The Immortal Game: The Story of Grandmaster Sonny Soul CH1. I
On the basketball court behind the old Quick Save grocery store, four half drunk gang members were playing two on two under the one hoop in town that still had a net. Darnell faked a move in one direction then slid past on the other side, he played a safe little 'lay-up' that still rolled halfway round the hoop before dropping through the net.
'Y-e---a-h! B--o----y!' Darnell made a gesture with his hand, crossing his fingers like he was trying to snap them. His good friend and team-mate Dee was posturing to the others as he walked up and slapped him a loose five.
'Boy! Dat is cheating!' one of their opponents looked across with mad eyes; "mad" because they were brimming with hatred, and also "mad" because one pointed one way, while the other, pointed somewhere different.
'What's cheating! Dat ain't cheating, dat's playing ball! No surprise you don't recognise it!' Darnell quipped, pointing his chin their way and weaving his head from side to side.
'Nah. You used like a tactic or sumtin' to get the ball past!' the opponent protested.
'It's a game all about tactics, you dumb-ass-redneck!' shouted Dee, as he peeled off his sweat sodden tee-shirt.
'No way dogg! I couldn't see yo-ass; it's outta line!'
Darnell glanced up at his opponent with irritation, 'B-o---y what's your problem? There ain't nuttin' wrong wit our game. Maybe if you could see straight!...'
'What you trying to say!'
'I'm trying to say...' Darnell began, with a crooked smile, 'that I don't think, I ever seen a nigger that got two lazy eyes before!'
'Shit! dogg...' the mad-eyed player shouted, not knowing where to look, '...you're lucky I'm drunk, else I'd straight-up kill your ass!'
'Ah! Whatever!' said Darnell, 'You wanna play some ball or what?' and he folded his arms high on his chest and looked to Dee: who was bouncing the ball back and forth between his legs.
The mad-eyed player looked across to his team-mate and in his look there was a sly question, that wasn't put into words but communicated subtly through his expression: it was a look that seemed to ask: 'Are you up for playing some more?-cos I am, and I'm gonna teach this guy a lesson he'll never forget.' The look was malicious and deadly serious. And the other player responded with a reluctant nod of the head; then raising his hand, he paused for a moment.
'Just wait for one second though T-bag...' the other player began, 'my leg strap is loose.' and sitting down on the floor, he took off his artificial leg, adjusted the knee hinge, set in back firmly in place and pulled the strap as tight as it would go.
'Is your name T-bag?' Darnell asked the mad-eyed played; who nodded proudly. 'What the fuck? As if the one handicap weren't enough in yo life!' and he began to laugh.
'What the hell do you mean handicap? I ain't got no handicap!' he shouted indignantly.
'No handicap! You're looking four different ways at once! Your expression's like a fuckin' maths puzzle!'
'Right!' said T-bag, 'Lets do this shit, pass me the ball Buckwheat!' he shouted to Dee.
Dee bounced the ball over. T-bag saw it coming towards him but crossed his arms in front of his face; the ball hit him square in the jaw and knocked him to the ground. He was dizzy, and staggered as he got to his feet. He took a moment to compose himself and picked up the ball.
Dribbling the ball at his feet, he took a firm stance. Darnell and Dee looked at each other smiling, and lazily took their defensive positions. T-bag went straight for the hoop and was blocked, he passed the ball in a flash, and broke free from the defenders. Dee rushed for the ball but it was already in the air and travelling back to T-bag; who caught it firmly. Charging with the ball T-bag knocked Darnell to the floor.
'What the hell!' Darnell cried.
T-bag made for the hoop and was in the air, jumping high, about to dunk the ball through the hoop. He soared, like a bird; and felt victorious as he brought the ball home. The feelings of triumph overwhelmed him as he plunged the ball at the hoop; a mad ecstatic grin on his face. However, his hands found only air; where his eyes saw the net. And traveling at full speed he collided head first into the backboard. He was out cold before hit the ground; the ball flew out into the court and straight into Darnells grasp.
Darnell didn't stop and casually dribbled the ball towards the hoop. He passed the other defender with ease, and as he stood in front of the net he looked to Dee with a smile. He was about to shoot for the hoop when T-bag opened his eyes.
T-bags expression turned to horror and he reached down into his jeans. Tugging hard he pulled from his waistband an Uzi machine pistol. He gritted his teeth and pulled hard on the trigger. The gun sprayed wildly, smoke plumed into the air as bursts of fire flashed from the gun.
Darnell got hit in the chest, thirty bullets zigzagged across his torso ripping into his flesh, and spraying blood in arching jets. And slumping to the floor, he dropped the basketball; which rolled away, and stopped at T-bags feet.
T-bag laughed casually; looking to his friend with delight.
A terrible silence was cast over the old basketball court behind the Quick Save grocery store. Tears were in Dee's eyes.
There was just a little kick in Darnell's leg at first; and seconds later, there was a twitch of his hand.
Dee was walking towards him when he stood up; a disgruntled look on his face.
'What the fuck! That was definitely a foul!' Darnell said, as he wiped blood and bits of shredded tee-shirt off his chest.
'Shit!... How the...' T-bag said; his mouth dropping open.
'Ah, just a graze,' Darnell began, 'That's it though! We're settling this once and for all!'
'A'right A'right.' T-bag said.
'Whoever can score in that rim down there...' Darnell began, pointing down to the other hoop, 'whoever can make that shot - from here - is the winner. Okay?'
'That's fine with me...' said T-bag, '...but there's a couple of white-boys down there, under the hoop!'
'What?' Darnell said looking round, 'What the hell are they doing there!'
'Hey!' T-bag shouted, 'Get off the court!'
At the other end of the court a frizzy haired young man of around twenty, was playing a game of chess with a studious looking young man of a similar age. The frizzy haired young man had a wild look, his hair was long, shoulder length, and his face was off kilter; it was slightly deranged. He wore baggy jeans, and had a thick gold chain around his neck. He was in deep thought, and considering his next chess move.
'Yo! White boys!' T-bag shouted, 'What did I tell you? Get your cracker-ass shit off the court!'
The young man looked up from the chess board. And slowly, he turned his head to look down the court.
'You deaf nigger!' said T-bag:
And the frizzy haired young man, firmly held out his middle finger, before looking back to the chess board.
'You see that!... mother fucker...' said T-bag, 'Well, I'm sick of this shit. Goddamn crackers are everywhere; in the liquor store, at my momma's church, crackers on the tv, crackers on the corner, in the street, walking past my stoop!... Now they in the middle of the court! What the fuck is up wit that! They ain't on the side. They in the fuckin' middle! Under. The mother-fuckin' hoop!' T-bag fired the Uzi at them and his unsteady hand flailed around wildly in all directions. Bullets peppered the tarmac and the backboard, and mainly the sky. None, though, hit the young chess players.
'Ah! Jesus!' T-bag exclaimed in frustration, 'Forget it Darnell, just take your shot!'
Darnell skillfully threw the ball into the air and it glided as though weightless; slowly, accurately, and smoothly. It seemed to hang in the air and travelled as though on a wire. It was majestic and poetic in equal measure. It hit a bird; which died mid-flight, but it continued without deviation, through the air, towards the hoop, smoothly, gracefully and definitely. It was a ball that moved with power, and purpose.
T-bag looked at his watch, as though he wished to hurry the ball through the hoop. But the flight of the ball couldn't be hurried along on its virtuous journey.
Seven minutes passed. And the ball began its descent toward the hoop, and it was as though god had reached out from the heavens, and now moved the ball with all his righteousness. And the ball was righteous. And as it came down, it was inches from the net.
When the young chess player looked up; he saw the ball, now almost into the hoop; and looking down he saw his chessboard, and he saw that the ball would collide at any moment with his chessboard, and he knew that his pieces... (he didn't care that much about his opponents pieces) ...but his pieces, were about to be knocked over, his game was about to be ruined. And he was mad. And he jumped!
Soared into the air, as though propelled by some demonic force. He looked at the ball, and then at the basketball players. And with a tilted smile, he plucked the ball out of the air with one hand. Then dropping back onto the ground, he stood before the gangland basketball players and looked at them intently.
'Fuck this!' said T-bag. 'Lets bounce these niggers!'
And the gang of basketball players rushed into action, they headed for the chess players with savage intentions, and picking up some pogo sticks they had left close by, they bounced over. All of them incensed and moody, and T-bag firing his Uzi into air.
A passer-by seeing that trouble was about to ensue, stopped to watch; he set down his ghetto-blaster and decided to play the track 99 problems by Jay Z.
Time seemed to slow down for the young chess player as he stood - still holding the basketball, and now listening to the sound of Jay Z filling the air - watching the basketball players heading towards him.
The angry young men on pogo sticks were consumed by rage, and the violence of their expressions contorted their faces in a hideous and terrifying way. And now they were getting closer to the chess player, they were almost on top of him.
The chess player was scared. His legs felt as though they had melted into the tarmac; planting him to the ground. He didn't know what to do. He wanted to run; but he couldn't run. Then suddenly, thinking quickly, he turned, bent down and picked the black king off the chessboard, he rubbed his thumb over its pointed top, and a look of calm suffused his face. He looked to the bouncing basketball players; their eyes growing wide, as slowly a look of shock came to their faces.
A single tear rolled out of the chess players right eye and his face quivered with emotion. Anger began to build in him, his hand shook as he moved the pointed king in his hand.
And now the men on pogo sticks looked frightened; their faces screaming: 'No-o-o-o.'
The chess player rose in his stance; his face and his whole body trembling with anger, the plump basketball in one hand, the pointed king in the other.
His face turned pale and he seemed to find a place in his soul above the anger; a place that was like bliss.
He drove the king into the ball like a dagger. It pierced through the rubber like butter. And all at once the air was rushing out of the ball - he didn't want to kill the ball; but he had no choice, and now its life was pouring out of it. He could feel the air rushing out of its wound, the edges of the rubber flapping, making a long drawn out sound, a painful sound, a humiliating sound; the sound of a wet fart.
He threw the dead basketball on the floor at his feet, and looked madly at the basketball players.
They had already begun to dismount from their pogo sticks, and now: They scattered; running from the court as fast as their legs would carry them.
The two chess players were alone. The court strange and ghostly.
'Shit!' said the frizzy haired chess player, 'I gotta go to work!' and with one movement, he poured all of the chess pieces into his case, turned the chessboard over and slid the case shut.
It was the incident in the basketball court that morning that gave Sonny Soul, or at least made him realise, that he had the strength and dedication to become the worlds most famous chess player.