I’m not sure whether this is good or not, but here it is anyway. I don’t know, I can’t focus and should not have attempted to edit this today. I wrote this when I woke up after a dream about a ghost, and there’s nary a ghost in it, but there sure are a lot of pancakes.
It’s either very sweet, very disjointed, or fine… or not fine. Maybe it’s just my head that’s disjointed.
Babbo Babbino was a round man, full of Italian cheer. He spent most of his time running the diner on 21, so when his family went to his funeral, they were shocked to find another family there, already grieving.
Momma was a shy, withdrawn woman, not an Italian but a WASP. She saw the family, swallowed all her feelings, and nodded formally at them.
“A funeral is not the place to fight, Marcia,” she warned her daughter.
So Marcia didn’t fight. But she studied this extra family during the eulogy, steaming. Had they known about her family? They didn’t look surprised. The other woman held her head defiant, straight, wearing her scarlet letter like a point of pride, another Italian by the look of her. As for her daughter, she looked embarrassed to be here. There was high color on her cheeks. She clearly hadn’t wanted to come to this. She was very pretty. Prettier than Marcia, with pure bold Italian features and jet black hair which held a high gloss. Marcia had inherited her mother’s mousy brown, thin, soft, impossible hair, which frazzled at the mere mention of humidity. Had they spoken Italian together with her father?
She hated them so much.
After the funeral, her mother went to speak to them. They both began the conversation looking scared and tense, but before long her mother cracked a smile at something she’d said. They had found common ground. The woman, encouraged, commenced to tell her story after story about Babbo. Soon they were chatting like old school friends.
Her mother turned to call her over but was startled by Marcia’s glare. Her voice caught and fell. Marcia gave each one of them an acid look and stormed to her car.
She drove angry, not thinking, and surprised herself by coming to a stop at the diner. Well… work always did help when she was troubled. So she unlocked the door, ensuring the sign stayed flipped to closed. Nobody would come anyway. All the regulars were at the funeral.
Pancakes. That was all she wanted to make right now. Pancakes always helped.
She whipped together the batter (always from scratch as her father had taught her) in their biggest bowl, and started frying.
The bubbles settled into the top of the first pancake, and she flipped it. It was a little bit too pale.
He always loved her pancakes. She could never make them perfect every time, as he did. But he ate them and he laughed his generous laugh. And at what point in his day would he go visit the other family? Did he make pancakes for her, too? Did he call her his little chef? Did he laugh when she folded one of them in half, or sprayed batter on the floor?
Thinking back, he had spent more than a few nights away from home. Momma had always shrugged it off as business trips, and Marcia had believed her, never thinking to question it. Momma must have always known, or at least suspected. This was why she had taken their presence at the funeral so well.
A pancake was burning.
She wasn’t cooking well. All this was pointless without someone to feed. She had too many pancakes, and needed to share.
She went out, flipped the sign, and taped up an extra handwritten notice which said, “pancakes only today!”
Now that there was the prospect of customers, things were different. She focused, cleaned up, started the coffee, set out the bacon and sausage and blueberries, whipped together more batter.
Customers slowly streamed in. It was a slow day, which was good since she was alone and had a lot of work to do.
“Just pancakes today,” she called as each customer came in.
Nobody minded. And she lost herself in the pancakes, the orders, the change, the pouring coffee, the frying bacon, and the heaps of fresh, golden, perfect pancakes. There was nothing but food in her brain for several hours, and life settled into perfect mundanity. As she navigated around the kitchen, she could hear the clanking spatulas and hissing grills, and layered behind that, imperceptible to all but her, the sound of Babbo’s song and laugh. She found herself humming one of his songs.
Until the bell rang, and in walked the other mother and daughter. Marcia froze in her work and hid, watching them from behind the shelves. The mother seemed to have been here before, but the daughter looked around the diner with piercing curiosity.
The daughter had never been to the diner.
Never been to the diner?
Marcia thought of the long hours she’d spent with her dad, learning how to cook. The waiting tables, the sound of his clatter and singing in the kitchen. Imagining him without this diner as a backdrop, her memories came up surprisingly empty. What kind of a Babbo did they even know? How could they possibly have a complete picture of him without knowing this diner?
“Pancakes only,” she said. She eyed the daughter… no, her younger sister. “I could use some help.”