31 comments

Drama American LGBTQ+

You can’t go home right now.

Go to that pizza place that’s always open. Order the buffalo chicken. You have some cash on you from the other day when Uncle Greg slipped you a twenty. That’s enough for two slices. You can have some pizza and check your phone. Play some chess. You need to play more chess. You’re good, but you could be better. You always give up your bishops right off the bat. That’s no way to play. You gotta protect your pieces. I don’t care if the other guy is willing to give up his good pieces; that doesn’t mean you have to.

Sit and play chess and keep your head down and take slow bites to let a little time go by. They’re open until two, and they stay open even if there’s nobody in there, so it’s not like you have to rush. Two is when they close, so there’s no reason for you to be heading back home until at least two fifteen. Park closer to the Marriott so you can give yourself a walk back to the car. That’ll kill some time too. It’s warm out tonight so, if you wanted, you could walk all over town until the sun comes up. You could head home at dawn, or you could wait until 7am when that diner opens up and get yourself a nice breakfast. They take cards there. Not like the pizza place. The pizza place is probably laundering money. Never trust a cash business. I wouldn’t even be sending you in there, but they’re the only ones open late in this town.

It’s safe though. It’s safe and it’s warm out, and those are things you should be taking advantage of, right? When it gets colder, it’s trickier. Then you have to come home. You don’t really have a choice. Remember when you tried to sleep in your car? That didn’t go so well, did it?  You also picked a bad spot for it. I never would have told you to park in front of that Walmart, but you weren’t listening to me that night, were you? Tonight, you’re going to listen, right? You’re a much better listener now than you used to be. I’ll give you that.

You’re lucky it’s staying warm later on in the year. That means the world is screwed in the long-term, but for you, it’s good news, isn’t it? It means it might be November or December before you need to start heading home right when the clock strikes two. You better just pray that the pizza place never goes out of business, because then you’ll have to start hanging out in the city again at some of the sketchier spots. You know you can’t be going home any earlier than you already are. You know what’ll happen if you do that, don’t you?

Do you remember that one time you came home right after midnight? Do you remember what a bad idea that was? I mean, right after midnight? What were you thinking? Sleeping in your car was bad, but compared to coming home at 12:15? My god, 12:15? I’m surprised you’re still walking around coming home at a time like that. You should be ashamed of yourself, you really should. You know better. You do know better, don’t you?

Well, I guess we all make mistakes. I know it was raining that night, and you’d been working all day at the Dairy Queen. I know you were exhausted, and you just wanted to go to sleep, but we can’t help the cards that we’re dealt, can we? We’d all like aces, wouldn’t we? We’d all like another queen on the board. That would help, wouldn’t it? But why do you think you’re so unique that you get to have special treatment? Why do you think you deserve another queen on the board and not the guy next to you, huh? You know the girl who works every night until 2am at the pizza place? You think she doesn’t want another queen on the board? Forget about whether or not she plays chess, the point is, if she did, she’d want as many queens as possible. A queen on every square even. But that’s not how life works, is it? Is it?

I hate when you don’t answer me, you know, I really hate it.

Why don’t you go sleep in the bathroom at the Marriott? You’ve done it before, right? It’s not like anyone’s checking. You go in the stall all the way to the end. The handicapped stall. You can stay there until the janitor comes in the morning. Do you know how happy everybody will be at home if you stay out all night? Do you know how excited they’ll be? When you finally do come home, they’ll probably smile at you. Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t you like to be smiled at for a change? And what’ll it cost you? One night in a bathroom stall in a nice hotel. You think you’re too good to sleep in a bathroom stall? If you ask me, what you need is a little humility. Maybe sleeping on that dank floor while all that muzak plays around you will do you some good. Build character. You know about building character?

I wish you wouldn’t make me talk to you this way. I really do despise it. I’m just here to give you instructions. I’m here to give you good counsel. Go here, go there. Do this, do that. Sneak behind that dumpster and see if there’s any food laying around. Check the back door on that house, and see if it’s open. This whole street is lined with vacation houses on either end. You could stay in some of these for months if you had to. They even leave the electricity on, these rich bastards, do you believe that? Do you believe wasting all that money? You’d never waste money like that if you had it, would you? No, I know you wouldn’t.

Go get your pizza. Order the buffalo chicken. Take small bites. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t take your hat off, leave it on. Play chess on your phone. See if you can figure out how to keep all the good pieces. I know it’s hard. Eventually, you have to give them up. Just hang onto them for as long as you can. Once you give up your first good piece, it all starts to go so fast. The next thing you know, your queen is in trouble.

Once your queen is gone, there’s not much you can do.

It’s a shame they don’t give you another one, huh?

It’s a shame one is all you get.

September 16, 2023 01:01

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31 comments

Graham Kinross
21:58 Nov 22, 2023

Interesting that I’m at the end and this is open enough that I’m still not 100% who either character is or their relationship but I’m guessing parent and child. Is it a father who’s now a widower? He’s turned to chess in his free time but he’s struggling for money? I like the obsession with holding onto everything you can. I can relate.

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Story Time
00:23 Nov 24, 2023

Thank you, Graham. To me, this is a voice inside the character's head. It could be a father, but I think it's interesting that people automatically assigned the voice to a male just because it's so tough.

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Graham Kinross
01:48 Nov 24, 2023

Probably a sexist societal default. I hadn’t even realised I’d made the assumption.

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Danie Holland
17:39 Sep 28, 2023

Don’t Dont Don’t Dont Don’t Dont DON’T How suffocating the prisons we lock ourselves in. I loved this piece. The line that struck the hardest for me was — “See if you can figure out how to keep all the good pieces. I know it’s hard. Eventually, you have to give them up. Just hang onto them for as long as you can. “ I can’t tell you how hard I’ve held on, how much I cried when having to give them up. How many years I’ve lost by telling myself not to play again, not to hold on to the pieces. After all, you’ll lose them anyway. ...

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Story Time
17:49 Sep 28, 2023

Thank you so much, Danie. It's funny where you learn life lessons. Getting myself slightly obsessed with chess has actually been therapeutic.

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Danie Holland
17:55 Sep 28, 2023

I agree with you, funny. And sometimes not funny at all. I don’t know why you needed a therapeutic obsession but I’m glad you found it.

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Hannah Lynn
19:09 Sep 27, 2023

Loved the story, great read. I’d be interested to know the back story. Intriguing to think how he ended up this way. Lots to think about.

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Story Time
19:22 Sep 27, 2023

Thank you so much, Hannah!

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Rebecca Miles
06:05 Sep 24, 2023

Oh this voice. It's relentless; you feel the unnamed subject just shrinking, like a spotlight shined on it is frazzling all the humanity away. It goads about the need to hoard pieces, scorns the poor subject's tactics, but actually is the mastermind attempting to control all the board. I know precious little about chess as I don't play, but this had me wanting the addressed to sacrifice all the pieces, play his own game, throw the board in the air if he wanted to. I would love a companion, inspiration piece to this, where he gets his extra q...

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Story Time
03:45 Sep 25, 2023

Thank you so much, Rebecca. It's been amazing seeing the response to this piece.

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Karen Corr
23:07 Sep 18, 2023

Lay out all the possible moves and try to hang on to the good pieces. How humans survive in an inhumane world, told with an eloquent mysterious voice. I really liked it, Kevin.

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Story Time
23:32 Sep 18, 2023

Thank you so much, Karen.

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Story Time
23:32 Sep 18, 2023

I'm glad my pandemic addiction to chess assisted me here.

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Lily Finch
20:48 Sep 18, 2023

Homelessness, poverty, versus homes, and wealth. Always the way certain distinctions are made. Becoming overly concerned with what might or could happen in any moment is totally insane. Paranoia. I saw a bit of a big brother or a boss in the protagonist role in this one. Someone who lives alone and dreads to go back there. Almost like his head is in a different mindset than his own. Weird concept but cool. Pretty exciting concept to wrap your head around. LF6

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Story Time
22:13 Sep 18, 2023

Thank you, Lily. It was surprisingly easy to write once I found the voice, but still tough to live in that space.

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Lily Finch
23:14 Sep 18, 2023

Yeah, I bet. LF6

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E. B. Bullet
20:38 Sep 18, 2023

Ahhhh your writing is so CATCHING, the way it grabs you and keeps you pinned down until you've made it all the way to the last word. The story here is very loose and open to interpretation, which I usually struggle with because I hate thinking LOL but I found myself enjoying the ride nonetheless. It reminds me a lot of the way I speak to myself, as if my thoughts and the way my body reacts to them is disconnected-asking myself a bunch of questions, wondering why I've done things the way I did them. I'm sure it's common, so it's easy to rel...

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Story Time
22:12 Sep 18, 2023

Thank you very much, I'm glad it had an impact.

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AnneMarie Miles
02:07 Sep 16, 2023

This is not me being totally envious that you got some writing done today, submitting to the contest the day it rolled out... 🫠 Amazing. And with something so...intriguing. This really fits the bill for this weeks assignment. I gotta say I have no idea what happened to the MC but it clearly wasn't good, and now they are paranoid, overthinking, looking around every corner, considering every detail. The symbolism of the queen is so poignant. It's the desire for more (to combat the homelessness), but it's also the desire for protection (to ...

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Story Time
04:27 Sep 16, 2023

Thank you so much. This is actually inspired (very loosely) by where I was in my life a few years back. Not homeless, but dreading going back to an empty apartment. Finding any excuse to stay out just to avoid having to face loneliness. I was intrigued by the idea of the voice inside our heads having a real personality--not just a variation of our own personality, but something totally different. Omnipotent, but in a way that feels like an abusive father or boss. I loved reading you take on it!

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AnneMarie Miles
13:39 Sep 16, 2023

The stories that are inspired by our own experience happen to be the best ones. I find it's easier to explore different writing styles, too, when we have a personal reference. It's like we can hold the experience in our hand and twist and turn it to see if from different angles. I hope my interpretation didn't take away from your intent. I really enjoyed the writing. Learned a lot. Thanks!

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Story Time
19:00 Sep 16, 2023

Oh no, I love hearing what people take from it. I don't think my interpretation is the authority just because I wrote it. We're all just transcribers, right? :)

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AnneMarie Miles
22:02 Sep 16, 2023

Great way to look at it! :) I hope writing and this site help with the loneliness, friend. Looking forward to your next story!

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AnneMarie Miles
15:50 Sep 17, 2023

Aaand, I am still thinking about this story - lol. I finally got the connection between the two queens, with the LGTBQ tag, and the loneliness. It makes me appreciate the story more. Even if it took me forever to connect those dots. You know a story is really well done when you can't stop thinking about it. Thanks a bunch for sharing. It's definitely serving as some inspiration as I brainstorm ideas this week.

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Story Time
17:02 Sep 18, 2023

Oh that's wonderful. I'm glad it's sticking with you.

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Amanda Lieser
18:02 Nov 11, 2023

Hi Kevin! Oh how we struggle with all the voices in our heads and how sad it is in the world when someone doesn’t have a community member who can talk them out of all of the bad thoughts they’re already thinking. The line that struck me the most from the one about the Marriott bathrooms, because I worked for Marriott a few years when I was younger. I remember, wondering about all the stories of the people who came to the hotel and visited us. We also had an incident a while back where a young woman was caught shoplifting at the mall across t...

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Nina H
20:15 Sep 25, 2023

Aw, but isn’t there the hope of another queen if you’ve lost yours? If you’ve played a little risky, lost her, then worked your pawn with determination across the board? This tells me maybe we shouldn’t always listen to that voice in our head? That maybe if we look again, we can get another queen, despite what that voice says? Maybe I’m reading too much into it?? 😂 This is a great read, and so relatable!

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Story Time
22:04 Sep 25, 2023

Thank you, and you're right! It's always possible to get another Queen and it's interesting that only a pawn can become a queen.

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Michał Przywara
21:38 Sep 19, 2023

Oh, brutal! The story's good, but that voice! That narrator! Nobody can be our worst enemy better than we ourselves can. The advice seems helpful on the surface - and no doubt there's goodwill behind it - but jeez: "Why don’t you go sleep in the bathroom at the Marriott?" That whole paragraph, loaded with self-loathing. "I wish you wouldn’t make me talk to you this way. I really do despise it." More here. Good intentions, but so destructive. Not a kind word for the self to be found. Storywise, great voice, speaks volumes. So, naturall...

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Story Time
21:46 Sep 19, 2023

Thank you, Michal. It was hard to write a voice that was so punishing. I wondered if maybe this was a father's voice, imbedded in their child's mind. Then I wondered if it just might be that home is simply a place this character is woefully unhappy. It seems odd that the bathroom of a Marriott would be a happier place to be than wherever this character is from, but who knows? I was glad to step away from the piece once it was done, but also very proud of it.

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Mary Bendickson
01:15 Sep 18, 2023

Can't go there. So what if it is home.

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