CareTake 2


Emery Ward couldn’t believe his luck. When his academic advisor mentioned a possible part-time job that included living accommodations, that was lucky strike number one.  That the accommodations were in the home of his intellectual hero, Dr. Clarice Tempest, was lucky strike number two.

Emery didn’t think Professor Hecking knew he and his dog Dilbert had been living out of his old VW van. He’d been doing a good job of keeping that a secret. But there were only so many times one could be found snoozing on the couch in the lounge of the philosophy building without raising suspicions.

The retired professor seemed surprised to see him when he stopped by at the scheduled time for his interview. Maybe she’d never met an otaku before.

“Why, you have ears!” said Dr. Tempest. She was adorable. “I mean, why do you have ears, young man?”


Emery giggled. “I’m nekomimi,” he said, “in tribute to Mochizuki.”

She turned abruptly, as if she hadn’t heard him. “Might as well come inside, Cat-ears,” she said over her shoulder, “so we can figure out if this will work or not.”

Emery realized he was being put on notice. Time for his best behavior, then. Time for the charm.


It was easy to charm Wittgy, Dr. Tempest’s handsome Australian shepherd, who leaned into him when he rubbed the pressure point above the right shoulder. Dilbert circled the way he does when he’s chosen a new four-legged friend.


Dr. Tempest was nowhere to be found, so Emery made himself busy in the kitchen, gathering up the forgotten coffee cups, cleaning the sink, unloading the dishwasher.


“Are you still here?” she said as he finished wiping down the counters. “Can you play chess?”

He couldn’t.

“A philosopher must play chess,” she said. “Might as well get started.”


He calculated five moves out.

“Did you really read my book?” she asked. He had.

“I even wrote about it,” he said. “I want to do my senior project on Wittgenstein.”

“It’s a dead end,” she said, and he didn’t know if she meant the line of study or the chess move.


When they finished the game, she told him to stay for a while. The interview wasn’t over.

“How about if you and Sharkfin stay the night tonight?” she asked. “The couch is comfortable. We have an extra supper bowl for your strange dog.”

She wanted to see how he was at fixing breakfast. “Most important meal, and all that,” she said. “I can never seem to cook the eggs right, anymore,” she said wistfully. “I forget to stir them. That’s bad, isn’t it?” She wandered upstairs.

Emery headed out back to check on the dogs.


They’d become fast friends. In fact, it seemed they’d developed a mutual crush.

“I always suspected you were gay,” he said to Dilbert, who was showing off, chasing his tail.


The lights upstairs went out, so Emery stripped down to his boxers and swam a few laps in the natural pool, under the moonlight.

He felt very free out there, very happy. Maybe, at least for a little while, this was an end to the troubled times. He began to think of breakfast–eggs! Hot eggs! And what if there were English muffins in the cupboard! And he could absolutely make coffee. Hot, steaming coffee! He could go to his ten o’clock class on a full stomach for once.


Heading back indoors, he saw the shepherd standing near the border of poppies and daisies. “Come on, Wittgy,” he said.

Something splashed.


“Oh! Pardon me!” He backed up quickly, so as not to see Dr. Tempest, who was bathing herself in the moonlight in the outdoor copper tub that was used to bathe the dogs.

He hadn’t seen a thing. He’d be sure to tell her in the morning.

He supposed he’d have to get used to occurrences like that, if the third lucky strike happened and he were offered the job. A retired philosophy professor is entitled to a bit of eccentricity, he thought to himself as he curled up on the couch and let himself settle into the best night’s sleep he’d had in ages.


<< Previous

Three Rivers 25.1

Twenty-fifth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: Shawn Kaur, game-generated Townie, now lives in one of Pronterus’s beautiful starter homes.

25.  Checkmate!


Shawn Kaur could read all the logic books he wanted; he was still a pawn in this checkered world.

That didn’t mean that he wasn’t looking for a chance to advance a square or two.


It wasn’t coincidence, then, that led Shawn Kaur to introduce himself to Alec Dolan during one of Alec’s campaign treks through this working-class Oasis Springs neighborhood. Shawn had scoured the Green Party’s website, then made a few discrete phone calls to learn a reliable estimate for the time when the candidate for representative would be walking down Kaur’s street.

“I’ve been following your speeches,” Shawn said, after the initial pleasantries.

“Oh, yes? They are effective, no?” Alec asked.


“No,” replied Shawn. “Frankly, no. They pigeon-hole you. I mean, how many people care about butterflies?”


“But everyone, yes? They are a symbol! For putting an end to the extinction that is caused by destruction of habitat due to unregulated development and the climate change.”


“Yeah, but the demographics?” Shawn said. “I’ve checked the polls. If you ask people if they care, sure, you get 70-90 percent saying, yes, we care. But ask in a meaningful way: would you support regulating development of open spaces in order to protect endangered insect species? You get 46.5 percent saying yes in Windenburg, 25.2 percent in Newcrest, 15.6 percent in Willow Creek, and five percent in Oasis Springs. This is a harsh world, man, with people driven more by profit than protectionism.”

“Yes, but! It is our platform! What do you suggest? We abandon the foundation?”


Shawn didn’t propose abandoning the environmental principles on which the party was founded. Instead, he’d outlined a plan for demonstrating, through precedent and theory, the economic soundness of the platform as a means of appealing to the self-interest of the voters. And then, once he had Alec’s full attention, he whispered a few other more clandestine tactics the party might try.

“I have a place for you,” Alec said, after he’d heard Shawn out. “It is not, what shall we say, the official position. It is the position known only to you and only to me. The campaign strategist, yes? It will be very much worth your while, success or no. Are you interested?”

Shawn was very much interested.

A few weeks later, he arranged to meet Alec in Newcrest. Shawn was there ostensibly for a chess tournament, and Alec was campaigning.


As Shawn sat across the diner, he observed Alec chatting with one of the striking clowns.

The strike had been Shawn’s idea, and it had been easy to convince the clowns he knew, chess-players, mostly, to strike for better wages, conditions, and benefits. They were talking of forming their own union, too.


If the Green Party could be instrumental in resolving the strike, it would be a big coup, showing voters that Greens had both workers’ interests at heart and the political experience to be able to resolve labor disputes.

Shawn wasn’t worried. A word or two from him, a bit of cash funneled from Geoffrey Landgraab’s elicit contributions, and the clowns would return to work, while Alec and the Greens received all the credit.

Shawn turned his attention to the table next to him, where two of the other competitors in the chess tournament, Dominic Fyres and Jim Bee, were discussing the Ruy Lopez.


Shawn was paired against Jim Bee in the next round.

“I never play it as white,” Jim said.


Shawn strained to listen to the rest of their analysis.

“What do you say, Shawn?” Jim called across the table. “Ruy Lopez for white, or not?”


More clowns on strike meandered in, and Shawn diverted his attention back to their corner.

“I should have been a dentist,” bemoaned Ashton Poe.

Shawn had to snicker. He and Ashton had gone to school together, and Ashton had neither the intelligence nor the dexterity to succeed as a dentist. One way or another, he’d always be a clown, so it was best that he was one without pretense. They’d quit their moaning once the strike ended and they received their pay-off.


When his meal ended, Shawn joined Alec at a chess board.

“I am not so sure about this plan of the strike,” Alec grumbled. “My friends, they are not happy.”

Shawn laughed. “Don’t worry! It’s working brilliantly! My man is running a new poll next week. I’ve got a feeling once we receive the results we can end it all soon. Then! On to the next stratagem!”


When Alec left for his next speaking engagement, Jim sat down across from Shawn.

“Shall we analyze a few positions?” he asked.


Shawn leapt at the opportunity, though he maintained a calm exterior.  He’d been dying to get a chance to see inside his next opponent’s mind.


“You’d really make that exchange?” Jim asked.

“Of course!” Shawn replied. “Mate in three!”

“I think you’ve overlooked something,” Jim said. It was mate in two, for white.


A few days later, the polls showed that community concern over the clown strike was nearing the peak that Shawn had predicted for it. If they waited much longer, they ran the risk of apathy.

Shawn advised Alec to call a press conference, then he transferred the Landgraab funds to the pay-off account. Soon, the clowns would be back at work, and Alec could take credit for the successful negotiations. This would gain them twenty points in the polls, easy.


The Oasis Springs annual Chess Extravaganza rolled around, and, with two wins, a draw, and a loss, Shawn had a decent showing. He’d gain a few ratings points, at least.

He was matched against a sassy teen in a baseball cap who’d already earned a Master’s rating.


She had an unbearable habit of leaning forward to broadcast through her expressions her estimation of the position. It wasn’t so bad when his position looked good, but when she had mate-in-four, it took every ounce of restraint for Shawn to avoid knocking down his own king in resignation.


With the tournament over, Shawn headed over to where Alec was explaining to the park gardener and a local fisherman the Green Party’s plan for expanding public gardens and fishing holes.

“It’s the sustainability project!” Alec said. “Our own gardener, Haley Salinas, developed it. We have, in the Greens, more gardeners and fishermen–or fisherpeople, no?–than any party can boast of! The people, yes? The workers! Laborers! Rah!”

Shawn chuckled. As far has he knew, Alec had never done a day of labor in his life.


When they had the spot to themselves, Shawn shared his latest scheme: a sure-fire way to cast aspersions on his political rival, J Huntington III, without uttering a single word.


Mais, non,” Alec replied. “The Huntington, he is mon ami. We are partners, you see, in friendship and politics. We have two openings, yes? One for me, one for the Huntington. Then, we work in tandem. What I want, what he wants. It is the beautiful friendship.”

Shawn felt a little disappointed. He’d been looking forward to bringing down J, and using Geoffrey’s money to do so. Both Alec and Shawn agreed that the other candidates were not serious concerns. And so Shawn was left to find a new target for his political mind.

He still hadn’t developed his next covert campaign strategy when he took a brief trip to Windenburg to play in the W. Open.

Alec met him at the chess park the evening after the first day of competition.


“We are doing well, my friend,” Alec said.

Shawn had to agree. The polls showed Alec and Huntington well in the lead.


“I suppose you want me to resign, then,” said Shawn. “Job’s done.”

“The job is never done!” said Alec. “Suppose the dream becomes the reality? Should I be sitting at the dais, will I not need the one who can do what needs to be done? We will keep our association. You are willing?”

Shawn was willing, not for the pay, which seemed mostly to be nonexistent–or would be, if Shawn didn’t have his own means of accessing the Landgraab fund–but for the challenge and the opportunity to think.


In August, at the Willow Creek Invitational, Shawn faced his toughest opponent yet across the board, a ten-year-old Chess Master, well on his way to becoming an International Master.


He lost to him, of course. It would be mildly humiliating, except that the child won the tournament undefeated.

There is more to life than chess, Shawn told himself in consolation. There is politics. And it could be that this was where his real talent lay, behind the scenes, moving the pieces, until they were all in place, and he could whisper to no one: check mate!