‘My name is Julian,’ he said, stretching out his hand. ‘My friends and I were about to go and play chess in the pine grove, and I wondered whether you’d like to join us.’
‘I don’t know how to play chess.’
‘Nor did I, until two weeks ago. But Miquel is a good teacher ….’
The boy looked at him suspiciously, expecting the prank, the hidden attack, at any moment.
‘I don’t know whether your friends will want me there.’
‘It was their idea. What do you say?’
From that day on, Javier would sometimes join them after finishing the jobs he had been assigned. He didn’t usually say anything but would listen and watch the others. Aldaya was slightly fearful of him. Fernando, who had himself experienced the rejection of others because of his humble origins, would go out of his way to be kind to the strange boy. Miquel Moliner, who taught him the rudiments of chess and watched him with a careful eye, was the most sceptical of all.
‘That boy is a nutter. He catches cats and pigeons and tortures them for hours with his knife. Then he buries them in the pine grove. Delightful.’
‘Who says so?’
‘He told me so himself the other day, while I was explaining the knight’s move to him.’
The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The latest Richmond Rapidplay is this Sunday, 21st March: see the website for details. I was hoping to be playing myself but instead I'll be making balloon animals at a party for three-year-olds. Really.