Chess Club Stories: Saying Good-Bye and Promising to Return
“Wow, I didn't think you'd be back!” Billy said as he entered the room.
It was two weeks later. Billy got suspended the previous week so I didn't get to see him, but I was glad that I at least got to see him now on my last weekend before going back to school.
"Hey Billy,” I replied. I was helping Mr. Flight move desks together and set up some of the chess boards. “Yeah, I was hoping I'd catch you last week but you weren't here.”
“I got suspended last week,” he said, still sore over it.
"I nearly broke a kid's nose." He answered. “I spent the whole week listening to him run his mouth. Finally he said something about my mom and I just lost it.”
“Wow,” I said. “I don't blame you there.”
"Yeah, they almost called the police on me but because he was harassing me they let it drop.”
I gave him a high five. “Good job for holding out so long.”
I didn't condone him hitting anyone, but I understood why he did it. And I knew from experience that the kid who was harassing him probably got away with it the whole week and that if Billy hadn't hit him, it would have kept going on. So though I would never encourage a kid to use his fists to solve the problem, I'm not the one whose going to lecture him about it either. He did what he did and he honed up to it.
Billy had make-up work to do so I let him get his stuff done and played with the other kids.
We played a few rounds of Double-Bug house chess, a variation of chess that involves four players and twice as intense. We played it when I was in seventh grade and I was glad to see it hadn't died out yet.
"So when are you coming back?" Henry asked between games. He was a very easy going kid with short black hair and glasses, wearing a Harry Potter t-shirt and gray jeans.
It felt good when Billy was genuinely happy to see me return and it felt even better when Henry asked me when I'd be coming back. It was one of those moments when I felt like I had figured out where my place in the world was.
"Well, I'm leaving my e-mail address with Mister Flight in exchange for his. I have more breaks coming up and when I come down I'll e-mail him to see if chess club is still going that week. And if you guys want to e-mail me you're more than welcome.
"What do we say when we e-mail you?" Parker asked, looking up from his game.
"Anything you want. Say hi, tell me how your week went, ask me for answers to tests.” I shot him a grin to let him know I was joking. It got a few laughs.
So I said goodbye that last week, and though that group moved on I visited Mr. Flights chess club many more times in the later years. To this day I still feel like I made a difference there.