The Party Balloon

© J. Francois Barnard - 15 December 2023

Jurgen patiently bided his time in the barbershop, scrolling through an email on his phone. Despite recognising the offer as reasonable, the hefty price tag of $50,000 gave him pause. Lost in contemplation, he was roused when the person next to him gently touched his arm, signalling his turn.

hot air balloonRising from his seat, Jurgen settled into the barber chair, issuing instructions while his thoughts drifted toward the tempting prospect of a hot air balloon. A seasoned aviator, adept at piloting various aircraft, Jurgen had recently parted with his glider and now pondered acquiring a pre-owned hot air balloon.

Like with a glider, a hot air balloon promised a unique aviation experience—serene, noiseless, and suspended in the whims of the wind. The sudden silence in the barbershop jolted him back to the present. Looking up, Jurgen met the barber's gaze, who held a mirror behind him, inquiring about his satisfaction with the haircut.

"It's alright," replied Jurgen, standing up. After settling the bill, he answered a call as he left. It was his sister, Adele, bearing news from Richard, a urologist and her employer.

"Jurgen, Richard wants to see you," she informed him.

"And I do not want to see him," Jurgen retorted, bracing for the potential outcome of a biopsy.

"It's important, Jurgen," Adele insisted.

"I will call him, but not now. I have to go," he curtly responded, regretting his abruptness even as he hung up. Another call came in, and Jurgen noticed it was Richard.

"Is it bad?" Jurgen inquired.

"I'm afraid it is, Jurgen. You don't have much time left, but there's an experimental treatment we could try."

"And if it doesn't work?"

"Then it's over. But, Jurgen, we'll do anything to make you comfortable until the end."

"How much will it cost?" Jurgen asked.

"Fifty thousand."

"Let me think it over."

"I need to know tonight, Jurgen."

Switching off his phone, Jurgen sought solace at the aerodrome, where the sea breeze invigorated his thoughts. In front of his hangar, a sharp pain gripped him, but he pressed on, transferring $50,000 before reopening his phone. Five missed calls from Adele awaited, and he texted her: "I'll call you tomorrow."

By the next morning, Adele anxiously called him.

"Where are you?" she asked.

"In the air!" Jurgen shouted above the wind.

"Come to the hospital, Jurgen! We're waiting for you here!"

Surveying the expansive sky, Jurgen responded gently: "It's my party, Adele, and I bought my own balloon."


Editor's note: The above story was the result of an assignment done in the Creative Writing course, Section The Craft of Plot, at Wesleyan University.