To Capture A King: A Short Story


by Norbert Ehrenfreund Published Spring 2012
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Ofelia joined in the cries. “Dígale a Tomayo que venga,” she shouted. The slaughter had gone far enough. Someone had to stop it. Ofelia knew where Tomayo was. He was in bed with his bride. The bride would not want him to leave her so late in the night. She would make a scene if he tried to go to the inn to play chess. No matter, Ofelia thought. Never mind her. This was important. Tomayo must come. This stranger is embarrassing our people.

Ofelia called for silence by banging a knife against an empty beer mug. “Tomayo,” Ofelia shouted. “Tiene que venir.” He must come.

But who would fetch the maestro? Who could persuade him to come at this hour? The men turned to Ofelia. She knew Tomayo best. He would respect her request. She would know what to say.

No, Ofelia said. I can’t do it.

Why not?

Please don’t ask me.

The men talked of honor. The honor of Ibiza.

Someone else must go, Ofelia said. Please understand.

The men nodded. They respected Ofelia. They understood. Something in the past. A woman’s pride. Of course. Someone else must go. So it was decided that the two losers, Alfonso and Esteban, would be the messengers. They could warn Tomayo about the woman’s clever maneuvers with the knight. They could explain why Tomayo had to come. They wouldn’t be afraid of Tomayo’s bride. Amid the cheers, Alfonso and Esteban put on their black caps and went out into the night.

To the people at the inn, the wait felt like hours. But soon there was a shout from someone at the window. “El viene!” And Tomayo came in like an actor making his entrance. He wore a white shirt open at the neck, baring his hairy chest. The long black mustache almost reached his collar. Ofelia felt her heart jump. The old feeling. Would she ever be rid of it? The shirt was clean, but it was not ironed. Ofelia would have ironed it. Now that Tomayo was there, a sense of relief settled in the room. Now the intruder would be put in her place. It was near closing time, but everyone knew Ofelia would not close at the usual hour. The news was spreading through the village of the big game between the beautiful American señora and the village champion, Tomayo. Ofelia hoisted herself up on the counter to get a better view and announced that everyone present would be given one free drink.

Several men surrounded Tomayo, all talking at once, acting like his seconds in a prizefight. Tomayo listened and smiled. Then he came over to Skinch, bowed to her, and sat down to play.

“No speak inglés,” he said. “Lo siento.”

Skinch pointed to herself, said, “No speak español,” and they both laughed.

For more than an hour, the battle wore on. It was one of those games where after a long time no one could say who was winning. Tomayo captured one of Skinch’s pawns and a bishop. Skinch had one of his pawns and a knight.

Then Tomayo took her rook and a loud murmur ran through the crowd. Several of the men winked and grinned at each other. The maestro was not over the hill yet.

Qué pasa?” Ofelia asked one of the men nearby.

Tomayo gana,” he said. Tomayo is winning.

Ofelia sighed. “Bueno,” she said.

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