"Tell me he's not coming in here!" Linda demanded from her seat by the window.
"Who?" I asked.
She pointed to the white van pulling slowly into the parking lot of the only restaurant we had found open for miles.
I read the sign on the side of the van and uttered an oath not repeatable here. One that brings me no credit whatsoever, but was appropriate under the circumstances.
It was Monday September 28 and we were just beginning our great escape. Tired of the city, tired of hospitals, tired of appointments, tired of chronic bad news, tired of endless talking about cancer, we were doing the only logical thing to do under the circumstances. We were running away.
I had rented a suite at the Delta Grandview Resort in Huntsville Ontario and had dreams of walking their forested trails through dappled sunlight streaming through a canopy of brilliant red and yellow fall leaves, the warmth of the Autumn sun on my back, Linda's hand in mine.
Instead the temperature dropped ten degrees below normal, a vicious wind rocked the car and a cold rain pounded against the windscreen every kilometer of the way. By the time we got to Gravenhurst, we were tired and hungry and needed to stop for some lunch. We had a favourite restaurant in the area where they served good wholesome country meals; but, of course, it was closed for the season.
We pulled off Highway 11 into town and cruised empty streets, the car tires splashing through endless puddles. My stomach growling.
"I forgot small towns up north close on Mondays," Linda reminded me.
"Ya, but usually there is at least a restaurant open." I complained.
We reached the end of town and pulled back toward the highway again.
"There!" Linda yelled. "You just passed it. A restaruant and it's open!"
I pulled over and did a U turn on the empty street.
It was a restaurant and it did have a large neon "Open" sign in the window. But no cars in the parking lot.
"Maybe they forgot to turn off the sign." I wondered.
But we parked and discovered the front door was open. There were no customers and no waitresses; but the lights were on and music was playing. The sign said "Please Wait To Be Seated", but I went in search of life. I yelled "Hello!" and heard my own echo. I pushed into the kitchen and found it clean but empty. I shouted again and went through a door into the back bar area which was also empty of human life.
Finally I heard a distant female voice, "Yes, yes!" It said. "I'm coming!"
And a small nervous woman came hurrying into view. She smiled, "I'm sorry to keep you. Please sit wherever you like."
She grabbed two menus as Linda led the way to a seat by the window. I asked for a green tea, but they had none. So we ordered coffee. The waitress promised to put on a fresh pot and I turned my attention to the menu.
A newly minted vegetarian, I looked at a fairly standard North American menu with fresh eyes and was confused.
The menu had four pages and I read everyone. "What is there to eat?" I asked Linda. "Everything is a meat dish. Identified only as a meat dish. Pages and pages of meat dishes."
"They have Veggie Burgers." Linda told me.
I looked again and they did. In small print at the bottom of their list of burgers.
"You'd think there were enough vegetarians in the world now to constitute enough of a demographic to make a vegetarian selection on the menu profitable?" Yes I sometimes talk like that. "After all, we have four vegetarians in our own immediate family."
"Six now, counting us," Linda reminded me.
A car pulled up in the parking lot and a man leaped out, running for the front door of the restaruant.
"I bet that's the cook," Linda laughed as the man burst through the door. Spotting us, he halted, smiled and said hello, before walking at a slower pace into the kitchen.
"You're right! You're right. Poor guy was probably at home watching TV when he gets a call telling him they have customers."
"She probably had to remind him what a customer was."
We laughed quietly. And finally the burgers came and they were good. So was the coffee.
And that's when the white van pulled into the parking lot and I read the sign on its side through the pouring rain.
"Pest Control" it said. "Since 1926"
"Tell me he's only coming here for lunch!" I pleaded, wondering if I'd heard any unusual crunching sound in my mouth while eating my burger. Or had experienced any unusual taste.
"He's only coming here for lunch." Linda obliged.
But he did neither. He just sat in his van. In the pouring rain.
So we finished our lunch and payed our bill and left. Just as the van door opened and a burly man emerged with his tool case in his hand.
"Good afternoon," he said to us as he splashed his way through the puddles to the restaurant door.
"Welcome to the north," said Linda.
And that is how our great escape began.
Oh, and that statue I'm hugging in the photo at the top of this post? I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.
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