He laid his dirty hands on the bar, looking around with his chin upwards.
The barmaid was wearing a black hairnet and a fake smile on her thin long face:
What will you have? she asked in a pitched voice.
The man turned around and looked at his wife, waiting for an answer.The woman’s arms were folded, pressed on her chest, and her face was looking at the entrance door.
A short espresso, with a spot of soya milk.
The barmaid watched her stepping out of the café without even saying goodbye and then looked at the man again, who was now laying his elbows on the dark marble too;
I’ll have a ginseng coffee, large cup, no sugar, if possible.
Ginseng is already sweet itself, said the woman,letting a disapproval smirk slip.
The man stretched out his chest, leaning forward, and peered at the bottles on the shelves behind her; year old bottles at least, and covered in dust, fake colors inside won’t allow for further imagination, another girl behind the barmaid was wiping the lower shelves with a damp cloth, leaving a clean area behind every passage, the man looked further up: one bottle in particular drew his attention; that on the highest shelf, a duplicate of the football world cup in the shape of a bottle.
When does that date back to? he said, indicating it with his chin.
Which one? asked the barmaid without turning around.
The golden one, in the shape of a World Cup.
I’m not sure if it is for sale, we’d better ask the owner.
The man nowobserved the furniture, the ‘80s style bar was mainly made of shiny brown formicaand opaque windows,some of which were so consumed that a dark stain was spreading from the centre.Therewas no sign of the owner.
Would you mind showing it to me, please?
The barmaid looked annoyed and turned to her colleague, who heard the request and grimaced at her to get it.
I’m not sure if it is on sale, as far as I know it has always been there, it hasn’t been moved from the shelf for 10 years.
Her colleague came back carrying a stool, she climbed three steps, paying attention not to lean on the window that had just been cleaned. That bottle was lonely on its shelf; lonely between a vase of fake and dusty flowersand a white pennantrepresenting a green wolf. It might belong to a football team. When she lifted it from the glass shelf, a circle of non-dusty space was left by the bottle itself.
The man held it gently with his handsand weighed it, tilting it to the right and then to the left, it was full, then he sniffed the cork in order to smell its scent.
I can’t smell the liqueur inside, do you know what it contains?
The girl shook her head, so he shook it again andinhaled deeply and coughed at once, then he observed both the sidesand the label thatwas sealing the cork.
Nothing, there’s nothing on it, it’s a perfect duplicate, no initials, no brand, said the man shaking his head. – I was certain I could at least smell something,even a vinegar smell that would suggest me there was some wine inside.
Along the sidewalk outside the bar, a man was approaching, with a shopping bag in his hand.He had a look inside and then walked in smiling, getting closer to the bar.
Good morning. He said to everyone, - a hot cappuccino, please, then he interestingly noticed theworldcup-shaped bottle, - is it yours?
No, I was just checkingwhat liqueur there was inside, answered the man, stillholding the bottle.
Can I check it out?
He gestured for him to waita second and he pulled a pair of eyeglasses out of his fishing jacketand put them on his nose, covered in small spider veins, resembling blood highways.
Are you an expert?
A connoisseur, sort of.An old auntie of mine had a similar one in the cupboard of the summer house kitchen where my former wife and I used to stay most weekends.
What did that one contain? Asked the man, interested.
He didn’t answer and kept turning the bottle in his hands, lifting up his eyeglasses every now and then.
A very remarkable piece, presumably dating back to the early 80s, I’d like to ask the ownerwhether it is possible to buy it or not, but maybe you were first interested.
Don’t worry, I was just having a look, I wasn’t going to buy it.
It should be wortha couple of hundred Euros, replied the man again.
The coffee machinestarted to puff, the barmaid had put a small pot underneath and she kept lifting it up and putting it down again. She removed it and started pouring some white cream into a large cup.The man with the fishing jacket said thank you, took the cup and before the content got cold, he knocked it back in one shot, and cleaned his mouth afterwards with the forearm of his shirt sleeve.
I’m sorry, I’m in a hurry, he said to the man, then he took a 5 Euro bill from the pocket of his trousersand put it on the bar. – Keep the change, he said to the barmaid.
It’s been a real pleasure, he said to the man, shaking his hand, and handing him his business card.Should you meet the owner, please give him this and tell him I’m really interested in purchasing this duplicate, then he smiled, picked up the bag and went out in the street, walking away.
The barmaid took the bottle off the bar, climbed the ladder again and put it back where it was, the base perfectlyfit the non-dusty area, between the fake flowers and the pennant.
Ndt: the original text includes “al vetro” which is a way to have the espresso, that is to say in a tiny glass instead of in the typical small cup.