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  • armanmirhadi

Manfield and Rose

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

At night from May 1st to second the murders began.

Jack Brady enjoyed his steak dinner at home with his wife and Manfield went to bed early.

The rain from that afternoon was climbing in intensity, reaching its climax around 6 P.M., when it was pouring down so heavily that roads got flooded with water, racing down Sleepy Hollow Road like the Athabasca River past the big rocks south of town.

Folks largely dismissed any plans they had for that Friday night and prepared to stay at home, sitting out a storm that the weather stations in Hinton predicted to fully hit at night and last up to three days.

On that fateful afternoon, parents rushed to the grocery stores to buy supplies for days,

lonely young men bought bottles of liquor and Rose Manfield went out to buy an umbrella.

From 6 until 7 P.M. Rose was sitting out the raging rainfall at her father's home. She lived just two blocks down the street but usually after work (and often also before), she would go to Manfield to drink coffee or play a game of chess.

Manfield was known in town as a happy fellow.

But at home, in that badly lid and somewhat always dark apartment, he was lonely ever since his wife (Rose’s mother) had left, a few years back.

Manfield spent basically his entire day at work. It's where he wouldn’t have to think. It's where he wouldn’t have to feel. Escape that dragging, sticky net of loneliness and regret he felt in every corner of every room.

He regretted not being a better husband, he regretted being a weak father, but mostly he was downing harsh whiskey while sitting at the window, getting drunk on the dark moonlight washing over his face.

He’d always mix his drink with deep hate towards himself and anger for not being able to let go of the past.

Rose’s older brother Nick left with his mother and it was when everything went to shit.

Nick would visit his father once a month or so, but he didn’t like Manfield. After his mother had left him, he lost the last bit of respect for his father. When he looked at his skinny, grey-haired dad, he neither felt love nor affection. He only saw a weak man that somehow managed to make everyone he knew leave him.

There was no way for them to connect. Painful silence was their only ally. All Nick and Manfield could ever talk about was fishing and that topic sank fast also, as Manfield barely cared about it.

That left Rose as the last and only person out of the family that was there for him.

That loved him.

And that he could love back.

So there they were sitting. Manfield and Rose. Father and daughter.

And they were talking about this and that. Smiling about some, laughing about others. Playing chess and drinking hot coffee. Letting the raindrops plumb down from the sky and explode on the concrete floor outside. Letting their towers and their queens slide over the chess board for the king. Fighting the darkness in the room, outside, and frankly in their lives.

It felt good just sitting there. Being with each other. Even different than usual. Warmer. Closer.

Something else was different too. Rose was playing well. She was playing very well.

Usually, Manfield would capture a quick victory. Just occasionally, Rose survived for longer and even fewer times, she was able to actually do any damage against her father's undefeated army of merciless, strategic killers.

She always remembered them playing when she was a kid. Manfield teaching her.

And she loved when she was taught by him.

Rose got quite good, but never good enough and as a kid, she was obsessed with one day beating her father at the game he mastered, but that day seemed so far away, and so unreal, like the idea of being a grown-up adult to a small child. One that drives a car to work pays bills, smokes cigarettes, and even has children themselves.

As impossible as that is to grasp for a six-year-old, as impossible did it seem to Rose that she would ever beat her father in a game of chess.

As an adult, she presented a bigger threat to Manfield, although he still always won.

Although in the last few weeks, their battles had become more and more competitive and during the evening hours of May 1st, the day of Rose Manfield's death, she got so close to beating her father in chess, as the right-hand of a power puncher shoots just beside the temple of a boxer, slipping that punch.

Rose caught her father’s runner with her horse, leaving her own runner in the open, ready to be taken by his queen.

She put the bait on the hook and cast it out into the shallow waters. And her father, her very own father, the one who thought her that trick some fifteen years ago, bit on the bait like a trout on a worm and took Rose’s runner, realizing what he had done after looking up into Rose’s eyes, which were glowing from seemingly all the light in the room, as she let her fingers fly to her tower, grinding it over the board, all the way to Manfield's defensive lines, into the heart of his kingdom, right beside his king.

“Check.”, she said calmly. Surprised by herself, by how adult her voice sounded, in the empty halls she grew up in. Manfield was stunned. His mouth opened in awe, his brain trying to sort his trembling thoughts that were climbing above one another, trying to make sense of the situation and collapsing without finding a hold of any of it. He scratched his forehead and stared at the chessboard. “That was good Rose. That was really good.”, he heard himself mumble, almost stumbling over every word, keeping his gaze on the board.

His king was exposed, she thought. His queen was taken. His offense stopped and his defense was broken.

She had kept a clear mind until then, trying really hard not to lose it, but the thought of possibly now, for the very first time, beating her father at chess was too strange to comprehend. And just some would understand this fixation of Rose, but for her, it was more than finally reaching a goal, or accomplishing something she has been working towards since childhood, beating her father in a game of chess, was like surpassing him in one of the few things he still was superior to her. It was taking away one of the last things that let her look at her father as someone strong. Someone she could admire. A real man. And taking that away from him strangely would mean for Rose to finally grow up, something she still was afraid of more, than anything else.

So when he moved his king away from a devastating loss, but just one step closer to total annihilation, Rose did not move her queen into position, like she had planned, trapping the king and making an escape almost impossible. She moved her horse into position, which still seemed dangerous and could have been devastating for less of a player, but not for Manfield, who was even better at chess than he was at cutting hair.

“Well, it was a good move. But not quite good enough.”, Manfield whispered over a smile of relief, taking Rose’s horse with his last tower and saving his king, sending Rose on the defensive.

For a moment, their eyes locked. Manfield’s tired, green ones, with Rose’s, shining in a bright, turquoise blue. Right there, and for less than a second and maybe only in Rose’s imagination, the light, even sad-looking smile on Manfiled’s face and those tiredly speaking eyes, seemed to thank her. Then it was gone and nobody would ever lose another thought of it again.

Rose smiled: “You’re still good.”

“I am not that old yet, now am I?”, Manfield replied, his smile disappearing and the concentrated wrinkles on his forehead digging into his skin.

Then they played for just a short while longer. Manfield would go on to rise victoriously yet again, decimating Rose’s army before finishing off the king and winning the war.

Rose sat in front of her father, beside the window he would sit in at night when he was alone, looking at the moon.

She drank her coffee and took her time with it and she smiled at him and he smiled back and they talked a little about this and a little about that and they let the rain outside slow down and relax and listened to the wind gently sneaking around the building, whistling and singing.

Rose looked at Manfield and told him that she would go and he told her to be safe.

They hugged and she gave her father a kiss on the cheek, telling him that she loved him.

And he loved her too.

She grabbed her coat and while Manfield imagined how he would greet her again the following day, she opened the door, smiled, turned, and left.

Manfield stood standing at the entrance.

He never saw her again.


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