I think I’ll shift gears, and post some serialized fiction. I’ll dole it out in bite-sized increments over the course of several days. I submitted this story for publication a while ago, and one of the editors asked that I rewrite part of it. She wanted me to remove a supernatural component to make the story more believable. I thanked her, but declined the rewrite. After all, it was a work of fiction, so I felt at liberty to include a supernatural component where I saw fit. Certainly the story could stand a few revisions, and I’m open to any constructive criticism you feel like sharing.
The Helium Balloon Massacre of 1979
It’s snack time, but everybody has to pray before they’re allowed to eat their two animal cookies and drink their fruit punch. Tommy doesn’t feel like waiting today. Besides, he doesn’t believe God can see you all the time like Sister Swaboda says He can. Tommy takes a bite of his hippopotamus cookie while everybody else has their heads bowed. Lightning doesn’t strike him dead, and the pink frosting tastes good. Then he takes a drink of Karen Wetzel’s fruit punch. That’s the girl who sits next to him. She doesn’t notice because her eyes are scrunched shut while she prays.
The prayer is finally over, and Karen is looking at her fruit punch. Then she looks at Tommy.
“What?” he says.
“Nothing,” she says.
Tommy didn’t think Karen would notice, but she’s smarter than most of the kids in the class. Way smarter than Eric. Tommy and Eric got into three fights so far this year. The last one was over who got to play with the building blocks. Eric is a stupid head and a pee pee head. Tommy’s not allowed to say bad words like that anymore, but he’s also supposed to always tell the truth. And he thinks that’s the truth about Eric.
Tommy thinks the truth about Karen is that she’s very pretty and nice. She has big green eyes and blond hair she always wears in pigtails. Tommy wants to marry her one day. He gives her his lion cookie.
“Thank you,” Karen says.
“Welcome,” he says.
After snack time, Sister Swaboda tells everyone to get their three by five index cards that their moms filled out last night. She takes them to the playroom which is next door to the classroom. The playroom is the best part about school, but today is even better because it’s Saint Gregory’s Kindergarten balloon launch.
Sister Swaboda’s helper, Miss Nita, is filling up balloons with something that makes them float. The stuff comes out of a big metal thing that reminds Tommy of his dad’s work thermos, except this is way bigger. Tommy touches the metal thing which makes it wobble. Sister Swaboda grabs him by the arm and yells about how somebody could get hurt if he knocked the canister over.
Miss Nita saves Tommy from all the yelling by asking him to please collect everybody’s three by five index card. He gets all the cards and sees that Eric has crumpled his and spilled fruit punch all over it. Stupid head Eric.
There are a lot of balloons to fill up, so one of the moms is helping Miss Nita, who is helping Sister Swaboda. Tommy thinks it’s Jeff’s mom. The three ladies put each index card into a clear plastic envelope so they won’t get wet, then they tie each envelope to a string, which is tied to a balloon. Tommy’s card is tied to a red balloon. It looks good.
Sister Swaboda says there was a girl from last year’s class whose balloon went all the way to Pennsylvania. She got a letter in the mail from the man who found it. Tommy thinks his red balloon might be able to fly all the way to the Moon. His grandfather showed him the Moon through a telescope once. He said there were some men who flew there in a rocket ship ten years ago, and they were the first people who ever walked on it. Tommy asked if he could walk on the Moon, too. His grandfather said maybe one day.
Karen taps Tommy on the shoulder and points out the window. She says it’s starting to rain. Tommy sees the dark clouds moving really fast across the sky.