The pancake house has a twister now. That’s not a euphemism either, and I’m shocked that two posts in a row have been inspired and kicked off by this pancake house. On top of the bacon they cook directly into the pancakes, they now have a twister – or for the civilians out there – a balloon animal maker. I know a guy, who knows a guy who knows a twister, in case you were wondering how I’m privy to the lingo.
We walked in to the restaurant giddy with anticipation and I spotted a giant balloon sword, larger than the proud sword bearer who was struggling under the sheer size, and not the weight I suppose. There were balloons everywhere and though I knew what this probably meant, I held out the hope that it was one of those 8:00 in the morning pancake house kid’s birthday parties that if not en vogue today, might be tomorrow.
Zach put eyes on her first. We followed the host to the table and tried to order juice and so so much coffee over Zach’s suddenly loud and animated “There’s a balloon lady! There’s a balloon lady! There’s a balloon lady!”
I don’t mind the balloon lady. She looked like a very nice person. But nobody can relax at a meal when there’s a balloon lady. Or a balloon dude. Until you make direct eye contact with them, they are the elusive twister. (Unless of course, you don’t want a balloon, in which case they’re the ever-present twister) In the pancake house, there were a lot of kids watching the twister’s every twist, every stretch, every limp and lifeless balloon in her apron come to life at her skilled hands.
You could see the wheels turning in the kids’ heads, trying to count how many other kids are between the twister and their table. And also weighing their options. I like monkeys, but I got a monkey last time. Do you think she knows “dolphin?” What is that she’s doing now? Is that an octopus? That’s an octopus. That’s awesome. “Look, look, look at the octopus.”
The wheels in my head were turning too, and were laced with inner turmoil, as they always are when balloons are involved. This thing’s going to pop and someone’s going to cry. It will probably float away, or cause a fight when Jake undoubtedy touches it. Seriously, when is the balloon lady gonna get here? Oh no, there are four kids at that table, and that last octopus took like 8 minutes. We’ve just ordered. She’s never gonna get here. “Excuse me miss, my son’s very anxious about the balloon, I mean, I’m not – I’m like whatever – but my son would really like a balloon, would you let the balloon lady know that we’d love to see her?”
Sure there was another table of kids between us and the twister, but in all fairness, they hadn’t ordered, and our handwhipped butter had arrived. We were up against the clock.
One more octopus later, and much to the dismay of the table of girls who were sure they were next, the twister arrived. “I twist for tips” was her greeting. We nodded and asked if she knew “dolphin.”
“No, but I can do flying fish. I twist for tips, I’m not paid by the restaurant.”
“Right, got it. We’ll take the flying fish.” The girls at the other table were turned around in their booth eyeing the fish. I avoided eye contact with the mother who I can assume was giving me a stink eye and timing how long the flying fish was taking.
When the flying fish was finished, it had eyeballs and a fishing pole that was bigger than Zach. It had kissy lips, and I swear, facial expression. We provided the tip (she twists for tips) and got her card. She also does temporary air brush body art and bubbles.
Our food had arrived, and when I wasn’t pouring syrup or cutting pancakes, I was managing the fish, keeping it out of our breakfasts, stopping Zach from sitting on it, and trying to keep it from dangling over the heads of the balloonless girls in the next booth.
When it was mercifully time to go, I grabbed the box of ham that I hadn’t had time to finish, and we began the slow walk through the dining room. We were lead by Zach who, like a royal, gave the diners ample time to ooh and aahhh over he and his fish. When he was satisfied with his grand exit, he went tearing down the sidewalk, the fish flying behind him like a kite. “Stop!” I screeched, “Watch where you’re going! The parking lot is right there.” I turned to Jake who was shaking his head. “That thing is not going to make it to the car.”
Zach turned on a dime to follow the sidewalk toward our car. His balloon banged into the building, and I sighed with relief as it bounced back. He stopped briefly to peek into a can full of cigarette butts perched at the kitchen door. “Zach be careful – don’t swing that thing or it’s going to – “
Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!
There on the sidewalk by the cigarette butt can lay the balloon eyeballs, relatively unscathed. Zach stood in shock, staring at the eyeballs with a few surviving balloons hanging shapelessly from the pole. There were tears. We carried the parts to the car, and as Jake consoled his little brother, I tried to twist the remains into something recognizable. The lips were gone, as were the fins. I handed the new arrangement to Zachary who stopped sniffling. He and Jacob had moved on to discussing things that stink.