulders, “Well, if I don’t put the bishop there, if you move that pawn up I won’t be able to defend it later.”

“Not up, chess language.”

“Uh, D2 to D4.”

“Good, or push the D pawn, and yes, I will probably play D4, but is the bishop the best way to defend that?”

Jack considered. Joe waited and then Jack’s head tilted a little and his eyes glided right and Joe knew his attention had gone that way as well.

“Chess, Jack,” Jack’s gaze came back to the board and Joe could almost see him slowly puzzle the position from the beginning. 

“Well, this might not be the best move but I can’t see another way so I am going to make it.”

Joe relented and pushed the D pawn. He would crush Jack here and in the post game analysis they would go over the move and he would explain the trapped bishop. Jack would not forget, but might have to repeat the same mistake several times before he did not make it again. It was his way.