The Balloon

by | Feb 23, 2023 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

and grabbed the silver ribbon of the heart

The day had not gone well for him. After an hour and a half of trying to log into the Wi-Fi and to top that his entry card still didn’t work. How on earth was this University of the Year?

Frustrating as it was, the challenging technology problem scratched the surface of his tender wounds. Another online rant while sitting on packed Metro on the radgie route had given him that diluted, washed-out feeling.

He was a bloodless corpse tangled in the reeds, a pickled brain standing on a school laboratory shelf. Lifeless, listless, and useless.

How had this become so negative? Where were the joy, the pleasure, and the stability? He walked along the paradoxical street, with its old shops, selling beds, sofas, and kitchens on one side. A stark contrast to the modern, glass structures of the University buildings opposite.

          The last shining cube of this terrace of all things academic was The Business Clinic. He smiled at his own reflection in the smoked glass of the clinic, her place, where she studied. It is ironic that it was such named, the place where the most beautiful, troubled woman he had ever met found salvation in education.

          He turned the corner and entered the new university campus, built on the site of two former cinemas and a goods yard that had been heavily bombed during the war. The two futuristic buildings wrapped around a narrow quadrangle which was also the pathway to the old campus. The latter was accessed by a footbridge over the Central Motorway. As he approached the footbridge, populated by a cosmopolitan mix of young people and crisscrossed by a fleet of takeaway delivery cyclists, he had that feeling again. Déjà vu. Only his version was clearer. Not the feeling that immediately past events had occurred previously, but that they were being played out in front of him. He saw them, on the far side of the bridge, two young women hugging several large helium balloons, of the kind one buys at the Card Factory. Each one was different, jostling for position in the clutches of the girls. He didn’t see the first one, he felt him as he brushed past his ear on an electric bike, silent and dangerous. He carried a large cube on his back with the logo of the delivery company printed on it.

          Like having double vision, he could see events unfolding on two timelines, several seconds apart. Closing his eyes, he stopped and tried to focus. When he opened them, he saw the cyclist weave past the girls, causing the unruly inflatables to jump around in their arms. He sensed the second offender before he arrived and saw him catch the smaller woman a glancing blow, knocking the large pink heart out of her grasp. The balloon immediately shot into the air and vanished into the cityscape to the horror of the two students. Pulling back to the present, he rushed forward just as the Uber Eats rider past him. They were all at the same point on the bridge. As the cyclist caught the girl, he leaped forward and grabbed the silver ribbon of the heart as it left her arms before the inflatable could blow out of reach.

          “Oh, my God. That was incredible. How did you do that?” The girl cried as he handed her the balloon.

          “A gift,” he replied.

2 Comments

  1. Ken Childs

    Beautifully descriptive as usual.

    Reply
  2. Brian Forster

    Thanks Ken! You’re very supportive🙏

    Reply

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