The Red Balloons

This is a collection of vignettes written over a period of time, using the symbol of a red balloon. The other symbol is the black dog, a metaphor for depression. Each is only six sentences in length.

#1 – Prayers

Elise scrummaged in her little sister’s art and craft box for a marker. Sitting against the bed she wedged the red helium balloon her knees and began to write the jumbled and dislocated prayer of a twenty-something. Looking at what she had scribed, it looked like a crossword puzzle with the answers filled in but no clues to help give meaning.

Going into the backyard she took a deep breath and let the ribbon unfurl through her fingers as she exhaled. Elise shaded her eyes as it rocketed upwards, a seed propelled by faith, with hope that it would conceive and bring forth life, until she could see it no more.

She wondered if it had reached God or if it had burst before God could read it.

#2 – I’ve Always Wanted To Fly

I’ve always wanted to fly as I watch the balloons float away above the carnival, wishing I had that freedom.  The closest I can get to that wish is memory and imagination.  My body aches at the remembrance of grasping the chain of the swing set; leaning backwards, getting dizzily disorientated watching the world arc from blue to green to blue.  I imagine flying feels a lot like swimming in an aquiline ocean, rising and falling with the phases of the moon, feeling the push and pull of the currents.

Reaching behind I untie the red balloon from the handle of my wheelchair and say a little prayer.  I let my red balloon go into the blue firmament of heaven, above the heady aromatic cloud of fairy floss, deep fried food and the dusty warmth of cattle, to live vicariously for me.

#3 – Simple Pleasures

Streamers floated in the breeze and cake crumbs littered the tablecloth while the lounge room floor was strewn with the debris of a six year old tornado who had torn into wrapping paper to get at the goodies.  But Matthew abandoned the boxes of Lego stacked beside a bright yellow dump truck covered in layers of new t-shirts and pants for a dash around the backyard.  A bright red balloon trailed like a comet behind him as he whooped and hollered while the dog leapt and barked and howled with delight.  In his game the balloon became an orbiting moon as astronaut Matthew moved in slow motion steps with a bucket on his head.  A few days later he imagined that it was a jellyfish when it hung in limbo between the ceiling and the floor and he pretended to swim around it as it bobbed in the air.  Grandparents and relatives chuckled their approval and remembered when things were simpler and would not begrudge a small boy his bright new toys.

#4 – Hope

The red balloon bobbed above the heads of the comings and goings in the hospital corridor like a colourful speech bubble.  It bounced into the children’s ward where tubes were worn like necklaces and bandages were a new zombie craze.  Offsetting the bleep of machines and odour of sickness the red balloon added another splash of colour, lighting up sallow faces.  With the help of a black texta, some purloined rubber gloves from the box on the wall and a little bit of creativity the red balloon became a dancing clown.  Laughter expelled fear to the dark corners of the room while hope settled in the creases of rumpled blankets.  And for a brief moment even the adults were children again, joining in the mirth and imagination, remembering their own made up games.

#5 – My Black Dog

My black dog flumped onto my feet while I watched television, formed to the curvature of the couch, and in his mouth was the tattered remnants of my red balloon.

All afternoon I had watched him skulking around the back door, but he nuzzled his way in, eyeing off the red balloon that floated on the draughts through the cracks in the windows. With a quick snap he had taken the balloon in his mouth and popped it.

He looked triumphant with his saggy jowls knowing I was defeated and would not move from where I had taken up position. The afternoon shadows crept like soul’s darkness across the floor, a marshy quicksand that sucks you down below into its depths.

However, my black dog tends to forget that I have a pocketful of red balloons.

15 responses to “The Red Balloons

  1. I love these. You’ve really got a talent for these short vignettes that say so much in so few words.

  2. These were beautiful pieces, so evocative. You’ve created a depth of feeling with just a few words.

  3. #3 reminds me of Mason (age 19mo) — he loves balloons, and red’s his favorite color. He’s quite a little character when he has a balloon to bounce around the living room.

    Not to disparage the others: they were all wonderful, esp. #4.

  4. The end of the first vignette is the cutest and most pregnant with hope. Somewhere between those two facets is why it was my favorite. I enjoy your microfiction experiments, Adam.

  5. yearzerowriters

    I loved 1 and 3, but the image of the balloon tied to a wheelchair… frisson

    marc nash

  6. These are wonderful, Adam. I read back thru and tried to pick a favorite, but I’m afraid I can’t. Nicely done 🙂

  7. They are all really good, but I really liked the first one.

  8. At each reading I’d think: “This is my favorite.” But now I’ve read them all and I can’t choose.

    Very cool experiment, Adam!

  9. Very sweet little stories and (more important) no misses. They’re all great in their own right.

  10. As I read each one, I though to myself, “Ooh, this is my favorite.” But the last one truly is. This line is fantastic: “The afternoon shadows crept like soul’s darkness across the floor, a marshy quicksand that sucks you down below into its depths.” You’re a wonderful writer, Rev.

  11. I love this collection. They are each wonderful pieces on their own, but tied together with the one single thread made this even more enjoyable to read. Great work!

  12. An excellent collection.
    So well written.
    Whatever you do, don’t feed the Black Dog. He will go away eventually.
    Always keep a supply of red balloons.

  13. Great to have you back. If all the hopes in the world suddenly turned into balloons the sky would turn red and fill with squeaky rubber. You sir are one of the good guys.

  14. The end of #1 would have to be my have a real talent for saying so much with only a few words.

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