Short Story #354: The Checkerboard by Alston Anderson

Title:  The Checkerboard

Author:  Alston Anderson


Book cover to The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers - Langston Hughes.
The narrator sits playing checkers with his father when the mother begins to berate the father about chopping wood and getting corn.  The boy contemplates his moves against his father who is a skillful player.  While the father is away, the boy tries to cheat but it backfires when his father returns and makes a strong counter move.  The mother continues to nag and sends the father off to chop wood.  At dinner, the mother continues to critique the father, the brother, and the narrator on a variety of topics.  Every time the father retorts to the mother, she becomes defensive and tells him not to yell at her.  When the brothers jokingly whack at one another, the mother grows angry and the father yells at her to just leave people alone.  The mother breaks down crying and saying how little she is respected in the house.  Brother and father leave the table while the narrator stays by and tries to console his mother, all the while trying to think about how he could best his father at checkers next time.


The story is curious because on one hand, the reader is confronted with the stereotypical nagging female and what appears to be three males who are subject to her wrath.  However, the final explosion of the mother also reveals that there is much to this story that the reader is not getting.  That in fact, the reader is only witnessing the story through the eyes of a child whose focus is on checkers and not the bigger issues in the world or even the family for that matter.

Short Story #354 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  12/1/2014
Source:  The Best Short Stories by Negro Writers, ed. by Langston Hughes.  Little, Brown, and Company, 1967.    

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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