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Waiting on Lombard Street
by W.P. Kinsella

art by Robinson Accola
art by Robinson Accola
There is an old fashioned I-HOP on Lombard Street in San Francisco, probably one of the originals, blue roof, A-Frame, from the days when they were known as International House of Pancakes.

Driving south on a hot afternoon, fresh out of both air conditioning and Diet Coke, we decided to stop for refreshment. A pleasant young woman greeted us and escorted us to a booth, my red-headed lady and I, brought us water and menus and an assurance that a waitress would soon be with us. She may have even supplied us with a name, "Barcelona will be your waitress this afternoon," I prefer waitresses who don't have names, I prefer an arm clutching a pencil with a yellow pad at the end of it.

It was about 3:30 in the afternoon, Bermuda Triangle time in restaurants: the last of the lunch crowd has lurched out, belching martini fumes, time to wash the floors and scrape the food off the windows.

We decided on what we wanted, I chose a chocolate malt, my red- headed lady decided on iced tea, then we visited the washrooms one at a time so in case the waitress came one of us would be there to give her the order.

The waitress did not appear. She never appeared.

There came a point when we simultaneously realized we had been waiting an extraordinarily long time for service. We stared around. There was only one other occupied table, far away. The silence was eerie. It reminded me of the Mary Deare. Food steaming on some tables, but no one in sight, especially a waitress.

We waited a few more minutes. We finished our water.

I really wanted a chocolate malt. No one came or went.

"In another dimension, in another I-HOP, perhaps in Sacramento, or San Luis Obispo, or maybe even Honolulu, a tall, blond man and his red-headed lady have just been served a chocolate milkshake and an iced tea," I said. "They've drunk them up, received their check, and are now going to try and sneak out without paying. Look furtive," I said, standing up. "I'm going to walk sideways down the aisle. Try to look as if you have a sugar dispenser in your purse."

We walked out, silence clinging to us like lint. No matter how suspicious we tried to look, no one paid the slightest attention.

I leafed through the San Francisco newspaper the next day to see if perhaps a waitress had been kidnapped from an I-HOP on Lombard Street. Or if maybe there was a story of the entire staff of an I-HOP being locked in a walk-in cooler at the rear of the restaurant by a drug-crazed robber. Or, if perhaps an I-HOP had been found abandoned, floating down Lombard Street like the Mary Deare, food still warm but all humanity vanished into the ether without a trace.

Several months have passed. I wonder if in some other dimension, my red-headed lady and I are still seated in that I-HOP on Lombard street in San Francisco, spectral, ghostly, playing with our ice cubes, waiting for service.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.



W.P. Kinsella has published 15 books and over 200 short stories, but he is best known for his award-winning novel Shoeless Joe, which was made into the highly praised film Field of Dreams. The New York Times has said that his work "defines a world in which magic and reality combine to make us laugh and think about the perceptions we take for granted." In 1993, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2005, he was awarded the Order of British Columbia.

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly on an as-needed basis.

Issue Twenty-One (June 15, 2008): Paper Mouse by Bob Arter «» The Folk Singer Dreams of Time Machines by Matt Bell «» The Bone Orchard by Randall Brown «» Disease Relics by Blake Butler «» We Decided to Make Porn by Brian Allen Carr «» The Baby Drop-Off by Natascia Casey-Dean «» The Cougar by Dave Clapper «» Anointed by Myfanwy Collins «» Sister Earth by John Colvin «» Soap by Katrina Denza «» The Interpretation of Light by Murray Dunlap «» The Hole by Ashley Farmer «» Repair Man by Kathy Fish «» In the Kitchen She Wakes by Stefanie Freele «» American Gothic by Scott Garson «» Lobster Girl by Alicia Gifford «» Pen and Notebook by Natalie Goldberg «» Memento Mori by Rosanne Griffeth «» BiC by Steven Gullion «» Parting by Evelyn Hampton «» Tuesday by Lindsay Hunter «» Waiting on Lombard Street by W.P. Kinsella «» Johnny by Nance Knauer «» Like Swimming by Jeff Landon «» Feeling Sad by Darby Larson «» Alone With Cooper by Ellen Meister «» The Angel's Visitation by Corey Mesler «» South Dakota by Mary Miller «» California Fruit by Meg Pokrass «» Home Made by Bruce Holland Rogers «» Handful of Dirt by Jim Ruland «» Steam City Girl by Paul Silverman «» Sugar by Claudia Smith «» The 13th Toast by Amy Sparks «» Gathering by Kelly Spitzer «» Tiny Shadows by Maryanne Stahl «» Double-Exposure by Thomas White «» Epistemology by Joseph Young «» Why This Isn't a Good Story to Tell by Shellie Zacharia «» Liquid by Michelle Zellers «» Real Estate by Bonnie ZoBell «» Interviews: Bob Arter «» Matt Bell «» Randall Brown «» Blake Butler «» Brian Allen Carr «» Natascia Casey-Dean «» Dave Clapper «» Myfanwy Collins «» John Colvin «» Katrina Denza «» Murray Dunlap «» Ashley Farmer «» Kathy Fish «» Stefanie Freele «» Scott Garson «» Alicia Gifford «» Rosanne Griffeth «» Steven Gullion «» Evelyn Hampton «» Lindsay Hunter «» Nance Knauer «» Jeff Landon «» Darby Larson «» Ellen Meister «» Corey Mesler «» Mary Miller «» Meg Pokrass «» Bruce Holland Rogers «» Jim Ruland «» Paul Silverman «» Claudia Smith «» Amy Sparks «» Kelly Spitzer «» Maryanne Stahl «» Thomas White «» Joseph Young «» Shellie Zacharia «» Michelle Zellers «» Bonnie ZoBell «» Cover Art "Five Years of SmokeLong" compiled from art by Marty D. Ison, Robert Dornberg, Malina, and Rebecca Gullickson «» Letter From the Editor
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