The Human Balloon
This was written to a prompt. He has a dangerous job that she considers an obstacle to their marriage. But, in this short, funny, sweet, sad story, his job ends up bringing them closer together.
The Human Balloon
By Christopher James
Janosch tried to leave, but Sarolta held his arm. She was shy, so she made puppy-dog eyes big enough to turn everything into a joke. She spoke in a baby-girl voice. “It’s not safe. Pwease don’t weave.”
Janosch pretended the big eyes and small voice were funny, laughed. “You!” he said. “Honey Crab Apple, you know my audience awaits. Folks from far and near have traversed the London Underground to see me. I have to go. This is my calling. I’ll be back for lunch.”
He left her grip, wedged his big feet into big shoes, and blew her a kiss leaving. Slowly, sadly, she caught the kiss, tucked it next to her heart where she could keep it tight until he returned.
“Wait!” she said, when only his backside was still inside the room. Always the drama-queen. “Janny. It’s too hard.”
He counted a beat. “I have to go.” He tried to sound harder than he felt. “It’ll be okay, Sarinator. Back soon, like always.”
“Ladies and Ungentlemen! Don’t be Afeared! I don’t bite! Please, step a little nearer, make me look popular. My name is Janosch. The Human Balloon.”
Janosch was at Covent Garden, taking the half hour between the Unicycling Contortionist and the Disappearing Glaswegian. “Folks, I’m a-gonna fill my skin with helium from my special machine. I’m a-gonna float up in the air, above your heads. You’re a-gonna be flabbergasted and amazed, ladies and gents. Then you’re a-gonna put your hands in your pockets, take out your money, fold it in half, drop it in my hat.”
Janosch spieled for ten to build up a crowd. He plugged his special machine into his belly-button. A thin layer of helium filled his skin, bloated him up like a balloon, lifted him in the air. He hollered a couple of jokes. He squeezed his belly, releasing the helium, and sank back to earth. He made a decent wage, enough to last the week, and returned to Sarolta.
“See,” he said, his voice still high. “I told you I’d be back.”
Sarolta was on the floor, half dead.
She had water on the brain. She almost died. Doctors gave her steroids, which swelled her face, giving her fat hamster-cheeks. ”I’m ugly,” she said.
“You’re beautiful,” Janosch told her.
“I look like a whoopee cushion.” She cried. “You should leave me,” she said. There were no big puppy-dog eyes. It wasn’t a joke. “You shouldn’t be with an ugly monster.”
She forced Janosch out the room, had the doctors promise to keep him away. She came from a family who’d martyred themselves to love. This was her calling.
Janosch tried to get in the room many times, but the doctors held their promise to keep him out. He had to fill himself with helium before he could see Sarolta again. He floated up to her window, knocked on the glass. “See,” he said, when she opened the window. He was smiling.
“Now we both look like whoopee cushions.”