Mrs. McConnal XXXVIII

From: Anonymous

Note From The Editor: The writer of this very nice story sent it to me and asked to remain anonymous. However, I have his e-mail address, so if you want to tell him what you think about his story you can email me ([email protected]) and I will make sure he gets your comments.

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Chapter Thirty Eight: An Adrenaline High

It had been a stressful week. Dad was gone after Thanksgiving. I got my butt whipped three times. Mr. Donaldson put his salvation of the school's reputation on me. (I liked playing chess but I didn't really like the idea of people counting on me to win.) Now I was in charge of preparing myself for the match. Everyone was willing to help, but there was no one who could coach me other than myself. And having never done anything like this before, I left to pretty much wing it.

Surely Alex Litchfield knew far more about how to prepare for something like this than I did. I bet he really had coaches and sparring partners even who could play better than I could. I had never even played in a tournament; never even played with a chess clock (a count down type clock that lets a red flag drop when someone is out of time).

Why didn't I just tell Mr. Donaldson "no" when I had the chance? Well, I guess I didn't because I have to spend another two and a half years here and didn't want to be on his bad side all that time. But if I lose, then I'll really be on his bad side, and humiliated to boot. Too late to back out now; just do the best you can.

At least this would get me out of Mrs. Wilkerson's class for the next couple of weeks. That wasn't part of the original deal, but I was making it part of the deal now. I didn't tell anyone that, just did it. I would go to Miss. Andrews' class and slobber all over her for an hour. And, of course, I wouldn't miss Mrs. McConnal's class for anything. But the rest of my classes were out of the question.

I wouldn't have to submit to being knocked around in PE, either. That really did get old, being the little kid among kids three years older than me (some of them . . . some of them even four years older). Being the last one picked for any team. Being the squirt that no one wanted. Playing basketball against kids a foot taller than me was no fun, especially when they sometimes used that to get back at me for being smarter than them.

So I set up times for several different chess players to meet me in the library and play against me. I made the opening moves for them, using openings that Litchfield used, told them how to proceed (aggressively), and went form there. It was too easy.

So then, once their Litchfield-like attack was begun, I would remove my closest defender, forcing me to get creative. That also soon became too easy. So as the game began to swing my way, I continued to remove one of my own pieces from the board. If I had turned the attack around and was pushing him back, then I would remove my main attacking piece.

And this continued; always putting myself at a disadvantage, always having to fight back from an uncomfortable position. I continued this until I could not come back, and then racked my brain until I could come back, and then put myself in a hole again.

Whether this was really doing any good or not I had no way of knowing, but it was the best I could think of.

When no one was with me I read over books I brought, studying positions. I'd stare at a picture from a chess book of a position until I had played out every possible thread I could think of. Sometimes I'd just sit there, appearing to stare at a blank wall, when I was really playing over whole games in my head.

Nearing the end of the first week of this I could tell that it was going to drive me crazy if I didn't get out of there sometimes and just do something else. Like a song that is stuck in your head, I couldn't get the chess board out of my mind. The whole world was becoming a chess board and everything in it were pieces that could move in certain manners. This was nuts.

So, late in the first week of preparations, I went to coach Grant.

"Sure, I've got time for you, Jeremy." Coach Grant said. "Come on in. How can I help you?"

"Coach, I can see I'm going to need to take a break during the day from the library." I began.

"I thought you might." he said.

"I'd like to take some sort of PE." I went on. "I mean, going to a math class or something, I don't think that would do my mind any good. I feel like I need to get up and do something, not just sit there all day. It's starting to drive me nuts, Coach."

He smiled. "I can see how it would. That's why I never wanted a job that would have me behind a desk all day long. You know you're welcome to come to PE and play with the rest of the guys, don't you?"

"Yeah, I know." I said. "But when I'm scheduled for PE, there's somebody able to spar with me. So I can't come at my regular time. What I was wondering, Coach . . ." This was going to be an unusual request. "What I was wondering, Coach, is if I could ride my bike for an hour or so every day. I'd check in with you and let you know where I was going and when I would be back. I could dress in my sweat clothes. Since the school's on the edge of town there are plenty of country roads near here where I can ride safely. It would give me a chance to get some exercise and to get away from people at the same time. I like everybody who's helping me, but I really would like a chance to get off to myself and think about nothing but the wind in my face and how fast I can go, just for a while every day. I'd check back in with you when I got back. You'd know where I was all the time."

He thought for a moment. "Actually that sounds like a workable plan, Jeremy." he said. "Mr. Donaldson usually doesn't like students leaving campus during school hours, but I think I can swing this with him."

"But, you know, Jeremy," he went on, "I think you really need to play more with the other guys."

"It's not any fun getting beat all the time, Coach." I said. "I know nobody can win all the time, but I always lose when I play with the other guys. I know I'm not as good as they are, and I know no one wants me on their team, and all that. But it's . . . I try, Coach but I just can't play with them. I don't blame anybody for not wanting me on their team. I don't want me on my team, either."

I didn't know how to follow that up. Things were silent for a few moments. "Can't I just keep to myself? I think everybody will be a lot happier that way."

I could tell that didn't set quite right with Coach Grant. He just stared at me.

"How did Coach Jenkins handle this?" he asked. Coach Jenkins was the PE coach at the junior high school. (He was also the basketball coach.) "You must've had the same problems then?"

"He let me work on weights," I told him, "and run."

He nodded thoughtfully. "I'm going to have a talk with him. But for now, ride your bike." He said that with an upbeat expression as if to end the conversation, then added seriously, "But be sure to keep me posted about where you are and whenever you leave campus . . . and also let me know when you get back. If you're not back when you're supposed to be we'll have to come looking for you. Don't make us do that."

And we parted.

My reason for going to Mrs. McConnal's class, of course, was because I loved being in her presence, and I thought my presence was needed for working on the play for the spring (even though it was still early). My reason for going to Miss. Andrews' class was not because I felt the need to brush up on biology, but because I loved looking at her. She was such a young fox. (Mrs. Wilkerson was a fox, too, but she always made me feel uncomfortable.)

Bless Miss. Andrews' heart, I never listened to whatever she was talking about any more than I did amy of my other teachers. My fantasies usually ran to tales of chivalry with me being her hero, her Knight in Shining Armor. She was so vulnerable and the idea of her admiring me, holding me in especially high esteem, was a real turn on. So was the idea of seeing her naked.

She didn't speak to me much. She'd ask, "How are you doing?" And I would say, "OK. How about you?" I didn't know what else to say to her. She was grown, and I was just a kid. It's one thing for an adult to talk to a kid, they've been there before. but a kid's never been an adult and doesn't know how to talk with an adult on an adult's level. I knew that then. Most kids don't.

I was tempted to ask her how her lessons with giving a caning were going. If I were in Coach Grant's position, I'd be letting her feel a little of the cane myself, and letting her practice, gently (very gently), on my butt. I'd also be hoping to use this as an avenue to get into her pants. But I knew not to ask. And I had better manners than to speculate with any other kids about it, or even tell then what I already knew.

My demeanor was becoming even more sullen and serious than usual as I continued to work on chess. When playing for fun there's plenty of room for joviality, but I was being challenged by someone who wanted to publicly humiliate me, kick me all over the board in front of dozens, maybe hundreds, of people. There was no room for any playfulness now. In fact I was scared. I was on a constant adrenaline high, which I did not particularly like. Speed was never my drug of choice. Opiates were. I wanted to be alone and drift off into my own world of Coleridgeesque Xanadu. But I couldn't.

Mrs. McConnal saw what was happening with me and became more affectionate, even at school. By now everyone knew I was her favorite, that I often slept over at her house, and that I sometimes even moved in with her and Mr. McConnal for days at a time when Dad was gone. But now she was patting me on the head during school hours and such as that, which though it didn't feel inappropriate, did feel incongruous considering the intensely serious mood I was in.

Dianne made an effort to be warm, too. She always sought me out in the lunchroom and any other time she could. Both of them listened to me talk about chess strategy and theory for hours, something I knew they cared little about, but they knew I was obsessed for the next few weeks.

The End

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