Before he went to school, before he even had breakfast, Michael sent his dad a message: ‘Pawn to Queen’s Knight 4’.
‘Who are you texting?’ said Nan. She didn’t sit with him at the table: she was getting his lunch ready, checking his school bag. Michael didn’t answer. She said, ‘I’m running late,’ and took the radio upstairs. He chewed his toast and the sound was loud inside his head, like giant ants marching across a desert of sugar. He saw time passing on his phone.
His father had until seven o’clock that evening to answer or lose the game.
At school he had the phone on silent but Mrs Bradbury said, ‘Michael?’ At the end of the day she gave him back his phone and looked as if she might say something then closed her mouth again.
They all kept saying it wasn’t Michael’s fault.
After tea, he sat in his room. He looked at the chessboard and his brain felt like a slug trying to cross a motorway. The radio downstairs sent out gusts of laughter.
Michael stared at his phone: 6.59. He tried to stop the numbers changing. He closed his eyes and put his hands over his ears but still heard the pips for the seven o’clock news and the theme tune for ‘The Archers’.
Michael toppled the white king. He set him on his feet again. Turning the chess board round, he tried to be his dad working out the next move.
Maria Donovan is a British author writing short fiction and novels as well as factual content related to research interests in people, history, place, medicine and science, writing craft and the publishing process. Maria’s writing is informed by her experiences as a nurse, traveler, musician and performer and as a university lecturer (how did that happen?) as well as insights into the human condition from her own slightly strange perspective. Maria is also author of the novel The Chicken Soup Murder, which was a finalist for the Dundee International Book Prize.
For books by Maria Donovan, please visit her Amazon page.