The balloon that got away

I had just finished stringing the balloons to benches and tree branches when the troika came. Each carrying a little gift and some obvious enthusiasm, they surveyed our multicolored, propped-up front lawn.

After placing their wrapped birthday presents for my daughter on a table near the imitation brick-gate entrance, Monmon, Pingping and Dana formed into a huddle.

Then giggled. And exchanged high fives.

Soon they did Rock-paper-scissors.

From where I was, I could see that they were plotting something sinister. Similar perhaps to what a raging bull might do in a china shop.

I eyed the kids with suspicious interest. Next moment a voiced warning rang from my lips. “No running around the place,” I said. “If you do, I'll catch you and make you sit in one corner for the rest of this century.”

The kids looked at me, then winked knowingly at each other.

I went inside the house, nodding my head.

Up, Up and Away

It's either that the knot broke loose or the string snapped. Whatever.

Back on the lawn the next moment, I watched helplessly as one balloon took off. Sailed past the trees. Floated up, up and away. Until it shrank into a small speck in the afternoon sky - then vanished altogether from sight.

Close by, three repentant kids stood frozen, looking upward like they'd just seen an apparition.

Pleading Guilty

It's not worth much, one lost balloon, but it meant that one kid would have to go home without an oxygen-inflated trophy.

I decided that somebody should be responsible.

I approached the little children. “Didn't I tell you not to play near those balloons?” I said, looming over them.

Silence. The three kids glanced at each other, then looked down, probably searching for safe answers on the green lawn. Minutes ago, they were masses in perpetual motion, and you could never get them to keep still even for one nanosecond. Now they were as motionless as a trio of owls caught in a floodlight.

“Well, who's fault was it?” I pressed.

“I am to blame,” Dana finally confessed, her head bowed low. “I tripped into it.”

Good answer. But it didn't shoo the problem away. Still, the balloons were one less than the number of children we had invited. “Dana, you won't have a balloon. Yours was the one that just got away,” I decreed.

That set Pingping to thinking. Her eyes twinkling, she asked, “Haven't you got an extra balloon?”

“We have,” I said.

Monmon butted in. “Could Dana then have one of those extras?”

That is possible, I told the kids, if only we don't have extra, uninvited guests!

“Well,” Dana sighed, “if that's the case it's fine with me.”

I felt guilty about having to deny Dana some simple pleasures a preschooler could derive from getting a birthday balloon.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Wouldn't you feel bad about not having a balloon?”

“Not at all.”

Balloon for God

Then one of them, I can't remember now who, thought of an out-of-the-blue suggestion. “Maybe the balloon that got away will go to heaven.”

“What…heaven? Really?” I said, surprised at the fresh kiddy perspective.

“Sure!” they said. “And if it does, God will find and get it. And God will know that today is Frances' birthday!”

“Is that so?” I asked.

“Yes,” the threesome burst into a chorus, their shrill voices rising in a crescendo.

I smiled. I began to imagine God peeping down from a window in His throne-room and parting the clouds just to watch a kiddy birthday party unfold. I also recalled His claims in His Word, the Bible. Claims about His knowing even the number of hairs in our heads. About His great concern toward an insignificant, falling sparrow - and greater concern toward stubborn, fallen man.

But would God keep tab of one child's birthday? The three kids were pretty sure He would.

And I had better take their plain word, their innocent, trusting word. I did. Yes.

Arts | Fiction | Short Stories


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