The maître d’ stops by to say hello to Moritz, then notices we don't have our complimentary Bellinis, and runs off before any of us can stop him. I'm not sure how Moritz knows Nohl so well - maybe Ilse? - and it slightly pisses me off but I decide to even up the score a little bit by showing everyone my new business card. I, Melchior Gabor, pull it out of my gazelleskin wallet (Purchased from Otto's mom) and slap it on the table, waiting for reactions.
“What’s that, a gram?” Hanschen says, not apathetically.
“New card.” I try to act casual about it but I’m smiling proudly.
“What do you think?”
“Whoa,” Moritz says, lifting it up, fingering the card, genuinely impressed. “Very nice. Take a look.” He hands it to Georg.
“Picked them up from the printer’s yesterday,” I mention.
“Cool coloring,” Georg says, studying the card closely.
“That’s bone,” I point out. “And the lettering is something called Silian Rail.”
“Silian Rail?” Moritz asks. “Yeah. Not bad, huh?”
“It is very cool, Melchior,” Georg says guardedly, the jealous bastard, “but that’s nothing….” He pulls out his wallet and slaps a card next to an ashtray. “Look at this.”
We all lean over and inspect Georg’s card and Hanschen quietly says, “That’s really nice.” A brief spasm of jealousy courses through me when I notice the elegance of the color and the classy type. I clench my fist as Georg says, smugly, “Eggshell with Romalian type…” He turns to me, Melchior Gabor. “What do you think?”
“Nice,” I croak, but manage to nod, as the busboy brings four fresh Bellinis.
“Jesus,” Hanschen says, holding the card up to the light, ignoring the new drinks. “This is really super. How’d a nitwit like you get so tasteful?”
I’m looking at Georg’s card and then at mine and cannot believe that Hanschen actually likes Georg’s better.
Dizzy, I sip my drink then take a deep breath.
“But wait,” Hanschen says. “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet…” He pulls his out of an inside coat pocket and slowly, dramatically turns it over for our inspection and says, “Mine.”
Even I have to admit it’s magnificent.
Suddenly the restaurant seems far away, hushed, the noise distant, a meaningless hum, compared to this card, and we all hear Hanschen’s words: “Raised lettering, pale nimbus white…”
“Holy shit,” Georg exclaims. “I’ve never seen…”
“Nice, very nice,” I have to admit. “But wait. Let’s see Ernst’s.”
Hanschen pulls it out and though he’s acting nonchalant, I don’t see how he can ignore its subtle off-white coloring, its tasteful thickness. I am unexpectedly depressed that I started this.
“Pizza. Let’s order a pizza,” Moritz says. “Doesn’t anyone want to split a pizza? Red snapper? Mmmmm. Melchior wants that,” he says, rubbing his hands eagerly together.
I pick up Ernst’s card and actually finger it, for the sensation the card gives off to the pads of my fingers.
“Nice, huh?” Hanschen’s tone suggests he realizes I’m jealous.
“Yeah,” I say offhandedly, giving Ernst the card like I don’t give a shit, but I’m finding it hard to swallow.
“Red snapper pizza,” Moritz reminds me. “I’m fucking starving.”
“No pizza,” I murmur, relieved when Ernst’s card is placed away, out of sight, back in Hanschen’s pocket.
“Come on,” Moritz says, whining. “Let’s order the red upper pizza.”
“Shut up, Moritz,” Georg says, eyeing a waitress taking a booth’s order. “But call that hardbody over.”
“But she’s not ours,” Moritz says, fidgeting with the menu he’s yanked from a passing busboy.
“Call her over any way,” Georg insists. “Ask her for water or a Corona or something.”
“Why her?” I’m asking no one in particular. My card lies on the table, ignored next to w in a blue glass vase. Gently I pick it up and slip it, folded, back into my wallet.
“She looks exactly like Otto's mom,” Georg says. “Call her over.”
“Does anyone want the pizza or not?” Moritz is getting testy.
“How would you know?” I ask Georg.
“I buy Bobby Maler's khakis from her store,” he answers.
Hanschen's gestures gather the table’s attention. “Did I forget to tell everyone that Ernst's a dwarf?"
"Who's Bobby Maler?" I say.
“Bobby Maler is the hunk who Georg's having the affair with,” Hanschen explains, staring back at Ernst's table.
“What happened to Fraulein Grossebustenhalter?” I ask.
“Yeah,” Hanschen smiles. “What about Fraulein Grossebustenhalter?”
“Oh god, guys, lighten up. Fidelity? Right.”
“Aren’t you afraid of diseases?” Hanschen asks.
“From who, Fraulein Grossebustenhalter or Bobby Maler?” I ask.
“I thought we agreed that we can’t get it.” Georg’s voice rises. “So-o-o-o… shithead. Shut up.”
“Didn’t I tell you—” Four more Bellinis arrive. There are now eight Bellinis on the table.
“Oh my god,” Hanschen moans, trying to grab at the busboy before he scampers off.
“Red snapper pizza… red snapper pizza…” Moritz has found a mantra for the evening.
“We’ll soon become targets for horny Iranian chicks,” Hanschen drones.
“It’s like zero zero zero percentage whatever, you know—are you listening?” Georg asks.
“…snapper pizza… red snapper pizza…” Then McDermott slams his hand on the table, rocking it. “Goddamnit, isn’t anybody listening to me?”
I’m still tranced out on Ernst’s card—the classy coloring, the thickness, the lettering, the print—and I suddenly raise a fist as if to strike out at Moritz and scream, my voice booming, “No one wants the fucking red snapper pizza! A pizza should be yeasty and slightly bready and have a cheesy crust! The crusts here are too fucking thin because the shithead chef who cooks here overbakes everything! The pizza is dried out and brittle!” Red-faced, I slam my Bellini down on the table and when I look up our appetizers have arrived. A waitress stands looking down at me with this strange, glazed expression. I wipe a hand over my face, genially smiling up at her. She stands there looking at me as if I were some kind of monster—she actually looks scared of me, Melchior Gabor —and I glance over at Hanschen—for what? guidance?—and he mouths “Cigars” and pats his coat pocket.
Moritz quietly says, "I don't think they're brittle."