The son, in a green age, stares up knee-high to his papa with his gold-brown eyes in a state of wonder. He ponders hard with his thinking cap smoking and says “we got to spatch it?”
His papa laughs that brown bear-laugh and reaches down and rubs the boy’s head and the boy feels warm all over and his papa lifts him upon onto his stool and shows him how to flip the pancakes with a spatula.
The boy, in a sky-blue age, looking across the horizon out the window at the adolescence just beyond, has mixed the pancake batter like a little pro, whipped in an egg with the saibashi, now ladles out the batter over the sizzling butter in the frying pan.
“You’d best use your stool so you can reach,” says Papa.
“I don’t need it.”
“And you’re putting in too much batter,” says Papa.
“No, I’m not.”
Papa eyes him and the boy feels the man’s beard-anger rise like a big red bird, pause in mid-air, and drop away. “Well…okay,” he says, “but you won’t be able to flip it. It’s too big. You’ll break it.”
“No, I won’t,” says the boy.
“We’ll see,” says Papa.
The old man continues washing the dishes, steam rising thickly around his bearded face, and the boy feels him keeping a watch from the periphery, forcing his desire to interfere, which is straining at the leash, to go unexpressed, and the boy grasps expertly the spatula and successfully flips the huge pancake.
His father turns and stares, loosens, reaches over and gives the boy’s head a quick rub.
“You got lucky,” Papa says.
“No, I didn’t,” says the boy.
The boy in a brown age, a shadow of manhood on his chin, is bleeding from a cut on his lean cheek from shrapnel tossed up when he smashed his childhood stool with a rock and is preparing pancakes. The funeral has ended and the people have gone home and his mother is in bed crying and he is preparing pancakes.
His older sister in Hokkaido couldn’t find the time to get down here and fuck her and he’s gripping the spatula like he did when he was only a green child, with both fists curled around the handle like a bat.
He had poured the batter expansively over the flat black surface gleaming with the spread melt of butter and the smoke is now hissing up thickly and worming through his long black hair. He lets the spatula drop to the plate and twists the fire to high and a red-blue gas flame jumps and roars under the pan and provokes a long, thin fleck of splashed dough on the edge, closest to his muscled arm, to wrinkle and blacken.
The boy feels a surge of panic and shoots a finger down to flick the dough-strand out of the pan before it burns up completely, saving its life.
It lands on the counter. He peers at it closely, its tiny contours still smoking, and experiences a sense of wonderment.
He slides open the kitchen window.
“Papa!” he calls out. “Hold out your hand! I made a spatula!”