Neither Helen nor Jane were very good at chess. They joined the chess club anyway, though. It was Helen’s idea.
“One day,” she said. “We’re going to be criminals. And let’s face it. We’re too smart to just be regular thugs. We’re going to be criminal masterminds and criminal masterminds play chess. Or that Chinese game, Go.”
But there wasn’t a Go club. So they bought a book about chess, and played against each other until they were relatively certain that they knew the rules. Then they joined the chess club. It met Wednesday at lunch, in Mr. Gallagher’s room. They were the only girls.
The teacher chose partners for everyone, otherwise they just would have played against each other.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” Jane’s first opponent asked her. He had a t-shirt with a giant turtle on the front, and his name was Andy. Jane couldn’t hear what Helen was saying, over at the next table. “It’s so cool that you play chess,” Andy said.
“I’d like to apologize ahead of time,” Jane said, “for the brutal beating I’m about to put you through.”
“Oh yeah?” Andy laughed.
“Does insurance cover chess related injuries?” Jane asked.
They played four games, and Jane lost every one of them. The whole time, she berated Andy with trash talk, accusing him of cheating, of being the product of an incestuous family, of not eating right. Afterward they shook hands, and Andy was still smiling.
“It’s so cool that you play chess,” he said again.
In the hallway, Helen was waiting for her.
“What a stupid game,” Helen said.
“I don’t think we have to really learn it anyway,” Jane told her. “We just have to have a chess board, and when they see it, everyone will say, “Oh my god, they play chess and they’re girls? They’re not just criminals! They must be criminal masterminds!”