“Wow, I don’t know what to say,” I tell Arthur.
“Are you sure?” Arthur asked. He seemed very nervous about the whole thing and to be honest, this was the first time that a grown man had ever given me macaroni art as a gift, or at all for that matter. It wasn’t that it was particularly bad, but it wasn’t something that you’d find hanging in the parlour either.
“Yeah, of course I’m sure, it’s really something,” I told him, “Come on Arthur, it’s your turn.”
Arthur stroked his chin, and surveyed the board. He moved his knight to A3 and then looked back at me, smiling. He smiled a lot.
Now, Arthur is what I would call eccentric. I mean, what else would you call a seventy three year old man who just nervously gifted you with a piece of macaroni art? Besides that, Arthur owned his own business, lived alone is a beautiful home with three cats and three is two too many if you ask me and their names, oy. He called them Mister Whiskers, Mewton Downey Junior and Little Puss. Then, there’s the sweaters. He’s got a colour for every day and it’s not even cold out. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, I mean, sure, there’s a bit of a breeze, but the sweater was a bit much.
“Your turn Frank,” Arthur said to me, resting his chin on his fist.
“Alright,” I replied, sliding my pawn over to take his knight, “Your go.”
It was like shooting fish in a barrel, Arthur was terrible at chess, but he was nice to chat with. I mean, I’d only known him for six months now, we met over a game of chess and we try to meet up here at least a few times a week to play. It’s a nice break from everything and it gives me time to think.
“I don’t know why I even bother playing with you Frank, I don’t think that I’ve won a game yet,” Arthur said, sitting back in his seat. “Are you sure that you like the gift? If you don’t like it, just tell me, I’ll understand, I know that it’s not much, but, you know, business hasn’t been great, but I still wanted to get something for you on your birthday.”
I smiled. “Seriously, stop worrying so much, I love it, I’ve never gotten anything quite like it,” I reassured him. The gift was fine, but I was more concerned with the fact that it wasn’t even my birthday. I’m not sure why he thought that it was, he knew that my birthday was the week before Christmas and it was the middle of July. “Arthur, honestly, it's very sweet of you, it’s great, don’t worry about it.”
“Alright,” Arthur said, smiling, “who’s turn is it?”
“Yours, remember? I took your knight, you complained about always losing?”
He laughed. “Right,” he said.
Arthur took another minute to look over the board. He was about to move when a guy on a scooter bumped his arm and he knocked over a couple of pieces. “Hey, watch it, would ya?” Arthur scolded, “Can’t you see that we’re trying to play a game here?” He looked back at me and said, “No one has any respect anymore.”
I couldn’t argue with that, things certainly weren’t like they used to be. Kids wore their pants down around their asses and used their belts to keep them down instead of up where they’re supposed to be. No one said excuse me anymore and god forbid anyone should hold a door open. I blame the cellphones, no one’s even looking. “You’ve got that right Arty,” I concurred.
We got the chess pieces sorted out after a minute. “Is it still my turn?” Arthur asked.
“Yeah, still your turn. Are you getting senile on me already?” I joked.
“I haven’t slept well lately,” he said, “I should probably make an appointment.”
“You should,” I agreed, “and you should take your turn already.”
Arthur looked at me. “I’m sorry, you’re right. And about the gift, never mind, I’m sorry to nag, if you want me to take it back, I understand.”
“Enough about the gift already, it’s fine I told you, Let’s forget about it and play the game, alright?” I wanted to throw the thing in the garbage and be done with it already so he’d stop asking, but Arthur was so sensitive, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
“Sure, of course,” Arthur replied. He moved a pawn up the board.
“Check,” I said, moving my bishop to F3.
Arthur looked at the board. “Where? I don’t see it.”
I pointed it out to him, as usual, I swear, he should be more concerned about his eyes than his sleep habits. “Got it,” he said and slid his king over beside his queen.
I looked at the gift again. I think it was a bird, maybe a woman in a long dress, it was hard to tell really. It wasn’t bad, but what was I supposed to do with it? I could put it on my fridge, but what was I supposed to tell people? “Oh, this? No, not my granddaughter, my friend Arthur gave it to me. He’s seventy two, no, he’s not crazy, he’s a bit eccentric is all.” I looked back at the board.
“We haven’t got all day,” Arthur chided, “you don’t like it, do you?”
“What? The macaroni again? I like it, I told you.” I answered him. I moved my queen down to E3 beside my bishop. “Check,” I said again.
Arthur threw up his hands. “Again? Jesus, I can’t get a break.” He moved his queen to E2, placing it between my queen and his king. “There,” he said, “your turn.”
I took his queen. “Check mate.”
“Well, isn’t that just great?” Arthur said, “What else is new. Tell me again why I play with you?”
“For the company, I guess,” I said.
“Arthur?” a woman called.
“Ethel?” Arthur asked, his head perking up.
What was he thinking? Ethel had been gone for four years already, cancer. I was concerned for Arthur, he’d been doing this more and more lately. “It’s not Ethel,” I told him, gently.
“Arthur, come on,” the woman called. She walked over and put her hand on his shoulder, Arthur beamed.
“Alright, where are we going?” he asked, turning to look at her.
She was dressed in pale, pink scrubs, her name tag read Lucy. “Come on Arthur, it’s time to take you medication,” she told him.
Arthur smiled and then looked back at me. “Time to go,” he said, “Same time tomorrow?”
I smiled back at him. “Sure, what else have I got to do?”
Arthur stood up and Nurse Lucy took him by the arm. “Easy there,” she said. Then, looking back at me she said, “Don’t you run off anywhere, Frank, you’re next.”
I nodded and smiled politely. She turned and they walked slowly away. I looked out the window, the sun was bright and the birds were still singing. I looked back at the macaroni and decided that it was definitely a bird.
I pushed my seat back and got up, holding onto my walker. I fixed the belt on my house coat once I was standing, just to make sure it was cinched up properly, nodded to a few of my neighbours and made my way back toward my room.
The macaroni art stayed at the chess table, I’d forgotten all about it. It would figure that Arthur would present me with such a thing, after all, he’s a bit eccentric, you know, did I mention that?