The Curious Case of the Missing Swiss Chalet in Winnipeg

Enclosed, please find the beginning of chapter four of The Dream King’s Daughter, which I recently sent to a test reader in Saskatchewan, who has proven invaluable in catching details and turns of phrase which are out of character for the location. I’m immensely grateful for the service.

Anyway, here’s one thing I’ve encountered during my revision. This scene is a flashback to Aurora’s time as a twelve-year-old, living with her single mother Dawn in Winnipeg. Aurora has just discovered that she has the power to read people’s dreams:

Aurora walked home from school alone, her hands shoved in the pockets of her new denim jacket, eyes on the ground in front of her. Her feet followed the sidewalk and she stopped at the intersections without looking at the traffic lights. She jumped when an arm reached out, barring her way.

“Whoa, there, girl,” said a bespectacled crossing guard. “Where’s your mind at today?”

“Sorry,” Aurora mumbled.

“Not as sorry as you’d be if you just walked out into traffic,” said the guard.

She looked up at him. His gaze met hers…

A small boy stands in the middle of the road, staring in terror at an oncoming dump truck.

“Never fear! I shall save you!” The crossing guard flies down from the rooftops, lands in front of the little boy, and raises his stop sign.

The truck driver applies the brakes. The horn blares. There is a squeal and and the smell of burning rubber. The truck stops within inches of the two of them.

The little boy hugs the crossing guard’s leg. “You saved me!”

The crossing guard beams at the little boy. “Not to worry, son. All in a day’s work for—”

Despite herself, Aurora couldn’t help smiling. The crossing guard turned and held up his stop sign. Traffic stopped and he grandly ushered her forward, holding out his sign, like she was royalty. Aurora crossed the street. As she passed the guard, she said, “Thanks… Crossing Guard Man.”

He stared at her, eyes wide. But as she walked on without looking back, he simply lowered his arm and shrugged. He went back to the sidewalk and waited for more kids. Aurora went home.

As she closed the front door and pulled off her coat, she wondered how, or if, she could tell her mom about this strange new power. Her mother hadn’t included it during their ‘facts of life’ discussion (which Aurora remembered in all of its excruciating red-faced detail, so it was unlikely that she’d forgotten any). There was no explanation for what was happening to her and she’d been smart enough not to tell any of the other kids. They just thought she was weird. If her mom didn’t know, how could she describe what she was doing, or even prove she was doing it?

And would mom think I’m crazy? she wondered. Certainly a part of me thinks I am.

She heard her mom rummaging in the kitchen and shouted, “Mom! I’m home!”

“In here, honey!” her mom shouted back. And at her mother’s voice, Aurora relaxed. This was mom she was talking about. She’d know. She’d hug her. She would tell her that it would all be all right, and it would. Aurora bounded into the kitchen and saw her mother putting groceries away. There were also takeout bags from Swiss Chalet, filling the room with their warm smell. Mother hadn’t even had time to change out of her work clothes. She looked up as Aurora came in and beamed at her. “How was your day?”

Hold it! says my test reader. Specifically, she says: “Swiss Chalet not in 2006 Winnipeg phone book. Tony Roma , Red Lobster, Olive Garden or lower scale Subway, KFC”

Clearly, this needed some further research, so I did a quick Google search on “Swiss Chalet” and “Winnipeg”, and I pulled up some entries — from some generic robot-established local food review sites that aren’t actually read by anybody. A search of the official Swiss Chalet restaurant lists no locations in Manitoba. Hmm… So, unless the listed restaurant is a rogue outlet or some independent operation committing a trademark violation, I’m guessing that whatever Swiss Chalet restaurants existed in Winnipeg closed. Is this the case?

It’s a small detail, but it’s an important one to me for a number of reasons: it establishes Dawn as a working mother, perhaps a little too busy to cook dinner as often as she likes, but one who still cares about what her daughter eats. Swiss Chalet, while hardly the poster child of healthy eating, is still better as a meal, in my opinion, serving up roast chicken and sides than serving hamburgers and fries or pizza, and it is a meal that Dawn wants. Though she hasn’t cooked it, she still wants to sit down with her daughter over plates and knifes and forks.

So, if Swiss Chalet is out, what restaurant fits the bill? And what restaurant fits that bill in Winnipeg? Anybody from Manitoba want to help me out?

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