Free, Free, Eee, Ack

“I’m free, I’m free” yelps the little balloon, joyfully.

Up, up and away he flies.

A crisp October morning. Blue skies.

“Let’s go north, let’s go north”.

But, the wind has other plans.

South he blows. Away from the irrigated, green fields of the North Valley and the Rio Grande River. Away from the lavender fields of Los Poblanos and the calm beauty of Corrales.

“Wait, wait,” he says. They told me to go north. I’m never supposed to go south. Or worst of all, east. Mountains.

Towards the Shell station he blows. Up and over the Frontage Road, the Target parking lot, and then, the thing he’s been warned about all along… the freeway. Cars swerve below as distracted motorists attempt photos while driving.

“More heat, more gas,” he gasps. Oh, no, he worries, they’ll never let me fly alone again.

A traffic jam has formed below. Cars stop on the freeway, waiting to see where he might land. A child in the backseat of a minivan waves.

Other balloons are heading his way. He’s not alone.

One last push and he makes it to the median. A grassy space just big enough for a basket and a deflating balloon.

His chase crew’s truck is near. The walkie-talkie crackles. A family pulls over and asks to take a photo with him.

“Sure,” he smiles. As the family piles out of their station wagon, his crew’s truck arrives. “That was close,” they say.

And just as he hopes that mom and dad will never know, he looks up to see them floating by.

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