Pancake Eric Bahle May 16, 2009
“How about it, Bob?”
“What’s that?” Bob Grady looked around, called from his reverie. It was Handsome Jack who had spoken.
“How about them flapjacks,” Handsome Jack said. “We’re hungry.”
The whole gang, crowded around the rude plank table, nodded agreement. Bob Grady turned back and held his hand over the black-iron griddle. It felt hot enough so he wet his fingers in a bowl of water and sprinkled it on the griddle. The droplets danced and sizzled on the hot iron. It was ready. Bob gave a heavy sigh and stirred the big bowl one last time before ladling out batter for four cakes. He dropped the ladle back and picked up the spatula.
“You feeling alright, Bob?” said Ozark Dave. “You seem a bit out of sorts.”
“Well, I been thinking,” said Bob. “And I think…”
“You think what?” Ozark Dave prompted.
“I think…I just think I ought to have a nickname.” Bob moved his spatula edge under the cakes but didn’t flip them yet. He was watching for the bubbles to rise up and burst first.
“A nickname?” Handsome Jack said. “I don’t get what you’re driving at. Just hurry up with them flapjacks”
“You’ve all got nicknames,” Bob said. “I should have one too.”
“We don’t all have nicknames,” One-Eye Gonzalez said.
“They call you One-Eye,” Bob said, flipping his pancakes.
“That’s because I only have one eye,” One-Eye Gonzalez said. “It’s not much of a nickname.”
“Well, what about Stabby Pete?” Bob said. Stabby Pete Gunderson looked up from where he sat, stropping the edge of his knife on the leather of his tall boots.
“What kind of nickname did you have in mind?” Stabby Pete asked.
“I don’t know,” Bob said. He transferred the cooked pancakes to a wooden platter and poured out more batter. “Something that sounds tough. Like Mad Dog Grady.”
“They already call me Mad Dog,” said Mad Dog Murphy. “I don’t think we should have two Mad Dogs.”
“What do you need a nickname for?” said Handsome Jack. “You’re not in the gang.”
Bob Grady started and his flip was ruined. The pancake landed edge first and started to crumble and spatter apart. He ignored it and turned to face Handsome Jack.
“What did you say?” asked Bob.
“I said you’re not in the gang,” Handsome Jack said. “You’re just a cook and right now you should be cooking flapjacks.”
“I am so a member of the gang,” Bob said.
“You don’t ride with us on jobs,” said Handsome Jack. “You stay here at the hideout and cook.”
“Take it back,” Bob said, growing angrier. “I am a member of this gang and I should have a nickname.”
Handsome Jack stood and squarely faced Bob Grady. “What are you going to do about it Bob? You don’t even have a six-gun.”
“I am an important member of this gang,” Bob said again. The cakes behind him were burning and the smoke rose around Bob’s head.
“You know what’s important?” Handsome Jack said. “My breakfast. And you’re burning it. You want a nickname? I’ll give you one. Flapjack Grady! Now gimme some breakfast, Flapjack!”
“Don’t call me that,” said Bob. “I don’t like it.”
“Too bad, Flapjack,” Handsome Jack crowed. “You’re burning them, Flapjack!”
“Better flip them, Flapjack, before they catch on fire!”
“Shut up!” Bob was screaming now and he threw his spatula at Handsome Jack. Handsome Jack sidestepped it and drew his pistol. He was a fast hand with the gun but he didn’t want to kill Bob Grady, just put him in his place. He held the revolver level with Bob’s belly and his thumb rested on the hammer, ready to cock the piece.
“Alright, take it easy,” said Handsome Jack. “We don’t want no trouble here. How about I just go sit down and you finish making breakfast. We got a deal….Flapjack?”
Bob reached behind him without looking. Handsome Jack saw the look in Bob Grady’s eyes and dropped the hammer on his gun. He snapped off a shot that should have hit Bob in the liver and put him on the ground. Instead it clanged like a church bell on the black-iron griddle that Bob now held before him. Bob swung and Handsome Jack’s pistol went flying out of his burned and smashed hand. Bob swung again at Handsome Jack’s head and Handsome Jack went down like a sack of crap. He tried to scuttle backwards but Bob was on him in a flash.
Bob grunted and growled as the griddle rose and fell. The last bits of burned flapjack flew in wild arcs. At first the griddle clanged but the sound turned dull and flat, like somebody packing fresh turned dirt with a spade. Eventually the sounds grew wet and a little squishy and Bob Grady stood up. He turned to the rest of the gang and wiped sweat off his brow with his forearm.
“I think I should have a nickname,” Bob Grady said.
“Sure,” said Stabby Pete, “sure thing, Flapja…um, I mean…”
“How about Griddle?” One-Eye said. “Griddle Grady?”
Bob didn’t look thrilled.
“Black-Iron Bob!” said Ozark Dave eyeing the black-iron griddle that was now black with burnt flapjacks and bits of Handsome Dave.
“Yeah, Black-Iron Bob,” said Black-Iron Bob. “That sounds tough. Old Black-Iron Bob Grady!” A feeble groan came from the heap at Black-Iron Bob’s feet.
“While we’re at it,” said One-Eye Gonzalez, “we better come up with a new nickname for Handsome Jack.”