Short & Strange Fiction
If you’re wondering if recent events have inspired this story, the answer is yes. If you’re wondering if this story is slightly ridiculous, the answer is also yes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
“Wesley, tell me the truth: how much did you spend on this…thing?” Paul asked his younger brother. The two clutched cold Coronas.
Wesley wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Too much for it to be an hour and a half late. I don’t know what the hell’s going on, to tell you the truth.” He glanced at his watch. It was closing in on 2:30 in the afternoon.
“Well, where’d you order it from? How do you just, I don’t know…buy something like that?”
Wesley let out a deep breath. “In retrospect, it may not have been the most reliable website. I had no idea it would cause such an uproar, to be honest.”
Paul considered this, then set his beer down as something caught his attention. It crept slowly out over the ocean. “Wait…is that it?” He pointed at the sky and shielded his eyes against the sun.
Wesley followed his gaze. “I think so. Holy shit, it’s huge!” He opened the sliding glass door and yelled for everyone to come out. Most of the group was in the middle of a game – it looked like a blindfolded version of “pin the bib on the baby” – but they were more than happy to bring the activity to a halt. Uncle Rob was asleep in the corner. Chugging all that Tito’s out of the baby bottle must have caught up to him in a hurry.
Wesley’s wife Rachel appeared first. A nervous energy surrounded her. Close friends and relatives followed her out onto their oceanfront, Myrtle Beach balcony. Grandma Kay even joined them, cane in hand. She and Aunt Val had surprised all of them by making the trip from Charleston.
“It can’t be the same balloon,” she said to Aunt Val. “It’s the freakin’ Chinese, that’s who it is. I ought to get Pa’s hunting rifle out of the truck and take a good shot at it, is what I should do.”
Paul put an arm around Grandma Kay and raised an eyebrow at Wesley. “It’s a little too high up there to hit it with your rifle, G-ma.” She smacked him on the arm like he was twelve again. Her rant continued.
Everyone stood near the rail, sunglasses on, hands blocking out the sun.
“Is anyone recording this?” Rachel half-shouted, tears building in her eyes.
“On it!” Uncle Rob replied as he stumbled outside and fumbled with his phone. He began to hiccup.
The news reports had been accurate. The balloon was massive – multiple bus lengths in width. From the family’s vantage point, it looked like a giant cotton ball floating in the sky.
A single fighter jet – an F-22 – streaked into the scene from the west, leaving vapor trails behind it. It closed in on the balloon.
Within moments, the F-22 took its shot and brought it down. Everyone gasped.
When the balloon burst, vast plumes of pink smoke seeped out into the atmosphere.
The family on the balcony let out a cheer, exchanging hugs and snapping photos of the parents-to-be. Wesley and Rachel held each other.
“A girl,” Rachel said, in between breaths. “My God, Wes, we’re having a girl.”
Wesley wiped a tear from her cheek and gave her a long kiss. “We sure are.”
I hope you enjoyed this bizarre little tale. Our world seems to get stranger by the day, and sometimes the only way to make it through is to create silly stories and laugh nervously.
Since hearing about the spy balloon that floated over the continental US, I couldn’t help but wonder if this ordeal would end in some outlandish fashion. Upon bursting, one of the many theories was that it would release something — so why not blue or pink smoke?
I’m sure the truth behind the balloon is stranger than fiction.
By the way, on a much less serious note, have you ever been to a gender reveal party or hosted one? What’s the most creative gender reveal you’ve ever seen?
Take care, everyone. Thanks so much for being here, and I hope you have a great week!
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Hey Justin! Very cool story. It seems to hold a couple of meanings. I hope you and Courtney are well.
Every so often we get a bizarre balloon related news story. Well done immortalizing this one!