Rochelle Ratner

Balloon steals wedding ring


Not really. Balloons don't steal. A father tied it to his son's helium balloon, hoping to weigh it down. She thinks of her father blowing up balloons for her birthday parties. Helium was a rarity in the Fifties. Besides, it was a kite she wanted, a box kite she could run along the early morning beach with. But her father knew in advance they'd never make it fly.


Never give a child only one balloon. Balloons like to rise up in groups. A balloon all alone becomes bored and jealous.


His finger has swelled around that ring. Even to grip a fork is painful. He's wanted for years to be rid of it.


Maybe there was never any balloon. Maybe there was never any ring and the boy was his nephew who he took out for the day so he'd find it easier to talk to single women.


She twists the ring on her finger as she thinks. This has become a habit as unnerving as cigarettes. She fears, if she loses this ring, she won't be able to string two sentences together.


The man in the clown suit ties a few balloons together to make a dog for her. This is preferable to having her face painted.


She pictures the balloon losing air, maybe getting stuck in a tree miles away. A widow looks out the window one morning to see the sun catching on this speck of gold. She thinks someone's playing a trick on her. Maybe the boy at the market she wouldn't let carry her groceries. Maybe the kids with a ball she chased off her lawn last week.

Elderly Driver Plows Into Beauty Shop


Look in the mirror. You have a beautiful round face and hair that offsets it perfectly. I would have killed for hair like yours when I was your age. But all we do is work with what we've got. And not even a trace of grey yet. You have no idea how lucky you are.


She knows she's lucky enough to get her hair cut at barber shops. Where she should have gone today as well. A simple, layered cut, and it will keep for months. But she was feeling down this week. That round face is a nice way of pointing out she's gained ten pounds. She wanted to feel good about herself. It's taken her this long to trust beauty shops aren't the stiff affairs of her teenage years, sitting for hours under a noisy dryer, half choking with the heat and the fumes wafting around her. They aren't going to set it with those huge rollers, and they're surely not going to tease her.


Look in the mirror. The beautician cups her hands around her face, twirls a few strands on her fingers. Every hair's curving forward, little spit curls on the cheeks and forehead. The chair's spun around to show off the curls crowding together on the back. She looks like Betsy Wetsy. Or what was that other doll you gave an actual permanent? It will dry looser she supposes. Wishful thinking. Wishing now she'd just gotten her nails done.


She spots it in the mirror first – the large old Buick driven by a little old woman probably born before women owned cars. She can barely see over the steering wheel. The car signals then turns left into a parking space just outside. She sees the big wheels approaching, then the chrome grill. Stop, she wants to scream. Stop it, Mother.


Straight out of Hollywood, they said later. A car crashing through the salon and into the business next door. Nine people with deep cuts or broken bones. Mirrors and shelves dangling as if after an earthquake. A rough oil smell overpowering a dozen other broken scents. And one of those hair style magazines with the coquettish looking prom queen wannabe on the cover (another reason she hates beauty parlors) lies face up on the floor, large shards of glass all around it.

Man's best friend sniffs out brain tumor

Even better, perhaps, is the man with canine instincts. The man who's welcomed her into his bed every night for nearly five years. The man whose arms envelop her and who, often just before he falls asleep, cradles her head in one arm, the fingers of the other hand stroking her forehead, spreading out the day's pain. When, during a week of record-breaking heat, he asks her to marry him, it is because he senses something might be wrong but knows, without a wedding in the offing, she won't seek treatment.

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