John has really picked up on chess. He and I play several nights a week after supper. I still win the majority of the games, but a couple weeks ago he played an aggressive and unexpected game that had me taken aback through much of it. I won, but barely. He was a move away from checkmate.
He's been setting terms, too: When I play, I play to win by swooping up to a castled king with my queen, guarded far back by a castle. John has called for a moratorium in such strategy -- not to level the field, but because he now understands it and wants to learn other ways to win -- forcing me to rely more on bishops and knights, and relegating my queen to a lesser role.
We were well into a game last night when he was pondering his next move and said casually, "Hey Mom, now that we're playing more manly chess --"
"Do wha wha?" I felt like a cartoon doing the hilarious double-take. My eyebrows shot up over my scalp and I could feel my eyes bulging. I think my contacts popped off yet hovered about an inch from my eyeballs. Action lines shot out all over. I sat up straight and then cut my eyes to an imaginary audience. Fortunately, I didn't overreact.
John, sensing blood in the water and having the good sense to realize it was his, retreated carefully. "Ah," he said. "Ah."
I sat back on my heels. "What kind of chess are we playing?"
"Manly chess," he murmured to his pieces.
"Soooooo. If it's manly chess, should I even be playing it?"
"Ah," he gurgled.
"I'd like to know what that meant."
"Mm," he said, clearly believing that if he opened his mouth I would pounce on his tongue. "Ah. Um, never mind."
"Actually, I do mind."
"Rm." I was becoming almost more interested in the vowel-free noises he was making than the impending explanation. "Ht. Well, uh, actually I don't want to talk about it."
"I do," I said, "and we're going to. Words are important and every word you use is important. I'd like to know what you were trying to say."
He looked at the board for awhile, took a deep breath, and said, "Now that we're playing harder chess, can we not play the castle behind the queen anymore?"
I said that would be fine and reminded him to pay attention to his words. Long live the queen.