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The Red Balloon


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The tender night smiled fondly upon the red balloon and the moon let it pass easily by lighting the path before it with its radiance. The wind was swift but gentle and urged the balloon to continue on its journey. Darting in between clouds the stars showered sweet warmth on its back and lifted the balloon higher. The faint smell of rain lingered in the air and left nostrils damp and moist, refreshing for a summers night. Looking down the red balloon winked and delighted his eyes with its glimmer propping his hat stiffly onto his head the man looked upon the buoyant red balloon and smiled.
He sat gently on the park bench feeling weary of its dilapidated state. The dark ash of the bench was coated and covered in tiny pieces of vibrant green moss. He sat alone and pondered whilst looking out at all that surrounded him. The pungent scent of grass tickled his senses and made him shiver. He remembered looking out over lush planes of grass filled with flowers full of honey-sweet nectar. Bees would swarm and gather as much of the pollen as they could, their pointy stings ready and alert. His father would wave to him from the river his wrinkled face imprinted with age and wisdom. He had tiny strands of thin and grey hair that stood up from its roots and yellow stained teeth that warmed his smile. Now, though that remained a distant memory too long ago to remember. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe his father didn’t have grey hair. Maybe his father was younger then he pictured. It was too hard to remember.
Dawn set over the abandoned park and the man closed his eyes soaking in the rich flush of morning light. He lifted his hat off and sighed. The sunflowers rose and greeted the sun. Their golden petals shimmered and shone against the pond in the background. Opening his eyes he gazed out beyond the park looking at the urban city that surrounded him. A hideous gust of smog and smoke surrounded the highest buildings casting a dome of darkness upon them. People walked only inches away from another, looking at other empty faces aimlessly. Music from the traffic congested his ears and filled his mind with thoughts of his first time arriving into the city. Young and naive he had come looking for a job as an artist instead he washed stained plates and mopped floors that could never be clean. Dirt washed over dirt and nothing could come uncontaminated, not in a city like this. The dirt clouded his mind and his memory failed him once more.
A bird twittered perched high above the ground in an old oak tree full of jade leaves that tousled and fell when the breeze gently touched it. A tiny trail of insects crept up the bark and flaked tiny pieces off they continued on with the job at hand. On the bark the insects left markings so intricate that they could not be reconstructed. The pond twinkled and a few bugs flew above the surface of the water, other bugs jumped from section to section. The cobalt blue of the water was strange for the summer season and yet so mesmerising to admire. The winters as a young adult in his hometown were filled with cobalt blue lakes frozen solid by harsh, stormy nights. The thick lashings of snow pilled around his home like whipped cream. A gust of confusion shook him and the man grabbed his hat and began to walk.
Following a pathway covered in seeds and acorns he saw a beetle with emerald coloured wings flying above his head. He stopped and watched in amazement as it whizzed past. Its flying was erratic and haphazard but beautiful at the same time. The leaves on the ground were soft and jade, unlike the autumn leaves that once crunched and crinkled beneath his feet. He couldn’t walk quite as fast as he use to and his right leg had a slight limp when he had to bend his knee. The sun shone brighter and hung lower in the sky. He looked up and admired its beauty. The clouds were fragile and pure white above him. A crystal blue sky gazed upon him as if it were waiting for him to stop looking. It reminded him of parched meadows where he had once laid. The itch from the grass and the flies that landed on his face and licked at his clammy skin. The blue sky would gleam down and comfort him through the worst. When his mother died he would run out to the meadows swinging the broken and rusty gate as he left. He would run as fast as he could and soak in the dry air that contrasted again the sticky sweat he perspired. His mother was a distant memory that too was long forgotten. He could not even remember he face or her voice. She was gone.
He began walking again, down a track that was faint and unkempt on either side of him a bush filled with delicately scented flowers grew. The breeze quickened its pace, tapped his skin lightly and whisked the scent up into the air. The sticks on the ground nestled into empty spots and avoided being tread on and broken. A faint aroma of baked bread tickled in his nose and sank into his mouth. Lunch had been his favourite meal but he found he no longer had the appetite to eat lunch. Fingering his pocket watch he felt the smooth and cold gold casing slip through his fingers and land back into its place, huddled in his breast pocket. Engraved on the upper right corner was a message from his grandfather who had once been a watchmaker. His hat sat firmly on his head and made him sweat tiny beads that were soaking in the patch of hair that remained. His hands felt rough against the smooth feeling of his hair and he let them fall beside him. His daughter had once held his hands when she was a young girl. When she was first born she was a minute and pink figure. At the sight of her, a smile would erupt from his face and fill him with a rich feeling that left him weak. Her sweet bright blue eyes would smile back as if to say the feeling was mutual.
There were some moments he would try to hold onto for as long as he could and she was one of them. Although all the other memories had faded she remained constant and strong. He turned a left towards an empty plane of grass that had a giant willow tree with sweeping arms. Looking at it the form of two long arms could be made out of the branches; it looked like it was about to hug someone with its arms outstretched. He headed towards a slate of cement that was rough at the edges and cracked. As he went he gently bent down and picked a few stray daisies that had sprung from the muddy ground. When he pulled them out they let out a silent cry and hung their petals low. Making sure to keep them as intact as he possibly could, he gradually stood up and continued walking. The flowers felt flimsy and delicate in his hands and he held them a little less tightly in his fist. He stooped before the cement slab and gently placed the flowers before his daughter’s grave. Smiling once more he felt a tiny thud against his head and found a red balloon caught in the willows arms above him its tail flicked him in his eye. He picked the balloon out carefully and placed it on the grave securing it with a dense rock that puckered at the corners. When the task was done he stood up and walked away glancing back and remembering all that he could. He knew he would spend the rest of his life replaying the memory over and over again just so that he could see her, even if for a short while.



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