When next he looked up, he saw that the Café crowd had thinned out, only the diehard lunatic fringe clinging to the corners. And the ghosts from the past also lingered, as if loathe to leave this site of strange attraction. One of them was write large, almost larger than life itself, Maria, Vitto’s ancient sister, lying stretched out snoring upon the grungy, padded bench behind the tables, her varicose legs elevated and her crabby soul tranquillized by her afternoon siesta.
The wimps always fled at her arrival for she humored no bludgers or broken-arsed substance abusers, but Arthur wasn’t scared of her, to him she was just another outre King’s Cross character, champing at the bit in her own God’s Waiting Room. She was a post-world war Italian immigrant who had elevated herself to shopkeeper status by sheer hard-work; nicknamed Il Duce’s Widow by the cynical café crew, she kept a candle eternally burning behind the counter to ward off the Evil Eye, only it had the opposite effect and troubles rained down on the Family like biblical plagues.
The local library stocked books of the most arcane and mysterious sort, for they had to cater to the thirsty celebrants swarming the neighborhood. It was by tracking the popularity of certain esoteric texts displayed like lures at the library that Arthur surmised he was not alone in his search for the Holy Grail, and that quite possibly it lay somewhere in the immediate vicinity of the Black Widow Café. That’s why he put up with Maria’s cranky shit and all the little humiliations the dickhead throng ladled out, for he had a higher purpose for being there and no halfwit fame-whore was going to deter him from drinking at the Fount.
He recalled the obstacle course of contretemps he had run through for the sake of hanging out in the café, the money he’d spent there, the loyalty he’d given, standing by Vitto no matter the disaster. Such as when the local electricity station had blown up and the whole area had been plunged into darkness for a week, he’d sat with Vitto in the cold wet dark with only a candle for comfort. Or when he’d been dragged off to the cop-shop, waiting patiently for his return to commiserate and curse the demonizing of the wonder herb, marijuana. And going to the movies with him every week for twenty-one years, ignoring the embarrassment of Vitto screaming and calling out at the slightest piece of cinematic violence.
He was particularly pained to remember that time he was nearly criminalized just for being a loyal patron of the Cafe de Sade. There he was, blissfully drinking his café latte, listening to Mimmo crap on with a lot of coke-fueled nonsense, trying to impress two good-looking Swedish back-packer girls, recounting everything that was wonderful about himself. The girls laughed in his face because the arse was out of his baggy jeans and he looked like a bum. Arthur decided to put up one of his posters and as he did so Mimmo asked if his name was on it, considering how popular he was. Arthur pointed at a word and said, ‘Yep, there’s your name right there in clear print, DICKHEAD!” Mimmo muttered into his scraggy beard while the blond Venuses giggled. Then Arthur made the mistake of sitting next to the guy. All was jolly for seven minutes with a few more wisecracks slung in Mimmo’s face and everyone sniggering, him being so dumb he thought they were compliments.