Khanjluri Game

My submission for last week’s Flash Friday (150 word story challenge) got another honorable mention, which surprised me. I figured my story was too obscure to appeal. The prompt picture showed two Georgian nationalists of the late nineteenth century, Ilia Chavchavadze and Ivane Machabeli, playing chess at a St. Petersburg cafe. I researched the men and discovered that both were presumed to have been assassinated, by Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, or by the Tsarist Okhrana.

We were instructed to include a “nemesis” and not to use the word “chess.” I chose to focus on the historical setting of the picture, a departure from most of the other stories, which focused on the chess match itself.

My associative process for my story went something like this:

“Georgian nationalists” made me think of the pride of the Georgian National Ballet, a dance company that beautifully blends the traditional folkdance of their region with the technical expertise of Russian ballet. I knew I had to use Georgian dance, somehow, in my story. I picked the dance called Khanjluri because it involves the use of daggers and a dagger would play a central role in the climax of my story.

I am fascinated by the way dance, particularly the ballet, has acted as a mirror of cultural and political feeling in the Russian/Soviet Empire. I tried to incorporate this into my story, with the two Georgian Nationalists mocking the Imperial Ballet while praising their own national dance. Here’s the result of my loose mind:

Khanjluri Game

Two men lean over the gameboard, gazes intent. A nemesis was best assessed while playing shakhmaty, so Sergei comes every day to the coffeeshop. To assess, he tells himself, though truly he only delays.

Chavchavadze moves brashly. Machabeli plays deliberately.

Sergei’s time runs short. The Okhrana’s cold breath prickles the hairs on his neck.

“Will you go to the ballet, friend?” Machabeli asks.

Chavchavadze snorts. “That Imperial nonsense?” He mimics the fussy steps of a Russian dancer. “Give me a proud Georgian Khanjluri, not this mincing Russian business.” He advances a gamepiece. “Check.”

Machabeli stares. “Ilia! You take me by surprise!”

Sergei notes that Machabeli is easy to surprise.

Machabeli concedes, standing. “Until tomorrow.”

Sergei silences his following footsteps, drawing his blade. At the Tripartite Bridge, he lunges, pinning Machabeli to the railing. He slits his throat. Blood drains into the Griboyedov Canal.

“For the Tsar,” Sergei whispers.

He pushes the body over the railing. It will never be found.


One thought on “Khanjluri Game

  1. My goodness, Emily, this may be the flash product of your “loose” mind, but it certainly was ambitious, and demanding. I needed Nancy’s reading and explication to help me put the pieces together. I remembered your high school paper for which I helped supply background info on Russia and the revolution. Do you? Glad to read that characters are still “snorting” at apt moments. What was/is the Tripartite Bridge? I haven’t heard of it before. Is there any reason why the one Georgian was the victim, not the other? We enjoyed the video very much. Nancy wonders whether your flash fiction is taking time from completion of The Last Gantean? I keep asking about that, but figure I’ve been dropped as a reader. I have been reading a lot lately about the beginning of WW I exactly 100 years ago, including two fat volumes in German. Pleased that I can still manage the deutsche Sprache, more or less. Also read an article by Rory Stewart in the Nov 6 NYRB on Afghanistan, very sobering and depressing. How could the US ever imagine that pouring in a trillion dollars and massive firepower would make any difference, other than raising the level of mayhem and everlasting war? Love to all, Dad Date: Thu, 23 Oct 2014 21:06:10 +0000 To:


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