I want to write a story of my life. Something that will mean something to someone, somewhere, someday. Presumably it doesn’t have to be profound. It just has to matter for a brief instance.
Revolution, anarchy and temptation are in the air, and all we can do is scream and shout. Jump from the roof tops and love every moment of existence.
So I have a short story for you. A man releases a balloon. Releases a balloon that flew over a city of great fortune and worth.
He had sat in his room for a while before releasing the balloon. Just sitting and wondering. Not sure of his own intents but still sure. He had looked over at the coffee table where on lay a copy of The New Statesman with his face serenely looking up at himself. His had been, if nothing, an ego boost. But now there was time to change and adjust to the new day.
So he released a balloon. Over the city. And it floated away moving on and on and on and on and on until it was seen by the whole city. The balloon measured fifty feet across and was bright red in colour. It was made to stand out. The man had made it to stand out. From his one man apartment above the cities hustle and bustle and daily grind.
He sat in silence and waited.
An older man on the street who worked occasionally but not always looked up and shook his head and then moved on.
A young beautiful “well to do” lady saw the balloon through red-tinted lenses and smiled in wonderment and rang her boyfriend.
A child in the street saw it and became excited.
His mother was less bothered, but still enjoyed its existence, only on the inside.
It didn’t matter. The other artists asked and the response didn’t come. But they would keep asking. And eventually they would get an answer. But they kept asking. And one felt as though they did not need an answer, only more questions.
‘It shows the banality of our existence through absurdest and disturbing quite beautifully our everyday life’
‘No, no, no, it is a representation of everything you hate inside yourself, personified in a huge red mess in the sky’
‘It represents a deity, visibly omnipresent and challenging all the atheists’
‘HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT?! It is an ironic take on the idea of god, shows how ridiculous belief systems are!’
‘Oh bother! What are you guys on about! He’s clearly taking the piss’
‘I think it’s ugly’
‘I think it’s beautiful’
‘You’re both wrong’
‘Who is that speaking now?’
‘I don’t think it matters’
‘Does it not?’
‘I think this debate is part of the art that the man wants us to be, we are part of the balloon by discussing it’
‘You mean we play a part in his meta-fiction?’
‘Don’t be such a wanker.’
‘No it’s fine honestly’
‘Well I don’t believe it is’
‘The balloon is an absence of ideas we can project onto’
‘Nonsense, it is the over-saturation of concepts, burgeoning out over the city, showing the uselessness of human discussion’
‘The over-busy-ness of the idea mind-set of the public’
‘the absence of ideas in favour of opinions given by deity-like celebrities dictating to us from their ivory towers of the internet platforms.’
‘I don’t listen to them anyway’
‘But you read them’
‘I read them, yes’
‘You do listen then’
‘That’s what matters here’
‘I don’t think it does’
‘Should I get coffee?’
‘What about beer’
‘Thank god, I didn’t want beer’
‘Why did you ask?’
‘The balloon is important.’
‘I believe it to be wholly unimportant’
‘Why do we always discuss art in such vague terms.’
So the critics kept on talking.
They drank coffee and then they talked some more. All the while the balloon sat there in the sky. Waiting. Bored.
The arts council hailed it has a national treasure. They demanded no one touch it or damage it. So of course others damaged it. Others came into the cities centre, where the balloon nearly touched the main intersection. They came with pins. They came with opinions. They came with masks and chants and joyous cry of anarchy. They didn’t mind the glasses and skinny jeans and expensive haircuts screaming
Don’t do it but only with their eyes because that is the only way they could express anything not through action, only through speech but only later.
They came in numbers.
The balloon was damaged. It deflated slowly over the city.
Gently landing softly over the tops of cathedrals and office blocks. Over pedestrians and the dogs of tramps. Over the news-stands on main street. Over important bridges and photograph-able landmarks. And the child ran into the streets because all was well.
The men in the office looked on angrily at first; then stopped working. Their own pent up rang from the sexual dissatisfaction driving them into the street. And they knew the only way out was to run and laugh and jump. The red balloon. The red balloon that stretched fifty feet across had finally completely deflated. And all was well. The traffic stopped that day. So did the work. The companies and the schools and the housewives and the mayors and the dogs of the tramps.
Stopped. Slowed down and then it just ended.
And the man, the man who we knew all so well, he, he, didn't react. Just sat and started to stitch together a huge polyester giraffe.
And all was good. Critics wrote letter to the man and he wrote them lengthy replies detailing how it was a commentary on existence, and was to make people think and stop. And they didn't like that. So the man was angry. And updated his online internet forum thing saying he was unhappy. In an open letter in the New York Times addressed ‘to the critics’ it was articulate.
And well read.
And well wrote of course.
It was far better than this.
I wish you could see it.
But you can’t. Sorry?
All short stories written by Alex Ferguson.