Bad Survivalist Microfiction: “Chess Problems” by Steve Chang

Bad Survivalist: Steve Chang

Chess Problems

—after Diane Williams and James Robison

Brian returned from the world and found Charlene was deceiving him again. He liked visiting her in her studio, a short distance from his mind.

“That’s enough,” he said. “Charlene.”  He was raspy and eager, but with a prickly thumb. It now prickled.

She was beside the window, scribbling chess problems into her workbook. She was wearing a cashmere poncho that was dramatic and printed with 60s flowers. She was meek, but very materialistic.

His knees were trembling.

“Oh?” she said. “You’re back by?”


He did something and she did something more passive. “Now,” he said, breathing. “What do you advise?”

“BLAH,” she said.

“Response,” he said. “And in addition.”

“More than anything in the whole world?”

“Yes,” he said.

She waited a moment. Then she said, “No.” 

He sucked on his thumb and knocked down her tools. “Are you disliking me?”

“You think you’re X, Y, and Z? You’re taking me to Isla Isabela?”

“I will,” he said. “If.”

“Then I’ll stay,” she hissed. “I’ll repeat more and elaborate”

“What are you questioning?” he said. “Don’t alert the apparatus.”

“Lay off me,” she said, swooning. From the floor, she said, “Scram.”

“I am loving you!” he said. “And you are acting so!” 

He had taken out his pocket square and started shining his thumb. Until it glowed. It would take on the color of copper. It would be a thumb at which anyone would be proud to look. He’d determined.

“No, you are,” she whispered. She sucked in a sharper afterthought. A fact then a fact, a memory, then a week ago—a record playing much too loudly. 

How it spun.

Steve Chang is from the San Gabriel Valley, California. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Guernica, North American Review, The Southampton Review, Epiphany, and elsewhere. He tweets @steveXisXok.

Image: “Checkmate” by Roberto Gastoni,

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