Balloon and Jukebox

She would name the balloon Clarice. She always thought she should have been named Clarice. Perhaps in another life. Clarice was yellow. She decided that Clarice should go on a journey. She would open the window and let her out. She drew a window onto the wall in black marker. She opened it. She wondered how far Clarice would go. Would she pop? Get tangled in tree branches? Get clipped by a Boeing? Would she make it to the moon? To Borneo? To Mars? Wasn’t Borneo on Mars? There had been rumors…

Anything was possible. Especially when you couldn’t see it. Close your eyes. Anything is possible. Whenever she opened her eyes, the dream ended. Or started again, in a different way.

She drew a face on Clarice. Using the same black marker she had used to draw the window. Then she made up the face. Green eye shadow. Black eyeliner. Red lipstick. Clarice looked delightfully grotesque. A beautiful monster.

She kissed Clarice. Opened the window. Clarice floated away. She, Claudia, melodramatized a tearful farewell, furiously waving goodbye, pantomiming the embroidered handkerchief which alternated between wiping at her imaginary tears (that somehow became real) and blowing her nose.

Claudia immediately missed Clarice. She thought of all the memories they would no longer make, she thought of the absence that would take the place of allied lives. Claudia felt sad. Regretful. I shouldn’t have sent her away. That was foolish of me. Impulsive. Now, nostalgia. Now, nostalgia, becoming the jukebox in her heart that played only sad tunes. That would be a great idea for a story.

Claudia perked up. Removed her notebook from the drawer, picked up a pencil, wrote neatly on a blank page—A jukebox that plays only sad tunes.

Claudia closed the notebook. She had forgotten about Clarice. Claudia saw herself, a young woman with a lush white camellia in her hair, entering a cantina in Mexico. She pushed through the dusty beads of the doorway. The beads rattled. Claudia thought of fanged baby snakes. She went to the counter. There were men seated at the counter. Heads turned. Hungry glimpses hoping to own pieces of the young woman with the lush white camellia in her hair. Claudia imagined them, heat-shamed men, stubbly, dust-bitten, and she, the young woman, both innocent and haughty, walked over to the blue jukebox situated in the corner.

I remember you, she smiles at the jukebox, stroking its side as if it were a hulking cat. As a child, my heart conceived you. You are here now. Except I am not here, now. Not yet. One day. And when that day came she would, with directives reaching her from a vague and dreamy past, reach into her pocket, produce a coin, and feed it into the slitted mouth of the blue jukebox, selecting Elvis’s “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Claudia, at present, swayed in her room as “Heartbreak Hotel” followed her from the frontiers of the future. Merger was inevitable. Clarice was a lost, forgotten balloon, a yellow quotation among so many clouds, and one day a miracle rain restoring Claudia to that room on the second floor, overlooking the town square, and then that bridge, from childhood to motherhood, and her daughter, June, to whom she had gifted a balloon from the fair, and told June to let it go, just let it fly away, and June crying that she didn’t want to lose her balloon, and Claudia insisting—But life, June, this is life, we must learn how to lose what we love—and yes, June, I know you thought I was a cruel and merciless monster, and perhaps I am, but to be able to let go is the greatest lesson one can have in this life, and I took no pleasure, none at all, in watching that red balloon sail away from us, growing smaller and smaller, as your cried you eyes out, it broke my heart listening to you sob, and I held you, said nothing, I held you and held you and what could I do but hold you, my little girl, my Clarice, my childhood…

About John Biscello

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, performer, and playwright, John Biscello, has lived in the high-desert grunge-wonderland of Taos, New Mexico since 2001. He is the author of four novels, Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, Nocturne Variations, and No Man’s Brooklyn; a collection of stories, Freeze Tag, two poetry collections, Arclight and Moonglow on Mercy Street; and a fable, The Jackdaw and the Doll, illustrated by Izumi Yokoyama. He also adapted classic fables, which were paired with the vintage illustrations of artist, Paul Bransom, for the collection: Once Upon a Time, Classic Fables Reimagined. His produced, full-length plays include: LOBSTERS ON ICE, ADAGIO FOR STRAYS, THE BEST MEDICINE, ZEITGEIST, U.S.A., and WEREWOLVES DON’T WALTZ.
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