The Pink Balloon by David Drury

My daughter chooses blue, but the balloon man talks her into pink. A helium-filled latex teardrop bouncing at the end of a long string at the end of a long afternoon brining in the smells of the county fair. The newspaper said today might be the day—the birth of a foal in the horse barn. My daughter has pinned her hopes on it.  We walk past the haunted house advertising room and board for lost souls. “When souls are lost,” my daughter asks, “how do we find them again?” Her balloon passes in front of the sun, and I see that it is not entirely empty and may in fact be pulsing. We return to the balloon man, who does not share my concerns. “Oh, that’s nothing,” he says, “and please don’t insult my intelligence by using the word fetus.” He looks past me and speaks to my daughter. “It’s nothing, honey. But if it is something, you can’t do anything to it. No yanking, thumping, punching, popping or letting go.” The sunlight coming through the balloon throws a shadow puppet of living pink light and bustling corpuscles across two ladies in wheelchairs in the smoking pen. “Hear about that baby horse?” says one to the other. “It got born?” asks the other. “What? It did?” asks the first. The balloon slips its string, bows slightly our way and drifts away, low over the handwashing station, bobbing above the sea of heads down the promenade. I steer my daughter into a long line to console her loss with sub-frozen treats. Word spreads like panic—something is happening in the horse barn. The line we are in clears out and we are faced with a choice. New life or science-based ice cream?

David Drury lives in Seattle, Washington. His fiction has been broadcast on National Public Radio, published in Best American Nonrequired Reading, and is forthcoming in Scablands Books, Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, and ZYZZYVA. He has been kicked out of every casino in Las Vegas.

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