A game of checkers

He will be killed and she will be killed and everyone except for me will be killed as a Muslim, as an alien, as an intellectual, as a homosexual. And I stroke my chin and chuckle in agreement with whatever crude thing is under discussion to cover a sudden watering of my eyes, because shit, they’ve just caught her with a bomb, the policemen say.

They march her in handcuffs up to the table where the commander and I are playing checkers, my silver coins against his gold (plastic is too precious). I am unable to look at her and she does nothing to acknowledge me, whether from contempt or because she wants me to live, I don’t know.

The commander prescribes his usual panacea: one bullet. They take her away. I pray to the ground in which I somehow still believe: open under my chair, swallow me whole. But it doesn’t. The moment passes. I relieve the commander of another gold coin.

*
If you haven’t yet submitted anything to qarrtsiluni for the Words of Power issue, which Beth and I are editing, you have until next Monday.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

15 Comments


  1. Hey Dave — since you seem to like to receive new of snafus with your web page — for some time now I’ve had difficulty with your google site search feature, which I use occasionally to revisit poems of yours of which I’ve been reminded. Results flash momentarily quickly to be replaced by your 404 Oof! page. I don’t like being cut off from old friends here! Maybe it’s my crazy Mac.

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    1. It might be, but that’s not good news. Having a Flash-dependent search function probably makes for poor accessibility in any case. Maybe I should revert to the default search button.

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      1. It’s a little lame of me not to realize that anything I might want has probably been laid out artfully in “Spoil”.

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  2. Dave, I wandered into shadow cabinet and read “Bodies of Water” and burst into tears! It completely surprised me; I didn’t recognize it until the end and it just unfurled on me. Beautiful. Thank you. I think before I had somehow read it in chunks, but this time it just swept me through it.

    It wasn’t the poem I was looking for, which I can’t name and probably didn’t make the cut making me glad google search short-circuited.

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    1. Wow, i’m surprised (and more than a little flattered) that you had such a strong reaction to that poem.

      I’ve just rejiggered the custom search (and expanded it to include Shadow Cabinet and Spoil). Please try it again when you get a chance and let me know if there’s any improvement.

      I tried to add a fancy new Search API plugin from WordPress central, but it’s too buggy yet. I expect they’ll get the bugs ironed out in a few months and incorporate it into the core software in the next major update, though. If that happens, I’ll gladly ditch Google. I don’t enjoy having ads on the site.

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  3. Dave, I should have tried Explorer. Everything looks better now. Your search works fine. It was definitely my Safari. Sorry about that.

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    1. Oh good. Yes, I imagine it must be extremely time-consuming for you to try and download new versions of Safari at dial-up speed. I have Safari for Windows, and even at 1000k/sec it takes a couple minutes.

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  4. It was “Trip” I wanted to see. You don’t often do portraits.

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    1. I’m afraid i don’t remember anything I wrote more than three days ago (which is partly why I need a good search function).

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  5. Dave, you can spare me the special considerations (though I do appreciate them!): I hocked the grandkids and got satellite. I’m still getting accustomed to my new powers – I’ve got to be wary of my 200 megabyte download limit and there are punishments for those who exceed it – but updating Safari should be a piece of cake. Yes, the speed is good. I think ease of access to Shadow Cabinet and my sudden arrival in the midst of its contents helped to make for the good read I had there. I’m enjoying a sense of timelessness.

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    1. Hey, whoa — congratulations! A 200M download limit? Please tell me that’s daily and not monthly. If the latter, you won’t be able to follow my Moving Poems site, for one thing.

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      1. Thanks. It’s daily. The Safari update is 180M, or nearly my daily allowance. I hope soon to get a download manager working that I can task to show highM house guests to their rooms during off-peak hours when my allowance isn’t at stake. I can entertain them, rested and flush the following day.

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  6. Ok. At the risk of sounding dumb again. Back to the writing. I was hoping someone would else ask about this. All of this haunting story/snippet works for me except one. I’m left with the question of who the narrator is and what his relationship is to the girl. Friend, brother, former husband? I guess it’s important for me to know because the depth of his self protective silence and her “him” protective silence hinges a bit on their personal closeness.

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    1. Hmm. I was hoping it might work to leave it up to the reader’s imagination. I guess not. It can be risky to turn a dream into a story without eliminating some of the ambiguities.

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  7. Ah, well there you have it. Perhaps I should have taken the hint when plastic was deemed more precious than silver and gold. At any rate, I didn’t know it was a dream, and I knew it wasn’t a poem, and therefore I figured, as usual, I was missing something. It’s a problem I have with a small view with hints of the larger picture. I keep looking around the edges/corners for the rest.

    I’m obviously of the ambiguity challenged ilk.

    Also, there are those things you write about which are based on actual news articles that I didn’t happen to read/hear. This one had just enough hints of Iran/Iraq/Saudi Arabia/Afganistan etc that it haunted me.

    At any rate, I liked it..and like anything well written, I wanted to know more about the characters.

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