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Balloon Boy

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His ten-year old lungs ached with the pain of deflation. Not, as an onlooker might assume at first, because of the effort it takes to inflate hundreds of balloons. His father’s supply of helium, “A mainstay of witless clowns like Dad” he thought, overlooking the pile of spent cans, had been put to better use. Straining against the rickety wood preventing their ascent, each balloon lay in wait.


Sunlight’s glint on the topmost bottle announced the break of dawn. Like a chick emerging from the confines of its shell, the sun peeped over the plain, streaming into every orifice of the every house in the neighborhood except his father’s room. His father had shrouded himself in secrecy, darkness, and dark blue curtains, all of which, having drank the seltzer from the flower fastened to his lapel, he was currently languishing in.
Plenty of time to make his getaway to a new life. The absurdity of the situation, of running away from the circus instead of to one struck the boy as he was lowering the planks that grounded his vessel into the loamy ground. “Then again”, the boy thought, “most circuses aren’t run by abusive drunks”. That would all change, he reassured himself, when he set off to find a new family. The family hadn’t taken a concrete form yet, being mostly constructed from what little bits of a normal family he’d gleaned from Full House reruns that would blare through the house at three in the morning. The radiation of the screen illuminated his father’s pale frame, a living decomposing corpse speckled with the moths the light attracted. The monotone laugh track and the syrupy music would lull him back to sleep twenty-two minutes after he’d reminded his father that he had school tomorrow and could he please turn it down, and twenty-one minutes and thirty seconds after his studiousness had been rewarded with a slap. The slap that had set his cheek on fire set an idea ablaze. One he had had in the back of his head and had thought would remained there, in perpetual darkness like his father.


This was the day he escaped. Climbing into the wicker basket and unhooking the tent poles holding him down, he felt an urge to whoop with joy, then decided against it, fearing being discovered. Relishing the unbroken silence, he drifted off into the rising sun.




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