It was all Sandy’s fault that I was again doing my project on Gina’s laptop. And she was jabbering non-stop into my ear.
“Interested in the chess tournament at school?”
“Hmmm…” I mumbled, focusing hard on my work, “What’s the prize?”
“It’s a laptop.” “A laptop!” I totally needed a laptop. My old computer was troubling me a lot lately.
This Christmas dad had promised me one. Then Hurricane Sandy came along and ruined my plans.
“Sandy flooded our basement,” explained dad, “and repairs cost money.”
“There’s always next Christmas,” mom consoled.
Yes, by then all my classmates would zip around with sleeker models while I would still be borrowing Gina’s. I sulked the entire week, but that didn’t change their minds.
Could I win the tournament? I was good, but truth was I had little patience. I could hardly sit through a match without breaks. Then there was Alec, whose dad was a chess champion.
My first three matches were easy. But by the time the semi- finals started I became fidgety. Before I knew it we had played for an hour. That was the longest for me, ever!
“This match is never-ending,” someone said.
I looked up to see a group leave. My legs ached for a break too. I tried shaking away their restlessness. My throat was parched. Just as I picked my bottle, I heard something.
My opponent had pressed his timer. It was my turn now. To my horror, I didn’t know what he had moved? My palms became sweaty as the clock ticked on. I just had sixty more seconds. What was my game plan?
I began pulling my hair when suddenly I knew. The Queen! He had shifted it away, exposing his king. Moving my bishop back a square, I triumphantly yelled “checkmate”. My timer tinged just then.
There was a rain of congratulations. But my happiness died soon.
“Forget the finals, Shiela, tomorrow you meet me!” boasted Alec.
His glasses were slipping down his pointed nose. His swagger didn’t suit his lanky frame. A geek-bully, I chuckled inside. He might’ve scared a third grader, not me.
“I saw you miss that Queen.”
Okay, that scared me. He knew my weakness!
“I almost lost today,” I wanted to tell Gina, but she was busy fiddling her iPod.
I hoped dad would help, but he was putting up the Christmas lights. So I decided to practice my game instead. But when my computer crashed again, I knew I was a loser. My heart sank into my tummy.
With perfect timing, Neil began playing ‘Jingle bells’ on his harmonica. Even a closed door could not keep his off-key notes out! I felt too tired to yell. So instead I put on some music.
Then it struck me. If music could tune out Neil, it would work at school too. But could I carry my CD player to school? I needed Gina’s help.
Next day, Alec’s friends stood behind me, chattering non- stop. Alec grinned menacingly. I simply smiled at Gina and plugged on her iPod.
As music filled my mind, it blocked away other sounds, helping me focus. And finally when I said “checkmate”, I was calm like a lake!
Sandy tried hard to ruin it, yet Christmas this year turned out the very best. Thanks to Gina!