Red Balloon

A balloon on the water in early evening, red bobbing on grey, fragile in spite of its fullness. Was there a child crying somewhere who had held onto it all day, proud at a picnic or party, mouth open in disbelief as a stray gust of wind tugged at it, pulling it up into the sky and skimming it out onto the water?

‘My balloon,’ he would have cried. ‘My red balloon.’

Did it come instead from one of the houses on the hill, dressing up a balcony, standing with its other red brothers and sisters beside a sign that said “Welcome to our new home”; proud and celebratory until the wind once again took it – mischievous, looking for a little bit of trouble – spiralling it down and down like a staircase until it reached the water?

Perhaps the real story is that it came from a boat. A boat with sails sweetened by sunshine, a boat holding two people gripped by happiness, held tight by love. They have been drinking champagne. There is a ring, roses and balloons. The ring gleams in the early autumn light, still bright in spite of colder days.

There is a woman, smiling. Her joy reaching out in glimmers across the water. The man who gave the ring and the promise of happy days is asleep. The woman sits, her eyes rising and falling with the waves, contemplating the future. She holds a rose, letting if fall amongst the waves, a gift to the gods of the sea, a hope her happiness will be as sweet as she wishes.

Whimsically, encouraged by the wind and the laughter of the children still playing beneath the fig trees, the woman throws one of her balloons – a red one – out onto the water.  For a moment she worries it will burst, fearful for birds and fish, that they are scared of it; that they choke on it. But the balloon dances before steadying itself, ruby in the waning light, unthreatening, noticeable as a grinning face.

The woman and the man leave the bay in their boat; together perhaps forever. The balloon remains, alone now but unworried as it waits – speckled by the lights from the bridge – to join in the games of mermaids.

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26 thoughts on “Red Balloon

  1. Hi Selma,
    Really nice. I am always amazed at your writing, you see a balloon in the water and look at the wonderful story’s you have came up with, you are amazing. 🙂

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    1. I have seen it, Squirrel. It’s an excellent film. A lot of teenage kids worry about nuclear meltdown. Not so much about nuclear war, which is interesting. I think they’ve grown up seeing reactors aren’t maintained and so on, that the earth is increasingly unstable in an environmental sense and they worry as a result. I’ll try and convince him to post it. It is very good but quite bleak. Kids know much more than we give them credit for. You should hear my son and his friends go on about the bankers. Taught me a thing or two!

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  2. Thanks for letting us join in on your creativity Selma. Our youngest never wants a balloon. He is too afraid that it will leave and end up like the red one…

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    1. That is the problem with balloons, Slamdunk. They are flighty things. My son lost a helium one at a party when he was about four. It was all fancy with gold and silver bits and red stripes and he let it go. He screamed like he had lost a limb or something as it rose up and up into the sky. After that I always tied helium balloons onto his wrist 😀

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  3. Oh you romantic you! I’m actually picturing that woman on the boat – and she is a looker, red headed and in a sarong that shows off her long legs and… (lost in lust) – and wish I was the man she was with. Nice pic of the red balloon (remember that song 99 Red Balloons?). In Kerala it might be a balloon or it could also be something that when blown up looks like a balloon but is not used for that purpose!

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    1. I used to be able to sing ’99 red balloons’ in German. I did it as a challenge. Learnt the whole thing. I can hardly remember it now. Thought I’d share that meaningless piece of my life’s trivia with you. Haha 😆

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  4. Selma,
    I so enjoyed the tale you wove by seeing that red balloon in the water. Your imagination is on fire like the red of that balloon. It made my evening to read this.

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  5. All that from one red balloon 🙂 So whimsical and carefree Selma – my flights of fancy are always in the other direction (morbid rumination I think they call it) – maybe I should actively try your approach – the result is so much more palatable.

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    1. Believe me, Gabe, I lapse into the morbid at times too. I try and talk myself out of it because I want to stay in the light as much as possible these days. It’s hard to do but I force myself. I like a bit of whimsy. It’s quite freeing. Whimsy and silliness really keep me going !!

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    1. I didn’t think anyone read the tags, Bluebee. Sometimes I write quite silly ones, I must admit. I think I am not fully appreciating the purpose of tagging 😉

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  6. Oh this is wonderful Selma, and so beautifully written. I love the way you see and interpret the world around you. xx

    PS. That ending in particular is glorious.

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  7. Of course it came from a boat! Awesome little bit of imaginative writing there Selma.Doesnt even have to flesh out into a short story to be good, and make us see. Nicely written as always

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