The Balloon

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Frederick, a young six year old English boy, is going to have the time of his life one night as his dad tells him to do a favor for him. Go out to the store and get some groceries. Little did he know that he'd get distracted and not be able to carry out this favor, but get a balloon instead! Little does Frederick know that his world as he knows it is about to get turned upside down by the harsh reality of the situation.

Submitted: July 22, 2013

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Submitted: July 22, 2013

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“What a beautiful day”, Frederick whispered to himself as he walked down the street merrily humming a tune he had heard on the radio some time ago. This day wasn’t like any other for Frederick though as his father specifically instructed him to go to the convenient store on Third Street and pick up a few groceries. He memorized all of the groceries by heart as his content and cheerful mind was overjoyed to do. It was really something. These groceries included Zoloft, - this was Frederick’s favorite as it was quite a funny word to him – Bread, chips, some Russian Standard Vodka – Frederick didn’t know what this was, but his father reeked of it - and a bottle of Pepsi for both of them to share. Frederick’s father wouldn’t send him on such a dangerous route to the outside at all. In fact, he kept Frederick inside of the house for pretty much his entire life, but he didn’t really seem to be in the mood to go out and get the groceries this night. His father didn’t give him any money like Frederick noticed him using before ‘the event’, but his father told him it didn’t matter and to dear Frederick, it didn’t matter as well. His father had given him the largest goal he ever had to fulfill in his life and he was not going to waste this opportunity at acceptance. His father had been quite sad ever since ‘the event’ and his wife – Frederick’s mommy - had left without a trace a week ago and this was his chance to make him happy. The sky was purple tonight; Frederick’s favourite colour which added to his cheerful demeanour. He was almost at the store as well. He could hear something in the alleyways as he passed by them and they sounded loud and evil, but Frederick was a frivolous little boy. At the age of six, Frederick was smart and knew what was right and wrong. What risks he should take and what risks he should not as well. He knew that being out this late was dangerous, but his father seemed very desperate and he had to be courageous. It would certainly bring a smile to his face to see him fulfill this goal.

As he got closer and closer towards the store, he had his eyes closed humming a song and wasn’t paying very much attention to his surroundings. Poor Frederick then stumbled over something large and landed face first on the pavement ahead. After getting up, he realized it was a man, not much older than his father, lying on the ground with what looked like red paint emerging from a crack in his head. He smelled rancid like his daddy had smelled for the last few months. His father always took very good care of Frederick’s hygiene, even if it meant sacrificing his own. Frederick, of course, did not understand the circumstance and looked at the lying man with a grin on his face.

“This is no place to take a nap, especially if you were going to be painting.” Frederick said trying to pick the man up, so he tugged and tugged with all he could, but he just couldn’t do anything about it. He wanted to move the man into a place of shelter and there was a toppled over car just within his range. Sadly, he could not lift the man and thus could not shelter the man. It started raining just then, heavily. The man would surely be very sick when he awoke. Frederick shivered. He didn’t have a raincoat on and he wasn’t even sure if he or his father owned one to begin with. The man would just have to sleep there for the time being. He was too heavy to move and it was his own fault for falling asleep in a place as inappropriate as this one. Frederick’s father used to read him a story about people who lived on the sidewalks. He knew the names of these people as well. They were called ‘hobos’.

“It’s freezing. I might catch a cold.” Frederick said to himself as he scurried along to the convenient store. The rain was falling much faster and Frederick was absolutely soaked by the time he got there. It was easy for lucky Frederick to get in because the window had been smashed! The store was also very dark as well and there was only one light on at the front of the store. He crawled through and almost cut his hand on the shards of glass surrounding it.

“Wow. Lots of ouchies on the floor today. They won’t get near these hand, though!” he yelled confidently lifting his hands up to the ceiling on his knees. He confidently crawled past the doorway with ease avoiding the shards and stood up now inside of the store. It was a bit hard to manoeuver in the store for Frederick. All of the food shelves had been knocked over and wouldn’t you know it, the owner of the store was sleeping behind the cash register as well! Frederick’s father had told him when he was very little that these kinds of people that sleep on the job deserve to be fired. Sleeping on the job was intolerable! How dare someone be hired if they’re just going to be lazy and lay around? Also, more red paint had surrounded the area.

“Another painter? My goodness, a person on the job should be more responsible than this!” Frederick was cross, but he still had a job to do. It would be hard to lift the toppled shelves without the help of his father to see where each item was. Frederick coughed and gagged at the smell of the owner of the store. He smelt of onions and alcohol like daddy did whenever he was home.

“You need a bath, mister, and fast.” Frederick said grunting and tugging at the toppled over shelf. Suddenly the light at the front of the room went out and Frederick became very frightened. He moaned and groaned and curled up into a ball just like his father told him to do in a situation like this. He stood up when he could hear a great rumble happening outside. He was frightened and could not see where he was going, but he somehow made it beside the cashier/owner of the store. The smell was even more awful and poor Frederick had a little mushy rainbow on the floor which only increased the intensity of the smell. Frederick could only slightly see what was going on, but it appeared to be a man that had been captured by this herd of screaming torch wielding people as he was carried above their heads with his hands nailed to a large piece of wood that looked like a lowercase “t”. They left from his view and left Frederick feeling confused, but he quickly came to a very reasonable conclusion.

“They must be putting on a play. I think I’ve seen that large lowercase t before in a play book for something.” And with that said a small dim light in the back of the room turned on. He turned around quickly scared and what Frederick saw astounded him. What Frederick gazed upon was an all-mighty large amount of balloons. The motherload to him at least. Five or six to be exact, but they were the first balloons he had ever seen with his eyes. His father had shown him books and videos of balloons, but he himself never had the chance to feel a real balloon. And guess what? A majority of them were purple! He slowly approached the lit area full of balloons and had delved into a euphoric state at this point. He blocked out everything around him and pulled one of the balloons down to his level. He gave it a big squeeze and it was all he could ever have asked for. The sensation, the smell, the texture of the balloon was too overwhelming for him. Frederick had to have it and he had to have it now. He never realized just how much fun having the balloon in his possession was. It was like a dream come true. His eyes were large and full of light and the balloon seemed to glow because of it. It was a perfect night indeed for such a lucky boy like Frederick. On impulse, Frederick took the one perfect purple balloon out of the pile and its helium filled interior longed for the ceiling. Frederick had a good grasp so it was not going to go anywhere.

“My first ever balloon. This is very exciting!” Frederick exclaimed playing with the balloon in his hands. All of a sudden, a pipe burst in the ceiling in the middle of the store and water started to fill the surrounding area. It shocked Frederick at first because he didn’t know what it was, but his father told him water was very safe, so it caused him to giggle.

“If the water continues like this, the place will become a swimming pool, mister.” Frederick said to the owner of the store who had now fallen to the floor in a rotten disfigured mess thus ending Frederick’s trip to the store. Frederick walked right up to the broken part of the window and crawled outside still holding the balloon.

“Ouch!” He exclaimed cutting his knee on the glass lying on the floor causing the red paint to emerge from his wound. Frederick didn’t notice this however and continued with his journey home. It wasn’t raining anymore which Frederick preferred and the man on the side of the road had vanished as well. He walked a bit further looking down alleyways for trouble only to see the herd of torch bearers in one of them was nailing the painter’s hands to a giant lowercase t as well as another man that Frederick had seen before nailed to the board was screaming with tears coming down his face. Frederick’s father had told him if he was caught by these torch bearing individuals, terrible things would happen.

“REPENT, REPENT.” They chanted over and over again to the screaming man. Frederick watched from a distance with the balloon still parched in his hand as a man - Frederick assumed he was the leader - walked slowly towards the sleeping painter pouring gasoline all over him. Frederick didn’t know what to expect. A few seconds later, the man that was once on the sidewalk sleeping was in flames. Frederick thought it was a beautiful sight; he put his balloon right in front of the burning “t” and it almost looked like the balloon was on fire too. The leader of the group then turned to the other man who was still crying nailed to the “t”.

“Do you see what is before you? This demon who has been brought before you today will exist no more! His sins will fill the black heart of Satan and bring erections to many of the wicked who belong in hell! But… we are civilized people: should this man be sacrificed for the good of humanity?”

The man was screaming and pleading for the people not to but the people would look no other way! Frederick thought this was very exciting. He used to watch these kinds of thrilling movies with his father. He never thought he’d actually see one in real life!

“Burn the hellspawn! Burn the hellspawn!” the people cheered and Frederick wanted to cheer too, but he was afraid of what his father told him about these people. The leader and his followers started pouring gasoline on him and he was still crying and screaming.

THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN. THE SINNER WILL BE CLEANSED OF THIS WORLD!” and with that said, the leader struck a match and the man along with painter were ablaze. Frederick admired the balloon’s silhouette with flames arising from the back. It looked so pretty and it was really exciting for him to be witnessing this. Oh no! Frederick had wasted too much time watching this spectacle he forgot he needed to be home by the time the purple sky ended. It had been turning to red for a good twenty minutes and Frederick had no time to waste. He hurried home with the balloon in his hand happy as a clown, although he tried to not make such a ruckus past the torch bearers. Luckily for him, they didn’t notice his appearance there, so it was all okay for him. He walked past a sleeping cat with more red paint this time around its stomach.

“Now this is just getting silly. How can cats be painters as well?”

His home was in a small apartment a few blocks from the convenient store which was a lengthy walk from there to there, but a good walk nonetheless. Frederick smelled the night sky air and it was absolutely wonderful, a lot cleaner than inside the convenient store at least. His apartment was coming up just around the corner and Frederick thought the street looked so pretty with all of the cars abandoned or toppled over. There was a bench that had a tire lying next to it and a single street light trying to stay lit up as well. There it was: his apartment. It was on the ground level and was number 311; Frederick’s favourite number. He opened the door to see his father lying on the ground next to the couch with a bottle of alcohol in his hands followed by many different empty bottles of alcohol around him. The television was on loud enough that it could be heard outside, but his father was dead asleep.

“Daddy, I’m home!” his father immediately arose from his slumber and went to get his glasses next to him and he smiled at Frederick like a father would. Frederick loved that.

“Oh hello, Frederick, how’d you do at the sto-“ he said adjusting his glasses. He immediately went silent when he realized there was only a balloon in his hand. “Umm…Frederick?”

“Yes, daddy?” Frederick said standing there twirling his balloon around.

“Where the fuck are my groceries?” Oh no. He had spent too much time focusing on the balloon that he completely forgot about the chore his father told him to run. Frederick didn’t like this situation; he didn’t like it one bit. His smiled had turned upside down and he couldn’t even fathom what would happen next.

“Ummm… I’m sorry, dad.” His father hesitated with a response for a minute. His eyes started twitching and he couldn’t keep it in.

Are you fucking kidding me?! The one thing I asked you, Frederick. The ONE thing I asked you to do was to not fuck up this errand and what do you do? You fuck up it all up! Bloody fucking hell!” Frederick had let him down; he could not believe what he was hearing; how could he have been so careless? He started getting upset, his cheeks started to hurt. What was going on with him? He was terrified. For the first time in a long time since he was a baby.

“It’s because of the balloon, I’m sorry daddy!” his father suddenly stood up and walked over to him really quietly.

So…you’re saying this thing here wasted both your time and mine?! Do you have any idea how important getting that Zoloft meant to me tonight, Frederick?! I could barely fucking move today because I was so sad about what happened to your mother. Why did you not do as you were told?! Especially when people are getting murdered and are dying out there for no reason! Don’t you think that’s a good reason to take this very seriously?!”

What was this all of a sudden? What did the word “murder” mean? What did dying mean?

“Well this is what I think of your stupid balloon!” He snatched the balloon out of poor Frederick’s hands and smashed it on the ground with his foot. This made Frederick very upset and he screamed when the balloon popped. Frederick stood a distance away from his father after that next to the door and his father stared at him with a very sad expression on his face. The rest of the house smelled of alcohol and Frederick didn’t like this smell anymore.

Now I have to go out and get the groceries myse-“

“Daddy…” Frederick interrupted. His father looked down at him angrily.

What is it?! Hurry, spit it out! You’ve wasted enough time today!”

Dad what does ‘murder’ mean? Or dying?” His father was shocked; his eyes dilated and his expression turned from severely angry to very confused.

“…You mean to tell me you never knew what death or murder was?”

Frederick shook his head. His father wiped his face with a napkin in his pocket and almost started to cry. “Daddy? Is death when sleeping people or animals have red paint on them everywhere? That’s all I saw when I was walking to the store.”

“For Christ's sake. Why did this happen? I can’t believe you don’t know this yet.” The dad collapsed on the ground to his hands and knees and started sobbing. Frederick touched his father’s shoulder and started to rub it. His father looked up at him with his smiley moustache covering his sad mouth, “Death is when people sleep, but it’s like…you know…forever… and murder is when…” his father started to say, but couldn’t go any further and started to choke up.

“Is murder when people cause other people to go to sleep forever?” Frederick asked. His father nodded with his face buried in his hand and tears streaming down.

“I saw some people burn two men to death on a board shaped like a lowercase t today.” He looked up at Frederick with the saddest look he’d ever seen and buried his face once again.

“Is that what happened to mommy? Did she die because of the fire stick people out there?” His father nodded and stood up on one knee.

“I’m so sorry about all of this Frederick. I’m sorry for not telling you about this sooner. Please stay safe here. I’ll go and get the groceries. It’s okay. I’m so very sorry about overreacting before too. I’ll get you a new balloon as well. How about it?” He gave Frederick a hug and then looked at him straight in the eye. “This is a crazy messed up world we live in now and I’ve been a bad father to you for a while now, but I promise we’ll make this bleak world a better place. I promise.”

He then left the house stumbling in a half drunken mess.

“Goddamn red sky…” he muttered to himself as he stumbled into a streetlight. Frederick stood there next to his broken scattered purple balloon reliving all of the happy memories he had with it, and just happy memories in general. It didn’t mean anything anymore. He could almost see the flaming silhouette of the balloon in front of the burning dead men. That’s what upset him the most now. He realized those people were in a severe amount of pain, but all he had done was stare at them in wonder. What kind of person would Frederick be seen as now after an act of disillusionment such as that? No longer a carefree individual, that’s what. 

That’s when he burst into tears just like the men nailed to the “t”. 


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