Maj and I are playing chess. I know the rules to chess, but I am not a chess player. I am not a woman of strategy or plotting; as long as my move does not place anything in immediate danger, I am unconcerned with what lies ahead. A metaphor for my life, you say? Shut up. Anyway, playing chess with me means that you are quite likely to hear me say things like, “Yay! My horsie makes an L and takes your roundy-headed guy!” People who take chess seriously find this sort of commentary profoundly annoying, in case you were wondering.
No, I am not a chess player, but it occurred to me recently that chess might be right up Maj’s alley. So I have been teaching Maj the basic rules of chess, and because Maj is fabulously intelligent (and because I say things like, “Nooooo! Don’t take my baby castleman!”), she has quickly realized that if she just focuses her attention, she can beat me. Sadly, focusing Maj’s attention in this house is quite difficult.
Maj pauses to think, her fingertip still on her Queen’s head, “Alright, Mother. If I move here, then you will take this guy, which will put you in jeopardy here and also here, and then I will move my Rook and then you will go here and then I will . . .” She leaves the sentence unfinished as I stare at the board and try to figure out what the hell she is talking about. She lifts her finger from her Queen, “OK, your turn.”
Hmmm. OK, the path to Maj’s planned Mother-doom appears to start with her first assumption, and so I will not take the guy she thought I was going to take. Instead I will move this pawn a single square forward, thereby ruining all of her plans, “There.”
Maj raises her eyebrows and looks at me pityingly, “Really?”
She leans happily forward, an ominous glint in her eye, but the sound of laughter and wheels catches her attention from the other room, and she looks up at me, “What is Kallan doing?”
“Who knows? She sounds happy. Just ignore her.”
Maj cannot ignore Kallan, and she yells out, “What are you doing, Kallan?” This is all the invitation Kallan requires, and she comes racing into the room, pushing my wheeled office chair ahead of her. In the office chair sits a small and commanding terrier, his chin held high as he zooms. Kallan whirls him to a stop, and the dog braces his front feet to keep from being thrown from the chair.
Kallan swipes her hair from her face as she giggles, “This! We are doing this!”
Maj reaches casually to move her Queen again as she lectures her sister, “That is Mother’s chair, and you are not to play with it. The dog is not supposed to even sit in that chair, much less roll around the house in it. You are going to crash into furniture and break things or hurt yourself. You are to cease and desist this irresponsible behavior immediately.”
I stare at Maj’s move for a moment and then reach to take her Queen with my Pawn.
“MOTHER! WHAT DID YOU JUST DO?”
Kallan is full of helpfulness, “Your Queen was kapawnied, Maj.”
Maj is enraged, “This is all your fault, Kallan. I was instructing you, and I made the wrong move without thinking! Augh!”
I reach to pat Maj’s hand, “Just calm down and think about your next move, babe.”
“MY NEXT MOVE NEEDS MY QUEEN BUT SHE IS GONE! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO NOW? I WANT HER BACK! MOTHER, DID YOU JUST PAT MY HAND? TELL ME YOU DID NOT JUST PAT MY HAND!”
I turn to Kallan while Maj collects her thoughts, “What exactly is the game you and Jack are playing?”
She explains, “Invalid canine and nurse. Jack is pretending to be an old-man dog who can no longer walk, and I am his free-spirited nurse who pushes him wildly around the hospital in his wheelchair so that he can flirt with old-lady dogs.”
Maj’s eyes pop in incredulity, “That is not a game! Jack is not pretending to do any of that! You are just a crazy person rolling a dog in an office chair.”
Kallan ignores her sister, “Jack says when the time comes, he’s going to want his actual nurse to be busty, but he says I will do for now.”
Maj disgustedly slides and slams her Bishop across the board and into a spot located a perfect L away from my Knight, and so I reach to make this move, “Oooh! Yay! My horsie makes an L and takes your roundy-headed guy!”
“YOU ARE CHEATING YOU ARE CHEATING YOU ARE CHEATING!”
Kallan’s voice is mild, “Pretty sure that’s how the horsie-guy moves, Maj.”
“I KNOW THAT! DON’T YOU THINK I KNOW THAT?”
Kallan turns back to me, “Anyway, Jack says he wants his real nurse to be busty and hairy, but I will do for now.”
“DOGS DO NOT DREAM OF HAIRY-BUSTED NURSES PUSHING THEM AROUND IN WHEELCHAIRS, YOU INSANE HEALTHCARE PROVIDER OF DELUSION!”
Kallan spins the dog wildly out of the room, “Come on, Jack. Time for your enema.”
“MOTHER, SHE CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO ENEMIZE THE DOG!”
“Maj, just make a move. You are hurting my ears with all this screaming.”
“SERIOUSLY, MOTHER? ARE YOU NOT AT ALL CONCERNED WITH THE TERRIER ORIFICES? YOU ARE JUST GOING TO LEAVE THEM IN KALLAN”S HANDS?” She angrily pushes her Rook along the board, “IT’S THE INATTENTIVENESS I CANNOT STAND, MOTHER. WHEN IT COMES DOWN TO IT, YOU JUST DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT’S GOING ON AROUND HERE.”
“Ooooh . . . your mate is checked.”
“Checkmate, Maj.” I gesture to indicate the impossibility of her situation, “Checkmate. I guess somebody should have been paying a little more attention. Ironic, don’t you think?”
Maj glares at me and then sweeps the remainder of the pieces from the board, “Mother, right this moment, Jack is probably being mounted on the bathtub faucet, booty-first, and you sit here and speak to me of inattentiveness?”
I lean to yell, “Kallan, do not enemize the dog!”
Kallan spins back into the room, Jack now sleeping curled up in the chair as he journeys, “Mom, Jack is on a soft-food old-man diet. Can I make him some dog-food mush?”
Kallan spins away, talking to the dog as she goes, “Yes, old-man Jack . . . I could stuff my shirt and wear a false-fur bra, but underneath, it would still be me.”
Maj stares after her sister for a moment and then she turns back to me, “One of your children is insane.”
I nod my head in agreement, “At least one.”
She sighs and starts to arrange her pieces on the chessboard, “You want to play again?”
“Sure. This time, all my pawns are going to hold hands and dance two steps forward before anyone else is allowed to move.”
“DON’T TELL ME YOUR STRATEGY! THAT’S THE DUMBEST STRATEGY IN THE WHOLE WORLD, BUT DON’T SPEAK IT OUT LOUD TO ME.”
I reach to move the first of my pawns forward, “My pawns wish their Queen was a little bit more hairy-busted. They’d be more dedicated to her survival if she showed a little fur-cleavage.”
“WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY? IT’S LIKE THE INSANITY IS CONTAGIOUS! WHERE IS THE SANITIZER OF MENTAL INSTABILITY? I NEED TO CLEANSE!”
I reach to pat Maj’s hand.
Kallan comes spinning back into the room with a messy-faced Jack, “Old-man invalid dogs don’t know how to use straws. Were you aware?”
Maj stares at us wildly.