Red Balloon

Red Ballon

I was once walking to the cemetery at the end of the street, in the snow. The red balloon first caught my attention. The little boy, whose hand held the balloon string, did not seem cold, even though his breath materialized in swirly clouds in front of him.  The snow came down steadily and it crunched beneath my boots. The boy was looking straight up at the sky. “What are you looking at?” I asked. “I’m waiting for the sky to fall” he said. I looked up and saw a blank gray canvas. “Don’t be silly,” I said, “The sky fell once before, it’s not likely to happen again.” He looked at me then. “Like chickenpox?” he said. I looked down at him and saw his lips were bright from the cold and his nose was red. Tiny snowflakes frosted his eyelashes. I kneeled down so that I came face to face with him. He tilted his head to the side, considering me. I noticed he was not wearing a jacket, just a long sleeve shirt and pants that were too short. My fingers tingled with the desire to push the damp hair off his forehead, to take him home and wrap him in a blanket, a warm bowl of soup in his little hands. “Yes, like chickenpox” I whisper. He nodded once and left me there, kneeling. I stood and continued to the cemetery. As I paid my respects, something in the sky caught my eye. The red balloon. Floating away from me, just like my little son, gone where I can’t follow.

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