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by Katerina Charisi
2016-01-10 10:35:47
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Since I was too young to stay home by myself, my father took me with him. The place looked rather creepy at first; the peeled walls, the filthy floor, the tall bar with the dark red bricks, the dim lights, the green tables with these faces around them... These faces were the worst. But I got used to them. Even the stuffy air and the smoke. The rat-hole didn’t even have a window, apart from a few skylights at the one side. But no-one ever opened them. Not at least for as far as I can guess. But somehow the cloud of smoke had to get out... So maybe …really, someone opened them and cleaned the place in the mornings. I don’t know. Well, since I couldn’t do anything to avoid it, I tried not to think much about it. There was an old couch in the corner and I used to sit there; or sleep. There were times it was occupied though.

mil01_400_03Sometimes I had to take the overflowing ashtrays and give them clean ones. Some other times, they sent me next to Danny’s and get them something to eat (and usually it was something greasy and gross looking) and if I was lucky I could keep a few coins from the change. And then there were the nights that things got weird. There was anxiety in the air, untold words, mumblings and strange, quick glances. Everyone seemed to sit on their chair with one foot aside, ready to stand up quickly if necessary. Those nights, all I had to do was to be the lookout.

The place wasn’t drawing any attention from the outside, it was just a few steps down to a rusty front door - probably an old storage room of the building - in a narrow street that normal people wouldn’t never bother to walk in. Next to it was Danny’s, and then it was just bars, empty buildings and few brothels. Usually when the door opened there was someone brought there by one of the patrons, although I remember a couple of times when some drunks tried to enter and the barman kicked them out immediately.

Still, they had ruined the game and till things would calmed down again, no one trusted another to continue from where they had stopped, since anyone could have put their hands on the cards. I bet there was money missing too. These guys were too tired, dizzy or just drunk to notice, but I am pretty sure that there was another way for my father to get some extra cash. He always started again with a new game anyway.

So, there was a tiny bell above the door that rang every time someone tried to open it. And these weird nights, my job was to keep my eyes on the door and my ears on the bell. It seemed that they waited for someone - something to happen. To be honest, there is nothing exciting here, nothing ever really happened …except the occasional agreed visits by the police. But then there was no money on the tables and they all pretended to be just good old pals hanging around; drinking, catching up and dealing the deck.

My heart always bounced hard on my chest until the police would go away. My pockets were stuffed with rolled bunches of banknotes. The officer that came along was almost always the same, and very rarely he had anybody accompanying him. My father and the rest already knew that he was coming. In fact, everyone knew what this place really was. Still, if there were no money on the table or anywhere in sight, there was nothing illegal going on.

My problem was that the police always had to enter furious, in a rush banging the door and scare me to death, and when they were two of them, “our” guy had to be all serious and more official; so I always had the fear that he might search my stuffed pockets.

mil02_400_02And now, so many years later and so far away from there, every time the tiny bell above the front door in Cafe Du Monde rings, I freeze for a moment and my heart stops beating. Maybe I will never get over it.

There is a pretty young woman that gets inside, looks around and notices the only free table with the single chair next to the large windows. She carries paper grocery bags that are soaked wet and ready to tear. Suzy gets her order and the woman just stares out of the window. I don’t know why, but I must be somehow staring at her. Suzy comes by and gives me a good one on the ribs with her elbow. She seems so distant, so lost. After a while the bell rings again and I see Emily. It is the first time I see her after that day in the library and that’s a long time.

She pretends that I am not there and my arm just hangs stupidly as I was ready to say hello, that is. She grabs a free chair from an occupied table, without even asking if it is taken or not. It’s not, but hey! Some manners never really hurt anyone, ask me, I know, I grew up surrounded by pigs.

She sits with the pretty young woman and they chat for a while. I can’t stare too much, I have to keep moving, the place is still full. Now I regret that I gave Suzy the windows post. Usually it’s mine because it’s the bigger post and always busier. It also has more tips, so I wanted to play fair. Plus Suzy is a good girl. Still... Stupid Josh.

Emily stays with the young woman for a little longer, then stands up and walks towards me. I see her looking at me now, but I can’t take my eyes from her friend. What the hell is wrong with me? Like she felt my eyes on her, the woman slowly turns and right before she could look at me, I turn my head away. Our eyes met only for a second. There is something in those eyes that I can’t define. Then I see Emily standing right between me and her, looking at me straight in my eyes with her arms crossed on her chest. I never had the chance to say hello to her. She pointed her long pale finger at me and came closer, whispering to my ear, five single words: “Stay away from her, Josh”.


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Alan2016-01-10 18:10:23
Very good

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