Once upon a time, there was a high school, and that high school had a chess club. The kids who were in chess club were not very popular. They were mostly pretty smart, or at least, they were obsessive in ways that worked out for them academically, but they didn’t have a lot of friends, and they didn’t get many dates, and they dressed in peculiar ways, and their hairs lay strangely on their heads.
They were comfortable in chess club, however. They came into the cafeteria after school on Wednesdays, and there was nobody there but them, and they played chess. They went to competitions on the weekends, where they played chess with other kids who were similar to them, and they didn’t have to talk to those kids, because everyone was meant to be focusing on the chess. If they won, they were happy.
But then, one spring semester, a bunch of new students joined the chess club. These students dressed similarly to the usual chess club kids, but yet differently. They were all really attractive, and it was as if they were imitating the chess club kids on purpose. The boys cuffed their pants a little bit above their carefully shined Oxfords and they wore big, goofy glasses on their handsome faces. The girls cut their bangs in a severe and unflattering way that nevertheless looked stylish, somehow – probably because they were so pretty.
These kids approached the chess boards with earnest good will. They talked a lot about being smart, and about how the other students at the school didn’t value intelligence like they should.
The original chess club didn’t quite know what to make of the influx. These new kids treated the original chess club kids with a level of respect that seemed strained. They kept talking and laughing. They were so comfortable with each other. They were all really kind, overly kind, aggressively kind. The original chess club kids didn’t like to talk so much, and also, they were really competitive with each other. They weren’t really friends. Just because they were united in exile didn’t mean they all liked each other. But these new kids – they acted like everyone was aces before they even found out if anyone was any good at chess!
As for the chess, the new kids were terrible at first, but they got really good at it really fast.
One by one, the members of the old chess club dropped out. The new members didn’t really notice. In previous years, the chess club had a tiny black-and-white photo in the back of the yearbook, but this year, even though it didn’t place as highly, it got a two-page color photo spread.
Late in the year, the original chess club members all gathered in the ex-president’s basement. They looked at each other.
“Did anyone see that coming?” asked one, and they all agreed that no, they had not.