Pancakes & Promises

As his eyes opened, it felt like a regular Tuesday to the young man, another anonymous morning, of equal estrangement from his life across the ocean as the night before had been.

The bustle of activity outside the door betrayed that normality, however, as the flat of typically nocturnal hooligans was abuzz, alive, humming holiday praise beside morning coffee bubbling on the hob.

He had crashed out on a pillow at some point a few hours earlier, never making it to his own room two floors above, but in the communal hive of that apartment, beds were temporarily owned and freely lent. Like a perpetual game of musical chairs with far too few seats, the rolling madness of that spring semester usually found certain groups staying up past dawn, snorting conversation-sparkers to the lilting hits of their eternal idol, EJ, the real Rocket Man, and eventually seeking tumbled piles of sheets once the morning shift came in for breakfast smokes and fresh stimulation.

Tumbling into the fluorescent dawn of the flat’s unusually spacious kitchen, he saw that the late-night celebration had oozed over, as ever, evidenced by a freshly popped champagne bottle and two still-bubbling mimosas on the table, which had been moved from where he’d last remembered it – surely the result of a pre-dawn feng shui epiphany.

Felix presided gleefully over the affair, wearing only briefs, hair mangled into modern art, eyes ablaze with unholy fire, swinging his champagne flute like an axe, slashing opposition to whatever trivial point had fixated his neurons mere moments earlier. He gave the new arrival a wiggle of his head, and then his ass, before spinning back off towards center stage.

Pheebs was sitting cross-legged, observing Felix’s never-ending performance of existence, a crooked rollie hanging from her fingers. They would have formed a lazy peace sign had the fag not been there, which would have fit his morning vision of her just as naturally. She cocked an eyebrow at his entrance and offered a shame-faced shrug; she had hardly moved since he’d left her hours earlier.

LB tidied around the edges of Hurricane Felix, clearing the evening’s debris from the counter, even as it filled up again. She was sweeping in a sandstorm. Shattered crisps packets and abandoned blocks of Stilton leaned against vegetable-dyed cutting boards and half-drained bottles of Prosecco. Separating the night’s trash from future treasure was a challenge, seemingly equalized by the light dusting of tobacco that lay beneath the carnage of the night’s drunken feast. She offered a mixed glance, half-welcome and half-warning – abandon all plans, ye who enter here.

Rynbow tittered absently in the corner, aware of and amused by the circus, yet managing to own the above-it-all vibe that drew the man to her like any fool to fire. Her eyes looked tired, but they brightened at the sight of him, and her chipmunk cheeks filled with a semi-sober smile.

Jesus, have you guys slept?

 Sleep when you’re dead, isn’t that what you always say?

 I feel a bit dead.

 You still drink like a Yank.

 And you nurse beers like they’ve stopped brewing it.

 Twat.

 Speaking of…

 Twats?

 Drinks… mimosa for me?

 ’Aye, but we’re low on Cava.

 Mmmmm… I’ll go to the shop in a bit. Fag?

 Sure, love.

Sliding into the same seat he’d held for most of the eve, he pulled the Golden Virginia over from Pheebs and set to roll his first of the day. The rest continued their strange dance – cleaning, watching, smoking, and actually dancing – moving in fits and starts, the conversation percussive in one moment, lyrical the next, laughter like high-hats and the cymbal hiss of smoke release from the Buddha sat beside him.

He closed his eyes and smiled in the darkness, cracked his knuckles and opened the tobacco. It was a process he’d come to love, despite being mocked in his first British weeks for the atrocious excuses for cigarettes he’d slapped together with too little saliva and too much bacci. Now, less than a month later, it came as second nature, an addictive ritual they each performed in rotation, a clan of nicotine priests keeping some eternal flame alive.

The GV was damp, a fresh pack, clumped like dense moss, and the smell of wet coffee earth hit soft as he tore a pinch from the mound inside. Laying out the paper, the slight gleam of glue facing away from him, he gently fluffed out the tobacco, making the pinch a pile, and then a porous log in his white Rizla canoe. The filters were always the hardest ingredient to find, despite there being 120 in each .50p box. Empty filter tubes littered the table and stuck out wildly from the ashtrays, transparent shell casings abandoned beside smoked soldiers. Eventually finding a stray stick wedged in the bacci pouch, he completed the tip of his fag and spin-tightened the whole mess between his fingers, laying a final lick on the edge.

Pheebs stubbed her fag dead and slid him the half-filled ashtray, along with a lighter, the final piece of his puzzle. Like clockwork.

Wanna come to the shop?

Mmmmm… I don’t know. It’s fucking freezing out.

This is not cold. Jesus…

Fine, fine…

Rynbow? Wanna come? 

I’m skint, but… yeah, sure. I need some air. We’ve been in here for fucking ages.

Breakfast stuff, LB?

You still wanna make pancakes and all?

Fuck yeah, it’s Pancake Day, right?

Alright, I got a fiver somewhere. 

Find it later, that’s fine. Anything else?

Mmmmm… chocolate? 

Sure… chocolate, champagne, breakfast shit… anything else? Once… twice…? Felix?

No… just orange juice… and more Cava! 

Alright, be back in a tick.

The gang of three swirled out of the flat, missioning it for midmorning supplies. It was a holiday, after all.

**********

Drink down the rest of this mad dram in SN9: Fat Tuesday, hitting bookstores and Amazon on February 28th!

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