Irv Tashlisch felt horrible, the unexpected had happened. A feud between friends had started. One stupid comment had resulted in seriously hurt feelings.

Harry Dennis was a very successful builder and Lionel Rabinowitz was the President of a Real Estate Investment Trust. They got along fantastically well and both lived in a different universe. They had homes in the best area of Toronto, Forest Hills and both were tremendous philanthropists.

Irv had known Harry and Lionel from childhood and even though he hadn’t kept up with them on a business success level, they were all very good friends.

Once a month the boys played poker and it was a night of many jokes and lots of laughter. The game was capped so that crazy betting couldn’t happen and things couldn’t get nasty. Food was ordered in and the night was a big kibitz.

There were two other guys who usually joined them, Michael Luten and Dave Sclomitz. Michael was in the manufacturing business (ladies lingerie) and Dave was a Lawyer, who was a partner in a Bay street law firm in downtown Toronto.

While they were playing poker on a beautiful May night the topic of wives came up. Everybody was effusive about how wonderful their spouses were except for Lionel Rabinowitz. It was picked up on immediately and Dave Sclomitz was the first to question Lionel about his mood. ‘’Lionel, you seem very quiet, I know you’re getting your butt whipped in the game, but why so serious, Jill is such a fantastic girl.’’ Lionel looked around and his voice came out in a whisper. ‘’I didn’t want to say anything, but I think Jill has been cheating on me. I can’t tell you exactly why, but I have a bad feeling. The passion we had for each other in bed seems to have disappeared, and trust me it’s not my fault, I find her very attractive, so I think she is seeing someone else.’’

The room went completely silent. During all the nights the guys had played poker, there was never a lack of loud noises and laughter, now a pin could be heard dropping. It was a disconcerting and deafening silence.

Nobody knew exactly what to say, so Irv dealt out a hand. It was then that the unfortunate comment was made by Harry that started the feud. ‘’When I went out with Jill before you married her, she did something similar to me. I was invited to an event, the Cattleman’s Ball. It was a big deal and I was excited about it, cause I wanted to buy a couple of ranches, and just before I went to pick her up, Jill cancelled, she simply said she didn’t want to be around a bunch of glorified farmers. I had to go by myself and I dumped her the next day, you talk about being inconsiderate. She started going out with you a couple of months later, I wondered if things could possibly work out, you’re such a nice guy and she’s, well she’s, she’s self indulgent. I have to say when you married her, I was shocked but I wanted you to be happy.’’

Lionel stood up and glared at Harry Dennis. ‘’You dated my wife and never told me. I’ve been married to Jill for thirteen years, she’s the Mother of my kids and you never told me you dated her. What the hell kind of friend are you. Plus, how dare you, you piece of shit call my wife inconsiderate and self indulgent. She’s the best woman I know. If she’s cheating, it’s because something I’ve done wrong. You have no right to talk about her like that. Fuck you Harry and fuck you all.’’

Lionel Rabinowitz stood up and walked out the door, never looking back. Irv went to stand up but Dave Sclomitz motioned for him to sit. ‘’He’s having a personal crisis. What Harry told him hit home because it’s the truth. He’s not mad at any of us, he’s upset with Jill and doesn’t know where to vent. Give him a couple of days and he’ll come around.’’

The guys finished their poker game early. It felt like the air was out of the balloon. Without Lionel at the table it was just not fun, so the guys all agreed to call it an early night.

Irv tried to reach Lionel a couple of times after the game, but he didn’t take any calls. The next day Harry sent him an email with an apology and there was no response. Dave and Mike also had absolutely no success in getting Lionel to talk to them.

Three weeks passed and nobody heard a thing from Lionel. Finally, Irv went to his house. Lionel’s butler, Kevin, opened on the third ring and informed Irv that ‘’Lionel was indisposed and unavailable for communication. If he wanted to reach Mr. Taschlisch he would.’’ Irv left and decided life had to go on and it was now obvious that Lionel wouldn’t be part of the poker circle anymore.

Irv called Harry, Mike and Dave and arranged a poker game at his house for the following night. They all agreed to come and Harry said there was fellow he did business with named Jordy Klein who wanted to join them.

Irv ordered in food from a great restaurant called Tov Li, and the slowly his friends showed up. Jordy seemed like a really good guy, and as soon as he sat down he told a really funny joke that had all the guys laughing. The game started and they were just betting on the second hand when there was a knock on the door, Irv stood up answered it and there holding a six pack of beer was Lionel. He smiled at Irv and walked into the house. ‘’You pricks, I heard you were playing poker and didn’t invite me, that doesn’t work. I need to take your money.’’ Lionel seemed to be his old self again and he marched into the poker room.

‘’Harry I was pissed off at you cause I consider you one of my Best friends in the world and you never told me you dated Jill. Not that I would have cared, but as friends, I just think you should have told me. I mean I fell in love with her and nothing would have changed that. I apologize to you all for acting like an idiot. I listened to you talk about your wives and I didn’t know what was going on with mine, I guess I was jealous. So I headed home and was really angry about different things, mostly my own behaviour. When I got to my place I sat down with Jill and asked her point blank if there was another guy. I needed to know because I love her and I always want to make love to her and all of a sudden it was a no go zone.’’ Harry looked over at Irv ‘’Before we hear the thrilling climax of Lionel’s story, I have a straight’’ Irv flipped his cards over to show a full house and raked in the chips. ‘’Please continue Lionel,’’ Lionel smiled ‘’Anyways, Jill started crying when I asked her why she has been so distant. Turns out she had a cyst on her ovary. She was scared to tell me because she knew how much I would worry and she was right. We got the tests back today and the cyst is benign. Thank Gd. So, she is okay, I’m okay and life can get back to normal.’’

It took a minute for the guys around the table to give Lionel the hardest time they could give him. They did it in a way friends do it to friends. A loving razzing and happiness that things worked out.

After a tremendously fun night, with the guys cleaning out the new player Jordy and initiating him into their game, they slowly left. The last player to head out the door was Harry. He looked at Irv and smiled and put his arm around his shoulder. ‘’I’m glad that Lionel is happy, and everything is good with him and Jill. I’m glad that he loves his wife as much as he does, I just have one question. When are you going to tell him that you and Jill were engaged during college?’’ With that Harry left Irv Taschich’s house laughing as hard as a person could laugh.

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.