April is the cruelest month, T. S. Eliot said in his compelling and influential work, “The Waste Land.”
Those owing federal income tax may agree.
But inhabitants of Kodiak Island know the designation “cruel” belongs not to April but to the long winter month when Alicia McEwan closes Java Flats for her annual sabbatical.
The island, of course, accepts her need for renewal, but oh, the heavy fog, the sinister silence, the frozen shadows that press upon us when we stand at the gates to java heaven and have not the key!
Thankfully, January was the mean month and not March, as it was in March that my sweetheart and I headed out to the Flats for a lunch at the Flats.
It wasn’t supposed to be a good day. The forecast was for rain, yet the sun warmed us through the windshield as we drove out the Chiniak Highway, past the airport turnoff and the entrance to the Kodiak fairgrounds.
We had called ahead. Java Flats caters to the needs of health nuts like us by offering gluten-free bread as an option on all of its sandwiches. But there’s only so much bread a small restaurant can hold in reserve, and we didn’t want the place to sell out by the time we got there.
We placed our lunch order at 11:30 a.m., and because Java Flats at lunchtime can be extremely cozy, we said we’d pick up our meals at the restaurant’s drive-through window.
I ordered the Plain Jane, a sandwich with meat (roast beef, in my case), mayo and mustard, cheddar cheese, and fresh greens. Like all the sandwiches at Java Flats, Plain Jane comes with a pickle and a side. I chose tortilla chips and salsa.
I hardly dared to ask the friendly young lady at the window if they had any gluten-free cookies that day. When she nodded in the affirmative I wanted to jump out of the car and hug her.
I do my own gluten-free baking — loads of it — but I am always grateful when someone else does it for me.
Especially if that someone is the baker at Java Flats, where the cookies are positively scrumptious and, well, practically the size of a Frisbee.
Our sandwiches and cookies safely enclosed in sturdy take-out boxes, my sweetheart and I headed back toward town. We pulled off at one of our favorite picnic/fishing spots near the water’s edge, parking so that he could watch for deer on the hillside through his window and I could watch the water lapping onto the shore through mine.
We chatted, and laughed, and devoured our sandwiches and chips, which were as they always are, wholesome and delicious. I was feeling too full for the pickle, but in deference to Alicia, who’s posted a sign inside the restaurant that says in effect, IF YOU DON’T WISH TO EAT THE PICKLE ASK NOT FOR THE PICKLE, I ate the pickle.
We made a mutual decision to save our cookies for afternoon tea (after taking an early bite or two out of my husband’s). Then we slipped on our jackets, held hands and strolled along the beach.
Could the day have been made more perfect?
After we had our tea, the answer: “Yes.”
Suzanne Bobo is the author with Brittany Tregarthen of “The Road Going: A Mother, A Daughter, An Extraordinary Journey”, available at online bookstores.