Chaim and Rivky go to a barbecue at a neighbor’s house.

Krieger’s face was pink as he leaned close to the grill. 

He looked up and squinted. “You guys keep relaxing while I’m shvitzing here, it’s all good.” 

The other men laughed. “You love it,” Sutton said, “otherwise you wouldn’t have schlepped us here.” 

Krieger raised the tongs playfully, as if to poke him. “Watch it or you’ll eat salad for supper, like the women.” 

Chaim Reimer leaned against the railing, trying to look casual. 

“My advice?” Dolinsky said, clearing his throat, and quieting the chatter. Dolinsky always started his conversations like that, as if there was a line of people soliciting his guidance. “We should all be selling our houses and moving to Lakewood. The market in Flatbush is great right now and I don’t know if it will be like this in a year or two.” 

Sutton frowned. “Why Lakewood?” 

“You know, the kids are there.”

 “We can all go together,” Krieger said, looking up from behind the grill, “buy near each other.” 

Chaim knew without looking that Rivky would appreciate the comment, the sense that they were part of a group, a neighborhood chevra. She’d worked long and hard — with little help from him — to belong. (Over the years, he’d often imagined the conversations: “How could Rivky Reimer be so nice when her husband is such a grouch?”) 

“Yes, let’s do it,” said Mrs. Krieger, who was always a little too exuberant. “It will be so much fun. All of us together, on the same block, just like here.” 

As usual, at times like this, Chaim felt the familiar tightening inside, the sense of needing space. Friendships were a good thing, he remembered his father saying, even as his mother would argue: “Yes, Chaim should have friends, but not these boys, not this type of boy. The Bridgeport crowd isn’t for him — it isn’t for us.” His father would shrug, the argument ending before it started, his mother getting the last word. Chaim was always left wondering who he was supposed to play with, if the Bridgeport boys weren’t good enough for him and he lived in Bridgeport. Should he go to Brooklyn and play with his mother’s nieces and nephews every day after school? 

“You guys would do it?” Berman said, looking directly at Chaim. “You don’t strike me as the type to need your eineklach around you all the time.” 

“Maybe yeah, maybe no. It’s all just talk anyhow.”