Posted by: Peadar Ban | October 27, 2014

So Much Depends On An Orange Balloon

It was to be a quiet evening, because we had work to do early the next morning.

We both had been at it for nearly three weeks at home; she for much longer than me, at least a month longer of actual work, and for months before that thinking and planning.  The house was filled with books, DVDs, CDs, cards and gift items from manufacturers and publishers large and small.  Catholic publishers, Christian publishers, all of whom do good work. Where there weren’t books there were boxes and packing materials.  The books were for the book fairs we were holding at five of the churches in Nashua over the next five weekends.  The boxes and packing materials were what they had been delivered in during the last several weeks by a steady train of UPS, Fed-Ex and USPO folks, pulling up to the door in their big trucks and little ones like cargo ships to a beachhead.  Those would stay until all the returns were made of unsold books and etceteras.

There were in truth only three chairs left on which to sit on the first floor of the house; two in the dining room, at the table which itself was piled with books, cards, pens, pencils, sticky tags, her iPad and file boxes.  We pushed those aside from time to time to eat.

Well more than a thousand books, and a couple of hundred DVDs and CDs had been catalogued and laboriously tagged in my fine Spencerian hand, the product of those years in St. Blatherum’s scriptorium under the sharp eyed but gentle guidance of Bro.  St. Cursivius da Velum.

And, now, it was the night before.  Bent, and ready for a little unbending upstairs in our hide-out, we rose and wandered away.  The hide-out’s a little room at the back of the house, far away from the world.  It has an amenity or two designed to allow the weary to move away from the turmoil and trouble of the day, to regain some sense of equilibrium, to glimpse, however dimly and distantly, Paradise. A humble couch, some soft pillows, a lap blanket or two and a small refrigerator to keep the wine cool until needed for the journey, are among the amenities.  It’s chief charm is in seclusion and quietness; though wine helps.

And, so we found ourselves, and settled, and turned on the TV to watch something from our ROKU thing which delivered bunches of old series on demand.

We gave no thought to the warning we had gotten from our neighbor earlier that evening.  She, the mother of three lovely youngsters, had just left the house next door.  Walking back to her own home, she passed us going in and said, “What, you’re not going to the party?”  “What party?” we asked.  There was to be a party for the little girl next door, and all her friends were ingathering to celebrate.  She made some smart comment about blockading her own home as she passed us with a carefree (for a few hours at least) wave; an augur of uncertain meaning, and unsettling for that.

The children arrived, and calls , high pitched notes of greeting from the little ones echoed briefly, before the doors closed.  All was quiet except for the cars gunning their engines as they left the drive and disappeared over the hill.

And. We relaxed.  Something was on, white noise and flickers on the glass screen.  The wine was delicious.

But then!  About an hour after the doors closed, as I mentioned above, on the little revelers, they opened again.  The front door lights, and the one on the garage went on.  They spilled out, now stoked on cake and ice cream, candy and soda, overdosed on sugar, and, all of that inside energy compressed like a collapsing star, they exploded on the lawn; tumbling, screaming as only little girls and boys can.  The party had spilled out onto the street.  For the next hour or so the air was filled with their games and random hypertensive activity: Shouts!  Screams! Gay laughing and cavorting. Frantic running around here and there. Then, as suddenly as it had happened, like the echo of a bottle rocket’s boom on a cloudy night is smothered in the clouds, the mania ended in a diminuendo of softer shouts, little giggles and total quietness.

There was an orange balloon on our front lawn as the day broke. I fully expected to find the bodies of two or three of the little kids who attended spread out on our lawn, under the bushes, overdosed on sugar and joy.


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