One old rechargeable battery. A seven-year-old movie ticket. A tie pin with a chimp on it. An old, chipped, marijuana-leaf locket. A pouch with Grandpa’s spectacle lenses, bottle thick and slightly scratched. A pink pocket comb, fading to white. A compass, rusted. A gift pen case.
Stories, all of them. Memories of an age long forgotten. Gingerly, he traced the edge of the tie pin. Picked up the pouch. Felt the weight of the lenses in his palm. Held them up to his face. Looking at the world through his grandfather’s eyes. Reverently, he returned them to their pouch, and his fingers came to rest on the pen case.
Carefully, he lifted it out of the box; for a while, just staring at it. Then slowly, he lifted the lid. Lying in repose on the grooves in the fabric inside, like the sculptures of kings on tombs, dormant, were four pieces of chalk. Only one of them was intact, retaining it’s perfectly cylindrical shape. With trembling fingers, he lifted the other three pieces, one by one, out of the case, setting them on the table. Two rooks, one pawn.
And it all came back to him. The days of sucking up to his teachers in school, just so they’d put him in charge of the class cupboard. Bringing them fresh boxes of chalk from the staff room. Filching them slyly to make rocketships, cars. And a full-blown, self-made chess set.
The days of sitting at the back of the class, scratching away at a piece of chalk with the compass, an old and disused pen cap, and the comb – his greatest discovery in the art of chalk-carving. A tool with ruthless efficiency at making straight-line cuts. The memories all came flooding back.
Absently, without even thinking about it, he picked up the compass and the last piece of chalk, starting the second pawn.