... balloon man whistles far ... and ... whee
The latino man approached our table at the Pancake Place, sensing an opportunity to entertain Firstborn, Middlechild, and Boy with his balloon art.
"Hello, would jour children enyoy balloons?"
"Of course."
"Jour boy, he would like a sword?"
"He really likes airplanes," offered Barbaloot. Boy's winged LarryMobile already needs a new purple paint job. His little wooden JayJay has lost both of its engines. His aircraft get a lot of attention and a lot of wear.
But the sword was already done, and handed to Boy after a final squeaky twist. His syrupy hand seized it and he lost all interest in pancakes.
It was Middlechild's turn. "I want a cat, please."
"How about a hommingbord?"
"Please may you make me a cat." The terminal "t" was distinct.
"Hmmmm, what color chall I make this hommingbord?" Squeak squeak.
He drew big lunatic walled eyes on the head with a permanent marker.
"I wanted a cat." Softly, humbly. With disappointment.
"Here is jour hommingbord."
Firstborn is far less inhibited. "I want a puppy" she shouted, before he even reached to his belt for the inflating pump. A puppy she got, though it was improvised from the giraffe page of the Big Balloon Art Handbook.
The "head" of this gir-puppy sprang out, then popped and sagged in pink tatters, moments after she received it and its creator was tipped by her grandparents. Firstborn sobbed.

One week later, off again to Pancake Place after Mass. As we are seated, I scan the crowd for balloon artists. Noticing none, I take a seat and open the menu. Only then I see balloon swords in boys' hands at a nearby table. Behind the clink of flatware and the clatter of plates, the rubbery squeaks and pump hisses are faint but certain.

After our order is taken, he approaches. He makes eye contact with me, recognizes me. It must be my expressive face.
"Ohhhh, this is the family who wants balloons only after the children are done eating." He smiles, twinkles his eyes. "I will come back soon," then he turns to the other end of the Pancake Place.

Firstborn and Middlechild finished a ten-inch chocolate-chipped pancake between them without distraction. Boy cared only for link sausage.

The balloon man did not come back.

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