Middlegame

Her daughter, my daughter, our daughter

Nathaniel Donnett, Untitled. 2018, plastic, duct tape, digital photos. 53 × 63". Courtesy of the artist and Morton Fine Art.

It was a careless, not even reckless but simply unguarded move, not in the least like her. She was never unguarded in her play. I studied my daughter’s face, observed her brown-eyed focus, recognized it, having seen and marveled at her intensity so many times before. Her gaze was bright, aureate, penetrating, yet this unmindful move seemed somehow important. Easily, clearly a mistake of inattention, one that I would have made over and again, but it was sufficiently uncharacteristic for her that I actually asked if she was certain about making the move. It had been a couple of years since I had put to her such a question and she was puzzled by it, or at least mildly indignant. She watched as I captured her knight with a hardly difficult-to-spot bishop.

“I didn’t see that,” she said.

“Clearly.” I held her captured knight in my palm, not wanting to amplify the event by placing it on the table. “Not like you.” She had for a year been a better, much better, chess player than I was. “Anyone can miss something. Take me, for example. I employ such nescience as a tactic.”

She didn’t look up from the board.

“Are you OK?”

“I think so,” she said. She glanced at me, gave the board another steady look, and then resigned, removing her king rather than toppling him, as was her custom. “What the hell is nescience?”

“Tossed it out there just for you.”

“Nice word.”

“Glad you like it.”

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