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Up, Up And Away

By Kenneth Pobo


Jerry eats salted pretzels and watches an Everybody Loves Raymond rerun.  He wants a chocolate doughnut, but Jeff says, too many times now, joking, “That’s quite a spread you’re puttin’ on there.”

He’s one to talk.

Jerry no longer finds it odd when Jeff rises on a hot air balloon from just beyond the porch.  He floats over the rooftops, up beyond the old folks home, and then out of sight.

Wouldn’t you like to glide in my beautiful balloon?

No, sometimes I prefer Jeff when he’s floating away.  He returns with such interesting stories, like the one about the North Dakota farmer burying gold coins in his wheat field or the one about a Shreveport woman standing on a hotel roof and shouting, “I’m Elizabeth Taylor.  Can anyone help me?”

No one could.

Jeff offers Jerry rides.  “It’s free!  You’ll love it!”  But Jerry prefers a couch and a good book.  Even a bad book.  Clouds have their place—overhead, not with heads in them.  Fifty years old and he’s never flown.

“I‘ll die before I enter one of those flying cough drops,” he says.  But Raymond and Marie aren’t listening.  Marie is mad at Deborah.  Robert looks like a sack of potatoes left in the snow.  This is his real family.  Well, Jeff is family too.  Twenty years is a free pass to Family Land.

Usually, he loves Jeff.  Always he loves Jeff.  But he doesn’t like him all the time.  A Zogby pollster interviewed a sample of the millions of Jerry’s crowding into their house.  The current numbers are 55% like Jeff, 35% are too irritated to answer, and 10% think such questions should be decided by TV evangelists.

Jeff’s balloon flights only last a few hours.  Currents sweep him easily and quickly from America to Thailand to Egypt and back again.  He sneaks Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups on board.  If Jerry knew, he’d….

He likes getting away, not just from Jerry, but from his job where he puts numbers in one column, works a machine, divvies up numbers in another column, and it means something.  He wishes he had a name like Alain Robbe-Grillet, but he’s Jeff Jones.   He accounts.  But he also dashes up in the invisible balloon and sees very visible things.

Why won’t Jerry join me, he thinks.  Is he bored with me or does he love Raymond more than me?  No, that would be too incestuous.  It’s hard getting Jerry to talk.  When he does, he spurts lines from poems: “It is impossible to say just what I mean!” or “After great pain, a formal feeling comes.”  What the hell is THAT supposed to mean?

How hard to live with someone who is half rerun, half lit course.  Then again, Jerry keeps their treasured Depression-era glass sparkling and he writes little love notes that he sticks in the Sports section.  That must be why the balloon keeps returning—even though, like the Wizard, he doesn’t know how to steer it.

Not much can be steered.  Try and try and the balloon has a mind of its own.  It must be God or maybe John Lennon.  “The dead can steer invisibly”—his mom told him that when his grandfather died.  She was good with balloons, too. 

Another landing.  Safe.  Dusk light pinks the butterfly bush.  White cabbage moths kip from blossom to blossom.

“Hi Jerry.”

“Hi Jeff.”

“I missed you.  You were gone several hours.”

“Really?  When I’m up there, time drops off.  I watch it fall back to Earth.”

“Wouldn’t a watch help?”

He just doesn’t get it.

“Watches die when time leaps out of the balloon, Jerry.  They feel useless, like bobby pins on a mannequin’s skull.” 

A quiet jumps between them and curls up, purring.  While dinner makes itself, Jeff and Jerry fall asleep, shoulder-to-shoulder on the love seat.  A clutter of dreams fills the room.  Thank heavens they hired Mandy, a cleaning woman who is thorough and can scrape a dead dream off of any surface.

The balloon is gone now.  Others need it.  Some prefer night rides, braving the chill and darkness.  Jeff and Jerry have work tomorrow—a few tasks to do before bed like put a new light bulb in the porch and leaf through the coupons for Wentwood’s “Mad Monday” kitchen appliance sale.  Kisses.  Dreams.  Morning stepping over the fence, barging in through the door and whining for coffee, Chock Full O Nuts if possible.

 

 

Kenneth Pobo has a new book of poems out from Word Press called Glass Garden. His stories can be read at Galleon, Bent Pin, Word Riot, and elsewhere.


Photo: Balloon, courtesy of Damian Brhel, Prague, Czech Republic,

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