Chess, And My Way of Looking at It
A Danger to Society was my life-changing moment. It wasn’t the writing of the book so much as it was living the life I eventually ended up writing about. Social issues, disturbed behavior, notions of law, promises of law and the failings of law were what I learned through the eyes of inmates. Lessons could come in subtle moments like simply playing a game of chess. Here’s an excerpt from A Danger to Society just to show you a little of what I’m talking about.
Bee, more than any other, taught me chess. It was a little difficult to concentrate sometimes with his sound effects, but for the most part even his sound effects made me think. When he would be considering a move like trading the queens or sacrificing his knight, he made the sound of screeching brakes.
“Errrrch, Erch, Erch, Erch, ERRCH.” Then, he would take his hand back.
When I would make a move he didnt expect, he would blast out a “Whoa”. Always animated, he would ask after I made a stupid move…
“Are you sure you want to do that sir?” With a stir in his “sir,” it was half comical.
I was starting to realize a few things about my game. My pawns had knight uniforms that didn’t even fit. It was tiring watching them move. Dragging their swords behind them and stumbling all over the place, my guys were exhausted before the game even started. My queen had some major issues and she looked at me as if to say, “You want me to do what?” My bishops were a little preoccupied slipping behind the lines to sneak a couple shots of wine. My castles were falling apart. Knights were fighting amongst themselves. My game had some serious problems.
But, I learned. Cover every man. I can win with just a rook and a pawn. Never give up. Most games come down to one essential move, one instance that takes the advantage and starts the downfall. But, the game can be turned back around as well. One day, in fact, I caught Bee by surprise. I brought my queen down to crush his rook and put the king in check. It was a day my queen and I were getting along particularly well. Bee had to move his king out of check and across the board was his other rook left wide-open. I crushed it too. He moved his bishop, but left his knight sitting in my way.
I thought this would be the perfect time to say, “You need to get your things out of my way, sir. I’m about to demolish this whole ‘urea’ here. In fact, let me get this up off you sir.” He laughed. He took it light. And even though it took me some time before I was able to beat him again, I was learning.
That was about the time Chess became like a dance. The mentor kept beating the student. We would set up quickly and play another game. He just would not let me win no matter what. “Man, you play me harder than any other player on the block.” He played me like he had a mission. “It’s like someone pissed in your cereal or something.” He played like he had to win. “You don’t give me any breaks at all.” He played like an inspired warrior. “It’s like you have three computers and Kasparov on a direct line.” But, I was learning.
That section sets the stage for one of the main themes in A Danger to Society. Chess as a way of life. Chess as a way of learning life. Chess as a way of learning law. Chess as a way of learning how to overcome notions of law, crime and criminal behavior.
“I can win a game with a rook and a pawn.” A Danger to Society
With nothing left, there’s nothing to lose. That’s when you can turn it around, flip the script and come out on the winning end.