The Halloween Balloon
Hordes of aliens and princesses marched past my house, heading downtown. It was the day of the annual Harvest Festival, but for them it was really all about the candy. The late afternoon was sunny, if a bit chilly, and I thought it would be fun to take a walk down there myself. I love Halloween, because some part of me is still a little kid, but also because I love the idea of little kids–and bigger kids–feeling carefree enough to laugh at ghouls and ghosties, and to pretend to be something you know you’re not for at least one day a year.
Trick? Or Treat?
The wind was sharp, however, especially by the time I got to the main drag. At least a thousand kids and their hulking parental attendants were now bundled up in coats and hats. Instead of a colorful parade of make-believe up and down the sidewalks, it looked more like a massive, slightly aggressive soup line on both sides of the street, with shop keepers ladling out candy.
During Harvest Festival a few years ago, I was supposed to help one of the shop keepers hand out candy, and had assembled a goofy witch costume for the purpose, complete with orange and black striped tights, the hat, etc. But the shop suddenly went out of business that morning. I never did hand out candy or wear that costume–it’s still on a shelf in my office closet, because my inner child keeps thinking that someday I’m going do it. I did, however, win Best Crust in the festival pie contest.
They don’t have the pie contest anymore, or several other grown-up events. Instead, there was a funny band playing at the park, and a few other kid-oriented things. I wandered down to the food shop that used to host the pie contest, wondering if they had anything special going on like they used to do. They didn’t. They had a witch handing out candy to the dark, lumbering mass of covered-up kids, just like everybody else.
The shop itself was open, and I was the only customer, which is the experience of nearly every other shop during this downtown daytime Trick or Treat. I splurged on a bottle of good wine, a crusty baguette, a wedge of cheese, and suchlike, and made my way home, taking a route less jostling with people. I liked the chilly, sunny weather, the trees turning colors, the smell of yummy things in the bag, the idea of bringing home my own harvest festival to share with Steve.
As I approached the house, I saw something black moving in the shrubbery. What in the world? It looked like a box, and it was jumping around as if something was inside, trying furiously to get out.
It turned out to be a balloon–a helium-filled black cube on a ribbon that was tangled up in the shrubs, bobbing madly in the stiff breeze. Was it part of someone’s costume? And if it was, what was the costume? Was it some cartoon character I wasn’t familiar with, or something to do with a video game or Matrix-type movie? I untangled the balloon and brought it inside.
In the house, it floated to the ceiling, in spite of being tied to a large, heavy clip of some sort at the bottom. We both tilted our heads and looked at it, not knowing quite what to make of it, as it was neither trick nor treat. Then we put on a movie and thoroughly enjoyed our bag of goodies.
The balloon is still in here, hovering, dark and strange, an alien, abstract presence in an otherwise figurative house, and it startles me when I forget it’s there and come around the corner. I don’t like it–there’s nothing to like, really–but I find it intriguing, mysterious, even a bit spooky. It’s an unknown symbol that arrived in an unknown manner from an unknown source.