An announcement finally came.
"Can I have your attention, please. I don't know what to say, so I'll just say it. There's no more chicken."
A baby shrieked, as if on cue.
Customers sitting at tables craned their necks to look at the plump, middle-aged woman standing behind them offering the apology. She had snuck over while families and friends at the restaurant fidgeted with their utensils, sitting stony-faced and impatient, some attempting to comfort their small children.
"There is chicken pot pie and wings though," she said.
"What wings?" I asked. "The wings of chickens?"
"Yes, chicken wings."
"So there is more chicken, in wing form and in pie?"
"In a way."
Customers grumbled and shrugged at each other. Tables and booths of patrons got up to leave. The manager shrugged too.
"I don't know what to say."
Nobody had died, I thought. Nobody was just diagnosed with cancer. Those are the tough situations where consoling words, the words 'I don't know what to say' evaporate. This situation existed on an absurd plane, up there with a dog chasing its tail and Doug Ford as Premier of Ontario. Any explanation would suffice.
"There's a Metro grocery store across the parking lot," Julie said to me. "Do you wanna just buy a chicken and bring it back?"
Christmastime with the Schapman family always holds some adventure, whether that be shooting off forty rounds of ammo from a semi-automatic at the neighbourhood firing range, or laying down a concrete floor just for fun. Paul Schapman had come all the way from
hankering for some Swiss Chalet rotisserie chicken. Visiting
relations was an add-on for him. I've noticed that Canadians who move down to
the States have a ardent nostalgia for Swiss Chalet. Virginia St. Hubert, I could understand, but the Swiss Chalet fandom I
find unwarranted. And now, in the festive gloom of an empty restaurant devoid
of chicken, five hungry adults had to make a decision.
"Let's order wings," said Paul. "And the pie."
The Schapman sisters, Julie and Linda, began punching each other to pass the time. The smack of fist to humerus reverberated through the abandoned dining room. I was wise not to sit in between the sisters. I have made that mistake before, many, many times.
Two teenaged servers made their way to our table, heads lowered.
"I have some bad news," said the more senior of the two, "there is no pastry on top of the chicken pot pie."
"So ... it's ... stew, then," I said.
"No, it's still pie," the other one asserted.
I didn't know whether to laugh or flip the table over. I was famished but now wary of eating anything coming out of that kitchen. Images of microscopic salmonella bacteria multiplying flashed in my mind's eye.
"Do you have any crackers?"
The servers scurried away and returned with armfuls of crackers, depositing them in a pile on our table. I tore into the individually wrapped saltines while the Schapman sisters drank wine and Paul explained to me the nature of his IT work in
. I nodded, pretending to know what he was talking
about. Stomach growling, light-headed, stone cold sober, I took in my childhood
friends, the family that welcomed me as one of its own. So many years spent
with this rowdy, loyal, industrious clan, so many years of being accepted for
the mass of contradictions I am. It never failed -- the Schapmans always made
me feel better. And on this night during the festive season, at an empty Swiss
Chalet that had no chicken in Virginia , only they could make the best out of a bizarre
situation. Guelph, Ontario
The wings arrived eventually, dripping in some sort of sauce. Paul chowed down and the sisters picked at the offerings. I abstained and finished off the crackers. We called over the manager.
"Rough night for you, eh?"
"What can I do? The chicken ran out."
"One chicken, or all of them?"
She thought for a second and then smiled. "Oh. Now I get it. Now I get it!"
"Any Lindor chocolates to go with our festive meal?" I asked hopefully.
Her expression dropped. "I don't know what to say, but --
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Cbennettworld.