40 Cents Worth of a Story

original artwork by Nikita Klimov

Dan and I sat at a small table outside a café in some unfindable alley of the city talking about how long it would take you to get bored if walking out of this alley simply spat you back in through the other end.

Before the conversation could find the point it would never find, a man approached us. He had the look of one of those men who sat down on the streets of Barcelona at some non-descript time, on some nondescript corner with a glass of wine to work on his tan, twenty years ago. He had a heavy face; a nose you wanted to pop off and bounce.

He stood a polite distance away but leaned in gently.

“Do you have seventy-five cents?” He asked. Dan and I riffled around in our shorts and came up with forty cents.

“Thank you,” he said and sat down. “May I?” he continued, pointing at my cigarettes. I nodded. He slipped one out between the dark nub of his fingers.

“How do you like Barcelona?” He asked.

Dan and I gave our response in a positive series of shrugs and smiles.

“Beautiful city. Beautiful.” He puckered and smacked his dry lips together in between words. He crossed his legs and leaned back.

“Do you know what the most beautiful country in the world is?”

We shook our heads and each pulled a cigarette from the pack. The waitress came over and began clearing away plates. As she did I heard her whisper “Is everything okay.” I smiled and nodded. The man continued.

“Have you been to India?”

We shook our heads.

“I was in India. Traveling down a small road far from the city. There was a man selling coffee there outside of a little house. I stopped for one and began speaking with him. I asked him why not make pizza. So, I build him an oven and we begin to make pizzas together. He had a wife, this man. And three children. We agree to split the profits fifty-fifty. On the first day, we sell thirty-five pizzas.”

He smacked his lips as he went along.

“We made profit, it was good profit. His family was happy, I was happy. For one month we did this, and then–” he made a sound.

It was a “hmm” or maybe something closer to “mhm”.

He stood up and snubbed the cigarette into the ashtray. He looked around the alley back the way he came, then back to us.

“How much did you give me?” He patted his pocket “Forty-cents?”

We nodded.

“Good, well,” he said. He patted his pockets once more, smacked his lips, turned, and left.