Yacht Club Chewies
by Ali Berlow
Carpodacus mexicanus, Cardinalis cardinalis, turdus migratorius. House finch, northern cardinal, American robin. Meadow repeated the scientific names of birds whenever she got anxious, but if she didn’t get out of bed, she wouldn’t have time to blow-dry her hair, and she’d be late for her kitchen job at the Yacht Club. An Island kid, she’d taken the year off between high school and college to stay home, earn some money, sort out her life between the ‘Rock’ and America. She could guess what the new summer staff would look like. The prep-school girls always seemed so thin and perky to her—perfectly dressed in hip looking clothes and cool flip flops—happy and smug to be back for the season. Outside her window she heard a flock of Quiscalus quiscula (common grackles) raiding the bird feeder while she brushed her teeth.
The Yacht Club’s ancient clapboard building smelled sulfurous, like rotting seaweed and damp swimsuits, and it was impossible to keep the sand off the kitchen floor. The freezer sighed under the weight of ice-cream bars, beef patties and pre-cooked bacon strips. Inside the scary storage closet were all the ingredients to make the Club Chewies—boxes of graham cracker crumbs, pounds of imitation chocolate chips, and gallons of sweetened condensed milk.
Meadow came in and right off cranked the oven to 350° to bake the Chewies. She’d learned to make them early in the morning, because the heat from the oven was suffocating on a hot summer day. But more importantly the Chewies had to be ready in time for Mrs. Mae Littlefield—the Littlefield who funded The Tadpole to Frog Sailing Scholarships for Island Children, because if she didn’t get a Chewie for dessert after her Club Burger Lunch Special with no mayo and two diet cokes, there was going to be some special kind of hell to pay.
An osprey, Pandion haliaetus, dive-bombed the sea and came up empty while Meadow sprayed Vegeline inside a mixing bowl that was as big as six heads. She was starting to get into the groove until her co-worker Tally refused to help her by spraying her hands and arms down with the grease—like you’d do with mosquito repellent. Meadow tried to explain to the new girl that this had to be done even if it seemed gross. Chewies get mixed by hand and if you’re not oiled, you become sticky tape for flies. Tally just turned on her pink pedicure and walked away.
Meadow sprayed herself the best she could with the slippery can and then measured out 6 cups of the fake chocolate chips and 12 cups of graham cracker crumbs and made a big crater in the middle of it all. She poured 71⁄2 cups of sweetened condensed milk into the hole and dug in with both hands. After it was mixed, she pushed, pressed, and cajoled the batter onto sheet pans, put them in the oven, and then turned the timer to 30 minutes and then back to 10 since that was the only way it would count down the time. When it buzzed she rotated the pans, because only half of the oven actually gets hot, and then set the timer again.
Mrs. Littlefield appeared for lunch as expected and the Chewies were ready for her. She seemed a bit fragile and tottering but quite pleased to be back for another summer at the Club. She commented on what a pretty woman Meadow had become and then placed her order. Meadow wrote it down even though she knew it by heart. Then from the kitchen she saw Phalacrocorax auritus, a double-crested cormorant, sitting on the pier with its wings spread out, waiting for its feathers to dry. She’d read in her field guide that the bird has to do that, before it can fly again.