Friendship Contemporary Fiction


                                        By David L. Elkind

I tilted my head back and finished my second beer. It was my favorite, Guinness. Their motto is Good things come to those who wait, but today I felt that Bad things come to those who don’t think. I looked around and was disappointed that Danny hadn’t arrived yet. For as long as we’ve been good friends, each of us has always been there for the other on a moment’s notice whenever possible. I’ve never needed him more than now, but he had to clear up some things at work before he met me. I know that he had no choice, but this was not a good time for me to be alone.

I sat at the bar at Dolan’s. Dolan’s was a classic Irish pub. In a neighborhood where restaurants failed every couple of years, Dolan’s was an anomaly. It had been around for almost 90 years. It looked as though little had changed over time. It was dark inside no matter the time of day. Many of the chairs at tables had tears, and the bar stools weren’t quite level. The bar had an unusual odor. It’s hard to describe, but it smelled like a combination of must and beer, with a slight hint of vomit.

Charlie Dolan was still tending bar at 65. Despite his age, his tattoos on both arms were thickened by bulging biceps, a reminder that he had once played pro football. Charlie never needed a bouncer, but time was starting to catch up with him. On the fanciest occasions, Dolan’s patrons wore shoes with their jeans instead of sneakers, out of respect for the moment. Few men wore collared shirts. Despite its rough appearance, there were few fights at Dolan’s. Part of this was because most everybody knew each other. Sometimes late in the year, when someone had too much to drink around the holidays and there was a big game on TV, tempers would flare, but most fights were broken up quickly. One exception was two years ago when that guy from out of town started with Jimmy Pierson. He must have assumed that Jimmy couldn’t take care of himself, because Jimmy isn’t a big guy, but Jimmy teaches several types of self-defense. They finally discharged the other guy from the hospital three days later. He was smart not to press charges against Jimmy, because we would have said that he started the fight. Here blood runs thick, even though few patrons are related.  

I usually sit at a table at Dolan’s when I’m with friends or with our girlfriends, but today I wanted to sit at the bar by myself until Danny arrived. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone else. I looked up and Danny finally came in and took off his baseball cap. When he saw me, he just nodded, and I nodded back. Normally there would be a big grin and maybe a funny remark, along with a warm hug, but not today. He only knew the bare bones of the story, but he knew that it was bad.    

We greeted each other with a “Hey.” Neither one of us smiled. Charlie brought over beers before we said anything to him. Danny took a sip and turned to me. “So tell me what happened in as much detail as you want,” he said. “I’ll try not to interrupt too often until you’re done.”

I sighed. “Well, you know that we’d been having problems lately,” I started. “They’ve all been little things, but after a while, little things aren’t little, and they lead to resentments. I’ve always been old school and tried to let things roll off my back and not react to them. Well, I guess they built up like a pimple and last night a minor thing caused it to burst. We brought in different Thai dishes for dinner, and I guess things got a little messy. When it came time to clean up, she asked me to help her and I said no. I had cleaned up the last two nights after dinner, and I didn’t feel like doing it again.”

Danny jumped in. “Did she cook when you cleaned up the last two nights?”

“Yeah,” I said, “but cleanup is always hard because it’s the last thing that must get done, and it’s always when I’m tired after eating. She looked angry, and she told me that I was selfish, and I lost it. I yelled at her, probably for the first time ever. I’ve snapped a bit, but I’d never yelled at her like that before. I basically screamed at her in a rage. I told her that she had no right to call me selfish, and that she should realize that she was selfish. After a while I told her that I was going to watch the game. I sure as hell didn’t want to talk to her, because I would lose it again, and I quickly walked away without looking at her.”

“How did she react?”

“I could hear her crying while she did the dishes. When she was done, she ran into our bedroom and slammed the door shut. She then went into the other bedroom with her nightgown and spent the night.”

“Did you go into the bedroom to talk to her?’


“Why not?”

“I guess I had nothing to say to her, and if she criticized me, I probably would have lost ii again. I didn’t think that I had done anything wrong. I wasn’t going to give in to her. I didn’t want to set a precedent where I’d be coming to her with my tail between my legs.”

“What happened next?” One of the strengths of our friendship is that we've never been judgmental of each other, but I knew that I'd tried Jimmy's restraint. I was glad that he hadn't chided me.

“I could hear her talking on the phone. I couldn’t hear anything specific, but she was probably either talking to her mom or her older sister. Then there was silence. We didn’t talk again that night. This morning, I was having breakfast when she came downstairs. She didn’t look at me or say anything until she got her breakfast and sat across from me. Then she looked at me with a look that was so devoid of emotion it spooked me, as if she was robotic. She calmly said that she couldn’t believe that I had yelled at her like that, and that while she was talking with her mother, she realized that she couldn’t take the tension anymore, and that we were through. She said that she was flying back to San Diego tomorrow to spend some time with her parents to figure out what she wanted to do, but that whatever it was, it wouldn’t be here.”

“What did you say?”

“I didn’t know what to say. I was too shocked to respond. I think that I just said, ‘Oh,’ and that was it. I wanted to get away as fast as I could. I called you on the way to work. I’m glad that you were able to meet me here.”

“Of course,” Danny said quickly. “We’ve always been there for each other. I’m sorry I was late, but I got away as soon as I could. I guess the question is, how do you feel?”

“I feel awful, Danny. I lost the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It would be easy for me to defend myself, but that would be wrong. For too long I’ve taken her for granted and not told her that I loved her or thanked her for things. It’s not like me to express emotion, and I guess I assumed that she knew how I felt, but that assumption was probably wrong. I’ve apologized quickly before for things when I’ve screwed up, but I’ve never truly told her that I was sorry and that I was wrong. She’s always been open and loving with me with her emotions, and she’s apologized even sometimes when it’s been my fault. I think that I’ve been too proud to meet her part way, as if I had to be the tough guy who showed no weakness. Last night, having let that emotion build up inside of me, I couldn’t control myself. I was wrong. I should have apologized later, but I let my ego get the best of me. If I had said that I was sorry, this wouldn’t have happened. Now I’ve lost everything.”

“What time is her flight tomorrow?” Danny asked.

“I think that there’s one that leaves around 1 p.m.”

“Whenever we’ve had an issue before, we’ve never told each other what to do,” Danny said. “We’ve always asked the other one what he thought that he should do. So tell me what you think that you should do now.”

“I guess that I should apologize. But I’m worried that it’s too late.”

“You’ve got two choices,” Danny said. “Do nothing and start kicking yourself nonstop about what you didn’t even try to do, or go home and apologize to her. The worst thing that could happen is that she tells you no. You won’t be any worse off than you are now, but at least you’ll know that you tried. I’ve never known you to be a quitter. I don’t expect you to start now.”

I nodded with my jaw tight, and my lips pursed. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” I said. “Wish me luck.”

I know that Danny likes to get up early every day. It’s the main reason why we couldn’t be roommates when we were younger. I called him before 7, and he was already on his exercise bike.

I told him what had happened. “When I got home last night, she seemed uncomfortable, as if she expected another confrontation. I put my hands up and I told her that I just wanted to talk. I apologized for the night before. I said that I was wrong, and that she was right that I had been selfish. I said that I had spent too much time thinking about me and not enough time thinking about her and us. I told her that instead of dealing with issues as they had come up, I had ignored them and let them build up inside of my until I burst inappropriately last night. I said that I would try to be in the moment and deal with things as they arose. I told her that she was a wonderful, loving person, but that I had failed to tell her how much that I loved her and had taken her for granted. I told her that was terrible, and that I was sorry. I added that I had only myself to blame for the fact that she was leaving me, and I said that I understood why she was leaving, and that she deserved someone better than me. And then, I swear, I broke down crying.”

“Really,” Danny said. “How did she react?”

“She cried a little,” I said. “She apologized, and started to take some of the blame, but I shushed her and told her that it was all on me, and that she shouldn’t blame herself for anything. And then I laid everything on the line. I told her that I had changed and would continue to change. I said that I would need her help when I screwed up, but I said that if she’d give me one more chance, I’d make everything right. I told her that I would understand if she flew home, but that I hoped that she’d come back to me.”

“Wow, you were phenomenal,” Danny said. “What did she say?”

“She said that she had bought a refundable ticket because she had hoped that I would come to her like I did. She said that she was happy that I had said what I’d said, and that she wanted to try to work things out. We hugged for several minutes, and after we wiped our eyes, we kissed forever.”

“Yes,” Danny yelled so loudly that I had to pull the phone away from my ear. “Way to go. Did anything else big happen?”

“After we had calmed down a little, I told her that there was one more thing that had to be done. She looked at me curiously. I got down on my knee and proposed to her.” Danny screamed even louder than before.

“Did she say yes?”

“She was shocked, but then she screamed yes so loud that my ears were ringing. We went back to hugging and kissing even more vigorously than before.”

“When are you getting her a ring?”

“My dear friend, after all of these years, when have you known me to wait? I stopped at Schuyler’s on the way home and bought a nice ring that I gave her.”

“That was optimistic of you.”

“I made sure that they’d give me my money back if she said no. They also agreed to make any alterations that she wanted, and she’ll probably get a few made.”

“So I assume that you’re going to turn in the ticket for San Diego.”

“Actually, we’re both flying there tomorrow. We’re going to have a little celebration with her folks and then start scouting for a wedding venue.”     

“That’s great. I’m so happy for both of you, and so proud of you for what you did.”

“Thanks. I doubt that I could have done it without you. I’ve tried to be there for you, but you’ve always been there for me. You were there when I lost my first job. You were there to keep the police from taking me away when I had too much to drink at Nelson’s New Year’s party. You were there to help me when Jenkins wanted to kick my butt for dancing with his girlfriend. And now you were here when I told you that Ellen and I had broken up. And you know what?”

‘What?” Danny asked expectantly


“You’re bad luck.” We both dissolved in laughter.   

November 13, 2022 17:46

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Caitlin McDaniel
14:59 Nov 25, 2022

Your description of the bar was well done. I feel like I can picture exactly the type of bar he's sitting in. The tension in the beginning was done well. I wanted to keep reading to figure out what had gone wrong. I like that the story on the surface is about him and his girlfriend, but really it's more about the relationship between these two friends. Loved the ending line! Thanks for sharing!


David Elkind
15:09 Nov 25, 2022

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Caitlin. You really understood what I was trying to capture in the story. Best, Dave


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Annabella Bones
05:23 Nov 24, 2022

Very good descriptions, especially describing the bar. I admire the relationship these two guys have. They can tell each other anything without the fear of judgment or ridicule. Very nicely done. Thank you for sharing your story!


David Elkind
18:05 Nov 24, 2022

Thank you, Anna. I appreciate your kind comments. Best, Dave


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Alice Richardson
23:45 Nov 19, 2022

A great story, well written, explaining without overdoing it. An excellent ending!


David Elkind
18:07 Nov 24, 2022

Thank you for you comments, Alice, I'm glad that you liked the story. The ending is from one of my favorite jokes. Best, Dave


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