By Ivan Marinov
Published:Feb. 11, 2012.
I put Worcestershire sauce on my steak and cut into the thick slab of pink flesh. The window next to me is open and I can hear the music of an organ grinder and watch his monkey. The man’s back is turned so I can’t see his face, but I know he knows I’m watching him. I can tell by the way he plays his music.
The monkey wears a pink vest and a red fez embroidered with green thread. There is a crescent shaped mirror glued to the front of the fez and a splendid tassel hangs from the top center, all the way down to the monkey’s shoulder.
The aroma from the steak brings me back to my table, conveniently located in a corner, equidistant from the kitchen and the front door. The rib-eye is delicious, but the French fries, though deep fried in lard for optimum taste and crisp enough to satisfy a picky teenager, are not my favourite side dish.
I prefer home fries, which are softer and retain salt better. But today Fritz is off duty, and the under-cook is American and can’t be trusted with home fries.
This is to be my last meal before I shoot myself for sins against humanity. I do it specifically to have allowed the execution of two thousand Gypsies in my native Kisalsoszent, Hungary. I did not kill anyone myself; I merely collaborated with the SS Commander who used to be my friend, and still was at the time of the executions.
As I look at the organ grinder the symbolism strikes me. The monkey is dancing to the music, just as I have danced to a tune when it was my place to dance. Now I see that the organ grinder grinds out his waltzes not to please the passers-by, but merely to eke out a living, to make enough money to buy his lunch. He certainly won’t make enough to eat a steak, while here in this elegant restaurant I swirl decent cabernet sauvignon in a cut-crystal glass. I am a regular customer.
I have my own table and the owner, Herr Greben, respects me from a distance and never calls me by my well known name, but always as “The Honorable Senator”. I have served three terms in the local assembly until my retirement a month ago. Herr Greben knows I value my privacy. For social and political purposes I have always used the Bavarian Beerhouse on the other side of town, and I come here to his Old Europe Restaurant to be by myself.
As I look at the pair outside, hard at work, I feel a pang of regret. Not pity for the monkey, or contempt for the organ grinder, but for the music, which takes me back several decades. There was a time I could have enjoyed the real thing in Vienna or Budapest, authentic Strauss waltzes played by dedicated Austrian musicians, or real Gypsy music by renowned Roma virtuosos, but I was always too busy, attending political meetings and seminars on efficient crop rotations.
I stayed a bachelor, became the mayor of my home town and dedicated my life to the promise of a better future. In the process, I neglected the cultivation of my very soul.
The music drifts into the dining room, mingled with the smell of horses coming from the carriages for tourists who come to visit our quaint city, but it interferes with the aroma of the steak and the wine I will pay for dearly in less than an hour before I go to the park and end all this.
My only thought of satisfaction comes from looking at the organ grinder, who used to be my friend.