A November Day

by Izaak Garcia

Sometimes it pays to be patient 

and play the long game.

It was a bitter cold, November day. The kind of cold that crawls through your clothes, and seeps directly into your bones, chilling them to the core. The kind of cold that nips and bites at every inch of exposed skin, turning it into a frozen tundra. The kind of cold that when you step outside for the first time that day, you skip back inside, whispering to yourself, “Not today.” Yet, there we were, sitting at the picnic tables in the middle of a deserted park right in the heart of Peoria, Illinois. Five figures, all huddled around a chessboard, our breath resembling that of steam exiting from the nostrils of a dragon, dancing and shifting up into the air, back into invisibility. I feel the weight of my friends’ stares, watching me calculate and contemplate my next move. My eyes scour the board, weaving through knights, bishops, and pawns, all sitting on 64 squares of possibility, staring right back at me. I smile slightly, reaching for my own bishop, the black spire standing stoically on a dark-chocolate square, and move the piece—elegance and grace in my posture. The bishop takes a cream-colored pawn on my friend’s side of the board. I lift his pawn and set it beside me, a fine addition to my collection of captured pieces. I nod to myself, satisfied that I had made the correct move. 

It was not. “Yo, are you stupid?” my friend asks. “Look at the move you just made. Take a good look. LOOK!” He gestures wildly with his hand at my piece that just captured his. “Yea, yea, shut up I’m looking, what do you want?” I say, my voice heavy with exasperation. “The pawn you just took. What process did you go through in that miniscule brain of yours to decide that taking it was an intelligent decision,” he asks half-jokingly. “What? The pawn was free! I’m gonna take your piece if it’s undefended, and you’re stupid if you think I’m not,” I fire back. “But that’s not the point. You get so wound up about a free pawn, thinking you the Black Sherlock Holmes or somethin’, trying to act like you calculating all the scenarios in your head. If you use your eyes, and maybe even your brain every once in a while, you would know that since you moved your piece to capture the pawn, your king is wide open.” My friend moves his queen to a square right in front of my king. “That’s checkmate.” Watching the chessboard in dismay, I lean forward, putting my head closer to the pieces, as if being closer would solve my current dilemma of a lost game. Finally, I sit back in my chair, sigh, and look up. “Again?” my friend asks. “Hell yea.”

About Izaak Garcia

Izaak Garcia is currently a freshman at the University of Southern California, majoring in Cinema and Media Studies with a minor in Applied Cybersecurity. He has played soccer with FC Peoria, Dunlap, and Richwoods for over a decade combined. Garcia has also played tennis for 4 years, securing a spot on both junior varsity and varsity teams. Along with this, he has competed with the Richwoods Worldwide Youth Science and Engineering team for Biology and English for 2 years and earned multiple awards for the school. Garcia is also heavily involved with the arts. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has played the saxophone for 8 years and piano for 2 years. During his junior year of high school, he was involved in theater at Richwoods as stage crew and manager. He helped with two productions and was being trained to be stage manager for senior year before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted school. Outside of school activities, Garcia is involved in Jack and Jill of America (an organization for young African American men and women to serve the community). He served as his chapter’s treasurer during his freshman year of high school. Along with Jack and Jill of America, he enjoys coding, learning new languages, and playing video games.