Drop #16: Balloon

We were sitting on a bench. The sun was out and we were eating ice cream. I happened to look up at a balcony overhead as an elderly woman, maybe 80, walked out onto it. She wore a pink cardigan similar to the soft, woolen one Jen was wearing. It would be three years tomorrow since we got together, which was longer than most of our friends had lasted, so I was proud.

I watched Jen silently lick her cone. She stared dead ahead. Though immediately smitten, I liked her even more – much more – now than when we first met. She’d advertised on Craig’s List, looking for someone to play backgammon with. I own the most beautiful backgammon board on earth, the ad read, but I have nobody to play with. I answered and went over to her place for a game. She hadn’t been lying; the board was fantastic: large and hand embroidered by her mother in black and red using twenty different stitch patterns. The pieces were hand carved out of wood.

We met once a week to play and got along well. The third time I came over she asked if I wanted to walk down and up the stairs with her. I didn’t know what she was on about but I liked her, so I said, ‘sure.’ There was a set of over a hundred stairs close to her place, broken into flights of ten with landings between. We walked down them, and then up again with no other purpose than completing the act. It took us almost half an hour. ‘It’s the way I meditate,’ Jen had said. ‘The idea is to tread very carefully and slowly, concentrating on each step and everything your body does while taking it.’ I already loved her then, I think.

After another two weeks of backgammon and stairs we became lovers. She called her vagina her wound, speaking of it often during sex, which unnerved me but certainly excited me too. We spent what time remained listening to music, just sitting on her couch, often naked, and playing songs. I introduced her to a few bands but she showed me so much more. Sparklehorse, in particular, comes to mind, and specifically, the song Gold Day. I remember wondering, in all seriousness, how I had been able to claim my life worthwhile before hearing it. We drank wine or cava. She had decided not to drink any beer or coffee for a year, not for health or weight reasons, but just for fun.


I saw the elderly woman disappear back into her flat through a dark slit, then looked back at Jen, who turned to face me.

‘Good ice cream, right?’ I said.


‘Hey, tomorrow’s our big day. What do you want to do? Dinner out? Order in? Open a bottle of bubbly?’

‘Listen, Hal, there’s something I need to tell you.’


She waited, licking twice before speaking. ‘There’s something wrong here,’ she said.

‘With what?’

‘With us.’

‘With us? What’s that?’ The nervousness was sudden and humorless.

‘It’s our sex life. I don’t like fucking you anymore. I just don’t enjoy it. I still like you, and I enjoy the other things we do together – actually, I’m a bit tired of the backgammon too. How many games can you play with one person, right? But this is about the sex. I just don’t like it anymore. Honestly, I prefer masturbating. It just feels more full, more pleasurable when I work my wound myself.’

‘Jesus. This is totally out of the blue.’

‘Is it? Sorry.’

‘Yes! We had sex like every day this week!’

‘Yeah. I’ve been trying, but it hasn’t been very gratifying. And I can’t be with someone I don’t want to fuck.’

‘Holy shit! I can’t believe this is happening.’

‘Yeah, sorry.’ She bit into the soggy wafer. ‘I was surprised too, when I stopped digging you in bed. I don’t see any way we can keep this up though.’

‘We’re breaking up, then?’

‘Looks that way. We can still do the whole friends thing, though. I think that would be nice. In fact, why don’t we go get a beer right now at that bar over there? Start our friendship.’

‘I don’t know, Jen. That’s kind of weird.’

‘Maybe you’re right.’

Leaning back, I looked away to hide my hurt. There was movement up on the balcony again. The elderly lady came back out towards the edge holding something waist high with a strain. Though devastated, I was curious, and watched her lift something round and green onto the railing. It was a water balloon. It was bizarre, but I wasn’t surprised. There was little space for anything to make sense anymore. I glanced down to guess her target, an obvious one: an older man in a brown jacket and Borsalino, smoking a cigar a few benches over.

Like Jen had done, the old woman wasted no time, using all her power to hoist the green bomb off the balcony towards the unsuspecting man. It hit the bench beside him, drenching him. He jumped up, yelling a curse and hurling his doused cigar down at the ground. When he looked upwards, so did I. The sniper was gone. The curtains swayed lightly where she had passed through the dark slit.

We caught a bit of spray but Jen hardly blinked through the commotion. She had successfully shattered my life and was thinking of something else now. She stared ahead coldly as she popped the cone’s tiny tapered end into her mouth.

By E.M. Vireo


About EM Vireo
flooding the world with fiction

6 Responses to Drop #16: Balloon

  1. thomaswrites says:

    Nice. I like the juxtaposition between the dialogue (and its awkward content) with the bizarre things going on around it.

  2. I wanted to say how much I enjoyed this. Nice how the dropping of the “bomb” is mirrored in both interactions. I also like your word “drops” with the metaphor of a flood of fiction. Keep it up!

    Very Short Fiction. Flashed.

  3. Francesco says:

    Very nice. ‘Wound’ – great – very viceral, but ultimately it’s her callousness that makes one queasy.

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