September 10, 2010

"Dominoes" by Geoffrey Philp


“Paul,” my voice cracked, “I know you won’t believe me, but I never meant to hurt you.”

I lowered my eyes and studied the patterns of the terrazzo tiles on the verandah.

“How could you do this to me,” said Paul. “To Angela? To…”

Paul couldn’t say her name. I couldn’t blame him. When Angela and Paul got married, he’d adopted Debby, the only child from Angela’s first marriage. I should know. I was his best man.

You could say, Paul was returning a favor, but it wouldn’t be true. When I got married, Paul had been my best man. When my wife divorced me because I’d slept with her niece, Paul comforted me with silence and Red Stripes.

Now he stood frozen and without Debby’s assistance. She’d always helped Paul to prepare for our Saturday domino games. Debby served the food and drinks, (my favorite, Johnny Walker) while we played against our childhood friends, Roger and Michael. Like Paul and I, after they’d finished their studies in the States, Roger and Michael had returned to live on the same block where we grew up.

As a domino team, Paul and I were unbeatable. We had a sixth sense about the cards each other held. I often wondered why Roger and Michael still showed up to play. Every week we’d beat them, game after game, which usually began at mid-day and finished when we were too drunk to see the dominoes.

That’s how Debby and I got started.

“Help your Uncle David to get up,” said Paul. “He’s an old man.”

“Who are you calling an old man,” I slurred. “You and I are the same age.”

“But I don’t drink as hard,” he laughed.

Debby helped me to get up. I put my arm around her neck and smelled the perfume that I’d given her for her eighteenth birthday, Shalimar—the same one I used to give my wife on her birthdays.

We walked arm in arm to my front door. Although I never remarried, my house was clean and quiet.
“Here you go, old man,” she teased and tucked me into bed.

That was the first time Debby and I made love. For three months, we’d been making love after dominoes. Sometimes, Debby would sneak out of Paul’s house so it wouldn’t be obvious, but most of the times, she came with me at Paul’s urging.

Two weeks ago, Debby told me she’d missed her period. I took her to my doctor and he confirmed our fears. Because Paul was my best friend, I felt I should be the one to tell him.

“Debby is pregnant. I’m the father.”

Angela and Debby had been in the kitchen eavesdropping on the conversation. They moved to the doorway that separated the living room from the verandah.

“Leave now,” said Paul, barely audible.

I turned to go. Debby pulled away from Angela, who was bawling in the doorway.

“He’ll never understand us, Uncle David.”

Debby tugged at my arm and began walking out with me.

“My daughter stays.” Paul clenched his fist.

“No,” Debby screamed.

Despite her protests, I uncoiled Debby’s arm from mine.

“Don’t do this, Uncle David. I love you.”

I nodded and pulled away. Debby collapsed into a pool of tears. But what could I do? I had to respect Paul’s wishes. He was still my best friend.

I walked down the driveway alone. Paul overturned the table and sent the dominoes flying through the air. 

As I pushed through the gate, I could hear the clatter of dominoes falling one by one on the terrazzo tiles.


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1 comment:

Randy Baker said...

Good writing, as always, Geoffrey. Thanks for sharing.