|Leaving Small’s Hotel|
YOU CAN READ
Kap’n Klam, the Home of Happy Diners, the House of Hopes and Dreams
TOOK MY COFFEE to my workroom and shut the door. Standing at the
window, I reread the letter from Preston and Douglas announcing the cancellation
of the Larry Peters series. As I read, I had the oddest sensation
that all the characters in the series, with whom I had become so familiar,
were in their rooms in the big old Peters family house on Kittiwake Island,
packing their bags, getting ready to leave, to go their separate ways,
to part from one another forever. I would miss them. At the
same time, though, I was disappointed in them. They had let me down.
I had imagined that the Larry Peters books would go on forever, and I had
expected Larry to provide a comfortable old age for Albertine and me.
He was supposed to be our retirement fund.
I TRIED NOT TO BE GLOOMY during dinner, and I think I succeeded, but by reading time I was exhausted. I felt old, finished. Everything had come to nothing, that was the feeling. There was just nothing. I had nothing, and there was nothing to look forward to. Whatever I had had, or done, or been had slipped away. I had nothing. I was nothing. I began the eighth episode of Dead Air, “Kap’n Klam, the Home of Happy Diners, the House of Hopes and Dreams,” without much enthusiasm.
FIRST INVESTMENT I ever made was in Captain White’s Clam Bar, the original
of the Kap’n Klam chain of bivalve-based fast-food restaurants that now
blanket the globe. (It was, alas, too small an investment to allow
me to give my wife, Albertine, the gift she desires more than any luxury:
freedom from the hand-wringing anxiety she feels when the bills come in.)
That first clam bar had four booths, four tables, and a counter with six
stools. There was little to distinguish it from any other clam bar
except its proprietor, Porky White. At that time, I was pushing thirteen
and Porky was pushing thirty, and the clam bar was not exactly a success,
but Porky was tireless in his efforts to make it so.
“Maybe it’s the name,” he said to me one day, out of the blue, when he was bent over a cup of coffee and we were the only people in the place.
“The name?” I said.
“Yeah,” he said morosely. “Maybe we’d get more people if we changed the name.”
“You could call it a café,” I said. “Captain White’s Clam Café.”
“It’s the ëCaptain White’s’ part I was thinking about,” he said. “It’s not right.”
“Well, you know, in the morning, I get a coffee-and-buttered-roll crowd here—”
“A small crowd. A few guys. And being located where I am here, near the docks, a lot of those guys are baymen, clammies.”
“Uh-huh,” I said.
“Well, to them, a captain is the skipper of a clam boat, not the skipper of a clam bar.”
“But you’re the captain of this enterprise, so you’re entitled to the title.”
“You and I may know that,” he said, “but they do not agree. It’s not that they say anything to me about it, but there’s something in their looks, and something about the way they stop talking when I come by to pour the coffee, and besides, it’s too dull. Captain White’s. Blah. You know, it’s just So-and-So’s Clam Bar. We’ve got to have a name that stands out, a name like nobody else’s. Something distinctive.”
“There’s probably no other clam bar called So-and-So’s.”
“Be serious. This is important.”
“The Home of Happy Diners.”
“Wishful thinking,” I said. “You might as well call it The House of Hopes and Dreams.”
The clam bar was called The Home of Happy Diners for a week. It did not fill with happy diners. Porky tried The House of Hopes and Dreams. Our hopes and dreams were not fulfilled. He tried Porky’s Clam Café, The Golden Clam, The Happy Clam, The Clam Shack, The Half Shell, Distinctive Clams, Porky’s Folly, and So-and-So’s. None of the name changes attracted a crowd, but they kept Porky busy repainting the sign above the door.
Finally, one afternoon, he said to me, “I have got it. I have really got it. I know the name, the right name.”
“Yep. It’s been in my mind for weeks, but I wasn’t sure about it. I had to try those other names first, see how they would work.”
“So this was all part of a plan?”
“Sure. Like a field test.”
“You didn’t let me in on it.”
“Yeah, well, I am the captain of this enterprise, you know.”
“Sure, okay. What’s the name?”
“Kap’n Klam’s Klam Kar.”
“Hm,” I said. “Who’s Captain Clam?”
“Kap’n Klam. You’ve got to slur it like that. That’s the way the clammies say it. And look. Look at this.” He wrote the name on a napkin. “See? Those K’s? Distinctive.”
“Who’s Kap’n Klam?”
“Nobody. That’s the beauty of it. He’s not a fake because he’s not real.”
“Makes sense, but—why ëKar’?”
“We’re going to rework the outside of the place to make it look like a railroad dining car—and then inside we’ll—”
“That would be kind of expensive,” I said, speaking as an investor in the enterprise.
“I knew you’d say that,” he said. “Okay, how about Kap’n Klam’s Klams? No kar.”
“Why don’t you just call it Kap’n Klam?” I said. “You don’t need to say ëklam’twice, because what else would Kap’n Klam sell?” There it was. We looked at each other and burst out laughing, because we knew that Kap’n Klam would sell clams, really sell clams.
Today, thanks to massive advertising, Kap’n Klam is a household word, but it’s not the name that Porky and I use. He calls the outfit The Home of Happy Diners, and I call it The House of Hopes and Dreams.
you should change the name of the hotel,” Lou suggested. “Might attract
“How about ëHeartbreak Hotel’?” I suggested.
“Ooops,” said Lou. He busied himself with polishing a glass.
“Time for bed,” said Albertine, and she led me upstairs.
“LET’S OFFER A BONUS,” she said when we were in bed, “payable to the
individual realtor who sells the place. Maybe it will get them to
start bringing more people out here.”
BALDY SAID, “Time for another entry in the Catalog of Human Misery,
don’t you think, Bob?”
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Copyright © 1998 by Eric Kraft
Leaving Small’s Hotel is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, dialogues, settings, and businesses portrayed in it are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
Leaving Small’s Hotel was first published on May 11, 1998, by Picador USA, a division of St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10010.
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