Wow! When was the last time I had one of these? Busy me. I finished my next manuscript and I’m revising right now before sending it out to agents during an unsteady economic decline for publishing. I recovered from a head cold. My hockey team is on a winning streak. (YAY! The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Detroit Redwings by 7-6 on Tuesday! Ahem. Sorry, Buck.) Oh, and I’m revising my manuscript.
Okay. A fiction story. It’s been awhile. Let’s see if I have anything left in my creative juices. I am totally going freestyle with this. Forgive me, everyone.
I don’t even have a title for it. Maybe one of my readers can come up with something . . .
I stare out into the distance, the flashes of colors hypnotizing as they float in the wind. Light. Airy. One of them wanders in close. My eyes make out the head, shoulders, and legs formed in an obscene twist of bulbous plastic and squeaking parts. A giraffe. A red giraffe.
Keys rattle from my pocket as I pull them out. On the metal ring is my Swiss army knife. I flip through the attachments until I uncover the corkscrew. My arm jabs outward.
It is gone in a burst. Only a passing whiff of helium remains of the giraffe’s life. Only a ravaged piece of red plastic on the sidewalk tells of the giraffe’s death.
God. I hate balloon animals.
I blame the clowns. One clown. Uncle Roy from the Wild West Rodeo Fair I went to when I was a nine-year-old. My father thought it would be quality time to share with his kids as he got drunk on watered-down beer and got fat on corn dogs. My mother thought it was a learning experience in handling money as she purchased a booth every year to sell her handmade bric-a-bracs for ten pennies a piece and only got five cents for the three figurines she sold. I though it was just a place to smell the cow manure.
Throughout the fair stood the clowns with their large red shoes, faces painted in white makeup, and those annoying honking horns. Who had opened the doors to the asylum to make people think such so-called entertainers were amusing to children? It was a terrifying nightmare of slapstick jokes and twirling bowling pins smacking into little kids’ heads. The Rodeo had the dropouts from clown college: those who had painted a teardrop on faces as they watched their fellow classmates get their chicken diplomas and hearty handshakes hiding shock buzzer rings.
Uncle Roy. He was not my uncle. I do not believe he was anybody’s uncle. Yet he seemed everywhere at the fair. The squeaks followed him around along with the wheeled cart carrying the tank of helium gas and the giant bag filled with uninflated balloons. The whoosh sound of the gas pushed into the flexible plastic. The shuffle of hands as they folded the balloon in feverish fits. Twist. Squeak. A blue dog, he claimed as it really looked like a giraffe. Twist. Squeak. A pink cat. Yep. It looked like a giraffe.
I tried to avoid him, especially during the evening hours after Uncle Roy took a few too many swigs from his silver flask hidden in the lacy ruffles of his costume. Roy seemed determined to give a balloon creature to every kid at the fair. When he saw I was sans Animalia, the clown hurried over to remedy this.
I ran the other way past the funnel cake stand and the duck shootout game. I crawled under the stage with the creepy guy in the dress . . . or was it a lady with a beard? I climbed over the barrels used for those clowns who did not have any talent except becoming living targets for angry charging steers. My winded body leaned against the pens holding the blue ribbon winners for “Best Animals in Show.”
It came from somewhere. My head turned everywhere, searching in dread. Squeak. Twist. Squeak. I looked into the pens, seeing the horses and cows nodding off to sleep. Squeak.
My face lifted upward. There stood Uncle Roy on top of the stable roof, his hands working to make an imaginary creature from a green balloon. His body swayed, inebriated to the point of passing out, as he leaned over the roof edge.
“Here, kid. It’s a cow.”
In fear of the clown falling from his perch and breaking his neck, I climbed up on the boards to grab his creation. My left hand hit the lock for the pen door as it began to swing into the stall. The door carried me along as I slammed into the wall.
On the other side, the handcart leaning against the wall tipped over. The tank hit the ground and began to roll with a hiss. Poor drunk Uncle Roy had forgot to turn the handle and shut off the valve. The confined helium gained momentum toward the booths as it knocked the legs out from the funnel cake stand. A deep fryer tipped over, sending hot oil down over the tank and the escaping gas.
The gory details of screaming clowns with wigs on fire flash before my adult eyes. I push away those horrible memories concerning the nine-year-old in me as a happy child holding a string hops along the sidewalk. Behind her, a tied balloon animal hops in the air in a reddish orange color of overinflated body parts. She stops in front of me and points skyward.
“Look, mister. A cow!”
I gaze at the giraffe, then at my Swiss army knife, before flipping the corkscrew attachment down and shoving the key ring into my pocket. I give her a friendly pat on the head.
“Sure, kid. A flaming cow.”