I Love You, Daddy, But Not Enough to Give You My Snickers Bar

I Love You, Daddy, But Not Enough to Give You My Snickers Bar

Halloween was a special time for me and my girls. Here they are at ages 3 and 2, as a Kitty Cat and a Lady Bug. It would be 7 more years before they’d ask if they could dress up like Lady Gaga and Naughty Nurse. Sigh.

Halloween was a special time for me and my girls. Here they are at ages 3 and 2, as a Kitty Cat and a Lady Bug. It would be 7 more years before they’d ask if they could dress up like Lady Gaga and Naughty Nurse. Sigh.

It was a dark and stormy Halloween night. My two young daughters, Rachel and Emmy, could not wait to get started. Earlier that week I’d spent an evening helping them come up with their costumes. Emmy could not decide between a fairy princess or Barney the dinosaur or Hello Kitty. So naturally, the only solution was Barney the Hello Kitty dinosaur princess. Whatever makes you happy, my little angel, I mean, dinosaur kitty princess.

Rachel’s outfit was easier. She insisted on being Harry Potter wearing an invisibility cloak. So I drew a lightning bolt on her forehead, put a sliver of duct tape on a pair of my black-framed glasses and found a blanket to which I affixed a big sign that read: INVISIBILITY CLOAK.  YOU CAN’T SEE ME!

The girls kept asking, “Daddy, when can we go trick or treating?” To which I would respond, “It’s only Wednesday. Halloween is not for another three days. Be patient.” This went on every few hours until the big day, at which point, the incessant questioning accelerated to every 5 minutes.

Finally it was time for the main event. They looked so cute – Emmy in her princess tiara, sparkly gloves and Cinderella flowing gown, with the matching kitty ears, whiskers and a long purple dinosaur tail. Meanwhile Rachel was almost completely hidden underneath her Mighty Morphin Power Rangers invisibility blanket. Of course, once we ventured out into the 42-degree drizzling weather, it was actually hard to make out their costumes beneath their winter coats and Thomas the Tank Engine galoshes.

Everywhere I looked, there were pirates, super heroes, princesses and scary monsters – some of them in strollers – all in search of one thing: SUGAR! As soon as Emmy noticed all the other kids racing ahead for the same candy she was after, she started to panic, fearing all the good stuff would be gone by the time we got to the door, and people would be handing out pennies – or worse yet, toothbrushes. Like every year, we came upon a house with a sign next to a large wicker basket that read, “Please, take just one.” It was empty – of course. The time was 4:57 pm.

My girls rushed from door to door for what felt like three hours, but a check of my watch told me it had only been 35 minutes. It occurred to me that they might as well rename this Holiday “Disney’s Halloween”, because, as I looked around, it seemed that every girl under the age of eight was either Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Ariel from Little Mermaid, Jasmine from Aladdin, or Pocahontas. Although now that I think of it, there was that one seven-year-old girl dressed as a Zombie Princess / Egyptian Mummy carrying what looked to be a dead snake and a hula hoop. Not sure what her parents were thinking.

As we went from house to house, Rachel kept asking me to walk further away from her. She was only eight, but already she was embarrassed to be seen with her dad. I agreed to stay at the sidewalk while she took her sister by the hand to each door. Emmy got up the nerve to bravely demand, “Tick or Teat.” (She had not quite mastered the concept of the letter “R” yet.)

I looked at my watch again – and at their sagging, over-stuffed pillow cases. It was almost 7:30 pm. Over howling protests about me being a mean daddy – and their claims that all their friends’ parents let them stay out till dawn to trick or treat – I finally bribed them by promising not to eat all their candy after they went to sleep, if they agreed to come home now.

Then came the most important part of Halloween: The trade negotiations. Rachel and Emmy spent the next hour trying to outmaneuver their opponent.

Emmy: I’ll give you a Necco Wafers AND a Smarties for your Twix.

Rachel: Are you nuts? I’ll give you a box of Nerds if you give me your Nestlé Crunch.

Emmy: No way! My Nestlé Crunch is twice the size of that box of Nerds. I’ll give you all the candy corn in my bag for two Butterfinger bars.

Rachel: Nope. I’ll give you this box of Junior Mints for your Kit Kat Bar.

Emmy: Are you insane?

Halloween - bucket of candyIt went on like this for quite some time. In the end, I believe the only trade actually made was two pieces of bubble gum for a tootsie pop.

After they were asleep in their beds, I did what any loving father would do. I pilfered through their haul to collect my Dad Tax – you know, my fair payment for having spent almost three hours standing guard 30 feet away at the sidewalk when I could have been home watching the game. I doubt they’ll miss a couple boxes of Milk Duds or that Clark Bar. And don’t worry. I didn’t touch their Kit Kat or Twix bars. I would never do something so cruel. I settled for an Almond Joy because Emmy didn’t like coconut.

The next morning, I woke up to see my kids having breakfast together. Quietly. Calmly. No fighting. No name calling. I couldn’t believe my eyes. And then it became clear. They were too busy stuffing their pie holes with Gummy Bears and Reese’s Pieces.

I thought about intervening and shouting something about getting a healthy breakfast. And then I thought, why ruin this rare moment of tranquility. Emmy even gave me a Kit Kat bar (I think she stole it from Rachel) and invited me to join them. That breakfast with my two kids, scarfing down all that candy – yeah, that was the best breakfast I’d had in a long, long time.

Happy Halloween, everybody.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2015

My High School Commencement Address: “You’re All Whiners, I mean Winners!”

My High School Commencement Address: “You’re All Whiners, I mean Winners!”

[The following are excerpts from a recent high school graduation address given by Tim Jones. The name of affluent, private school has been withheld to spare the institution further shame and embarrassment for having selected Mr. Jones to deliver the address. – TEJ]

Recently I gave a high school commencement address. Mostly I just read out loud some old VFTB columns I’d written about Donald Trump. Not sure the kids could hear me over the rap music pounding in their ear buds. I must say, those three hours just flew by.

Recently I gave a high school commencement address. Mostly I just read out loud some old VFTB columns I’d written about Donald Trump. Not sure the kids could hear me over the rap music pounding in their ear buds. I must say, those three hours just flew by.

I would like to thank everyone who made today possible. The esteemed faculty, administrators, guidance counselors and even the disgraced former assistant coaches, for everything they’ve done to help all of you reach this important milestone.

I would also like to acknowledge the countless contributions of your self-sacrificing parental figures, by whom I mean your mom, dad, step-dad, other step-dad, and nannies.

Perhaps most importantly, I want to acknowledge the makers of Ritalin and Adderall for helping you kids stay focused enough to complete an impressive 37% of your assignments.

Congratulations, [REDACTED] High School class of 2019. As I look around this dimly lit auditorium and behold a sea of mortarboards atop designer sunglasses, I am struck by all the untapped potential.

I ask you, the co-leaders of tomorrow, to indulge me as I impart a few pearls of wisdom. First, though, I sincerely apologize if my musings distract you from the text messages about tonight’s rave party at Nate’s. I hear it will be “totally lit” because his parents just left for Italy.

You will soon leave the halls of this fine institution behind. Some of you will embark on the journey called “life- how to avoid it”, thanks to your parents’ untraceable bribe that got you into Stanford. Well done, mom and dad. You have four more years to avoid facing reality – that is, unless you are expelled freshman year for never attending class. You might want to rethink your longstanding policy of playing League of Legends till 4a.m. (LOL!)

For those of you not fortunate enough to possess incriminating photos of the Dean of Admissions at the college of your choice (or any college), no worries. There are countless other career options awaiting you after your graduate from [Fill in the blank] Technical College: Horse Inseminator, Sewage Diver, Deodorant Tester, Roadkill Removal Specialist… The world is your oyster, as in oyster shucker. Go for it.

Congratulations, proud high school graduates. You did it! Your future looks bright. I am sure, if you look hard enough, you’ll find that dream six-figure, 20-hour/week job as a cruise ship bartender that you richly deserve. Reach for the stars!

Congratulations, proud high school graduates. You did it! Your future looks bright. I am sure, if you look hard enough, you’ll find that dream six-figure, 20-hour/week job as a cruise ship bartender that you richly deserve. Reach for the stars!

Then there’s the rest of you – you know who you are. You decided college is not for you because you know everything already. Of course, you do. But three months from now, in the off chance your well-thought-out career plan is not unfolding as hoped, and your dreams of making millions as a day trader living in your parents’ basement are not panning out, please drop me a note when you apply for the coveted cashier position at McDonald’s or Burger King. Tough decision. My advice: Hold out for Mickey D’s. Better fries.

Soon into your university experience, you will be required to declare a major. The pressure is enormous, having to make a decision. So many enticing options: Medieval Astrological Studies, Auctioneering, Floral Management, Bagpiping…. One thing is certain: whatever you choose, it will be the wrong choice, which you will not discover until 3 semesters and $45,000 later. When you end up jobless with $100,000 in college loans due, don’t freak out. Remember, your parents co-signed the loans, so technically, they’re liable. Problem solved.

Graduates, I must forewarn you: there will be adjustments as you go forth. The biggest will be that there is no longer a helicopter pad for your parents. Your college professor will not take a call from your mommy explaining that your allergies were acting up and you could not finish the term paper. Your boss will not engage in a text dialogue with your daddy about why you deserve a raise for not missing a day of work in three weeks. You’re in the big leagues now.

I realize some of this might come as a disappointment, but out in the real world, things are a little different. By all means, congratulations on those trophies for Toddler T-ball participation and your 4th grade project on the planets (even though you left out three of them, including Earth). Cherish the Gold Star for picking up most of the crayons you threw across the classroom in 7th grade. And your cogent debate team argument that Lil Wayne is a greater influence in the music world than the Beatles, well, that’s one for yearbook.

I admit, the fact you’ve memorized the lyrics to every Ariana Grande song is pretty “dope” and should count for something. But then, I’m a fan. However, I’m here to tell you that the world out there may not value your incredible childhood “achievements” as much as your parents did.

There are no Smiley Stickers for showing up to work on time. And while it might not seem fair, you probably won’t get that corner office in Chicago with a view of the Pacific when they promote you from Administrative Assistant to Administrative Specialist. Be patient.

These are the proud parents of Joey Grimaldi. He graduated with a 2.3 GPA and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed – with the Babes.” He’s decided to forgo college for a gap year as he entertains his options – both stock and dating. To fund this venture, he plans to live at home and ask his parents for a raise in his allowance.

These are the proud parents of Joey Grimaldi. He graduated with a 2.3 GPA and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed – with the Babes.” He’s decided to forgo college for a gap year as he entertains his options – both stock and dating. To fund this venture, he plans to live at home and ask his parents for a raise in his allowance.

Your unlimited self-confidence is impressive. You can thank your parents for that, because ever since you were in the womb, they told you incessantly how amazing you were and how you could do anything you set your mind to.

I hate to break it to you, kids. Actually, you’re not quite as special as you think you are. And here is a word you’ll need to get used to hearing: No. As in, “No, we’re not going to install a hot tub in the employee lounge to inspire your creativity.” And “No, you can’t take four days off next week to attend Coachella with ‘your posse.’ We’re on deadline.”

The truth of the matter is, in the real world, not everyone is a winner. Some of us end up losing. If you don’t believe me, google “Gary Busey.” You’re not a real winner if you can’t handle losing. You need to learn how to pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and push onward. (Readers, I apologize for the previous words of profound wisdom. They came from left field.)

Students, in closing, it’s time someone told you the truth about how life beyond your parents’ protective cocoon actually works. It isn’t always fair. Mom won’t be there to tell your boss to stop being so mean to you for assigning so much work. And success might take a little more effort, persistence, and time than it took for you to break your record score in Grand Theft Auto.

Hey, I could be wrong. Maybe you are every bit as perfect as your parents have protested for the past 18 years. But before you show up at that important interview for the killer job as a video game tester, you might want to remember to say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” give a firm handshake, and make direct eye contact. Oh, and take the ear buds out. 

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

Kids, Ask Me About Easter – By Reverend Tornquist

Kids, Ask Me About Easter – By Reverend Tornquist

[Note from the staff at VFTB: This week, we are privileged to feature another LIVE CHAT with noted children’s religious scholar, Reverend Norman Tornquist, host of the popular webcast, “Kids, Ask Me About God”. Tornquist is the renowned author of several books, including God Loves Kids with Braces Too, and Skittles – The Devil’s Gateway Snack. We join the LIVE CHAT already in progress….]

This week, in honor of the Easter holiday, VFTB is proud to feature a LIVE CHAT with celebrated Christian scholar Reverend Norman Tornquist. He’ll tackle kids’ most thought-provoking questions about Easter, like Does Jesus have a bunny and Does Jesus like the licorice jelly beans?

This week, in honor of the Easter holiday, VFTB is proud to feature a LIVE CHAT with celebrated Christian scholar Reverend Norman Tornquist. He’ll tackle kids’ most thought-provoking questions about Easter, like Does Jesus have a bunny and Does Jesus like the licorice jelly beans?

Reverend Tornquist: Kids, this coming Sunday is a very special day. Does anybody know what day this Sunday is? Yes, Billy?

Billy (age 8): I think I know, Reverend Tormkiss. It’s Easter!

Tornquist: That’s right, Billy. It’s Easter. And my name is actually Tornquist. Tell me, Billy, what’s so special about Easter?

Billy: Mommy and Daddy give me a big Easter basket filled with colored eggs and chocolate eggs and lots and lots of yummy candy.

Tornquist: Well, that sure sounds like fun, Billy. But do you know anything else that’s special about this particular Sunday?

Claire (age 7): Oh, I know, I know, Mr. Tourniquet.

Tornquist: That’s Tornquist. I know, it’s a hard name to pronounce. What do you think makes this Sunday so special, Claire?

Claire: My mommy gives me a giant stuffed aminal bunny every Easter. I have six of them so far. Would you like to play with them?

Tornquist: Thank you, Claire. That is so nice of you to be willing to share. Actually, I was thinking of something slightly different. Easter also marks the day that someone very important re-appeared to let the world know that he was not dead but would live on. Any guess who I’m talking about, kids?

Henry (age 9): My pet hamster, Bubbles. Last weekend, he escaped under our backyard fence, and I thought he was gone forever. But then my mommy brought him home five days later – only, when my she found him, he had some extra white patches of fur that weren’t there before. Do you think that’s a miracle?

Tornquist: Er, um, maybe, Henry. Actually, Easter is not just about eggs or Easter Bunnies – or even hamsters. It’s about Jesus. Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday. But on Easter Sunday, he re-appeared and told his disciples that he was still alive and was going to ascend to Heaven to join his father to give all believers salvation. Now that’s quite a miracle, don’t you think, kids?

Kaitlyn (age 5): I am confused, Mr. T. Why was Jesus on a cross? What parent would allow their kid to play on a cross? He could get hurt. And who’s Jesus’ daddy anyway?

Tornquist: Jesus’ dad was God! And God loves you very much, Kaitlyn. Just like he loves all his children.

Kaitlyn: Wait! So, you’re saying Daddy is not my real dad. God is? Does Mommy know? Did I do something wrong? Is Daddy being replaced by God?

Tornquist: No, no, sweetie. Your Daddy is still your Daddy.

Kaitlyn: So, I have two daddies? Like my friend, Hailey? She has an old dad and a new dad, who’s not very nice, if you ask me.

Tornquist: No, Kaitlyn. You just have one daddy.

Kaitlyn: Could you make up your mind, Reverend Thornsquid? This God stuff is very confusing.

Tornquist: It’s Tornsquid!! I mean TornQUIST! I am sorry if this is confusing. My point is that this Sunday is the day we celebrate the wonderful story of Jesus.

Joshua (age 7): Will Jesus be bringing me an Easter basket filled with Sweetheart candies? Because, if you ask me,  that would be a miracle, since the company that made them went belly-up a year ago, isn’t that right, Reverend Tornado?

Tornquist: Tornquist, just Tornquist. Is it really so hard to pronounce, kids?  And Jesus brings us something even more special.

Joshua: So, he’ll be bringing me a ginormous Robot Easter Bunny?

Tornquist: Not exactly. Kids, I think we may be losing sight of the real meaning of Easter.

Charlotte (age 4): I agree, Principal Turtlekins. The real meaning of Easter is marshmallow peeps. I like the pink ones bestest. What color do you like?

Tornquist: It’s Reverend, and I have not really given peeps colors much thought. Easter is a time when we think about how Jesus came to save us all.

Noah (age 7): From what? Monsters? Because there’s a scary green one under my bed named ZORG, and I’m afraid to sleep alone. Will Jesus protect me and Bandit from ZORG?

Tornquist: Noah, who, pray tell, is Bandit?

Noah: He’s my hedgehog. He protects me from monsters. Jesus isn’t a monster, is he?

Tornquist: Of course not, Noah. Jesus is your friend. He loves you.

Abigail (age 3): But he’s still not bringing me an Easter basket, is he, Reverend Toadkill?

Tornquist: That’s Toadquist… I mean… I’m sorry, Abby, he’s not bringing you candy. But Jesus just might bring you something far more delightful. Want to know what that is?

Abigail: Unless it’s a live bunny, I’m a hard pass. I asked my dad for a bunny for Christmas, but all he got me was an Easy Bake Oven. I think my dad is sexist.

Tornquist: How old are you, Abigail?

Abigail (holding up three fingers): This many years. I like Pez.

Tornquist: You don’t say! Okay, kids, any other questions about Easter I can answer?

Elliott (age 8): Does Jesus have his own Easter Bunny? What’s its name? I like the name Snowball.

Tornquist: Still stuck on the whole Easter Bunny thing, are we? Kids, I have no idea if Jesus had his own bunny named Snowball. I don’t think bunnies were his thing. I think he hung out more with sheep. And he came to save the world.

Zoey (age 5): Including the bunnies, right? ‘Because if he doesn’t save the bunnies, then I don’t like Jesus. He better save all the bunnies. And the kitties. And the horsies. And the ducks and – …

Tornquist: Zoey, I think you may be thinking about Noah.

Noah: What??? I don’t have time to save all the animals. I have homework. And horsies stink!

Tornquist: I was actually talking about a different Noah, son. But that’s a story for another time. Any more questions about Easter, kids – OTHER than the Easter Bunny, that is?

Hunter (age 9): I do, I do, Mr. T.

Tornquist: Yes, Hunter. What’s your question?

Hunter: For Easter dinner, can you tell my mom to serve something besides ham? I’m sick of ham. She serves it every year!

Tornquist: I see. And what exactly would you prefer her to serve for Easter dinner, Hunter?

Hunter: A giant chocolate Easter Bunny! That would be awesome!

Tornquist: Sigh… Well, that’s all the time we have, kids. Join me next week for another session of “Kids, Ask Me about God”, when I’ll invite youngsters to ask about Adam and Eve. (Something tells me I may regret that topic.)

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

A Millennial’s Bill of Rights

A Millennial’s Bill of Rights

Meet Ryan, Amanda, Justin, Kayla and Tyler – five millennials with an important message to share – which they will get around to just as soon as they respond to the latest text from Ryan, Amanda, Justin, Kayla or Tyler.

Meet Ryan, Amanda, Justin, Kayla and Tyler – five millennials with an important message to share – which they will get around to just as soon as they respond to the latest text from Ryan, Amanda, Justin, Kayla or Tyler.

[Note: This week I turn over the editorial reins – and hope I don’t regret this decision – to five outspoken millennials – Ryan, Amanda, Justin, Kayla and Tyler (at right) – who have demanded the opportunity to share what they believe the rest of us need to accept, based on the collective wisdom of young people. Looks like our future is in good hands. – TEJ]

Hey, you Gen X’rs and Baby Boomers. You geezers have called the shots 4 way 2 long. It’s time we millennials explain the new rules. This is our BILL OF RIGHTS, or as we prefer to call it, our BLLORTS.  Just so you won’t whine about having no idea how to “translate” our writing, we’ll use complete sentences (what a hassle), with punctuation and vowels – thgh, srsly, who bthrs wth vwls ths dys?

As a Millennial, I proclaim that…

Climate change is real. It’s going to destroy the planet if we don’t do something about it NOW. I plan to get actively involved, of course, but for the moment I’m busy checking out my options on Tinder and Bumble. But right after Monica swipes me back, I’m all over saving the planet. Text me when Florida starts to submerge.

We need to help people in need. There are millions of people all over the world who don’t have nearly enough to get by. It’s time we look out for those unfortunates. Speaking of people in need, I need you to pay for my airfare home for Christmas. I had to buy a new iPhone X, so my Venmo account is low.  Continue reading “A Millennial’s Bill of Rights” »

The Secret Rules of Chess

The Secret Rules of Chess

Did you know chess was invented in India in the 6th century? An even more obscure factoid is that “The Secret Rules of Chess” were invented by one T. Jones in the late 20th century. It was time someone taught our impressionable youth these new rules. That somebody was me.

Did you know chess was invented in India in the 6th century? An even more obscure factoid is that “The Secret Rules of Chess” were invented by one T. Jones in the late 20th century. It was time someone taught our impressionable youth these new rules. That somebody was me.

[The following is a partially true story.]

As a parent, I have long tried to be a role model for my children. I have always striven to teach my daughters fundamental values like integrity, honesty and good sportsmanship – except when it came to chess. Then all bets were off.

When my girls were seven and eight years old, respectively, I taught them the ancient game of chess (something for which they have never forgiven me). Initially, their skills were rudimentary at best. But after a couple years of patient mentoring, they were able to name most of the pieces on a multiple choice quiz.

Eventually, their games improved to the point that, over their vehement protests, I enrolled them in a chess tournament at a local elementary school. Upon arrival, I noticed that most of the kids and their parents had something in common: almost none of them looked like me. That’s because, of the 300 kids in this competition, 95% of them were either Chinese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, or some other Asian demographic. I’d heard about Tiger Moms, but never have I seen so many in one room – the intensity in their eyes was daunting. As for the remaining 5% of kids, they didn’t stand a chance.

My girls were born in China, so on paper at least, they fit the demographics. But that’s as far as the similarity went.  Factor in that I was their teacher and they had about as much chance of winning this competition as I had of becoming the next Pope.

The event went on forever, beginning at 8am on a Saturday and ending sometime after I lost consciousness from ennui. Every child played five rounds that day. After one match was over – which in my kids’ cases was usually about nine minutes – contestants were sent back to the cafeteria.

In these long breaks, parents ensured their prodigies devoted every minute to sharpening their skills, practicing feverishly until the next round arrived. I was so bored that after a couple hours, I broke down and challenged some of these youngsters to a game. I don’t want to brag, but there was this one third grader, Jason Kim, who needed 21 moves before he checkmated me. That was my best performance. Most games were over shortly after I located my horse.

This is the scene at the chess tournament I enrolled our girls in when they were in elementary school. What a wonderful way for a parent to kill 10 hours on a Saturday, that is, if you find watching bowling a little too exciting.

This is the scene at the chess tournament I enrolled our girls in when they were in elementary school. What a wonderful way for a parent to kill 10 hours on a Saturday, that is, if you find watching bowling a little too exciting.

No doubt about it, these prepubescent grandmasters were extremely sharp. After a string of five embarrassingly quick defeats, I knew it was time to shake things up a bit. I decided to give these miniature Bobby Fischers a lesson by employing my own Secret Rules of Chess. My next opponent was a nine-year-old named Raza. After a conservative opening, Raza, boldly advanced his bishop into an attack position against my exposed queen.

I contemplated my options, and then, in a maneuver I’m fairly certain Raza did not see coming, I nudged my queen backwards off the board and brought her back onto Raza’s end of the board, putting his king in check. Raza jumped up and exclaimed, “You can’t do that!”, to which I calmly replied, “Apparently you’re not familiar with the Queen’s Revolt.”

He was, of course, more than a little confused, in part because the Queen’s Revolt doesn’t exist (in chess, that is). That’s when I began to weave a tale of how this tactic was first used by the Duke of Hapsburg against the Viscount of Mordovia in 1542.

In game after game, I continued to keep my young foes completely off balance with one surprising technique after another:

The Bad Bishop’s Deceit: My bishop gets to progress diagonally in two directions on the same turn – and can leap over pawns. 

The Peasant’s Uprising: This can only be done one time per game – and only by the black chess pieces (because I was playing black). I can select one pawn to become a queen for four consecutive moves.

The Knight’s Alphabet: Here, my knight can do the usual L-shaped trot, followed by a W-shape, and even a Z.

Storming the Castle: One of my favorites. I jettison both of my rooks in unison the length of the board thereby taking out both of my adversary’s rooks and any other playing piece in their path. This is a particularly powerful stratagem but one which should only be attempted if your opponent is very young and incredibly gullible.

This chess cherub would have defeated me in three minutes had I not utilized a daring, obscure strategy – the Wizard’s Distraction: I exclaim, “Look, a scary monster!”, my opponent turns to look, and I steal her bishop.

This chess cherub would have defeated me in three minutes had I not utilized a daring, obscure strategy – the Wizard’s Distraction: I exclaim, “Look, a scary monster!”, my opponent turns to look, and I steal her bishop.

Of course, with each “secret rule of chess” I made up, I explained in great detail its fake historical origins, dropping the names of plausible sounding kings, earls and baroness, and how, while not recognized in the United States (or China or Pakistan or India or any country where any of these kids’ families were from) they were widely accepted in places like Lichtenstein, Moldova or any obscure European country I was confident they’d never heard of.

I quickly garnered a string of five straight victories. My opponents had no clue how to defeat me. I even trounced the enormously talented seven-year-old Kevin Wong. I must admit, he would have beaten me in seven moves, had I not cleverly resorted to the masterful King Arthur’s Evasion: when he had me in check, I simply advanced my king the entire length of the board, jumping over several of Kevin’s pieces, and took out his rook.

Kevin protested until I patiently explained that this stratagem was first used by King Henry VIII to defeat Napoleon when they met for the World Chess championship in Reykjavik, at the height of the Spanish-American War.

Everything was going along swimmingly, until in the championship round, ten-year-old Raghav Patel employed a daring gambit he had learned from me – the ingenious Sultan’s Escape. He boldly took his king off the board for one turn to avoid being checkmated and then returned it safely to a different part of the board. Raghav was immediately required to forfeit the championship match to his rival, Fatima Shambhani. Apparently, tournament officials weren’t familiar with this move which, as I told Raghav, was first done by a Moghul sheik in the 15th century, during the Irish Potato Famine.

Several parents, who if you ask me, were wired way too tightly, filed a petition to have me permanently banned from any future chess tournaments. I guess some people just have no appreciation for the finer nuances of this ancient game.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

[Author’s disclaimer: To all you parents who by now have concluded I’m a terrible person for duping young, impressionable children with my preposterous moves and tales, let me set the record straight. I won’t deny that I made up all these fake chess moves and ridiculous back stories. But the kids quickly picked up on the fact I was making it all up for entertainment purposes, and they were enthralled and laughed as I demonstrated new ridiculous tactics. And no, Raghav Patel did not try the Sultan’s Escape (though I think he was tempted). And everybody lived happily ever after. – The End.]

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Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019

My Overdue Thank-You Letter

My Overdue Thank-You Letter

Several years ago, someone told me a story about “discovering your grateful heart.” So, I decided to work on that. Over the course of the next year, I sent one thank-you letter each week to a different person who had positively influenced the trajectory of my life. These were people from many phases of my life – family members, co-workers, even a former girlfriend – who had helped me in some way or taught me a valuable life lesson.

But it occurs to me, there are still two individuals I’ve never sent a special thank-you letter to – my daughters. It’s way overdue, because they’re both grown up now (23 and 22) and have moved away, embarking on their own life journeys.

There is so much I would want to tell them. I’d probably start by thanking them for choosing their mom and me as their “forever” parents, as we call it in adoption circles. When they were infants in two different Chinese orphanages, what are the odds they’d somehow get paired with us? Some people say children who are adopted are “lucky.” I say Michele and I are the lucky ones.

I’d thank my daughters for the many evenings they snuggled on either side of me at bedtime as I read them Goodnight Moon, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Nancy Drew, and countless other books.

I’d for sure express my appreciation for all the handmade Father’s Day gifts, from their cement handprints to their macaroni likenesses of me. And how can I forget to mention the special breakfast in bed they prepared one year. Burnt toast, Raisin Bran, gummy bears, and maple syrup never tasted so yummy.

I’d thank them for all the times during elementary school they would make me laugh out loud as I chased them around the playground, chanting, “Must get Emmy” before suddenly changing direction and shouting, “Must get Rachel,” which always made them squeal with delight.

I’d proudly acknowledge Rachel’s efforts to help her younger sister with her spelling by quizzing her – like the time we were driving past our local grocery store (officially called Quality Food Center, but whose sign only goes by its initials, QFC) and Rachel posed the challenging question, “Emmy, how do you spell QFC? Don’t look at the sign!!”

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