Friendship endures... even when nothing else does.
The speaker didn't trouble to remove the dog end from his lips.
"Because you have so many other places to be." Replied the newcomer.
"I could have places to go, Elias. You don't know!"
Elias held up his hands and sat on the stone bench. The sun glared off the marble table positioned between him and his friend. He took out a handkerchief and mopped his brow.
"Why do you come here, Josef?"
"I like to play chess. Are we going to talk or play?"
"But the flies, Josef! Flies in summer, gnats in Autumn and frost bite in winter. I have a perfectly good chessboard at my house."
"Your wife talks too much."
Elias nodded in acknowledgment.
"Speaking of Helene, she sent this for you."
Josef's face softened. He took the brown paper bag and peered inside.
"Pickle?" he asked.
"57 years, you think she'd forget the pickle?"
Josef removed the smooth wooden pieces from the felt bag and set them out on the table.
Elias took out a pipe and a leather pouch. He tapped the pipe on the table and packed the hollow with pinches of tobacco. He looked at his friend through his lashes.
"I know what I had to tell you.”
“What?” came the reply.
“Helene spoke to Maria yesterday—"
"—Another one who talks too much."
"Oi, does she ever! Anyway, you remember David? Well he..."
"I don't know any David!"
"Sure you do.” said Elias. “David!"
"Elias, I do not know anyone called David!"
"Small guy. Used to help at Ishmael's deli."
"Lots of people helped at Ismael's."
"Oi! He was your wife's cousin!"
"No, the one before her."
"Leah? Leah came after Esther."
"What, I should remember all your wives in order? At my time of life?” He shook his head. “If I'd known you liked wedding cake so much, I'd've opened a bakery. You would've made me a rich man, my friend."
"Well,” said Josef, sitting back, “we can't all have your luck."
"That we can't.” Agreed Elias. He sucked on his pipe and stared into the distance. “I still remember the night we met. You left her talking to me whilst you bought Nathan's old rust bucket.” He chuckled. “ That thing spent so long on the tow truck it didn't need wheels."
"Biggest mistake of my life."
Josef moved his pawn.
Elias lit his pipe.
"Esther now, though. I haven't thought of her in years. It was a shame you two didn't work out."
"She and Helene could've been sisters." Continued Elias. "She was kind, funny, smart - well, not so smart. She married you - and her cooking..."
He moved his pawn.
"...you know, Helene and I thought she was perfect for you."
"She was." Muttered Josef. "Almost."
They played on. Rough hands caressing the worn shapes.
Josef cleared his throat.
"Leah didn't have a cousin called David."
"Leah. She didn't have a cousin called..."
"I'm sure? I'm sure, he asks! I had three happy years of marriage with Leah, I should know her cousin's name."
"Weren't you married to Leah for five years?"
Josef too Elias' rook.
"Now, Daniel. She had a cousin called Daniel who helped at Ishmael's Deli."
"Daniel! That's what I meant."
"Daniel? You said David!"
"I meant Daniel. You never made a mistake?"
"Alright. So what happened?"
"With Maria! What did she say about Daniel?"
Elias moved his knight and looked at Josef.
Josef stared at the board. Ash dropped from his cigarette. He met Elias' gaze.
"You've got my queen."
Elias reached for his old friend’s hand.