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         With a long exhale, Chess closed his eyes again and put his head back under the water.  He was hallucinating, he told himself.  Yeah, the early-morning beating had obviously given him a concussion and he was only just now being affected by it.  Slowly, he opened his eyes.
          Mal was still standing there, her red-gold hair hanging loosely around her shoulders, as he had never seen it before.  Her hazel eyes stared intently into his.
          He opened his mouth but no voice came out.  His heart was pounding and he couldn’t move.  He couldn’t even think.  He could only observe in stunned silence as she approached him.
          The long moments felt like a dream, and Chess inhaled to the full capacity of his lungs.  He watched her hands slide down to the hem of her brown tank top.  The small, tight muscles of her arms flexed as she drew the fabric up the length of her torso and pulled it over her head.
          He wanted to speak, he wanted to go to her, he wanted to…
          Still holding his gaze, Mal stepped toward him, just under the edge of the curtain of water.  She dropped her tank top onto the wet tile behind Chess’s feet, and then her lips curled into a hint of a smile.
          “Probably our last night together,” she murmured.  “And my last chance with you.”
          “I had no idea… that you…,” Chess stammered.
         “No,” she agreed, looking earnest.  “You never did.”  And she waited.
          His heart drumming wildly, Chess watched the water droplets chase each other down her hair, onto her bare shoulder, and then down the length of her arm.  He reached out and caught one droplet on his fingertips; watched, transfixed, as it gently slid away, and then he lowered his hand to her arm.
          At his light touch, she moved closer to him, bringing her face up to his, and their lips met.  They stood there for an eternity, lips and bodies pressed together under the warm water.  Chess was gasping for each breath now, and his body temperature rose until he imagined the water must be turning to steam as it hit his skin.  He felt her hands slide up his back and settle on his shoulders, and then she was firmly pushing him down until he was sitting on her discarded t-shirt.
            She sank down over him, tilting her head slightly downward to stare at him with that same intense gaze.  The drops of water, laced with salt now, spilled off her parted lips and into his open mouth.  He reached out, pulling her close, and the pure urgency of her body took control of his mind.
         The lights of the hallway were disorienting, later… after…  And Mal was gone now.   Chess wondered if she had even been there at all.  He was alone and his mind was all white noise and memories, incapable of sustained rational thought.
          He plodded along, gradually realizing that the entire barracks seemed deserted.  He figured most of the new graduates had convoyed off to their party by now.  He shook his head in disbelief.  He clearly remembered wanting to go along with them, just a few hours before.  He just could no longer remember why.  Vaguely, at the edge of his consciousness, he observed the senior drill sergeant stomping down the hallway toward him.
          Automatically, Chess stopped, preparing to lift his arm in salute, but the guy appeared to notice him just then and halted.  Chess peered in confusion as, still some distance away, the drill sergeant seemed to mutter to himself, and then he turned abruptly and retreated back the way he had come.
          Chess blinked in surprise, and his mind became more alert.  Something was wrong, he realized.   Heart pounding, he thought back to the shower a few minutes before and inhaled sharply.  They knew, he decided.  Yes, someone must have seen them.  Wearily, he sank down onto the nearest flat surface.  And now what?  Was it possible that they might get kicked out because of what they had done?
          His dread increased when, minutes later, another soldier came down the hall and curtly told Chess to report to the general’s office.  The general: the officer in charge of all the basic training camps in the entire region; whom Chess had only seen once, today at graduation.  Yeah, Chess concluded, panicking now: he was definitely getting kicked out.    

Continued next page...

Ross: You, uh... you wanna hear something weird?
Phoebe: Always…!

Friends: The One After Vegas, Season 6 Episode 1

            Okay, in another weird digression, I just want to re-mention Joel Stein, who considers himself a journalist and has written many humor-laden columns, particularly for Time Magazine.  I have been following him since 1997 when Time was sending him out to do goofy interviews and he asked a performance artist if she ever considered covering herself with Magic Shell during her performances.
          His writing is opinionated – often controversially so – and sharply critical, while he hides under the guise of being just a dumb guy.  He has gotten people angry for saying that he does not support the troops, that the latest generation is lazy, and that peanut allergies are overblown (before his child developed one).  He also introduced me to the name and work of Paul Farmer of Partners in Health and other miscellaneous subjects of interest that I never would have known about.
            I find him funny because his writing is always somewhat off from the conventional views that people vocalize.  It’s not always easy to laugh at the subjects of his essays, but his columns are satire.  However, the laugh is often directed at the people who would be getting upset.  (Would that be considered an Escher-like twist??)
          He has written at least two essays about D&D.  If you read these (linked below,) please remember that, like Monty Python or Mindless Self Indulgence, Stein seems to believe that everything is fair game to be made fun of.  Yesterday, it was gamers and geeks, but next week it will be yoga practitioners or supporters of the Affordable Care Act or…

playing D&D with Elijah Wood, 2003 - eulogizing Gary Gygax, 2008



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