cuentos nero

Pepe’s bar

by Manu Espada

Jacinto climbs down the scaffold. It’s hot, so he takes off his helmet and the upper part of his overall. In his undershirt, his tattoos in plain sight, he wipes the sweat off his forehead with a handkerchief and looks for somewhere to eat. There’s a bar just around the corner. On a worn-out Pepsi-Cola sign he manages to read Pepe’s, although the first “e” is missing. He opens the door and sits on a rickety wooden stool. The floor is covered with sawdust—probably to hide some kind of dirt—and crumpled paper napkins and cigar butts are resting on it. On the counter, a greasy display contains bites of torreznos and patatas bravas. There are four tables. Three are vacant; at the fourth table some people are playing mus.
«I go all in» says Woody Allen.
It is not someone who looks like Woody Allen. No, he is Woody Allen. Jacinto picks up a toothpick and pops it into his mouth, completely baffled. The famous director’s teammate is Jacinto’s favourite actor: Kevin Bacon.
«What the fuck?» he lets out.
Allen and Bacon’s opponents don’t know whether they should call or not. Bruce Springsteen is about to open his mouth but Stallone threatens to break his neck should he call. Jacinto stands up but then the waitress comes out of the kitchen.
«What would you like to order?» Margaret Thatcher asks him while drying her hands with a cloth.
Before he has time to answer, Jackie Chan enters the bar with a heap of pirated CDs that he tries to sell to the four mus players. After him comes a large group of clients led by Paul Auster—Jacinto’s favourite writer. He is followed by Madonna, Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, Rania of Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo, George Clooney, Britney Spears, and Roger Federer. Rania orders patatas meneás and a pint of beer, George vermouth and some olives, but when Bill asks for a J&B and coke, the waitress tells him that she must serve Jacinto first. Paul Auster opens his eyes wide as he notices the builder’s face. He approaches him and shouts out: «Oh my God! You here! What are you doing at Pepe’s? I cant’ believe my eyes». The toothpick drops from Jacinto’s mouth as he raises his forefinger.
«Are you talking to me?» he asks, as Madonna wins the jackpot at the slot machine.
Paul Auster throws his modesty in his face and asks him for his autograph.
«It’s for my wife, we’re all big fans of yours in our family» he says cheerfully.
Jacinto takes a napkin, the Bic Cristal he holds in his pocket to mark beams, and writes: «To Paul Auster, with my best wishes. A fan». Paul Auster reads it, hugs him and looks so moved he seems about to cry. Jacinto asks Margaret Thatcher to bring him a Fanta Lemon and a chorizo sandwich. At the table next to them, Bruce called, under Stallone’s death stare.

From the book Zoom. Ciento y pico novelas a escala, Talentura, 2017.
Manu Espada is the author of the collections of short stories El desguace (2007) and Fuera de temario (2010), and the flash fiction collections Personajes secundarios (2015) and Zoom. Ciento y pico novelas a escala. He has won several short narrative awards and features in many anthologies dedicated to these genres as one of the most prominent contemporary writers.