‘I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.’
- C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Le ballon rouge (1956)
The day began, as most of them do, with a girl called me, and a boy called you. Friday and its dragons were finally gone, lovely Saturday was here. It found me in my polka dot pajamas, and you in sleepy rock’n roll hair.
We made fresh popcorn and chocolate cookies; the best breakfasts are eaten warm and in bed. Then bounced a while on the mattress, as we thought of what to do next. Two children tired of pretending to be grownups all week. We had nowhere, no one to be till Monday. We could go anywhere.
You wanted to dig for buried treasure, I wanted to fly away. We chose to settle the issue over a game of chess; of course you let me win. I pouted but you kissed me on the nose and said: ‘Come on, let’s have a beautiful day.’
We packed leftover popcorn and cookies for the road; the best snacks are eaten crumbly and stale. Then closed the car trunk, turned the music up, and drove off to a secret, far away town.
It was a charming, quaint little place by a lake, that we had discovered on another sunny day. Where rabbits lived in top hats, and monkeys wore red vests. Horses were painted and wooden, lions and bears were tame. Alongside the animals lived happy children, who ran around in super hero capes. And all were governed by an odd man called Ferris, who sat on top of a large wheel.
The local cuisine was sticky, messy, and quite good. Rainbows trapped in popsicles, pink and blue clouds of candy on sticks. And mountain-high swirls of cold and creamy vanilla in heavenly smelling cones.
We had ice cream for lunch, then French Fries; in this town you eat dessert first. You offered me the final lick, I gave you the last fry. I got ketchup on my cheeks and chin, but you said you did not mind.
We rode the local roller coaster to the other side of town. There, we were told, was a little boy who would teach us how to fly. We followed the sound of a music box to the end of a yellow brick road. On the way we bought breadcrumbs, tuppence a bag, and fed all the birds. We finally spotted a big red balloon, and found the little boy underneath. When we explained what we had come for, he nodded eagerly. His face lit up as he said: ‘I have exactly what you need.’
We followed him. The red balloon and the sun did too. To a house with satin green shutters, and a garden around the back. Where in every color of the rainbow, and many many more, grew dozen, hundreds, thousands of big and beautiful balloons. The little boy picked each one carefully till he had an enormous bunch, admired his masterpiece for a moment, and proudly handed it to us.
He had no use for our money, so we paid him with our last cookie instead. Then you turned to me and offered your arm. ‘Shall we?’ you said.
The instant I nodded, the balloons took flight. They lifted us both right off the ground, above the garden and the little boy. Over the house with satin green shutters, past the yellow brick road. The roller coaster, the carrousel, Mr. Ferris on his wheel. Higher and higher till I could barely see the animals and the children in super hero capes.
I held onto you tighter as I looked down. Beneath my pink sneakers, swinging in the air, cars were stopping and honking, people pointing and staring. I suppose they had simply never seen two children fly away.
The time would come, eventually, for Monday mornings and Sunday blues. But now the sun was setting on a beautiful day; we were just a girl called me, a boy called you, who did not have to grow up yet.