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A LUCILIUS PARABLE: ODDLY EVEN

November 20th, 2022

The barman placed the cold drinks down on the bar before Lucilius and Lucilius picked one up and handed it to his beautiful date. The two smiled and clinked glasses.

Lucilius announced: “Vashe Zdorov’ye!”

His date laughed. “Cheers!” She said raising her glass.

The cold liquor was hot and sweet, and Lucilius savored the taste as music drifted through the lobby. He breathed deeply, letting the good day wash over him, and as he looked around, his eye caught a rare sight. Off in a corner was a table for two with a built-in chessboard.

It was too perfect. Lucilius looked to his date. “Do you know how to play?” He asked, nodding at the chess table.

“Yes,” she said.

“Let’s play!” Lucilius said, standing up from the bar stool.

“No,” she said. Lucilius abruptly stopped.

“Why not?”

“When I was young my cousins taught me how to play, and then they won over and over and after enough defeats I stopped because it wasn’t fun and I swore to myself that I’d never play ever again.”

Lucilius sat back down, dejected. How unfortunate, he thought. And aggravating. It was a common problem. Lucilius had many friends who refused to play the game because they’d simply never made it through that brutal learning curve that comes with trying to pick up the game.

Lucilius looked around at the beautiful lobby, listening to the music, and back at his date. It was so perfect, and here was such a pleasant opportunity, ruined by some inconvenient little fact. He personally had no interest in winning. It was just fun to play - a nice way to spend a thoughtful and attentive time with someone else. Lucilius sighed, figuring he’d be better off if he just let go of the idea and try to enjoy the time regardless.

But then a different idea caught his mind.

“Wait a minute,” Lucilius said, standing and digging into his back pocket for his wallet.

“I’ve got an idea. Come with me.”

He walked to the chessboard and his date reluctantly followed, her expression growing soured.

“I told you I do not want to play,” she said.

“Let’s try a different version,” Lucilius said. “I just thought of it.”

He sat on one side of the chessboard and pulled a coin from his wallet. He smiled.

“Ok, this is what we do. We each make a move, and then we flip the coin. If it lands on heads we keep playing and we each make another move, and then flip the coin again. But if it lands on tails, we will switch sides!”

His date was skeptical but curious. She sat down and her eyes glanced over the pieces. She took a sip of her cocktail and set it down.

“Ok,” she said.

Lucilius pushed his King’s pawn out two spaces, and his date followed suit with her Queen’s pawn. Then Lucilius eased a thumb under the coin and flicked it up into the air. He caught it and slapped it onto the back of his other hand.

Tails!

The two stood up and swapped places.

“Well, it’s your turn again,” Lucilius said. His date smiled at the curious reversal and the two kept playing, flicking the coin up into the air every couple of moves and occasionally swapping sides.

When Lucilius finally made the mating move, the two were a little sad. Bittersweet that the game was over. And for a moment Lucilius figured his date was disappointed that her side had lost.

“I guess I didn’t really win,” Lucilius said, looking at his date. “And you didn’t really lose.”

There was a question in her expression as she glanced at the board again and back at Lucilius. He shrugged.

“We both contributed to both sides. I contributed to the losing side and you made moves for the winning side. We both sort of won.”

A smile lit up her face and the two lifted drinks and clinked to the game made bittersweet - not from defeat, but simply because it was now over.


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