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The Red Balloon (Except Silver)
In the beautiful, Oscar-winning film Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon), young Pascal discovers a balloon tied to a lamppost. He climbs and rescues it, taking it with him through the streets of Paris. After a day of adventure, he goes home, but his mother releases it rather than let him take it inside. The balloon, however, refuses to leave and hangs outside his window, meets him again the next morning, and follows him around the city.
A group of boys shoot the red balloon down with their slingshots and destroy it in front of Pascal, but balloons from around the city come and soothe the grieving boy. They lift him high above Paris and he floats away from his troubles.
Unfortunately, my encounter with its evil cousin, The Silver Balloon (Le Ballon d’Argent), went much more darkly.
On the day we moved into our new house, it mocked me from its perch high in the tree. “Come get me. I dare you,” it taunted as it danced and twirled in the wind.
An escapee from a birthday party, its celebratory messaged faded, the balloon had become entangled in the top branches of the tree. I made a mental note to retrieve it, but a lengthy to-do list already loomed. As winter morphed into spring, leaves emerged on the bare branches and soon the balloon was hidden from sight.
I spent a blissful summer, unaware it watched me from the shadows. It was patient. I was oblivious.
Autumn arrived and the leaves fell to the ground, exposing the lurking, shiny object. Its glare chilled me (or maybe that was the coming winter). If I didn’t remove it, it would dance and laugh all winter in the cold breezes, the sunlight flickering off its silvery shell.
Determined to eliminate it, I retrieved my pole pruner and extended it to its furtherest reach. The blade swayed on the lengthy pole as I stood on tiptoe, but the distance was too great. My cutting edge remained far below my target.
I grabbed a tall stepladder from its hooks in the garage and set it up near the base of the tree. Balancing the top-heavy pole pruner in my hands, I climbed the steps until I was on the top rung. I stretched as far as I could, but no dice. Even with the extra height, it wasn’t far enough.
I plotted and planned. A taller ladder? A cherry picker? A tree service? How much was I willing to spend to rid myself of a piece of trash flicking and twisting in the top of a tree?
It haunted my dreams. Monitored my every move. And waited. Ever so patiently waited. Sooner or later, I needed to remove it.
Then one morning, a miracle happened. A night of high winds had snapped branches. My nemesis—my glittering, gloating tormentor—had fallen to the ground. Its mylar body stretched across the frozen soil, half-buried under twigs and leaves.
After a victory dance on its corpse, I gathered the tattered shreds and unceremoniously tossed it into the bottom of the trashcan. Over the course of the week, I grinned and chuckled as I giddily tossed bags of kitchen garbage on top of it, burying it beneath the stinky waste. I would turn and look at the branches of the tree, denuded of its invader, and smile at the emptiness.
Come trash day, I rolled the can to the curb. Sitting inside the house, I heard the roar of the truck as it came up the hill. The exhaust of its air brakes as it stopped. The mechanical whir of its arm as it reached out and raised the container high in the air. Flipped upside down, it regurgitated its contents into the yawning opening of the truck. With a loud slam, the empty can was plopped back down on the driveway.
Whistling, I walked down the drive to retrieve the empty bin, knowing my enemy was on its final journey to a landfill. No longer would it tease me from out of reach.
I grabbed the lid to flip it closed, but something glittered and caught me eye. I peered into the abyss. Lying across the bottom, the silvery balloon smiled up at me. It clung to the sticky detritus that builds at the bottom of any such container. As the rest of that week’s garbage fell into the truck, it had stubbornly held on, much as it had gripped those branches for all those months.
Chills ran up my spine. My adversary would remain with me for another week. It lurks even now, right outside my door. It schemes its revenge from the dark of the bottom of the can.
The end of the movie The Red Balloon appears malevolent now. The balloons coming from around the city, gathering and lifting that boy. Maybe they weren’t saving him. Perhaps they were exacting revenge as he fought and struggled against their grip. They hauled him away to a lair—a dark, dank place where the Red Balloon lay wounded but alive.
Each night after dinner, I slink outside Into the dark with a bag of trash in my hand. After being sure nothing waits for me, I hurriedly open the lid and dispose of my garbage. I glance toward the sky, looking for a mass of bobbing, hunting balloons coming for me as I race back into the safety of the kitchen.
If I don’t make it through the week, at least you will know what happened.
Interesting Links – Blogs and RSS
One of my favorite writers, J.T. Ellison, penned an excellent post “Challenging the Algorithm Dragon” about the challenge of balance between marketing and writing for authors. We spend a big chunk of time on social media, newsletters, and blog posts to promote our books, but the social media companies make it increasingly difficult to get seen without spending significant advertising dollars. Odds are you are reading this very post because of an ad you clicked.
Per her post, J.T. is focusing her efforts on her blog and narrowing her time on social media. (P.S. – If you haven’t read any of her books, please give them a try. They are superb.)
Her post couldn’t have come at a better time for me as I am evaluating my own efforts. In the last year, I’ve reduced my personal use of social media because I’ve found it too fractious and argumentative. On the business side, I’ve increased my advertising spend, especially on Facebook and Instagram, and toyed with a couple of newer social media outlets (but found them lacking).
A year ago, I started this Monday Musing. It’s given me a creative outlet for micro-short stories or “musings.” Happily, it has also steadily grown in readers week-to-week, so you must be enjoying it as well. (And if you are new, welcome).
Which brings me to my last two interesting links: Feedly and Inoreader—two of the best RSS readers. Most websites produce an RSS feed which communicates what has been posted (which is how Facebook produces an image and short description if you enter a link on a post). Back in the “old days” (say 2010), RSS readers were common and you kept up with bloggers using them. Alas, the technology was deemed old in the light of social media and even Google pulled the plug on their reader.
As soon as everyone migrated to Facebook and the others, though, the rules changed. Today, when I share a post on one of my pages, somewhere between 5 and 10% of my followers get the post in their feed. That’s right, even though you “Like” and “Follow” the page, Facebook doesn’t automatically show it to you. If you see it, it’s because I’ve paid to let you know.
As a reader, I hate that. I want to see J.T.’s posts. All of them. She shouldn’t have to spend advertising dollars to share her ideas with me and her other fans.
So I tell Feedly to let me know when she posts. And it does. Every time. She doesn’t have to pay a penny to make that happen (and it’s free for me to follow up to 100 websites). I “read” Feedly every morning along with my newspapers.
Give it a try. Pick your favorite RSS reader (my favorite two are already linked). My feed is simple—https://dkwall.com/feed/ . Enter it into your reader and you will find it tracks every Monday Musing, every Books Read, every photograph, every “anything I post.”
Sometimes, old is new. In this case, old is better.
P.S.—I’ll keep you posted as I make my own decisions about where I will focus marketing in the coming year, but the Monday Musing will stay.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
After a long holiday weekend, you may be feeling a little sluggish about the start of another week. Roscoe P. shows you how to float into work today. Feet not touching the ground. Big smile on his face. Energetic and peppy. Go ahead. Do it. It will make people wonder what you’ve been doing.
Background title image is courtesy Blake Cheek
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