Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: RELEASE (08/02/18)
- TITLE: Clenched Fingers
By Yvonne Blake
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It was a gift to each child that attended a neighbor’s birthday party. I think her name was Judy. I remember my anxiety rising as balloon after balloon was chosen by the other kids. I wanted the red one, and there were only a few of them. By the time, Mama had finished talking and washed the cake and ice cream from my baby brother’s face, and I said “thank you for inviting me” to Judy, there was only one red balloon left.
My mama suggested I tie it around my wrist, but I wanted to hold it. I wrapped my arms around its round middle. As we stepped outside, I hugged it close to my tummy until we got in the car. In the back seat, I let my red balloon float to the roof of the car. I tugged on the string and made it dance like a puppet.
Delighted with my new toy, I clenched the string tightly as I carried it into the house. It was a constant companion over the next few days. I would pull it through the rooms and down the hallway. Even if I let go, its string dangled patiently nearby. It was there when I woke in the morning and when I ate my cereal. It floated above me when petted my kitty or splashed in the tub.
One day, I decided to show my balloon the back yard. I wanted show it my little playhouse and sandbox. I clenched the string tightly with my pudgy toddler fingers as we visited the flowers and birdbath. Skippy, our cocker spaniel brought me her ball for a game of fetch. I leaned over to pick up the ball and let go of the string.
With a gasp, I watched my red balloon rise up and up, with no ceiling to stop it. It floated higher than our house, higher than the big oak tree, higher than the church steeple. It floated right up to the clouds. I watched it until I couldn’t see it anymore.
I wondered if it wanted to go away, if it wanted to go live somewhere else. I wondered if it didn’t like living with me. That thought filled my heart with heaviness and my eyes with tears. Deep down I knew it wouldn’t come back to me. I knew things would never be the same.
That was fifty years ago. I looked down at the red object in my hand. It wasn’t my balloon. It was a red jacket – Ricky’s jacket, the one he wore almost every day last winter. As I walked through the house, I remembered him eating cereal with me in the mornings and splashing in the bathtub and running down the hallway. I remembered his scraped knees, his collection of rocks, his muddy shoes. I remembered his first steps, his first bike, his first car – the car he was now packing. I wrapped my arms around the red jacket and hugged it close to my belly as I walked outside to the car.
Ricky was putting another box in the back seat of his VW. He smiled when he saw me there. “Thanks, Mom. I guess I’ll need that when the weather gets cooler.”
Ricky grabbed the jacket, to add to the already stuffed car. My fingers clenched the drawstring. The tautness pulled the coat from his hand, and it fell limply, against my legs.
Ricky picked it up. He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me close. “Mom, it’s okay. I’ll be back for Christmas. It’s time for me to go. I love you.”
I let go of the string. My heart filled with heaviness and my eyes with tears. Rick waved as his VW rolled away from the house, past the big oak tree, and past the church, until I couldn’t see him anymore. I knew he loved me, but it was time for him go away. Things would never be the same.
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