The Pancake Lady
Every Sunday at 11:00 AM when Ms. Kerry would open her kitchen window, there would always be a line. It was an ordinary window, nothing special, in an ordinary yellow house, in an ordinary neighborhood with daisies in the garden and a little porch out front. Yet, it was still the most popular place on Flour Lane. Today when I arrived, with fifteen minutes to spare, I was second and Waff, of all people, was ahead of me. Needless to say I was peeved.
“How’d ya beat me?”
He curled his lip. Waff liked to curl his lip when he was feeling good. “I never went to bed.” To that even I allowed my eyes to widen, but then shrugged it off and scuffed my sneaker in the dirt. I didn’t feel peeved anymore. A little impressed even, but I couldn’t let Waff of all people know that.
Instead I let my habits get the better of me, and the snark, that Mama said I needed to stop letting out, slipped. “Your eyes are real puffy, Waff.”
“I’m a little tired.”
“Ya know, ya should have just woken up early.” I wasn’t very good at containing it though.
Waff’s lip uncurled. He pushed a hand to his head making all the blond hairs ruffle, and he reminded me of the old dog that wandered around the gas station looking for the scraps, his fur always mussed and his stare always droopy. Easy was what everyone called him because of the way he would bite all the hands that tried to feed him. Waff got bit twice before he learned, and I quickly learned to give Waff any bits I had for Easy.
Waff’s mouth hung open like he was looking for the right words and those were hard to come by for him, despite the fact that he loved to talk. He could go on and on about anything.
“I didn’t think of that.” he said finally. “For an eight year old, you’re pretty smart Frenchie.”
“Mama says that too, but she adds another word after smart.” I said and then added, “And she only says it when she’s mad at me.”
Waff laughed and bumped his shoulder into mine. “It’ll be worth it. How much longer?”
“Ya don’t have a watch?” In Waff defense, I don’t think many eight year olds did. Mama only gave it to me though so I would always be home on time for dinner.
Waff shook his head. “I asked but my Pa said I’d only lose it.”
I felt a bit bad so I told Waff the time, my snark on a tight leash. Only ten minutes left. Ten minutes though felt like a long time. “How long have you been out here Waff?”
He threw his hands in front of him. “Dunno.” He scratched his head. “But sometime before the rooster.” Miss Kerry had five chickens and one rooster, I could hear them clucking from behind the house.
“That’s a long time.” I swung my arms out and crossed them against my chest. Then put them down again because it was too hot. I leaned my head back against the house instead with a thump. Waff thumped too. But we both jumped when the window opened. It was Maple, Miss Kerry’s daughter.
“Will you two stop making a racket.” Maple took after her papa, which was why her hair was brown and longish. Miss Kerry had yellow hair that only reached far enough down to tickle her ears. Though if Gold wasn’t both of their last names, I wasn’t sure I would have thought they were related. Ya see I had never seen Maple’s papa. Or Mr. Kerry for that matter.
Maple was ten and therefore her words meant more than mine or Waff’s, at least that was what Mama said. Respect your olders. So, “Sorry!” is what I said. But Waff…
“Are the pancakes done yet?”
“Hush.” Maple scolded. “They’ll be ready at 11, like always.”
“How much longer?” Waff could keep the whine out of his voice as easily as I could keep the snark out of mine. Maple took a deep breath, and snapped the window shut.
“Ya made her mad.” I said, point blank.
To which Waff answered, “I always make her mad.” It was true. He did. It was part of the Sunday routine. The line behind me was getting even longer as well. Om had gotten behind me, and behind him was Cere, and behind her was old man Oats. He never missed Miss Kerry’s Sunday pancakes. You see Fast Break was so small a town, everyone knew everyone else, and everyone knew Miss Kerry made the finest pancakes in town. So, after receiving so many compliments she decided to share. Every Sunday she promised to make enough pancakes to feed whomever wanted. Even Easy was lingering near the end of the line that was now starting to wrap around the back to the chicken coop.
Waff thumped his head again. Probably because he was bored. I wondered what he had been doing before I had come. Again, he thumped his head.
“Ya’ll only give yourself a headache.” I whispered. “And then ya’ll give Maple a headache.” Waff looked at me, stock still leaning against the house. “And then… ya won’t get any pancakes.”
Waff’s mouth dropped open like the broken door hinge on my back porch. I tried to keep my smile in but it was hard. Until the window snapped open again. Then I lost that smile quick.
“Someone’s hungry. I never thought I’d see the day when you were first Waffle, son.” came Ms. Kerry’s sweet voice. Both of us jumped and turned around.
“Is it time?” I asked. I was hungry too ya know.
In answer Ms. Kerry brought out the first plate of pancakes and Waff took them into his open arms.
“I dreamed of this moment.” he said, because Waff said dramatic stuff like this even when it didn’t make any sense.
“Ya didn’t get any sleep last night.” I broke in, taking my dish next. I didn’t wait a moment longer to sink my fork in.