The Balloon Artist

Contributor: Andrew Wayne Adams

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The birthday boy lifted the AK-47 from its box. He grinned and said, “Thanks, Kevin!”

Kevin grinned back, chocolate cake smeared around his mouth like a larger mouth.

The birthday boy pointed his new AK-47 at the balloon artist. “Mother promised the best balloon artist in the world.”

“I am the best in all worlds!”

“Prove it,” the birthday boy said, and fired a warning shot into the ground.

The balloon artist yelped. He twisted a long slender balloon into the shape of an Old English Terrier. A pearl of sweat quivered at his temple as he presented the Old English Terrier for inspection.

Kevin sneered. “Not very realistic.”

The birthday boy put a bullet in the balloon artist’s kneecap. The balloon artist folded to the ground, allowed himself two seconds of terrified screaming, and then launched into the construction of another animal.

It was his greatest work ever: a life-sized zebra with functioning genitals and the brain of a philosopher-king. The zebra spoke, introducing itself as the Alpha and the Omega.

The birthday boy fired his AK-47 at the Alpha and the Omega.

The zebra thrashed, balloon organs exploding. Scraps of latex rained down to litter the earth, all trace of divine intelligence gone.

Kevin high-fived the birthday boy.

The balloon artist allowed himself three seconds of bereaved weeping—the Alpha! the Omega! murdered!—and then launched into the construction of, not a balloon animal, but a balloon weapon: an AK-47.

He squeezed the trigger, and the gun fired a barrage of sewing needles and lit cigarettes. A needle hit the birthday boy, and he popped like a balloon, his own AK-47 clattering to the ground. Kevin screamed, and then he too popped, pierced by the cherry of a cigarette.

The balloon artist swept gunfire through the birthday party. The guests popped, popped, popped. The cake (an enormous chocolate octopus) popped; the presents (pastel boxes that sweated and coughed) popped; the petting zoo (pygmy gorillas and defanged cobras in an enclosure of hay) popped. Scraps of false cheer rained down and turned to mud, all trace of the birthday party gone.

The balloon artist kept firing. In the distance, a stand of trees popped. A line of hills popped. Everything between him and the horizon—popped. He stood alone at the center of an empty plane.

His gun floated out of his hands, into the sky.

He tried for years to recreate his greatest work. He produced zebra after zebra, but none were the Alpha and the Omega. He rejected them, and they galloped away to start their own civilization.

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Andrew Wayne Adams is an American writer/artist. He was born in the Midwest in the 1980s. His work is largely unknown, because it largely does not exist.
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