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Balloons beckon us to childhood and celebrations. Red, white and blue they also remind us of the students who staged a mass protest in response to the mass school shootings in America. We release balloons to acknowledge our own fleeting victories and tragedies.

Writers took to the skies, latex and color with balloons this week. You can expect to read the unexpected.

The following are based on the March 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon.

***

Hope by Kay Kingsley

They knelt at the ocean’s edge determined, pants wet with saltwater, fingers cold and dirty, their hearts mixed fear with excitement. The rock weighted the cord in the sand as small fingers knotted it around a plastic baggie, carefully protecting a written message so clearly hand-printed any teacher would be proud to grade if given the chance. But these words held secrets only the children knew and standing at the edge of their world, they released their hope, a bright red balloon against the blinding blue. Someone would be coming to save them. It’s just a matter of time.

###

Balloon by Pensitivity

‘It has to be blue Nanny,’ she said. ‘Grampy likes blue, and I promised.’

‘OK love, blue it is.’

‘And it has to be a shiny one, with a long ribbon so that he can see it.’

‘Of course. Do you want anything on it?’

‘Hearts and kisses.’

‘Would you like a heart-shaped one then?’

‘No thank you. Just a big shiny ba-loo bal-loon.’

Just how he always said.

On the day of the funeral, Penny held her balloon tight throughout the service, then afterwards let it drift skyward with its hearts and kisses to her Grampy in Heaven.

###

Escape by Chelsea Owens

If I had a hundred mathematically-large-enough

balloons

I’d cram the strings together

in a woven vest and rise higher

higher

through rain-gilded cloudscape.

I’d subsist on vapors, or maybe on sunrise ambrosia –

till atmospheric pressure (or somesuch scientific phenomenon)

popped just one

balloon.

Then I’d drop more rapidly than I rose:

the most obsequious, impotent adherent to Gravity and his unalterable law.

But really, I have to admit

-as I revisit clouds and ambrosia rays and treetops drawing nearer-

I was never free

and soon

I am right back where I started,

amidst 99 deflated spheres of red.

###

Boon! by Michael Fishman

“Boon! Boon!”

Head thrown back, arms raised to the ceiling, fingers extended and wiggling like worms on the hook, Jess reached for the orange balloon bouncing across the dining room ceiling.

I’m not sure how memories are categorized; how they’re filed away in the brain or what hand determines which memories stay and which ones fade, but sitting here now, as old as I am, I still remember Jess’ face on that birthday morning and those eyes, big as the chocolate chip pancakes she just finished eating when I pulled the balloon down and held it out to her.

###

Uplifted by Lisa Listwa

Winter came again last night.

The wind takes icy bites of my neck. I turn my collar against the chill, seeking help from glittering sunshine that offers no warmth.

The landscape has dressed in delicate white furs for the occasion of what is – hopefully – winter’s final farewell.

Across the snow-laced field sits a generous puddle, used by geese to swim on warmer days. Empty now, ripples of sunlight dance across its surface, reminiscent of morning light skimming across gentle waves by the seashore.

Two robins rise, defiant red balloons above the snowy fields.

I watch. My lightened spirit soars.

###

Girl in Yellow by Lady Lee Manilla

party was fun, full of tricks
lots of balloons and good news
they were going to increase their wages
thanked them for all their support
hurray, shouted everyone
they threw the balloons down
to the court yard where children are waiting
I saw your face among the crowd
such a small frame but looks brave
you wanted that balloon but can’t join in
other children are having such fun
but you still have to sell the wares
in your mind it’s better to be safe
just watch them than fail to sell
siblings are hungry so better get going

###

Flash Fiction by Anita Dawes

I am your ghost, your past. I walk before you on thorny pathways so you shall not walk the path of sorrow.  You shall not see the things I have.

You are ten years old now, so blow out your candles and let loose those balloons with all their wishes attached.

I have received them now; your wishes made from your past come true, they have come to pass. Soon I shall re-join you when adult paths you reach, until then, I collect every balloon and every wish you make.

I wait in shadows until we are one again …

###

Balloon by Kim Blades

Judy didn’t believe the moon was made of cheese like nursery rhymes described. She was sure it was a balloon.

Judy liked balloons, especially white ones.
Their movement through the air seemed effortless. She knew this was because they weighed nothing.

She so envied balloons. They were light and agile.

Every Friday night she sat outside in the tiny garden in front of her house and released a round, white balloon.

Watching as it danced skywards, Judy wished that one day she would be able to get up from her wheelchair and walk as effortlessly as the balloon floated.

###

Project Mogul by Irene Waters

Vernon poked at the colourful wreckage that covered a large area of their paddock in New Mexico. “Dad, whadya reckon this is?”

“Dunno. Gather it up. We’ll take it to the Sheriff.”  They bundled the bright rubber strips, tinfoil, sticks and paper and drove them to Roswell.

Sherriff Wilcox scratched his head before passing it to Colonel Blanchard who passed it on to his superior in Texas. Marcel, sent to examine the paddock knew it was their high altitude spy balloon that would warn of Russian nuclear testing.

1947 –  a time of paranoia – he said  “We have found a UFO.”

###

A Blot on the Landscape? by Anne Goodwin

My fingers fumble to extricate plastic from heather. Litter louts! I came to walk the moors, not to pick up other people’s mess.

In swoops my long-dead ex-headmistress, academic gown flapping like a raven’s wings. “I’m sending you back in time. We can nip this problem in the bud.”

On Tillotson’s production line, I meet staff grateful for work in lean times. Happy faces at children’s party ensure the failure of my mission. Unless I travel back another century to Faraday. “I know you didn’t mean to, Michael, but you started this. Can’t you invent a fully biodegradable balloon?”

###

When the Party’s Over by D. Avery

“Hmmph. Shorty an’ her dang celebratin’. With balloons? Ain’t seen this much latex since-

“Come on, Pal. It was a party.”

“Sure, an’ look who’s aroun’ ta clean up. You an’ me Kid, that’s who. Latex skeeves me out. An’ it’s litter, bad fer the critters.”

“Pal, yer fergittin’ we’re fictional. Wanna happy ending? Ok, these balloons are made from corn. They’ll bio degrade, feed the soil.”

“Corn, ay?”

“Yep.”

“Could be a problem.”

“Jeez, Pal. How now?”

“Remember Ernie? At Wanda’s still?”

“Oh. Well, reuse, recycle, repurpose. Distill ends well.”

“It’s kinda corny, but I’ll drink to it.”

###

A Trojan Effort by Bill Engleson

The search party had been looking for hours.

Two kids.

Lost in the bush.

We’d found their beater.

Two flat tires.

Young love should be luckier. And smarter.

But they hadn’t been.

They didn’t stay on the old logging road like you’d expect. Course, we saw the tracks, knew why they ‘d made a beeline into the woods.

“Big cat,” Harley said.

“Hunting them?”

“Likely!”

“Maybe the copter will spot ‘em?”

“Dense in there.”

“Yup.”

Then we heard good news from above.

“Is that a balloon?” And then, “There they are.”

Turns out, safe sex can be a lifesaver.

###

End of the Honeymoon by Anne Goodwin

When I found the texts on Brian’s phone I assumed our marriage over. Yet, following the tears, slings and arrows, we booked the second honeymoon we couldn’t afford first time. Confirming our vows in a hot-air balloon above the rift valley, a champagne breakfast laid out for us below. Our Massai guide was somewhat clumsy with the camera, but we raised our glasses and beamed.

Brian had been dead a year before I could face the photos. Our joyful innocence made me weep. Distant, but crystal clear, our marriage end was looming: it was breakfast time for lions too.

###

Ringside by D. Avery

All eyes were on that ring. There was always something, the wrestlers always putting on a show, even whalloping the announcer and referee. But I happened to look just when a wrestler crossed the forgotten dim past the ring, making his way to the locker room; there was just enough light to see that his tights were shabby and dirty, that he was tired, even sad maybe. Seeing that wrestler leaving the lit up ring was like seeing forgotten balloons days after the party, faded and losing air.
Now I knew. Wrestling was fake, but the wrestlers were real.

###

Surprises for Marnie by Norah Colvin

Brucie loved surprising Marnie on her way to school each day.

Marnie expected that Brucie would meet her, but she never knew where.

On Monday, he jumped from behind a bush screaming at her.

On Tuesday, he stuck out his foot and tripped her.

On Wednesday, he snuck up behind and pulled her hair.

On Thursday, he popped a balloon in her ear.

On Friday, he surprised Marnie by not surprising her at all.

But, after she’d put her bag away, he pulled it out and emptied its contents on the floor.

“Whose mess is this?” demanded Mrs Brown.

###

The Moon’s a Balloon by Anurag Bakhshi

“My Momma says that the moon’s a balloon.”

“Your Momma is a balloon, full of gas.”

“You take it back right now, or else…”

“Or else what? You will hit us with these tiny hands?”

That night, when a whimpering Timmy narrated the entire incident to his Momma, she calmly gave him a glass of warm milk and said, “Remember,  it’s your 3rd birthday tomorrow.”

Timmy’s face lit up and he shouted, “Yes, God will fill the balloon to the full tomorrow, and then…I too will get claws and fangs like you Momma. Then I’ll show those bullies…”

###

Balloons and Bubbles by calmkate

Billie was a favoured kid who had a plethora of toys, anything money could buy. But his favourite play things were bubbles and balloons … easy cheap and fun. Bubbles he would chase and burst or catch them tenderly on a wand. Balloons he’d blow and let them fart all over the room. Or blow a bunch and pretend they were cars to race about the room or a horse to ride and buck until he collapsed with laughter. Then he liked to burst them all close to his friends’ ear, with the loud bang she would jump [grin]

###

No Recess for Robby by Roger Shipp

“… and one more word, No Recess. Am I understood?”

That was Ms. Fletcher. “Am I understood? this and Am I understood? that.”

Robby had learned quickly learned the proper answer that followed… “Yes, ma’am.”

Third grade was the worst.

Now there was homework. Snack time was for babies. Recess was earned. (In our class’s case, NEVER EARNED.)

Robby’s mother was sympathetic. “Hang in there. It’ll get better.”

Robby’s brother was the problem-solver. “You’ll never win them all, Robby. But winning one can be worth it”.

Robby walked to school today ‘A Winner’.

Inside his backpack… a whoopee cushion.

###

Message in Mylar by Kerry E.B. Black

A gold mylar balloon’s string knotted around branch high in a beech tree, secured by a Cub Scout named Stan. It bobbed, a cheerful beacon, a coded message. “Be well,” it said. “You’re not forgotten.”
His pack-mate friend, Bob, got into huge trouble which resulted in suspension from school and a marathon grounding. Nobody under the age of ten had seen Bob since the prank which flooded the the school, and Stan worried about his mischievous friend.
Since he couldn’t visit or phone, Stan sent a message as only he could, a cheerful balloon floating outside his bedroom window.

###

Flash Fiction by Robbie Cheadle

She had a lovely wide smile and brown eyes that lit up as if fed by a bubbling spring of happiness within her. Her curly brown hair was tied in two bunches on the side of her head with bright yellow ribbons that matched her yellow and white checked dress. Shiny black shoes and delicate white stockings completed her outfit. The most noticeable thing about her though, was the bunch of brightly coloured balloons she held in her left hand. Everything about her was a reminder of parties and good times. She was the prettiest doll in the nursery.

###

Deflated by tintins

“Cake?”

“Check.”

“Candles?”

“Check.”

“Bouncy castle?”

“Check.”

“Decorations?”

“Check.”

“Gift Bags?”

“Check.”

“Balloons?”

“No check.”

“Muuuuuuum! That’s it! My party is ruined!”

“Sweetie don’t be silly.”

“Ruined I tell you! Ruined!” Patricia yelled stomping upstairs.

Rolling her eyes, Vivian sighed; another temper tantrum. Patricia had always been such a sweet child. Who knew adulthood would be so challenging. She’d hoped this birthday would pass without incident. She blamed her husband; always giving in to their daughter’s every whim. Twenty-five years her daughter had been pulling this stunt.

“Patricia? Come here.”

“Yes Mummy?”

“Calm down sweetie. We’ll send out Manuel!”

###

Balloon by Ritu Bhathal

Jenny tied the last of the balloons up. There. The room looked amazing.

Decorations adorned the walls and banners saying Happy 16th Birthday were hung up around the room.

“There you are, Amelia. A party you’d have been proud to host.”

Pop!

A lone balloon burst.

And with that, Jenny burst into tears.

Was that another sign? That she wasn’t coming back?

It had been 9 years since Amelia went missing, disappeared from the local park whilst playing with her friends.

Yet Jenny had never been able to accept she wasn’t coming back.

Was it time to accept reality?

###

Balloons by Luccia Gray

We love you.

We miss you.

At sunrise, all the children gathered in the playground to release their helium-filled balloons. Each carried a personalized message begging their classmate to come home.

‘How long will it take for Silvia to get the messages?’ Her best friend asked the teacher.

‘That’s hard to say,’ she replied, ‘but I’m sure she will receive them.’

‘When will she come back?’ Asked another worried child.

‘She may not come back, but she’ll know how much we all love and miss her,’ said the teacher, hoping one of the balloons would soften the kidnapper’s heart.

###

Mylar by Allison Maruska

Panting, I finally reach the cliffs my brother loved. A cold drizzle pelts my face. Wasn’t the coast supposed to be warm?

I step to the edge overlooking the Pacific. My brain can’t comprehend its enormity. No wonder Andrew wanted to live here.

Gently, I pull the bottle from my coat pocket. As I prepare to scatter Andrew’s ashes, something shiny catches my eye – a deflated Mylar balloon, tangled in a shrub on the side of the cliff. I can see only one word: Grandma.

Someone, somewhere, likely released that in her memory.

At least Andrew won’t be alone.

###

Wishes by Sue Vincent

The red balloon danced in the apple tree, caught by a ribbon that fluttered in the breeze. She had loved balloons, when she and the world had been much younger. Every balloon had carried a wish… a wish of the heart sent soaring into the sky on bright wings.

She wondered about the child who had released this one. Had they let go by accident, or did this one too carry a wish?

Her old bones protested as she climbed the ladder, carefully untangling the ribbon, setting it free to fly. She was still smiling when they found her.

###

Lightening the Load by Molly Stevens

“I brought you a balloon. Grandma loved balloons!”

He went through the motions, batting it back and forth with his granddaughter. Then he kissed her giggles goodbye.

Against his will, he played hide and seek with the single balloon. One morning it blocked the dishwasher door, the next day it was under the table. When he found it perched in his wife’s chair, he said, “No one sits in that chair.”

He slapped it up and away. Then he tapped it to keep it afloat. Again and again. Feeling lighter, he abandoned his grief for a moment and laughed.

###

Deflated by Anna Eplin

A deflated balloon from her twin daughters’ first birthday party languishes on the floor amid the mess of toys she was too tired to pick up last night. Her gaze drifts to the window and the grayness outside. The sky’s been gray for a month.

She must get up and shower before the babies wake up, but her will feels like that deflated balloon.

A groan gathers somewhere deep inside her. She needs a reason to keep going.

She closes her eyes, and a word whispers through her mind. Depression.

But with it comes fresh purpose: to get help.

###

Moonlit Balloons by Liz Husebye Hartmann

High on the hill, strands of moon drift, catching on the branch-ends of the Prairie Honey Tree. Barren of leaves, she bows under the fullness of her particular progeny, tight dark nuggets slowly rotating, gathering moonlight.

After a brutal summer endured and a lean winter to come, we are mindful of abundance promised, Nature’s sacred bond. What effort remains must come from us; She suffers, as well.

Together we offer a song in the old language, stored in our hearts and beyond our consciousness.

Moonlit silver nuggets bell, balloon, break free and float. Joyful first frost swirls them away.

###

My Last Memory of Her by Heather Gonzalez

I remember that day clearly, although I wasn’t old enough to know what was really happening. We went for a walk in the park with dad pushing mom in the wheelchair. Passing a tourist stand, mom bought me a balloon in the shape of a heart. I climbed into her lap, holding tight to my new prized possession, but it slipped through my fingers.

As I began to cry, she whispered, “Just because you can’t see it anymore, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.”

I didn’t know it, but she was trying to prepare me for her own departure.

###

Amethyst by Jan Malique

He looked at the stone of higher wisdom and wondered at its marvel.

It was veiled in purple hued eloquence and imbued with knowledge impenetrable.

Beloved Amethyst, resplendent in beauty and power.

How your sonorous heartbeat flows outwards into infinity, transforming all held in abeyance, waiting release from shadows of ignorance.

How could its marvels be gifted upon a world starving for self-insight, thirsting for the waters of life?

Joy. Let it ring out in laughter, sheer wonder, let it pour healing balm upon soul and purpose.

Let it reflect a child’s curiosity. Let it fly like a balloon.

###

Balloon Children by Shari Marshall

We didn’t object to being sent to her house.

Her front door had a silhouette of a woman holding balloon strings and floating. Her house was pristine, not a child’s environment. She ushered us toward a door that had a silhouette of children holding balloons and floating.

“Off we go,” she said as she opened the door to reveal a hallway with no floor and a ceiling layered with balloons! Beyond the hallway was blue sky and wispy clouds. Startled, we watched her step into the air holding the balloon string. She was floating out to the open sky.

###

The Silent Bomb by Rowena Newton

It was Henry’s tenth birthday and strangely his big sister, Kate, was only too happy to bake his cake. Indeed, she even suggested Mum took Henry out for a special, birthday milkshake.

Mum was so proud of her thoughtful daughter, that she jumped onto Facebook: “Proudest Mum moment. World’s Best Daughter! Milkshakes with Henry, while Kate’s baking Henry’s Birthday Cake.”

Meanwhile, Kate carefully cut out the middle of the cake. Blew up the balloon, stuck it inside and smothered the lot in chocolate icing. The bulging cake might have looked nine months pregnant, but at least it didn’t tick.

###

Balloon by Rebecca Glaessner

“Parcels, games, entertainment. Done. Got the coding for decorations? I still couldn’t find it in the system.”

“Found something better. But I’ll need help.”

We finished everything just as guests arrived, entry pad scanning in each individual.

The VIP was en-route, guided by my partner.

We all hid.

When they arrived, the room scanned my partner in first.

VIP in second, “why is it night-time?”

“Surprise!” we said, jumping out.

Atmospheric party lighting activated as our VIP squealed in excitement.

“I’m three now?” our VIP stared, stunned, “are they real balloons?”

“Sure are!” I said.

Everyone laughed.

###

Prom by Balloon by Joe Owens

Marcus noisily drummed his fingers while waiting. Theo was thorough, so thorough. But trying to get a helium balloon to drop a prom invite at a precise time and location was quite an engineering feat.

Finally, Theo’s scowl eased into a confident grin.

“You have it?” Marcus asked hopefully.

“Well, as close as can be with all we know. You sure she is there?”

“I incorporated her mom, to make sure she had to watch the triplets.”

“Oh yeah, she’s there,” Theo nodded.

Marcus fixed his eyes on his cell phone as he watched the balloon slowly lift away.

###

99 Wort Ballons by D. Avery

“Pal, we oughtta have speech balloons.”

“Yer jist sayin’ that ‘cause you an’ you know who are so het up about quotation marks.”

“Says you. Jist sayin’ speech balloons’d be pretty cool.”

“That could lead ta thought balloons. Ya want people readin’ yer thoughts?”

“Wouldn’t be too much of an imposition.”

“Kid, if we spoke an’ thought with those devices, well, we’d be cartoons!”

“What are we now?”

“Characters.”

“Not caricatures?”

“Well, mebbe… but that’s where I draw the line!”

“Keep drawin’, Pal, mebbe ya can make a cartoon.”

“Druther speak a thousand words.”

“99 at a time Pal.”

###

Balloons by Robert Kirkendall

Timmy brought the balloon animal to his family. “Look at what I got.”

“Why look at that balloon dog!” his mother said. “How cute!”

“No,” father disagreed, “it’s a horse.”

“You’re both wrong,” grandma interrupted. “It’s a obviously a rhinoceros.”

“Let me look at that,” Uncle Wally requested as he took the balloon animal and inspected it. “Just as I thought, a pelican.”

Aunt Sue grabbed the balloon animal and looked it over. “It’s a lobster.”

“You’re all wrong,” Timmy said as he took it back. “It’s just a bunch of balloons randomly tied together. You people are weird.”

###

When the Balloon Goes Up by Geof Le Pard

‘You know, Logan, I used to hate balloons.’

‘Why Morgan?’

‘Tacky to the touch, horrible bang if they popped…’

‘Nervy child were you?’

‘Maybe.’

‘I had one once. Floated.’

‘Helium?’

‘I was entranced. My dad sucked in the gas and his voice went squeaky. Loved my dad for that.’

‘You know, Logan, that perfectly describes the difference between us. I had flaccid exploding latex and you an other-worldly wonder. It’s a miracle we have anything in common, don’t you think?’

‘We’d be the same today, if we had a balloon.’

‘Why?’

‘Both would be full of hot air.’

###

Balloonatix by Stephen Lodge

“What you doing, Uncle Slim?” I asked as I crossed the backyard.

“Hiding from nephews what ask dumb questions,” was his first reply. “What does it look like I’m doing, you buffoon? I’m blowing up this here balloon. I’m intending to head off in it across vast, undiscovered plains to destinations never before heard of.” With that he coughed.

I guess he didn’t want any company, but I did just say to him as I walked off, “I’m sure they got a machine to blow up those balloons, Uncle Slim. Why, you’ll be there forever just using your mouth.”

###

Car-Tunes by D. Avery

“Pal?”

“What now?”

“She’s got nuthin’, ya know that right? That’s the only reason we’re out an’ about. She has no idea how ta respond ta balloons.”

“So?”

“Jist sayin’”

“Shush Kid.”

“Nuthin’”

“Mebbe if you’d shut yer pie-hole…”

“Pal?”

“Dang it Kid, what?”

“Know what ya call it when yer driving’ an’ listenin’ ta music? Car-tunes.”

“Know what I’m thinking’, Kid?”

“Yep, yer bubblin’ over. G’night Pal.”

###

A Balloon Tragedy – The First Air Accident by Gordon Le Pard

“I’m frightened.” She looked up at the strange shaped balloon, rising over Calais.

“Don’t worry, he is the most experienced balloonist in the world.”

“But to risk everything, especially now.” Her hands moved automatically to her swelling belly.

Then above, in terrible silence, the balloon seemed to break apart.

She cried out and collapsed, by the time they found his body she, and her unborn child, had died.

The death of the first man to fly, in the first fatal air accident, had destroyed his entire family.

From now on the pioneers could not dismiss the dangers they faced.

###

Balloon by NeelAnil Panicker

“You don’t look like you could cook.”

This was their second date and Raj had invited Anjali to his pad.

He smiled at her from across the kitchen table, the same impish curve she had noticed the first time they had ‘bumped’ at the coffee shop.

She noticed it — first, the hands, the hands, the way it disappeared under the drawer and it’s reappearance, in a jiffy. It was then that she saw it — the compact cake — a heart shaped balloon and inscribed on it, in red, “Happy Birthday, Esther.’

How could he…her mouth formed but no sound came forth. She was speechless!

###

Love Is In The Air by Juliet Nubel

The postcard arrived six weeks later.

“Dear Lucy,
Your balloon came to rest at the top of my apple tree. I needed a ladder to take it down and find out who had sent it soaring into the sky, covering many miles before reaching my little village. What a lovely surprise. Please write back.”

Fifty letters later, the Apple Tree Man rang at their doorbell. Lucy ran to answer, her mother hurrying behind her, as excited as a child too.

They now knew love could appear in many different ways. Even on the string of a flying helium balloon.

###

Hot Air Balloon Ride by Susan Sleggs

My boyfriend glumly watched it storm. Why was he so upset we had to reschedule our hot air balloon ride over Letchworth. We had the whole summer. Even our parents called to commiserate.

Finally, two months later the brilliant sun made spray from the water falls sparkle and bend with rainbow colors visible. The reflection from the gorge rocks glinted so bright we had to shade our eyes. Suddenly others in the basket turned their backs. My boyfriend presented a dazzling diamond ring brighter than the sunshine. Oh my. Yes!

Our parents treated us to dinner after we landed.

Author’s Note: Letchworth State Park in western New York state is known as the Grand Canyon of the east.

###

Charmed by Jimmy Webb by Paula Moyer

“Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon …” Jean learned the alto part of “Up, Up, and Away,” dutifully in chorus, but with a different edge. The composer, Jimmy Webb, was from Oklahoma.

“He’s one of us,” the girls whispered in awe. Other hits came later. He seemed golden.

But “Up, Up, and Away” went into Jean’s soul. The idea of a guy offering her not just a ride in a car, even a nice one. But … in a balloon?

“Suspended under a twilight canopy…”

Jean hummed alto as if she could will him into life.

###

Spring & Everything by D. Avery

“Why were you at the department store, anyway?”

Earnest handed Marge a large box.

“It’s so light.”

Marge lifted the lid off the box. Three red balloons floated out.

“Three months together, a whole season. Winter to spring.”

“Honestly, Earnest, how sweet.”

“Box ain’t empty yet, Marge.”

“Well! This ain’t yer mother’s overalls!”

Turning as red as the tethered helium balloons that squeaked against each other on the ceiling, Earnest explained that the large slinky garment was called a teddy.

Earnest bumped after Marge, balloons bumping behind him, and yes, he had some other latex. He’d thought of everything.

###

Invisible Balloons by Hugh Roberts

You can’t see me, but I’m watching you. You people interest me. Why are some of you unfaithful to the ones you say you love? Why do some of you murder those of the same kind? Why do some of you allow ‘hate’ to rule your minds?

You don’t know it, but each of you has a balloon. Like me, they are invisible to you but surround each of you. When your balloon bursts, you die.

It won’t be long, now, before my balloon bursts and you will all die. This planet, you all so un-love, will be mine.

###

Balloon by Frank Hubeny

He held his breath. What he thought would happen did not. The enemy came instead from the rear.

If he were alone he wouldn’t mind so much, but he mispositioned the others.

Were they the good guys he wouldn’t mind so much either, but he doubted if there were any good guys in this battle. This was alien home territory. They weren’t supposed to be there.

The others understood all this, too, as the fighting started.

His world was like a balloon. He wished it were yellow or blue. He wished he had steered it better.

Then it popped.

###

99 Red Balloons by Sherri Matthews

Jim screeched his truck out of the driveway, sending his trash cans flying.

Mandy winced but said nothing. All she could think about was the red cloud heading their way that news reports said was harmless. But Jim didn’t believe it. ‘Pack up, we’re leaving,’ he said as she begged him not to.

‘But honey, surely the government would know…?’ she had reasoned.

‘Fuck the government, you know we can’t trust a damn thing they say!’

Deserted neighbourhoods zoomed by as they hit the open road. ’99 Red Balloons’ came on the radio, but Mandy didn’t dare sing along.

###

Hidden Memory by Patrick M. O’Connor

It’s been 74 years since that fateful day.

The day my ship I was on was shot out from under me.

So much death.

Most of my friends disappeared when that beauty of a ship fell beneath the waves. It’s hard being the last survivor.

Today, I saw on the news, some guy found the ship and wants to bring it back to the surface. “It’s a 9200-ton ship!” I thought. It’s been underwater so long it would probably rip apart if they tried to lift it.

Then they said how they were going to bring it up.

Balloons.

###

The Reiki Session by Deborah A. Bowman

“Hi, Liz, how are you?” I asked.

“Good, Deborah. So happy to do an online session.”

“Thanks, it’s been a tough winter.”

“Okay,” the microphoned voice replied. “Let’s get you feeling better.”

She etched the sacred symbols in the air. We both closed our eyes.

I was floating, flying, with pink globes all around us. For thirty minutes, my pain went away.

When we ended, I said, “I was flying! Liz, you were with me!”

“Yes, I know,” she replied. “Did you see the rainbows?”

“I did, but the globes?”

“Deborah,” she laughed. “Those were balloons keeping us afloat!”

###

Balloon by Hayley R. Hardman

I walked out to the abandoned train track and blew up the party balloons one by one. I tried string to them when I was done and found a rock to hold them down with. Then as my therapist had suggested; I choice a blue balloon, said one of my worries aloud and let it go. I watched the balloon floating away, my worry with it. Then I selected another one, yellow this time, I said my worry and let the balloon go. I carried on until all the balloons and my worries had gone.

###

At the Edge of a Long Winter by Charli Mills

Searching the newspaper before I fire up the woodstove, a classified diverts my attention. For Sale: Party Balloon, Never Celebrated. There’s a number, and I recognize the area code for Montana. I’m across the border in North Dakota, trying to keep warm with seven other oil rig guys in a tin-roof modular on some farmer’s north forty. After my housemates rise to the heat of corncobs and newspaper, I finish my coffee and call.

“Hello?” A woman’s voice.

“Um, yeah, calling about your balloon.”

“Cabin fever. I needed to hear another voice.”

“Oil rigger. I’m lonely, too.”

“Let’s talk!”

###

Launch by Denise Aileen DeVries

As Myra Jean sat proofreading, she suddenly noticed Bert Bascombe eyeing her speculatively. “I wonder,” he mused. “Could you write a monthly book column? …favorites at the lending library?”

“Of course,” she answered. Myra Jean visited Hull Crossing’s library in the Episcopal Church annex once a week, but she didn’t really know any of the volunteers who operated it. “Wouldn’t the librarian want to do that?”

“Walter Cates? He’s busy writing his memoirs.  Can I count on you?”

“I could start with children’s classics… the Secret Garden, the Wizard of Oz…”

“Perfect,” said Bert. “Sort of a trial balloon.”

###

Ballooning Career by FloridaBorne

“I ordered yellow roses and a balloon as exposure treatment for her phobia!”  The intern said, hands inside his lab coat.

Frowning, Dr. Ellis replied, “Did you read her chart?”

“No need,” The intern said, looking down at a trembling young woman in a fetal position.

“On the first page it says, in bold letters, never to use exposure therapy. On the second page, it details how her husband gave her the same thing and then attempted to stab her to death. Have you considered a specialty that requires less empathy?”

Grumbling, he replied, “I like proctology better anyway.”

###

Coulrophobia by odysseyofhappiness

I admired the big red balloon tied to my wrist with a sense of love and wonder, as my father led me by the hand through the magic of the circus. It was beautiful!

We passed through a group of clowns. My eyes, filled with awe, darted from clown to clown.

Those eyes!

My attention was grabbed by Him.

The painted smile couldn’t mask what lied beneath.

No one noticed but me.

He walked slowly, never breaking his stare. Not blinking.

He pulled a comically oversized needle from his sleeve, leaned over me, not breaking his fierce gaze.

POP!

###

Social Distance by njoyslife

Ballooning over NOLA: the Mississippi, sprawling mansions, Lake Ponchartrain, parades, street fairs, festive crowds, Superdome, sculptured gardens and grand architecture form the picture from aloft. Sounds of jazz float upward as I sail above. Difficult to see below is who sleeps unconscious on Jackson Square, who lies under frayed blankets on filthy city streets, who begs or threatens for a dollar’s worth of trouble, and whose lost child rocks forward and back on a broken corner with a sign that reads ‘hungry homeless please help’. A flood of social neglect rises and does not recede with this political tide.

###

Full of Hot Air by Michael

He was so full of hot air he could have easily floated off and never be seen again.

For him, it was all about the gusto of being who he was or who he thought he was.

“BS baffles brains,” he would say, as he’d go into another tale where he humiliated some hapless soul unaware of his egotistical motives.

It came as no surprise to anyone when his balloon did bust. It was spectacular, sudden and left him a shadow of his former self. Exposed and vulnerable, his descent and flatulent self becoming a source of embarrassing ridicule.

###

The Dragon’s Balloon by Wallie & Friend

“But how can it fly without any wings?”

The young dragon looked up into Dhira’s face. Dhira knew the little dragon would never fly, not with its wings. She had found it in the woods, its weak wings fragile and undersized. Since then the old woman had cared for it.

Dhira held the balloon string between her fingers.

“It flies because of what it has inside,” she said. “Maybe you won’t fly like a balloon, little dragon, but you’ll fly in ways you never thought you could. Because you’ve got something inside you, too. You’ve got heart—and fire.”

###

Second March On by D. Avery

“Kid, guess what happened on the ranch one year ago today?”

“Ya stepped in somethin’?”

“Nope. D. Avery submitted her first ever flash fiction response.”

“Oh. So she stepped in somethin’.”

“Kid…”

“Then we showed up couple months later, right Pal?”

“Actually we were here ahead a her.”

“How kin that be? I mean I git that Shorty, Aussie, Still Waters an’ the rest of ‘em were here, but us?”

“Yep, we were here all along. Jest didn’t know it yet.”

“Huh. Guess I don’t git this writin’ thing.”

“Neither does D. Avery, but she ain’t tucked tail yet.”

***

“Speakin’ a tales, there’s a bunch a new folks writin’ ‘round the ranch.”

“Do tell.”

“Yep, reckon they come fer the prompt an’ stay for the chomp.”

“S’pose so.”

“Yep. They read, write, an’ repeat.”

“Kid, yer readin’ off the posters.”

“Yep.”

“Folks likely come by fer the same reasons we’re here.”

“Ya mean they don’t wanna real job either?”

“No! They jest wanna exchange stories by the campfire.”

“Hang out by the chuck wagon, eat up Shorty’s vittles.”

“All the raw carrots a buckaroo could want.”

“It’s all good, all right. All we want for is bacon.”

“Shush, Kid.”

###

Time to Let Go by Sarah Whiley

“Take this balloon,” Nanna began. “Its life begins much like ours. All shrivelled, until it’s filled with air and starts to grow.”

Bringing it to her lips, it slowly inflated. “Sometimes, we push too far and…”

“BANG!” I interrupted.

“Exactly,” she smiled. “Sometimes, we tie a knot, when there’s still room to grow.”

She made a pinching motion with her fingers. “But sometimes, we can hold it just right. Get a balance between the two.”

“And then what?” I asked.

She laughed, “It’s time to let go!”

Together, we watched the balloon empty and fizzle, before coming to rest.

Author’s note: Written for my beautiful nanna, Edie, who finally let go last night. May you Rest In Peace with Bill.

###

This Carrot Ranch Collection “Balloons” is dedicated to Sarah Whiley’s Nanna. May her lesson remain in all our hearts.


35 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on ladyleemanila and commented:
    ballons round-up 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. […] See the full compilation for this week’s prompt here. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. tintins says:

    Some absolutely fantastic flash fiction here! I enjoyed all of them!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Juliet says:

    I didn’t have time to read these as they were being posted but have devoured them all now. I think this could be one of the best bunches of stories so far. Loads of airy inspiration. Well done to all! 🎈

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      You have good taste, Juliet! We’ve experienced some growth spurts, and when new writers begin to feel more comfortable and playful, there’s usually a spike in creativity, too. I think this is our spike. What’s fun is that it will continue and take us all to new perspectives. (It’s my addiction, too.)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jennie says:

    These stories are a beautiful collection of balloons.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Norah says:

    It is a wonderful collection of stories, each unique, but a colourful bunch when tied together. We find strength in the combination and raise each other up like a bunch of balloons floating skyward. Sarah Wiley’s Nanna was indeed wise and we will do well to heed her words. Well done, everyone.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. I love Norah’s comment that we are a colorful bunch of balloons tied together lifting skyward. The stories were wonderful and inspirational.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. calmkate says:

    Great collection, Bill made me laugh very loudly … and we new folk are just here to eat you out of house and home 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, what a fantastic collection. Some of these so poignant, but all of them so beautifully written. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ritu says:

    Amazing entries as usual Charli!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. noelleg44 says:

    Wonderful takes, all. Balloons are things that never fail to make me smile!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. These are SO GOOD. I haven’t finished reading all yet – not by a long shot. But I will be back!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a beautiful dedication to Sarah Whilley’s beloved Nanna. So much wisdom in the balance. Fantastic compilation Charli…what a read! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Such wonderful stories this week, Charli. Every week I am amazed by the variety of the ideas.

    Like

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