“Look, beyond the jacmannas and hyacinths!” said James, lifting his hand off the tiller and pointing to a cluster of food carts stationed along the rocks like sentries; silvery, resplendent, veiled by brackish mist; multicolored flags of various nations snapping in the wind; obsequious merchants waiting to ply their delicacies. Lunch specials for half-a-crown! Toss in a Bovril beef tea for only two pence more! Indeed, James thought, there could be just one cure for the mental and physical assault of high modernist prose they all had endured for two hundred pages: tasty ethnic street specialties. Poutine, goulash, and fish tacos. Different cuisines, to be sure, yet there seemed to be a noshable coherence to them. If they docked and visited these food carts, they would endure. At least until dinner, when the digestive enzymes will have taken hold, they would endure.
They had waited to go to the lighthouse for a decade, though time passed so quickly, so… experimentally. Camilla and Mr. Ramsay looked at the carts, their mouths making circle shapes as if in anticipation of a lobster roll or chicken burrito to fit inside. Cam squinted her eyes. Does that cart really serve Korean BBQ Tacos? Mr. Ramsay tightened his lips and shook his head in a huff. “Why are we lagging about here?” he said, blustering off, angry about the Isle of Skye’s straightforward licensing system that caused these shacks to spread like a rash. James wanted to take a knife and strike him in the heart, then use the same knife to slice up some Ziba’s Pitas (the Bosnian and best kind of pita). Yes, James thought, Mr. Ramsay would die never having tried the manifold fillings at Crepe N’ Around. Deservedly so.
Someone had blundered. The peddlers weren’t washing their hands. Doomed to perish, each hungry and alone, Cam thought. She had a craving only a schnitzelwich could satisfy; she cared not if the horseradish came with a side of TB. “Typhoid Mary is working those carts, she is,” Mr. Ramsay said. “Typhoid Tacos. I see the sign now.” James and Cam, glowering, noticed no such thing. Reality is subjective, though there’s a difference in sight and taste, oculus and tonguebuds. Lily Briscoe said a person needed fifty pairs of eyes to see something accurately, but one doesn’t need fifty mouths to know that whatever special sauce they slather on the hamburgers at The Paddy Wagon may as well have crack cocaine in it.
(Crack sauce, they should call it, for nothing on earth equals the happiness of eating it.)
“Pho,” James whispered. There’s a pho cart. He could go on about pho for a sentence of three hundred words or more, tossing in adjectives, semicolons, and a rich array of complex grammatical constructions. He could stream-of-consciousness on forever about pho. But he kept his hand on the tiller.
James looked again at the food carts. He could see dry-erase boards heralding the specials; the gourmands, satiated and strolling; he could hear the sizzle of Belgian frites at Potato Champion as they gurgled in amber oil; he could see falafel balls, one falling from the hands of a child, whose face instantly turned into a mask of pain; he could even see wastewater leaking from one cart, slaking the sunlit rocks (an indicator of hygiene if there ever was one). So these were the food carts, were they?
Still, James kept his hands on the tiller. There would be no going to the food carts today. Those kitchenettes were mobile; the corrugated aluminum boxes would become etherealized, mere shoreline memories. When would they close? How long would they endure? There would be no stopping by for a bite today. The food carts would be gone by the time they left the godforsaken lighthouse.
Cam and James Ramsay died later that summer from consumption, never once paying a visit to the carts.