Pity the poor balloon seller seriously considering a vasectomy due to the horrors of his job. Every weekend at party upon party he witnesses the worst behaved children imaginable, miniature armies of spoilt Jaydens and Callistas whose parents are seriously trying to raise them without ever using the word 'no', lest it damage their rampaging egos.
He has been punched in the testicles by a four year old boy for not inflating a giant lion balloon fast enough. He has stood agog as asix year old girl spat at her mother because she wanted 'af reaking rainbow balloon arch like Vinessa's but bigger'and, unbelievably, the mother apologised to her child and then paid him extra to make it happen. His wife wonders why their sex life has gone off the boil? Why, when they're making money he seems so unhappy and exhausted? He feels he is being worn down. The other day, between jobs he fell asleep standing up. Each arm was raised by a handful of balloons so that he resembled a slumbering Christ. He only snapped out of it when an angry parent rang his phone wanting to know why his precious offspring was being kept waiting?
And so it is we find him this Sunday, resigned to his fate and contemplating having his tubes snipped (or tied off, like a balloon?)rather than risk adding to the shrill carousel of modern childhood.And this next party promises to be a humdinger, they have ordered over 100 balloons.
Hesighs and takes the first 25 from the van. He has learnt from bitterpast experience never to turn up empty handed. It is a beautiful sundappled day yet he fails to enjoy it, does not even notice the playof green, white and yellow against the tarmac that has turned him into a walking stained glass window. He finds the address and rings thebell. After a moment the door is opened by a tiny woman in hereighties. The Grandma, he assumes.
'Hello,I'm here for.....' Hechecks the name on his order sheet 'Arthur?'
Theold woman smiles and gestures for him to come inside. He follows herdown the hallway, slightly bemused by the lack of noise. There is noscreaming of children at play, no music or any of the usual partysounds. The old woman reaches a set of double doors and slides themapart. He stops and almost lets the balloons slip his grasp. In frontof him are at least 30 other pensioners and there, in the centre ofthe room surrounded by wreathes, is a coffin. He stares until the oldwoman taps on his wrist.
'Please could you tie them to the casket?'she asks.
In a daze, he carries out her instructions.
'Do you think one hundred will be enough?'asks the woman as he attaches the first twenty five.
'Enough for what?' He asks, utterly bemused.
'To lift him of course' she replies, 'Arthur always had a mischievous streak and this was his dying wish. Everyone here's chipped in and he didn't weigh much at the end, so we hoped one hundred should do it.'
He nods his head and mumbles a reply, then goes out to the van to fetch the helium cannister. Without realising it he breaks in to a excited trot.
Inthe end it only took eighty seven. He got a standing ovation when the simple pine box broke free of gravity and started hovering. He felt like a magician looking out at an appreciative crowd, their wrinkled faces full of wonder and genuine delight. Arthur's widow hobbled over and gave the coffin a push then watched it float smoothly over to where an old man was waiting to bat it back.
The balloon seller lingered for a few moments then slipped away, leaving them playing ping pong with a floating coffin and feeling happier than he had in months. Optimistic, his spirits actually lifted.