– excerpted from the short story “Coffee and Milk” by Seth Wieck.
On his way back to St. Mark’s he saw the hanging sign for Harry’s Bar, and he needed to sit down. He pushed through the door and there was the bar on the left with a procession of men in white coats and bowties gathering drinks onto their trays. And then tables crammed next to each other.
One of the whitecoats, a middle-aged man with a close-cropped buzz, approached him.
The man pulled a small table away from a group of others and motioned to the seat. He opened a drink menu and handed it over. He looked around at the other tables. In every group there was at least one small glass filled with pink. He looked over the menu for something familiar. He closed the menu and the waiter returned.
“A Bellini, but hold the peaches. Just give me the sparkle.”
“You just want the wine?”
“Si.” He looked around at the other pink drinks in the room, and the waiter caught what he was saying.
“You should try one. They are good. Everyone knows what is good.”
“But the peaches aren’t really in season this time of year.”
“Everything is in season all the time these days.”
He chuckled at the waiter’s insight. “Give me a Bellini then. It is a beautiful color.”
“Bellini made beautiful art.” The waiter turned to the bartender. “Un Bellini!”
He sipped the foamy sweet drink and ate green olives from a white dish. He peeled the
meat of an olive away from the pit with his front teeth, and savored the seed around his mouth. He took his time with the drink watching his waiter take orders to and from the bar. The tables were close and he could hear conversations at will.
An American woman with frazzled hair asked her friend, “Can you believe we’re in Venice? We’re actually here. I can’t believe it, but believe it cause here we are.”
He stuck another olive in his mouth. The bartender sat three glasses like his own on the bar. He poured in the pink peach puree. Then he filled two of the glasses with the Prosecco. The bottle dripped empty at the end of the second glass, and he reached under the bar for another and then finished the order. A waiter sat the glasses on his tray and disappeared.
“Could you believe all the gold in that church? And the pictures, what were they? Mosaics. It was everywhere, the gold. They were charging three euros just to go look at that altar. What’s special about a big gold altar when you have all that other gold. What does the book say it was?”
When he was a kid he liked olives, but for most of his life after childhood he hadn’t liked them. They didn’t have a place in his palate. Today, he liked olives. He understood olives now. He remembered.
“Mark’s bones are buried in it? It’s so sad they still believe that stuff. They can’t prove it was even Mark.”
He drained the drink leaving a film of pink froth, and pushed the glass to the other side of the table. The waiter caught his eyes and prepared the bill.