How to Make Pancakes. (an original piece of flash fiction)

A short story of anticipation, reminiscing, and the reemergence of a relationship between a daughter and her father.


How to Make Pancakes

I take a breath in. The crisp Saturday morning air overwhelms the back of my throat. Through the windshield, I watch as a grown son escorts his elderly mother down the sidewalk, while an eager toddler reluctantly decides to walk behind the heels of his father. As I wait in the car, my awkward eyes dart back and forth. I anxiously check my phone, 11:04 A.M., but I thought we agreed on 11:00 A.M. As the smell of fresh pancake batter begins to seep into my car, the memories of Saturday mornings as a child trickle along in with the fumes. I remember The Beach Boys album humming in the background as I wash my hands on a Saturday morning. Aunt Jemima’s plump face would smile at me as I reached into the cabinet for the open pancake batter box with my tiny hand. I push a step stool against the counter and grab tightly onto my father’s helping hand as I climb to the top.

Step 1: Start by opening up all the cupboards in the kitchen and search for the Saturday Morning Pancake Mixing Bowl. He always seems to be hiding.  

Step 2: Add in the pancake mixture until dad says stop. How does he know just the right amount we need every time? He doesn’t even read the back of the box. I think it’s magic.  

Step 3: Crack two eggs. Plop. Plop. The heavy yellow globs dent the delicate hill of powder I just made, such a small action creating such a big reaction.

Step 4: Pick out the eggshell bits that fell into the bowl. Just two tiny pieces this time? An improvement!

Step 5: Watch dad add the oil and then I pour the milk. I notice the oil always rejects the milk, why can’t they be friends?

Step 6: Stir until my arm gets tired and then give the fork to dad. Without our teamwork, I don’t think the pancakes would get made!

I tilt my head up and with a satisfying grin and stare into my father’s gentle green eyes. Our masterpiece is complete. He extends his hand once more and helps me off the step stool and I leave the frying to him. It was a ritual my father and I performed every Saturday. I take a breath in, and the crisp cold air overwhelms the back of my throat and I am whisked back to the parking lot. 11:17 A.M. Where could he be? I decide to walk into the diner and find a booth. Hushed conversations fill the atmosphere, the restaurant goers only wanting to share stories with a select few. Their muffled voices remind me of how in elementary school, sharing secrets with only your closest friends, eventually meant sharing them with the whole student body.

The booth is a soured yellow color and I sink into the cushion just enough to satisfy. I cross my legs and begin to subconsciously shake. Starting at the ball of my left foot, I push my being into the diner floor. The energy pulsing up into my calves, over the rounds of my knee bones, through my thigh muscles, and dissipating at my torso, like the energy that gets distributed up into a freshly dropped pancake onto the frying pan. Energy that does not think just engulfs every direction possible. Is that how this conversation will go? Will it be uncontrollable and incoherent, or should it be constrained and proper? My shake continues, concealed from my eyes by the tabletop, but to other pancake eaters only a glance toward where I sit and they will visibly see my anticipation. The situation I am trying to keep private will become public, just like the secrets I told in primary school. The rapid tempo of my shake ceases.

I stare across my table at the empty booth and envision what I am going to say when he shows up. The last time I saw my father I was eighteen years old. I ponder what two years of life does to a person. Have the tiny wrinkles in the corner of his eyes deepened from smiling often? Have the bags under his eyes darkened from sleepless nights? In an attempt to dissolve my anxiety, I unwrap my utensils and take the coiled napkin and flatten it with the palm of my hand. Then, I dig in my purse for an ink pen and begin to write.

Step 1: Start with a handshake, a mutual sign of respect. If you are unsure, this will surely ease the tension.

Step 2: Add in a smile: the universal sign for welcoming.

Step 3: Crack a joke. Remind him that you still have a sense of humor, while his grin reminds you that he still has one too.

Step 4: Pick a few achievements and stories share. Let him know that he helped raise a strong and successful individual.

Step 5: Watch as he says, “thank you” to the server, prompting a wave of gratitude to surface in your mind. Say “thank you” to him.

Step 6: Stir back in the joy you two shared, as if you are back in the kitchen making pancakes for breakfast.

One thing I love to do is write. I discovered my love for writing in first grade when I would be the only one excited to get to the peer editing stage of the writing process. In 9th grade, my passion for writing was fostered by my English teacher, Ms. McGinn. She was a very gentle and kind woman. Her room never failed to smell like coffee beans and her classroom walls were covered with old rock and roll band posters and hippie themed artwork. Each semester, we would generate numerous creative writing works and compile them into a portfolio. She had the ability to make each student believe that their writing was a masterpiece, which it was!

I spent many hours during high school writing down my current experiences and feelings in journal, short story, and poetry form. Senior year, I submitted a poem to Lincoln High’s literary magazine, and it ended up getting chosen to be published! I also put my writing to good use in college, typing up what seemed to be an endless amount of essays and research papers. In the spring of 2016, during my final semester of college, I took a creative writing class. The structure of this course was very reminiscent of Ms. McGinn’s 9th grade English class. We wrote every day, and all of our pieces eventually were compiled into a final portfolio showcasing all of our writing throughout the semester. One of our assignments was to write a piece of flash fiction. For those that don’t know, flash fiction is a brief short story, comprising of just several hundred words. I knew that my best writing typically develops when they are inspired by real events and emotions, so I decided to write about my father.

Here’s some context for ya before I continue: My dad and I did not see eye to eye on many things after he divorced my mom, so I moved out of his house when I was 18 in the winter of 2014. We didn’t speak or see each other for nearly 2 years. Then in the summer of 2016, after I had graduated from college, I reached out to him and asked if he was interested in having lunch. He took me up on the offer, and slowly we have begun to rebuild our relationship with one another.

So for my flash fiction piece, I wanted to write about the first meeting I would have with my dad after two years of not seeing him, even though at the time, that hadn’t happened yet. Basically, I had the idea to write a fictional event that was based on real facts. However that proved to be difficult. I jotted down a few paragraphs, noted a few sentences that came to me out of thin air but didn’t necessarily fit with what I had written down yet, and then hit a wall. I ended up abandoning that idea all together and submitted a completely different piece of writing for the flash fiction assignment. My unfinished piece about my father hibernated in my computer for several months, being left unopened. Then when the opportunity to actually see my dad presented itself, words to finish that flash fiction story flooded my mind. I completed my story and after revising it numerous times, I am confident enough to present it as a final draft. I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Until next time,
Heather Mei

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