The Balloon Bunch
It is July and I find myself in the cluttered yellow kitchen of what is a business first and home second. I lick the ice cream from my middle finger and watch Andres eat his. These are the perks of working for Gary. He is a big man, who lives in a tiny house littered with coupon clippings and clearance granola. He is the man who will surely not recall my name, but I will fondly remember as a father figure. I know this because of the girl in the green souped up car outside. She came to say hi, she spent last summer working for Gary. They laugh about the time she tripped over the pot of boiling tea that he for some miraculous reason left sitting on the floor. He tells her he wishes he could remember, but he is sixty now and it does not ring any sort of bell. I chip away the chocolate under my fingernails like the dirty girl I am. Gary has the hands of a working man, blistered from camping and greasy from rubbing the bald spot on his grey head. Eight O’Clock sharp, it’s time to put on our money belts and fill the van with the crap Gary says he is not proud of selling. Gary reminds us that this is how he makes a living, that balloons are a serious business. My summer tan tickles as vanilla drip drops down the side of my hand. Slowly falling until the drop has spread so thin that there is only the memory of a sticky-sweet line left in its place. I think this drip drop is a little bit like Gary’s life. I wish I didn’t think that. The last bite is too big to eat in one bite but too small to eat in three bites. Andres ice cream is long gone, he is a hungry boy. But Annette’s is not… I watch her shove the last bite into her mouth and I quickly assimilate into her confident ice cream eating abilities. Annette gives me a knowing smile. Her chipped front tooth prominent in a row of otherwise neat pearly whites. We all know The Story Of The Broken Tooth. How her father left her black and blue when her sister moved out. So she moved to Spain and developed a drinking habit that everyone is too afraid to call a problem. It’s really easy, like moths to a flame. All you have to do is dress, well, you know and find children whose parents look like they have money. The shit practically sells itself, at the end of the night we meet back at the van and Gary will give you your cut of the cash. I make $600 in five hours and Gary tells eager ears of his pride. The van rattles onto the highway as he begins to tell us of the time he did cocaine at a Beanie Baby convention. But I cannot hear him, I am too busy listening to the way my heart beats in conversation with the cold hard cash in my vanilla hand.