The crowd inside Balder’s applauded baby Nicholas. Charlii watched Balder, grinning ear to ear, cross to a door behind the bar and disappear. He returned with a tray of olives, cheese, bread, and plates. She watched as he pulled a bottle of clear liquid from the refrigerator under the bar and set it in the middle of tray along with a perspiring pitcher. He moved to the front of the bar, and instead of taking the tray to the baby’s table, took it to a table near her where three gray-haired men were settling in.
Charlii hadn’t noticed them entering the bar, but they smiled and pointed at baby Nicholas until Balder set the tray on their table.
The man with the grayest hair, curled thick and brushed behind his ears and under a navy cap, clapped his hands. “Excellent, Balder. Thank you.”
Balder nodded his head and made his way back toward the bar, but Josh, sipping his mezcal, raised his hand to stop Balder. “We’d like some food, too,” he said.
“No doubt you would,” replied Balder, and he continued toward the bar.
Michael put his hand on Josh’s arm. “Don’t worry about it, bro. We’ll pick up something later. Finish your drink.”
Josh tossed the last sip of his drink and opened his mouth to speak, but the man with the thick, gray beard said, “Come. Join us.”
“Excellent idea, Demitri,” said the man with the curly hair. “Come over here, young men. Plenty to share.”
“Thanks, but” began Michael, but Demitri interrupted him.
“Come. This is Xander,” Demitri said, pointing to the curly haired man. “And this is Topher. Come.”
Josh led Michael to the table, and the three older men slid their chairs around to make room for them.
“Thanks,” said Josh, reaching for a piece of bread. “I’m starving.”
The older men laughed. Demitri said, “Young men are always in a hurry.”
“And always hungry,” added Xander.
“Some men are always hungry,” said Topher, poking his finger at Xander. “Slow down, young man. Drink this.” He poured the clear liquor into a glass for Josh and a glass for Michael.
Josh lifted his glass and touched it to his lips. “Good,” he said.
Michael took the glass in his fingers and twirled it. “What is it?” he asked.
“Ouzo,” replied Demitri. “Here, let me.” He poured water from the pitcher into Michael’s glass.
Josh’s eyes widened. “It changed color.”
“Of course, it did,” said Topher. “In that way it’s like Absinthe, but this is best for kefi.”
Charlii counted five glasses at the table. “Balder,” she said, turning to see him standing across the bar from her. “How did you know to put five glasses on the tray instead of three?”
“Kefi,” replied Balder.
Charlii closed her eyes and opened her mouth to reply, but said nothing.
Balder laughed. “The spirit of good food and conversation. Good friends welcome new friends, and the young men looked like they need new friends.”
A chorus of laughter emerged from the table where the old men and the young men sat talking, drinking, and eating.