This morning I was enjoying my drug of choice, caffeine with a little bovine mammary gland secretion, when I was treated to a rush of adrenaline accompanied by at least two missed heart beats. The house was, as far I knew, with exception of me, devoid of any life forms, including spot my cat, and so mausoleum like that a flatulent mouse could have gotten my attention. As I sat there at peace with the universe, starring at my computer screen totally focused on the task at hand, a sinister shape about the size of a human head moved slowly and silently into my peripheral vision from just behind my right ear. Luckily I was not armed. Explaining to the local authorities why I shot three holes in the wall of a nearly vacant house would be just a little embarrassing. It took only a second, or fraction thereof, to regain my composure and identify my assailant. There I was, face to face with a dark blue helium filled party balloon proclaiming “Happy Birthday” in large friendly letters.
The reason "Happy" and I were face to face as it were was because my daughter had her fifteenth birthday party about three weeks earlier and Happy ( I named him Happy) had been slowly giving up his helium through his semi permeable latex skin, and on this particular day he had achieved neutral buoyancy, and therefore the slightest movement of air in the house would send him off to explore book shelves, large and small appliances, and just about everything in sight. I know it is not possible, but Happy seemed to take on a life of his own. He would meander above the furniture for awhile, then descend to a position just in front of the TV screen and stay there as if pondering this strange reflective creature. Then he would move on seemingly unimpressed.
Happy’s activity then took a turn toward the “Twilight Zone” when he snuck up on me again as if looking over my shoulder at what I was typing on the computer screen. He hovered a few minutes then climbed to the book shelf above my head and moved slowly along the row of books as if trying to make a selection. Then he eased himself down and hovered over my other shoulder, for no apparent reason other than companionship.
The whole thing gave me pause to consider life and matters of basic chemistry and physics. I’m not a very spiritual man but I do have some beliefs. Among these beliefs is that Happy is not alive and if God created man in his own image how do you account for Pat Robertson? I just can't imagine a God with that fatuous smile. Yet the way Happy traveled about the house today, moving upstairs apparently of his own volition, then visiting me on several occasions at eye level only to wander off again to play in the air currents supplied by the heating system, he seemed alive. Did I give him that life? Is it real?
Then I realized that the slow inexorable process of giving up his helium was continuing and that Happy’s freedom to wander and explore, indeed to frighten unsuspecting humans would most likely end with the closing of this day. Tomorrow Happy will succumb to the force of gravity and spend the rest of his days skittering across the floor when the air-conditioning comes on, and just lying there when it’s off. He will be at the mercy of Spot who may pounce on him with claws extended as if practicing for some back yard conquest, and he will not be remembered.
The teachings of Zen tell us that through quiet contemplation and meditation we may receive enlightenment. Today’s experience with Happy, the neutrally buoyant helium balloon, has taught me this. I gotta get a life!

H A Wright

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