Ain’t nothin’ sadder than the Wilkin’s crew at the local International House of Pancakes. At least that’s how I used to think.
The other day, I went to IHOP for some of them pancakes what got the chips in ‘em. This was lunchtime, which, I guess, is pretty sad, too: eatin’ chocolate chip pancakes for lunch. Bobby and Mavis Wilkins was sittin’ in the corner booth, the one shaped like a horseshoe. There was Wilkins kids everywhere. I looked into Mavis’ grey eyes and saw true desperation. Tired and lifeless, her eyes was, but that didn’t register with me until later.
The newest Wilkins addition was a set of twins, both girls. They was about six months old, but looked about three months. They was really thin. Believe it or not, she named those twins “Peenou” and “Peenou’s sister.” It was the talk of the town. Those babies was stuffed into the booth, like the rest of ‘em. They was holdin’ their own bottles. Survival instincts, I imagine.
After the twins was out of milk they commenced to holler. What did Mavis do? She asked for two high chairs, propped those babies up, gave each of ‘em a pitcher of syrup and let ‘em play in it. I was embarrassed, sittin’ three tables away. The syrup made puddles on their trays. They put their little hands in it, pulled their hands up and watched the syrup strings rise from their trays to their little fists with utter joy. Next, they put their hands on their heads, drew ‘em away, and their hair would stick up all over, which made their brothers and sisters laugh loudly. They was a real show stopper that day, that Peenou and Peenou’s sister.
When the waitress came over, Bobby asked her if they’d got a spigot for Mavis to wash the twins under. Sure enough, they did. I stepped out a minute to confirm it all. Well, slap my backside and call me a biscuit, that’s what she did! There Mavis was, holding these two naked babies under the spigot, washin’ the syrup off. I couldn’t believe it. I walked in eagerly to tell the wife.
As I sat there, whisperin’ to my wife, this tall, very attractive woman in a business suit and heels stopped by their table.
“Hi, I’m Julie Maloy. I just wanted to say that your twins are so precious!”
She actually sat down in their booth! She was a fine lookin’, refined lady, and there she was, riskin’ syrup on her suit, chattin’ with ‘em like they was regular folks. I prepared to watch the fun ‘cause I imagined that she would try to get up from the booth and the strands of syrup would hold her back. I was strainin’ my ears to hear all that she was sayin’ but I wasn’t pickin’ up much. She ended up with one baby in her arms, bouncin’ her and makin’ her giggle.
The baby she held grabbed what looked like a business card out of her hand. She just laughed and handed another one to the Wilkins. She asked ‘em to please call her, that she’d be glad to babysit sometime…..FOR FREE! I couldn’t believe my ears. With that, she kissed the baby on the head, handed her to Mavis, then turned and walked out the door. It was then I saw Mavis was cryin’.
After they left, I walked over to their booth and picked up the card the baby had dropped. It read, “Julie Maloy, Office of Eternal Affairs.” It seemed to be a homemade Christian witness card with her name, address and phone number on it. She’d written on it, “Call me. I’d like to help.”
I’d mocked and done nothing. I was a Pharisee, a Roman soldier. My eyes stung as I walked out to my car in shame.
Three days later, I was in the IHOP drinkin’ coffee and readin’ the paper when my eyes saw it:
“Woman dies, no foul play suspected. Mavis Wilkins, age 31, died early yesterday morning on the 700 block of Delaney Street from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. She’d reportedly been despondent over their financial state since her husband had lost his job. They had been living out of their car.”
I couldn’t read any more. I looked over at that horseshoe booth, then put my head down and cried…..for Mavis…..for her precious little babies ….for people like Julie Maloy …..and for myself. I’d crucified Jesus…… again.