Sour times

by Uschi Cop



"What do you think about pickles?", the woman asked the man.

"What?"

"Pickles, what are your thoughts on them?" She sucked her teeth and looked at him.


The man and the woman were sitting on a deserted terrace set out crisscross on a narrow sidewalk. The buildings cast their shadows along the length of the narrow street, but tiny flecks of sunlight, reflected from the windows across the road, danced between the legs of the chairs and on the glass display case of the café where they had sat down.

Large pots were displayed behind the glass. They were stuffed with candied lemons, olives, boiled eggs and fat pickles. On this side of the street, the sidewalk was uneven and there were grids from which warm steam flowed. It was September, but already cold, and the train to Antwerp was due to leave in 50 minutes.

"What are you drinking?", the man asked in return. He rubbed his hands and leaned over to her across the table.

"It's cold," she said.

The man bellowed to the waiter: "Two mint teas."

The waiter stuck his head around the corner and said. "Bien sûr, monsieur."

“ARCADI”: The woman stared at the big letters on the display case: The red paint of the R was peeling off. The reflection in the display case showed that some men were pouring concrete on the street to secure new posts along the sidewalk. Every now and then there was a loud bang when the pouring stopped. The waiter put two mugs on the table and disappeared again with large strides into the small café.

“I don't feel like tea, where do you get that idea anyway? Have you ever seen me drink tea?” She spoke without taking her eyes off the drink in front of her.

“Beer then? Yes, two beers! Beer is nice in any kind of weather. You drink that, right sweetheart? ” He already beckoned the waiter.

The woman was silent. The beer was ordered.


The woman was silent. The beer was ordered.

"So.... pickles?" The woman asked the man again.

"Never cared for them."

"I like pickles," said the woman. “They are underestimated. They start out as cucumbers, without much flavor. Then they are pushed together in jars, some brine or vinegar is thrown in and then after a while they become pickles all on their own. You don't have to invest in them at all. ”

The man did not respond.

“Some sit in pots for up to 10 years before being eaten. What am I saying? Some probably stay like that for much longer than that. Nobody questions this. I bet there are a lot more pickles being made than are actually eaten. What do you think?"

The man was silent.

“If you think about it, they are made to be preserved. Does that have any meaning? Well, they mean something to me. Not everyone likes pickles.”

"Uhu," mumbled the man, his eyes followed a girl in a short skirt who skipped over the wet concrete, "cucumbers are not popular, that’s true,” he said and licked his lips.

The waiter put two glasses of beer on the table.

The woman said: “I know someone who always carries a cucumber in his car. For eating, just as it is. On the go." She looked down for a moment, then continued. “ ‘Being in a pickle.’ Where do you think that comes from? Do you think pickles know how unwanted they are? ”


Being in a pickle.’ Where do you think that comes from?

The man sighed. "Come on, drink up, girl."

She looked at the glass, frowned, and took a gentle sip.

The man drank with gusto and had a chat with a passerby about the roadworks. His roar of laughter rang across the terrace. Three crows had found some leftover bread and were running up the road in a tangle. A feather swirled on the sidewalk. The woman had not noticed the birds. She was still looking at her glass. The man finished his drink in three gulps. The waiter was already at the table. "Just a beer for me and for the girl ..."

"A pickle for me." The woman said.

"A pickle ..." stammered the waiter. The man raised his eyebrows at him.

"A pickle for me, please." She repeated.

The waiter looked from one to the other and gave the man a questioning smile.

"Two beers." the man decided. The waiter turned around.

"Un cornichon mariné, s'il vous plaît." The woman pointed to the shiny jar in the window.

The waiter understood what she meant and shook his head apologetically. “On ne les vend pas. Ils sont très vieux, je pense. “

The woman did not respond. The man said: "Thank you."

The waiter disappeared into the cafe and returned with two beers.

The man looked at the woman. She looked back.

The two sat that way in silence for a while.

"Are you satisfied?" the man blurted out.

"No, of course not."

"That would indeed be too easy…” he sighed. “Look sweetie, .."

"I'm not your sweetheart."

The man drank from his glass. “Can we skip the drama today? This whole situation is very difficult for me. ” He put his hand on her thigh.

The woman looked at that hand and said, “I just made up my mind. I'm not going to do this for you. ”

"And what is that?" He smiled.

"Be silent."

The man looked thoughtfully for a moment, then he put his glass on the table with a loud bang: "And I know…that you will."

For a moment everything was completely still. A lone pigeon walked proudly down the sidewalk. Suddenly one of its legs disappeared into a grate, but the pigeon merely shook its head, recovered and walked on.

She put the thickest pickle into her mouth in one go.

The woman pushed her chair back. The scraping sound of the metal legs on the pavement echoed through the narrow street. She strode inside and stepped over to the windowsill. The lid of the jar came off easily and her hand disappeared completely into the liquid. She put the thickest pickle into her mouth in one go. Without screwing the lid back on, she stepped outside, past the man, up the sidewalk, past the tall buildings with sun speckled windows, toward the station. The woman was too busy chewing on the thing that used to be a cucumber, to notice her left shoe leaving an eternal mark in the freshly poured concrete.