Lunch at the Gotham Café
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (April 2011)|
|"Lunch at the Gotham Café"|
|Genre(s)||Thriller short story|
|Published in||Six Stories (1st release),
Blood and Smoke,
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
Lunch at the Gotham Café is a short story by Stephen King. It originally appeared in the 1995 anthology Dark Love (edited by Nancy A. Collins, Edward E. Kramer and Martin H. Greenberg). In 1997, it was published in the limited-edition collection Six Stories. In 2002, it was collected in King's collection Everything's Eventual.
A man named Steve Davis comes home one day to find a letter from his wife, Diane, coldly stating she has left him and intends to get a divorce. He finds himself baffled as to what led her to do this, and over time he becomes increasingly depressed. Diane's departure prompts him to give up cigarettes, and he begins to suffer nicotine withdrawal. Diane's lawyer, William Humboldt, calls Steve with plans to meet with the two of them for lunch. He decides on the Gotham Cafe and sets a date. Steve's lawyer is unable to attend due to a family crisis. Despite his lawyer's warnings, however, Steve is determined to keep the date and see Diane again.
Before entering the Cafe, Steve impulsively buys an umbrella. Upon entering, he finds that the maître d', eventually revealed to be named Guy, is talking senselessly about a dog, which Steve takes to be waiter slang for his new umbrella. When Steve attempts to seek reconciliation with Diane, things begin to fall apart. Much to Steve's consternation, she regards him with a mixture of apprehension and contempt, and spurns his requests for explanation. The maître d' then makes a surprise reappearance, homicidally insane, screaming "Eeeee!" and ranting in word salad, and stabs Humboldt through the mouth with a chef's knife, cutting through his cheek and earlobe. A single drop of blood falls into a water glass (inspiring the cover of Everything's Eventual, the book in which it is collected). Guy then kills the lawyer and continues to go berserk and other patrons flee the restaurant. Steve briefly fends off the lunatic with his umbrella, then drags the helplessly terrified Diane into the kitchen. Guy gives chase, and after giving the cafe's cook a grisly injury, proceeds onward. Desperately struggling to hold off the lunatic, Steve implores Diane to unbolt the rear entrance door so they can escape, but she remains in a state of shock. He is able to incapacitate Guy by dousing him with scalding water and hitting him with a metal frying pan.
After finally escaping both the Cafe and Guy, Steve attempts to make sure Diane is all right. Diane recoils from his touch and rants at him venomously. Devoid of any shred of gratitude for his protection, she has instead construed the events of the last few minutes to reaffirm her perception of Steve as a despicable, bullying, control freak, and decides it is time to stand up to him. When he tries to point out that he just saved her life, she flatly denies that he did. Overwhelmed with incredulous fury, Steve loses interest in reconciliation; Diane's harangue is interrupted by Steve slapping her across the face in disbelief. This only serves to further reinforce her embittered vilification of her husband, and after attempting to wound him with spurious claims of extramarital lovers, she leaves him for good. As Steve sits on the curb and watches ambulances haul away both the victims and the heavily-restrained Guy, he is left wondering about Guy's private life, and the nature of insanity. He imagines Guy living in a similar situation as his own, driven insane by the irrationality of his wife, whom he may have murdered before coming to work this day, and the constant barking of the neighbor's dog. And under his breath he starts to say "Eeeee."
This story was adapted for a short film in 2005 with Stephen King appearing in a small role as Steve's attorney.
- Gotham Cafe at the Internet Movie Database
- Stephen King's Gotham Café Gotham Café Trailer and Official Website