Deck out your device with 15% off smartphone cases & laptop skins. Use code DEVICE15.

Playing With Dad

It had been raining all day and my best friend Colin was away with his mum shopping. He needed some new trainers for school. Ha ha. Serves him right as he’d ripped the last ones climbing the pill boxes in the Horses Field. Still. It meant I was bored. I would have gone fishing but some lads nicked my floats last week, and I didn’t have any spare.

“Fancy a game of chess Mark?” asked dad. We played at least once a week. He’d taught me to play just after I’d turned ten. Before chess it had been drafts. He always beat me at that too. “Ok” said I.

I pulled the wooden chess board from alongside the sideboard, and lifted the chess pieces box from under it. The sideboard had come from Sweden, but I can’t remember how my mum and dad had managed to get it back here. We’d had it in Belgium too. It still had the cups and saucers from Romania that we never used, and the lamp from Berlin my dad bought when he visited there. I put the board down onto our coffee table and pulled out the poof to sit on.

After opening the lid I lifted out a black and a white pawn and held them in my hands behind my back. “Left” said dad, which meant he was white. He would go first. We spent a minute or so putting out our pieces. I always got mixed up between where the knights and bishops went, so always made sure I set my pieces up a second after dad.

I smelt macaroni cheese coming from the kitchen and looked at the time. The clock sat on the mantel piece above the fire and it was an electric one. Whenever the electric went off and came back on, it would sometimes run backwards. Gosh. As if I could forget. Still made me feel weird to this day.

You see the electric had gone off and the clock was going backwards, so I thought I would fix it. The plug socket was underneath some high shelves in the corner of the living room, and to get at it I had to lie on my back and reach under the lowest shelf and blindly pull the plug out and push it back in. Because the clock had come from Belgium the plug was different from the ones in England. As I was trying to pull out the plug with two pins I felt a big jolt go through me. I immediately lifted up my feet as I knew that electricity goes through you and through your feet. I stayed like that for a couple of minutes staying as calm as I could. I had been electrocuted! Once I thought it was safe I lied my legs back on the floor and tried again and got the clock going forwards. Anyway, it was ten past four.

Dad opened with his pawn in front of his queen. Inwardly I groaned as I knew there was supposed to be a good way of replying. So I just matched his moves to start with.

Yesterday was a real laugh. Colin and I’d gone down to the tip and found some old copper piping that was just the right length. Then we’d gone over to Smithys to buy some nails. They were light grey, about two inches long with big heads. They were perfect. We’d spent the morning rolling up newspaper to make paper darts and we now added the nails to add weight. The pointy bit at the front of the dart, and the big end stopped the nail coming out. They were ace, as when you blew on the one end the darts flew miles. We’d ran off to the Horses Field and spent the afternoon playing around the two pill boxes. Inside the floor was four inches deep in water and stank – but there was nowhere better to hide. That or on the roof. I’d been wearing my favourite brown bomber jacket and he’d hit me once or twice. One had even put a hole in my sleeve. I still reckon I won though.

Dad took my knight, and my heart sank. He’d already taken a number of my pawns but I reckoned I could get his rook if I could disguise my moves.

We always found stuff to do. Even when it was freezing. Better than being at home any day. There was this one time when we were fishing and we realised we’d been surrounded by cows. Only thems weren’t normal cows. Thems were bulls! They got closer and closer and we were bricking ourselves. We decided to leg it, so grabbed all of our stuff and ran for our lives. The fence was ages away, but we had no choice. Of course I was wearing a red cagoule which kind of made it even funnier. At least once we were over the fence.

Then there was the time that we were so cold and bored as we’d not caught anything all day that we decided to catch some frogs. Or toads. Take your pick. I’d rather not say what we did to those frogs cos I don’t know you. But they kept us amused for hours on end. One thing I can say is that if you throw them as high as you can, when they land in the water they pretend they’re dead. Then after a couple of minutes they start to swim again.

It was getting desperate. I’d taken his rook, but he’d taken my queen. That usually meant death wasn’t far away. I moved my king into a heavily defended position and ensured my bishops had as much of the board covered as possible. I knew the end was near, but couldn’t see anything else to do.

It had started sleeting now. I wondered whether Colin was back home. I’d call round for him after tea. Hopefully his dad would be out meaning we could go on his new CB radio. I was still getting used to the lingo. There was this girl who lived close by called Maid Marion, and we’d all agreed to meet up outside the Beconsall Hotel. Only she’d never shown up. I really should change my name, as Blue Mark was the best I’d come up with. Everything I wore was blue and I was kicking myself I couldn’t think of something better.

Dad moved to attack my bishop with one of his knights. I concentrated hard and decided that I could get dad in check if I moved it. So I did. “Check” said I triumphantly. Dad moved a pawn to block my attack and I moved my last remaining knight to defend my bishop.

I looked out of the window to see if Colin was back yet. Yes he was! His mum drove a blue Fiat 126. It was tiny. Like a tin can on wheels and when you sat in it all you could hear was it’s engine.

“Checkmate!” said dad. I looked up to see that smile dad always wore when he beat me. “Want another game?” he asked. “Nah” said I as I tidied away the chess pieces and asked mum if I could go out to play. “Not till after tea Mark.” she said. I couldn’t wait.

Currently unavailable for purchase

Almost autobiographical. Every aspect happened, maybe not all together. Hope you like it, and hope it meets with the rules of the Checkmate comp!

I enjoy taking photos, and writing. I live at the southern tip of the foothills of the Peak District (think Derby, central England). I had a Nikon D80 with various lenses (now a Sony NEX5N, a dog who tries hard to get into every photo and two lovely daughters :)

View Full Profile


  • iAN Derrick
    iAN Derrickover 6 years ago

    God how I hate macaroni cheese …But I sure as hell enjoyed this story….mark my words Mark at D80 shutter speed your writing is now in orbit.

  • Thanks iAN. Your praise and encouragement mean a lot.

    – Mark Bateman

  • Matthew Dalton
    Matthew Daltonover 6 years ago

    I like the way you interlace the two stories so nicely. Great work.

  • Thanks very much Matthew.

    – Mark Bateman

  • Alison Pearce
    Alison Pearceover 6 years ago

    I really enjoyed this!

  • Thanks so much Alison!

    – Mark Bateman

  • Jeannette Sheehy
    Jeannette Sheehyover 6 years ago

    Great story Mark, you anorak!! I can imagine it all as I read it. (I was wondering why all the stories I was reading lately were all about chess…now I know it’s a comp!).

  • Anorak? Me? You’ll be giving Mr Derrick completely the wrong impression, you femme fatale you. Thanks for the praise though!

    – Mark Bateman

  • Crystal Zacharias
    Crystal Zachariasover 6 years ago

    Nice story…if you get electrocuted though, you are dead… maybe you should say you got shocked.

  • Mark Bateman
    Mark Batemanover 6 years ago

    Hey – this was me as a ten year old. I thought I was electrocuted! Thanks for reading :)

  • Bev Woodman
    Bev Woodmanover 6 years ago

    Great story, nicely written and you had me interested. Loved the story line and how you wove the two stories together.

  • Thanks a lot Bev for taking the time to read it!

    – Mark Bateman

  • MillicentMorrow
    MillicentMorrowabout 6 years ago

    That’s one scary clock you had. Terrific capture of the spirit of childhood and of the spirit of the game with your Dad by interweaving the two different time frames.

  • Thanks a lot Millicent for taking the time to read and comment. Really appreciate it!

    – Mark Bateman

desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

10%off for joining

the Redbubble mailing list

Receive exclusive deals and awesome artist news and content right to your inbox. Free for your convenience.