Khmer Chess, 2

She lifted the little metal filter off of the glass and stirred the thick layer of condensed milk up from the bottom, turning the thick black coffee creamy and sweet.

With slow, small steps, she took the two glasses of coffee out to the backyard patio. The small boy came to her and took the glasses from her hands and set them on the table, hurrying back to her and supporting her as she made her way to sit down.

Her back was hunched at nearly a ninety-degree angle, her short hair snow-white, her scalp showing through the rows created by the blue comb she pulled through it each morning. He could smell the pomade from the little green jar in the bathroom medicine cabinet.

The small boy helped her sit down in the hard, black plastic chair on one side of the table and then sat down across from her on the other side. He took a sip of his coffee and with a sweet, dimpled smile on his face, began to set up the chess board.

Grandmother and grandson would play for hours, the aluminum patio awning protecting them from the hot sun, until his parents returned from work. He would win, again and again, and they would laugh.

He would remember those summers clearly, over a decade later, as the most peaceful he’d ever had.