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"We have to kill time, don't we?" G.O. was purring good humoredly as he set the pieces on the board. "There's nothing nicer than a little game of chess when you're traveling, don't you think?"
They rapidly went through the opening moves. Then somehow everything became confused. The Grand Master was watching the board tensely, but the moves he was making were minor, rather irrelevant. Again and again, lightninglike trails for his queen flashed before his eyes, trails that would sweep him toward a mate. Yet he blotted out these flashes by lowering his eyelids, responding to a faint, nagging, inner buzz like a mosquito's.
"You're brave, my friend, but your house is a dump. I'll give you my dagger...." G.O. hummed monotonously.
The Grand Master was a picture of neatness in dress, the epitome of sobriety in manner, but underneath he was a vulnerable man, unsure of himself. He was still young. He wore a gray suit, a light shirt and a conservative tie. No one but the Grand Master himself knew that his ties bore Dior labels. That little secret somehow had the power to give him a feeling of warmth, to cheer him up. His glasses, too, were helpful in hiding from outsiders the uncertainty and shyness in his eyes. There were still his lips, however, that could not be hidden, for that, alas, was against accepted custom. He hated them for the way they had of twitching and stretching into pitiful little smiles.
G.O.'s way of playing surprised the Grand Master and depressed him. On the cluttered left side of the board, the pieces were snarled in knots, forming crude imitations of cabalistic signs. G.O.'s moves were like the tuning up of a third-rate brass band, like grim yellowish-gray snow, like a cement factory. The whole left side of the board emitted a smell of latrines and disinfectant, together with the sour tang of barracks and wet kitchen rags. And then, also from early childhood, came a whiff of castor oil and diarrhea.
"You are Grand Master so-and-so, aren't you?" G.O. asked.
"Ha-ha-ha! What a coincidence!"
Why coincidence? What coincidence can he be talking about? Unbelievable! How could this ever have happened? I give up, please allow me to resign—panicky thoughts flitted through the Grand Master's head. But then he realized what was going on and smiled.
"Yes, of course, of course."