Often, they came for dinner after work, getting the same table facing an old black-and-white photograph on the wall. A picture from 50 or 60 years ago in a wooden frame. There was an old man, a tilted fur cap on his head, having his meal. He was sitting Turkish-style on the floor behind a low table. His food was sparse - bread, onions (or may be garlic), and a full of salt spoon - yet, the man devours it with relish, for three of his left hand fingers are almost entirely inside his mouth, pushing in a morsel.
'Cool!', he says. 'Just look how greedily he eats bread.'
'Cool? He is only hungry. I think there is something so touching in this guy, captured eating.', she answered.
'Jesus, touching! He is a regular cannibal. Look - he is going to eat his hand.'
'No, he is simply hungry. Tired and hungry. Came home after work, sat down to eat whatever he has. Must be a widower, there is no more to it.'
'I think you are wrong. Remember the Great Hunger in the Russian South under Stalin? Well, this guy reminds me of the muzhiks eating their children. Reduced to cannibalism.'
'Don't joke about it. There were descendents of Bulgarian settlers among those muzhiks.'
'Hunger is like sex - primordial and international. There is no escape from that.'
The tavern was getting full. It was a small, old tavern, unchanged for decades. The good cooking was preserved as well, keeping it popular. The inside wall was hard natural rock, some of it protruding inside the dining room. The old photograph hung on the rock, facing the couple at their favourite table.
'Hm, don't you think he is just cleaning his teeth?', she asked thoughtfully. 'Typical - one puts three fingers inside his mouth trying to catch whatever is stuck between the teeth and the head tilts to the left a little. He doesn't have to be a widower either.'
© Vladimir Shumelov