Turtle, Under Cover

We ask about other restaurants we used to go to and what happened to them. The Salina Restaurant? They tell us the owner died and the place closed years ago. We reminisce about their menu, too, and how we would always go on Tuesdays as that was grouper fingers with grits and beans. Or we’d try to get there before lunch ran out on Fridays as curried chicken was the specialty.

Back then, the cooks made just one meal per day. On a chalkboard, customers could read what was for lunch. When the cook ran out of food, she just shook her head as someone entered the door and said, “Lunch finish.”

I ask about The Flyaway Café, remembering Wednesdays as being the day for bonefish alongside pear bush and rice. Pear bush is a type of cactus that I never learned how to cook, even though my neighbor back then, Truly Corey, tried to teach me.  Lincoln remembers how he loved The Flyaway’s stewed beef with stew beans and rice. A few minutes later, he is talking about their great barbecued chicken with plantains.

“She moved to Miami to live with her daughter and grands,” Hyacinth tells us about the woman from The Flyaway. She also mentions that the airport now has a small hamburger stand that pretends it’s related to McDonald’s. “No one from here likes their food.” She sucks her teeth in derision. “Just some of the expats and the tourists. It not real food.”

Lincoln switches up the conversation and we start asking about some of our old bar patrons. Hyacinth and Zella seem to know where everyone is and what happened to everybody. We learn who is retired and still living on the island; there are very few, it seems. 

“You should go see them!” Hyacinth encourages with certain names we mention. “They’d love to see you.”

But more often than not, we hear that the people we knew have moved over to the big island, mostly due to work or to be near family members who now live there. 

“There’s no need for the men to go to sea anymore,” Hyacinth says in a nod to the time when men such as Lincoln and those in his age group went to work on cruise ships or freighters. 

There wasn’t any choice. It was either go to sea on a big ship or stay home and go to sea on a little boat as a fisherman. There were a few government jobs here and there, and that was about it.