Giggly voice number one: “Her eyes are open, and she’s sitting up.”
Muffled voice number two: “Is she wearing pants?”
Giggly Voice number one: “Nope.”
Catapulted from my revere, I rotated my head and discovered a dark eye below a mop of darker curls surveilling me through a crack in the door. Giggly voice number one, aka my niece Ruby, squealed in response to my regard and attempted to flee the scene – only to plow into and knock over her older brother Theo whom she’d forgotten was standing behind her.
Theo (yelling and kicking the door open wider): “GET OFF ME!”
Ruby (crawling up Theo’s prone form): “She saw me! She saw me!”
Technically the niblings aren’t supposed to open bedroom doors (even temporary ones), but they know I’m a soft touch.
Me (grinning): “Pipe down guys, or you’ll wake the whole house. Let me find my pants, and I promise I’ll be right there.”
Ruby (streaking down the hall and into the kitchen): “She’s coming to help! She’s coming to help! Auntie Morticia will tell you huckleberries don’t go in……”
Me (getting up to check on her still flattened brother): “You okay down there?”
Theo (groaning): “No, she punched me in the stomach.”
Me (looking down at him): “You gonna be okay, or do you need some ice?”
Theo (clutching his middle theatrically): “No ice.”
Me: “You lay there for a minute while I change.”
Theo (wheezing): “Okay.”
Closing the door, but keeping an ear trained in Theo’s direction, I hastily swapped my pj’s for jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers. I grabbed my pack off the floor and Ira’s mysterious envelope off the desk and reopened the door in four minutes flat, finding Theo sitting cross-legged in the hall.
Me (standing in the doorway): “Feeling better?”
Me (helping him up): “So what’s happening in the kitchen?”
Theo (falling in step with me): “Uncle Wood thought it might be fun to try making something other than banana pancakes for breakfast.”
Me (grinning): “Ruby’s not having it?”
Theo (returning my grin): “Nope.”
The pandemonium promised by Wood’s proposed shift to the Sunday Morning menu didn’t disappoint.
Upon entering the kitchen, Ruby attempted to enlist my aid in explaining to Wood why banana pancakes were the only proper breakfast dish. My oldest nephew Avery stood at the stove carefully cooking bacon, loudly disagreed with his cousin, and extolling the virtues of his dad’s apple cinnamon pancakes. His younger twin sisters Iris and Violet, who didn’t seem to have a stake in pancake controversy, stood at the table enthusiastically mixing bowls of dry ingredients together. Inadvertently haloing their heads in flour and thoroughly coating the tabletop, floor, and aprons with a fine white dust. Wood, who was keeping a close eye on Avery, shot me a mischievous grin and started opening a can of pumpkin puree – sending Ruby into a near apoplectic fit.
Theo drifted towards his cousin, the stove, and the plate of cooked bacon.
After reassuring Ruby, she’d get her beloved banana pancakes sans apples, pumpkin, chocolate chips, pears, huckleberries, and lingonberries. I crossed the kitchen, set my stuff down next to the door (well out of range of our enthusiastic cooks), donned an apron, and entered the fray.
Forty-seven minutes later, after brokering a pancake peace accord for the ages the niblings, Wood and I sat down at the table to eat.
Theo, inspired by Scooby Doo’s infamous towering sandwiches, decided to create a new Sunday morning delicacy he named The Stack. Six alternating layers of banana, apple and pumpkin pancakes with pumpkin butter (think peanut butter only made of pumpkin seeds) and bacon between each layer, topped with maple syrup and more bacon. His culinary experiment intrigued everyone, so we all tried our hand at creating this concoction. (Save Ruby, who refuses to acknowledge the existence of alternative pancake flavors.)
It was surprisingly tasty.
Demolishing their Stacks in a nauseating spectacle, the niblings now hyped up on bacon, syrup, and carbs took off out the back door making enough noise to wake the dead, the neighbors, and their parents – in that order.
Deciding discretion the better part of valor Wood and I abandoned the kitchen, after making sure the food stayed warm, and there was enough coffee made, to keep an eye on the kids playing in the back garden. Leaning back in the deck chairs, our tummies full of warm autumn spices, we sipped our coffee contentedly.
Wood: “Any big plans today?”
Thinking of the paper-wrapped puzzle in my pack (the real metaphorical carrot helping me bypass my dread), I recalled the deal Wood, and I struck not so long ago.
Me: “Maybe. When’s Laney coming home from the conference again?”
Wood (arching an eyebrow): “Monday. Why?”
Me (warming both my hands on my mug, staring straight ahead): “What are you doing on tonight round about midnight?”
Wood: “I’d planned on sleeping. But I gather you’ve got a counteroffer?”