Saturday fiction

Birthday Balloon
Flanked by the dogs, he stood in the rich green of his suburban lawn and with hands on hips, tilted his head, back and forth.
There, anchored to the Kentucky bluegrass by a piece of plastic and a string was massive silver Mylar balloon printed with a festive “HAPPY 50TH” across the surface.
He looked up and down the street, identical pink stucco castles with their pressed concrete drives and endless swatches of perfect lawn.
He looked back at the balloon, and in unison, his head, along with the dogs, tilted in confused wonderment that bordered on bewilderment.
He took a step toward the balloon and stopped. The dogs criss-crossed their tracks, circled the balloon (but did not dally to sniff) and returned to him, sat. He looked down at the dogs, back to the balloon. He rubbed a hand across his lips, furrowed his brow.
And tuned to the home’s portico and began to drag one of those silly, heavy wrought iron chairs across the concrete and into the lawn, the legs digging divots into the manicured green of the lawn.
He sat and the dogs took the signal and lay down beside him. He rested his chin in one cupped hand and rubbed fingers across Saturday stubble.
The balloon, tethered to the plastic anchor by a piece of white ribbon, swayed in the breeze.
His neighbor passed, stopped, put a hand up to his eyes to shade them.
“Happy birthday, Bob. Fifty, huh, can that be right?”
“It’s not my birthday.”
“So what’s with the balloon?”
“That’s what I’m asking.”
“Huh,” his neighbor said, “OK, see ya.”
“Later.”
A half-hour passed. An hour.
The balloon swayed on the breeze.
Neighbors passed with well-wishes.
He responded with cryptic shrugs.
Finally, he fished a hand into his cargo shorts, pulled out a pair of yellow-handled garden shears. He tapped them to his chin, rose.
And clipped the ribbon, sending the mass of Mylar into a launch trajectory skyward.
As the balloon rose, he saluted, crisply.

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