It’s Never the Same Twice

© A Mixed Bag 2012

Artie and Paul played chess in the cafeteria of “the old folks home” every Sunday afternoon.

“I got the pieces set up this time. Prepare to lose, you old bastard.” Paul chuckled as he ominously fingered one of the clear glass pawns.

“You prepare to lose you son of a bitch. You don’t even know how the game is played.” Artie insisted in always having the white pieces. They made him feel more virtuous somehow.

“I’ll get you now.” Paul moved his hand to one of his knights and jumped three squares forward.

Artie countered by having his right hand castle switch places with the pawn directly ahead and then moved it diagonally across the board.

Before the game was over, they’d attracted the usual crowd. Artie and Paul had never learned to play chess, but they were so much fun to watch. The “rules” they used to play by were never the same twice.

Written for Sunday Photo Fiction – June 11th 2017. The idea is to use the photo prompt above to write a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 155.

I saw the chess pieces set up and ready for play and had two thoughts. The first was the short Simon and Garfunkle song Old Friends (YouTube video). I got a very clear image of two old men, friends for decades, playing a game together complete with friendly jibes and the warmth of deep familiarity.

I also recalled a piece of trivia about the 2000 film X-Men. Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Eric Lensherr/Magneto (Ian McKellen) were supposed to have a scene together where they played chess, but initially neither of them knew how. A chess master had to be hired to teach them.

As I was writing, I also thought of the “Calvin and Hobbes” game Calvinball, a game where the rules are made up moment by moment. In real life, it would be incredibly difficult to accomplish, but in fiction, it’s a lot of fun.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit

20 thoughts on “It’s Never the Same Twice

    • Thanks, Michael. In addition to what I wrote by way of explanation, a few weeks ago, my grandson wanted me to play a “Harry Potter” version of checkers with him. The rules were different and pretty baffling.


  1. There’s a “Harry Potter” version of checkers? I remember “wizard’s chess” from the films, but not checkers. But it became apparent pretty quickly here that the moves being executed were not those of the classic game.


    • Ah, ha! — With a little research I discovered a “Golden Snitch” Quiddich board game that uses an ovoid chequered board and checker-like board pieces, combined with sets of drawn cards to simulate a Quiddich match. It is described at: []. I presume this is the game to which you referred. The game reviewer offers a few complaints and suggested improvements regarding the rules of play, but at least there exists a consistent set of rules.


      • Actually I’ve never heard of that game before. I just made up the story based on the references I cited. I’ll have a look at your link. Thanks.


      • Oh. Just saw your other comment on this blog post about the “Harry Potter” checkers. Actually, it was just a checker set themed for Harry Potter, the way you can buy Monopoly themed for different movies such as Star Wars. I’m not sure if my grandson’s alternate rules were the official rules of the checkers game or stuff he just made up on the fly. He likes to create the rules for the games we play, usually to favor him, but then he’s only eight.


      • Hmmm… Eight years old, you say? I recall a tidbit from a child-developmental psychology text that described just such a stage of normal development, in which the invention of rules is a tool to explore the understanding of rules. That was just about the age in which this behavior is commonly observed. Of course, we might wonder if a similar observation in a geriatric context suggests a degree of regression, a “second childhood”, as it has been called. On the other hand, it could just be an expression of independence (and a search for novelty) by geriatric adults who have felt overly constrained by institutional rules imposed upon them.


  2. That’s an interesting thing. Always changing the rules. I wonder how each piece moves then? You’d never know each game. I don’t think they know the real rules do they? Great write.


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