art by Agata Maciagowska
A Last Resort
by Phil Temples
The boy scratched his chin. He nodded to himself; then he moved a group of pieces a few centimeters on the board. Seconds later, the computer reacted by rearranging the opposing force into two separate, smaller groups. The boy thought this was a good sign. He would know better after two or three more moves.
Philip used to play the game frequently with his father. His father was a great strategist--he taught Philip well. His father had praised Philip's skills. Philip was an exceptional player--especially for one so young. Indeed, at eight years of age, he could outplay most adults. He wished his father were still alive so that they could play the games together.
Philip paused the computer program for a moment.
"Swishhhhh," Philip cried, as he waved two aerial attack vehicles through the air with his hands. "Bah-bah-bah-bah-bah!" Philip made firing noises at the opposing ground troops of the enemy's 12th mechanized battalion and 5th armored cavalry. Thanks to the elaborate modeling program, the pieces were accurate in every detail.
Philip picked up more pieces representing the 101st laser assault group and positioned them near the 12th mech. "Zappppp! Zappppp! You're dead! All of you!"
The boy imagined the enemy's vehicles and artillery upended like toys, disintegrating under the merciless fire from his aircraft and laser batteries. Men were vaporized, leaving only tiny wisps of smoke. Although Philip had never witnessed a man die, he had listened to the colorful stories told by his father and uncle, both seasoned warriors and veterans of many successful campaigns.
Philip caught himself.
"No," he said, out loud. His father had taught him that wars were ugly, awful affairs to be undertaken only as a last resort when all peaceful and diplomatic efforts had failed. It was not right to glorify the slaughter of men. Even in pretend play.
The little boy abruptly stopped playing soldier and shut down the machine. He sat down in the magnificent leather chair that was once his father's. Philip put his head down in his lap and held on to his knees, gently rocking to and fro. He suddenly felt a tremendous sadness. He felt very small.
Moments later, Philip noticed that his uncle, Seymour, was standing in the doorway. Seymour had been studying the young boy intently.