It was the balloon that seemed most absurd, dangling like an errant pin in the blue fabric of the sky.  Rising. The rest was there, of course, but funny enough, it was the balloon that held most of his attention.

“Kiss the kids for me.”

It had started as a joke, long before the children.

He’d known the moment the wind caught him that this was the one.  Even knowing, though, his every cell screamed to try to do something about it.  Reverse it.  Rewrite.  Fly.  Lift, like the balloon.

“Big, wet kisses,” she had replied, giving him her mischievous smile.

He knew it would haunt her now, her addition to their ritual.  She was superstitious that way.  He wished he could tell her she hadn’t jinxed it.

The first time he’d seen her had been a sticky night in July or August.  The month hadn’t stayed in his memory.  The heat, though, that stuck.  Everything stuck that night.  His costume, his hair to his brow, small discarded paper tickets along the path.  She seemed the only thing untouched by the hot liquid air.  Like a spider gliding along her web, she’d danced and amazed.  He hadn’t been able to tear his eyes away.

“I don’t date walkers,” she’d said in her refusal.  “Think of the children,” she’d added with that wicked gleam in her eye.

He thought of the children.  Curls.  Soft hands.  Laughter.  Oh, laughter.  That sound that dances in through your ears and floods you with unending joy, bubbling out through your lips to meet its true master.

“You haven’t given me a chance at children,” he’d countered.  “But when you do, it will be well worth it.”

It had been the right thing to say.

“Using a net undermines the art.”

Not many understood, but she did.

“It’s the reason why I love you,” she said.

“The only one?”

He loved to awaken the mischief within her.  Her reply, though, was sober and thoughtful.

“Not many in this world are willing to give everything for their art.”

“I am,” he said.  “Life has no safety nets, why should art?  And now that you are my life, I’d go with a smile on my face.”

“Fat lot of good that would do me,” she teased.

“It would, though,” he said.  “That smile would be my promise to you.  That my life was full, because of you and the children, and because I honored my art with everything I had to give.  And that I’ll always be here for you, this world or the next, lifting you up when you think you might fall.”

She gave him a look of warning.  They didn’t say that word.

“If you manage that,” she said at last, “then I’ll know it’s true.”

“You’ll know what is true?”

“Everything.”

The wire looked so thin from here.  A guitar string, still humming with the pluck of his final note.  The balloon was nearly out of sight now beyond the crowns of the buildings above.

“It’s true,” he said.

And he smiled.

Written by W. C. McClure www.wcmcclure.com.  This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure.  Comments are welcome at www.farsideofdreams.com. Oh, and if you want to show your support, tell your friends – and pick up a copy of “The Statues of Azminan” by W. C. McClure.  Thanks!

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