“A Game of Chess” by Martin Egblewogbe. (Classic Flash Fiction Series)

What is the world coming to…I ask you!

 

This afternoon I was walking naked down the street, minding my own business, when an annoying incident occurred. I was on my way to watch the concluding part of a chess game that had been going on every Saturday afternoon for the past three weeks – my calculations showed that one of the players would certainly put his opponent in check today. I had been part of the tournament earlier on but had been beaten to third place.

 

My mind was entirely on the game as I strolled leisurely through the streets of the neighbourhood where I lived. To me the conclusion was foregone: there was only one way to win the game. Last week the losing player had put up a surprising display, almost turning the tide. He had in fact put himself in a much stronger position, but I doubted if he could win the game or force a stalemate.

 

As I walked on, however, I sensed some agitation amongst the people around me. Of course I’d realised that being naked, I would attract a little attention; indeed I’d have been slightly flattered if someone had come up to me with civilised comment: ‘I am quite pleased with your appearance today: your penis especially is big, straight, and looks well nourished.’

 

To which I would have answered with a smile, ‘Ah, what. I only just noticed it myself this morning when I was undressing, and I quite agree with you.’

 

There was no reason to turn down a well-intentioned compliment, especially as I had taken considerable pains at my toilet today. I was well shaven, anointed with ointment, powdered, and perfumed – all to avoid disgrace, of course.

 

Then again I wouldn’t have minded answering a polite question as to my state of undress. With equal politeness I would give a few reasons, only for the sake of civil discourse, for it really was nobody’s business. However, I would add an important point with a smile: ‘It certainly allows flatulence to disperse with ease.’ Or I would be expansive, and further state: ‘Unencumbered by layers of textile, different in texture, thickness, and absorbency.’

 

I had also considered the possibility that someone would come to me and say, ‘You are naked and must be ashamed of yourself.’ I would respond thus, ‘Why must I be ashamed? Have you not read the Holy Scripture, where in the book of Genesis chapter two verse twenty-five it says, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” Besides, prior to the creation of the woman, doubtless Adam was naked and neither was he ashamed.’

 

I was prepared for civility, but not the brutish, unenlightened reaction I encountered when suddenly I heard some shouts behind me, and I turned around. A policeman was running at the head of a group of three well-built men, and was calling out to me, ‘Hey, you there! Stop!’

 

Surprised, I concurred. The last thing I wanted was to cause a scene. Moreover I am a law-abiding citizen, and I was sure it was for some trivial matter that the policeman had hailed me.

 

The foursome soon drew up to me, a bit short of breath. I cast a questioning look at them, waiting.

‘You are naked!’ the policeman suddenly declared.

Now one thing I cannot stand is foolishness. ‘But of course,’ I said, wondering why they bothered to run all this distance to tell me something I obviously knew, something that I was architect of.

‘This is unacceptable,’ the policeman continued.

‘Unacceptable? Not to me, certainly,’ I said nonchalantly.

‘But the public, the public…’ the policeman said. I suppose it was as a result of the run that the policeman was speaking nonsense in short gasps.

‘What public? You do not mean to suggest that my state of undress might cause distress to members of the public? But how preposterous a thought that is! Every member of the public observes their nakedness at least once a day, and I daresay are mighty pleased with what they see.’

‘I am sorry, but I must put you under arrest,’ the policeman said, shaking his head.

I was quite irritated. ‘My goodness! Listen; there is no reason for all this. I am a peaceable citizen, on my way to watch the final of a chess tournament. The game is very engrossing, and I must find out if some of my hypotheses will be proven.’

‘You sound very educated,’ the policeman began. ‘It is rather unfortunate that you should act in such a manner. Do you not know that you will corrupt the little girls?’

‘I will not touch them, I assure you. I only do such things at night, and even then she must be above the age of majority, and has to give her consent.’

But the policeman had made up his mind. ‘I am arresting you for indecent exposure,’ he said. He paused.‘You may require psychiatric evaluation, but you do seem … rather sane.’

‘Of course I’m sane,’ I retorted angrily, but before I could say more the three others pounced on me and forced me into a knee-length over-all. I was further infuriated, because one of them touched my penis during this exercise. I was then frog-marched, no less, in the direction from which they had come.

 

‘You will get the chance to telephone your folks from the station,’ the policeman said kindly.

‘I demand to be released to go and watch the game,’ I shouted. ‘For three weeks I have intently followed the game, and today, today when the champion will be decided, you arrest me?’

‘Have you always attended the games naked?’ the policeman asked.

‘Today is a special day,’ I replied, ‘Do you not understand that?’

 

After a short distance the three gentlemen took leave of us, and thereafter the policeman put me in handcuffs. It appeared that the other three were members of the public who had assisted the policeman in performing his duty.

 

I was very angry by the time we got to the police station, but I had decided not to speak to the policeman. This decision could not be maintained, however, because the policeman made me sit in a rickety old chair behind the counter, and proceeded to question me, writing my answers on a police report form.

 

So now here I sit, in detention. I’ve made my telephone call, written down my “statement”: it all is a very small matter, but I still have to be bailed. An unnecessary interruption of my well-planned day, and the most unfortunate thing is that I’ve missed the start of the game by now. How terrible! And all because of this nonsense…! To think that I took such pains to make myself look presentable! My body fairly glows with the excellent care I had taken – even going as far as rubbing down with alcohol after bathing.

 

What a world…eh!

 

 


Martin Egblewogbe is the co-founder of the Writers Project of Ghana. He is also an editor with the “Ghanaian Book Review”. He enjoys writing short stories and poetry in his spare time and has contributed to several anthologies some of which have been published online, in anthologies and in newspapers including “Look Where You Have Gone and Sit” co-edited with Laban Carrick Hill (Woeli, Ghana: 2011).. He is the author of the short story collection, “Mr Happy and the Hammer of God” and his short story “The Gonjon Pin” is featured in the Caine Prize for African Writing 2014 collection titled “The Gonjon Pin and other stories”.

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