Caution failed to save Checkmate, who disappeared before his eleventh birthday. I knew him by sight only as an altar boy at St. Reinhold’s Church, notoriously, because he once failed to catch a Host that fell to the ground during Communion. He lived in the Polish part of town, Redemption Rock, and got his nickname due to his last name, Checshzinski.
Growing up, most of us scoured around for Checkmate, searching the local wooded areas and abandoned buildings while many staged séances, hoping to retrieve Checkmate from the dead. But séances never worked, someone always burst out laughing and most eschewed the supernatural once we heard a rumor that a kidnapper had abducted him up north to Maine, which seemed romantic, skirting through endless rows of potato fields.
Yet still we searched. My sister Hawaii had some old school photos of Checkmate, sitting in the front row with his hands folded, yet something seemed odd about him, a dead or disappeared person waiting to happen. Probably, Checkmate was doomed once he failed to catch the Host fluttering to the church floor, and if you looked hard, he looked like a kid mesmerized by his abyss.
Checkmate’s parents tried everything, they prayed all the time and even had their heads checked for bumps by the town phrenologist, to scratch out a clue. Nothing worked, though Mr. Checshzinski often returned to the phrenologist because the fingers kneading his scalp soothed him, plus he liked talking to someone about his son.
The Checshzinskis moved out of town, leaving no forwarding address, when gossips circulated a theory that one of the parents had killed Checkmate.
Decades after Checkmate disappeared some parks officials from the State of Connecticut found his remains buried in the Devil’s Hopyard, identifiable by old dental records. No one located Checkmate’s family members, so the Hale Town Clerk applied surplus money from the snow plowing budget, thanks to a light winter, to pay for his funeral and burial. His Cub Scout den mother eulogized him, mentioning that Checkmate liked dinosaurs, before digressing into a discussion about pies.
The stone inscribed over his grave etched out a Host falling to the floor together with a chess set knight and a brontosaurus.
I avoid the Devil’s Hopyard, knowing it will find me.