The Brown Twins
by Lesley Sudders
“Where do you guys want to have dinner?” I directed this question to my co-workers, Rochelle and Paul.
The second day at the Fancy Foods Show in San Francisco had ended. We’d spent hours talking to attendees from food stores, restaurants, and specialty shops about our unusual vegetable, grown in seawater. It was crunchy, salty, and delicious, but those culinary treats are another story.
Rochelle answered as she finished locking away the brochures. “Our neighbors,” she said, gesturing to the people in the adjacent booth, “recommended a restaurant at one of the piers. I wrote it down.”
“Good. I’m hungry,” Paul, lean as a stalk and always hungry, said.
These shows were fun but kept us busy, and grabbing a quick bite of lunch was all we could manage. A quick glance around told us we could leave. We had tossed the open containers and tucked away the other goods. We headed to our hotel.
A half-hour later, Rochelle dug into her purse for the location of the place, and we three were in the back of a taxi speeding toward the bay. Pier One rose up before us. I’d previously lived in San Francisco and had heard of its redevelopment. I assumed our booth neighbors, a French family who lived in the City, had recommended a restaurant there.
The cab, however, veered sharply to the left on the Embarcadero. Okay, we must be going to another pier. A few minutes later, the cab dropped us near a pier to the north and sped away.
The little shack was unimpressive. Must be one of those gems tucked away from the tourist routes.
We stepped inside to find a collection of bikers and beards. Not my usual habitat, but we all sort of shrugged and decided to give it a try.
“Kitchen’s closed, dears, if you wanted dinner. Otherwise have a seat here at the bar.”
Rochelle thanked the bartender, but explained that we were all hungry for more than potato chips and jerky. We stepped outside. The Embarcadero is a major thoroughfare, but at that time on a Sunday evening, no cabs appeared.
Telegraph Hill loomed across the street, dark except for a few lights shining from houses perched precariously on its side. At the foot of the Hill, neon lights glowed through the fog. I knew we could walk to Fisherman’s Wharf, but suggested we check out the lights. Maybe we could find a cab there. We hustled through the traffic and crossed the Embarcadero.
“It’s the Fog City Diner. That must have been what they meant, that it was near this pier,” Rochelle said.
“Or they were messing with us,” Paul added.
“Whichever. But this is lucky. This place is famous for great food.”
The genial host greeted us and told us there would be a slight wait. We lounged around the bar. A small commotion behind me got my attention. Seated in a booth was a little old lady. She had blond curls and a fur collar on her suit. Restaurant guests were taking her picture.
“Look, Rochelle,” I said in a low voice. “How cute.” A column blocked my view, so I leaned a little to the side. “Rochelle, there are two of them, identical twins.”
The restaurant host noted our interest and said to us, “Those are the Brown twins, Marian and Vivian. They are famous – iconic really. They come in every Sunday night. One week, one decides what they will wear – and I can tell you they are partial to leopard prints – and the other chooses the food. The next week, they switch.”
“They are adorable. Do they mind being bothered for pictures with guests?”
“Nah, they love it. Almost as much as they love our chili dogs.” He turned back to greet the next new arrivals to the restaurant.
We didn’t get pictures. Our booth became available and afforded a view of the goings-on at their booth.
San Francisco has always respected the offbeat, and beat, characters drawn to this beautiful city.
The food was superb and we enjoyed our meal. The twins finally finished their dinner – or perhaps I should say their court appearance – then gathered up their identical purses and left. The host had called a cab for them.
I tucked this nice memory away. That’s what we do, as writers, right? Save up small or large bits of life in our memories. We muse about them and tell others the ones we find most compelling.
The twins died in 2013 and 2014, in their mid-eighties. Thanks to scribes like me, they live on.
Lesley Sudders has published a mystery, The Brodick Affair, writing as Les Brierfield, and is at work on her next novel and several short stories. A Colorado native, she lives in Arizona with her husband and writing collaborator Eduardo Cervino (E.C. Brierfield). Follow her blog: Les Brierfield, Author. Lesley welcomes contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.