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ILLUSTRATION BY DANIEL PUDLES

We had dinner together, the six of us, three couples, at Twin Orchards, the country club to which we’ve all belonged for years. The night still being fairly young, we decided to come back to our place, my wife Susan’s and mine, in Highland Park. We did some drinking at dinner — a couple of drinks before the meal, two bottles of wine with it — not enough to get schicker, as my immigrant grandmother would have said, but leaving us all nicely lubricated.

Five of the six of us went back a long way — to Senn High School, in fact, which meant we knew one another for more than fifty years. The exception was Ellie Kaplan, Irwin’s wife, who came from St Louis and whom Irwin met, pinned, became engaged to, and married soon after he graduated from the University of Illinois. The Axelrods, Artie and Sheila, were high-school sweethearts who have stayed together all these years. More than half a century — that’s a pretty good run. I married Susan when I was twenty-four, she twenty-two. We, too, will soon be hitting our fiftieth. The years pass much the same, as my father used to say, only the decades fly by.

Artie, Irwin, and I were in the same club at Senn (the Ravens) and the same fraternity at Illinois (Phi Epsilon Pi). Irwin and I went to the same grammar school, Daniel Boone. The three of us never really lost touch. Sheila Axelrod and my Susan go back quite as far. When we’re together much of our conversation, in fact, is devoted to the old days: who took whom to the prom or the Mert Davis Dance; what became of our old grammar and high-school teachers; whether this or that classmate subsequently ever came out to announce he or she was gay or lesbian. When Artie and Sheila moved to Highland Park, Irwin and Ellie followed, and Susan and I followed them two years later. During the Michael Jordan days, we had Bulls season tickets, mezzanine seats, all together. Apart from vacations and occasional foreign travel, not many weeks have gone by all these years when we haven’t been in touch, if not in person than by phone. “To the Six Musketeers” is our traditional toast before dinner at Twin.

In our large living room, Susan opened another bottle of wine, a Zinfandel. We all sat on a sectional couch in front of the fireplace. The weather in early November was cool enough for me to start a fire. We settled in. Old friends. Cosy.

“Have any of you heard of a game called Self-Deception?” Ellie Kaplan asked.

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