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“Step one is learning how the pieces move,” he told me. “Step two is learning to back up every piece.”

We were sitting in the grass by Cliff Lake, me shading the metallic chessboard from the bright sun. It was a tiny chessboard with tiny pieces, pocket-size and perfect for a backpack trip. He’d already lost one piece, dropped who-knows-where, so we’d set out the board on my ancient, blue Santa Cruz hoody with the mermaid on it.

“Step three is learning to form strategies,” he said. I’d voice aloud that I couldn’t figure out his strategy, and he’d shrug and say “I just play.” That was cool by me. Simple and straightforward. Besides, I wasn’t at the point where I knew any strategies. I’d only played four or so games in my lifetime. He’d already beat me three times in a row over the last two days, though I’d lasted about an hour and a half each time before I’d lost my king.

Wind rippled the lake’s surface and chilled us every time the sun moved behind a cloud. Later, Gillis would come by and dump a whole handful of tiny frogs near us, drawing the swarm of other guys. And I’d teasingly scold him about not dumping them closer to the lake until Duer would finally say, “Yes, Mother.” It was, I suppose, better than getting a frog dropped in my lap. Gillis had already done that earlier in the day. He was probably making up for not having his three sisters handy.

After Baird beat me the third time, I asked him for some chess tips. He said he really didn’t know any, but once he got talking he had quite a few insights. I asked him about his strategy of lining up his pawns diagonally. He said he’d learned it from playing off the computer. Then there were the knights. I couldn’t visualize their uses as easily, so I didn’t use them much. He said Duer uses them a lot. “They spend a lot of time defending other pieces,” Duer says.

All of these boys are knights. They were in Troop 226, based out of Proverbs 22:6. They are my brothers, my friends, my home. They remind me that boys can be raised to be respectful, fun, and wholesome. Moments like these, down by the lake, are my true treasures.

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