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  • Writer's pictureLinda Nygard

Harold The Balloon Man

Harold swallowed the last bite of his mashed potatoes and scraped the bottom of his plate with his fork. He loved the gravy that the mess cook made. It reminded him of home and his dear ol’ mom. She made the best chicken and gravy West of the Mississippi. The taters and gravy in the mess hall gave him that warm feeling you could only get from a mothers love.

Harold sold balloons and gum, an odd combination, but not really so if you think about it. You have to blow up both in order to see their spectacular colors. What child doesn’t like bubble gum and balloons? Harold would chew up a large wad of gum and blow up the biggest bubbles, bringing attention to his wares for sale.

After licking off the remaining gravy from his fork, he picked up his plate and utensils then walked them over to the dirty dish tray. Siding them into the soapy water he could see his reflection repeated in the bubbles floating on the surface.

Harold walked outside and pulled a pack of Chesterfields out of his shirt pocket and fished out a filterless cigarette.

“Got an extra smoke Hal?”

The voice that came from behind him annoyed Harold. It was Edgar the Midget. Short in stature and tall with the tales, he could talk your ear off. Harold was not quite feeling up to it, but a smoking companion would be welcome.

“Sure, Ed. Forget yours back in the tent?” He exhaled.

“Well, you know me. Always the forgetful one.” Edgar responded with a sheepish grin. Edgar had the habit of looking to others to supply him with smokes and had no shame about it. Harold sat down on an upended bucket, pulled out a cigarette from his pack and handed it to Edgar.

“Light?” Edgar asked.

“Of course.” Harold responded. Should I smoke it too? He thought.

Harold struck the tip of the match across the side of the bucket and held the flame to Ed’s cigarette. Edgar sucked on the end and drew in the first taste of the smoke.

“Hear about Sarah and her Poodle Show?” Edgar said with smoke escaping during each word.

Harold shook his head from side to side.

“Her favorite pup ran out in front of a freight train and didn’t make it.” Edgar continued. “Poor dear is broken up bad. She had the pup since she started the show.”

“Well, thanks again for the smoke”. Edgar said as he turned his back to Harold and began to walk towards the circus tent city.

Harold continued to suck on his smoke, tasting the bitter tobacco leaves in the opening of the paper, then he stared up to the sky. The moon was a crescent and the big dipper shined. It reminded him of his childhood, when he would lie outside at night and count the stars. For a brief moment he could swear he saw a falling star.

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