Misadventures With 80 Balloons, Part 2

[see Part 1 of this post here]

On Thursday evenings Mom and I go out to dinner. This week Mom chose Arloi Dee, our favorite local Thai restaurant. Mom loves their coffee, which she describes as so strong “it could walk out the door on its own.”

We were finishing our meal when Mom said, “I hope this coffee isn’t going to keep me awake tonight.” I said nothing, but inside I cringed. Diamondqueen and I were to start hanging balloons in the Bradford Pear tree in the front yard just 30 minutes after Mom was supposed to be going to bed.

When we got home, I went into the basement, where I’d secretly carried the packages of balloons and roll of ribbon. I’d also squirreled away a large trash bag. I started blowing up balloons, tying on ribbons, and listening in case Mom started down the basement steps. I’d have to move fast to cover all the supplies and shove the sack of inflated balloons out of sight.

While I was preoccupied with this, the phone rang. I heard Mom answer, then she came to the top of the basement steps. “Diamondqueen says to tell Stupid to check her e-mail,” she called down.

Balloon in hand, I clicked on the mailbox. Diamondqueen’s message said, “Am I correct that you didn’t take any balloons home with you? We’re 15 balloons short, plus some of the ones you did last night (particularly the white ones) are shrunken down to the size of grapefruit. I want to make sure you don’t have more before I go get some.” I’d blown them up Tuesday night, at which time I’d told Diamondqueen I was taking 10-plus home to complete our supply with some extras to spare. Apparently I’m not the only one who doesn’t always hear/read things properly.

I wrote back that I had plenty of balloons, would blow up 15-plus, and I’d see her at 10:45. I set the closed sack of balloons where I could fetch them quickly later on, then went upstairs to begin the evening’s TV watching with Mom at eight o’clock.

At ten I surreptitiously began preparing to make my bed on the futon while Mom watched the local news, then I sat back down to my crocheting as if everything was normal. Mom decided to retire around 10:10. I planned to go outside at 10:30 and get a jump on things (I had yet to put vinyl letters on the yard sign, which was still in my car trunk). I ate a few bites of ice cream, then tried to crochet a while longer, but I was too nervous. At 10:25 I retrieved the bag of balloons from the basement, grabbed my car keys, put Rusty on the leash, turned on the outside light, and carefully opened the front door.

I had to bring Rusty. I didn’t trust him to fall asleep, so he would have seen me go out and would have barked and whined the entire time I was in the yard. Rusty was thrilled to be going outside and started to drag me down the driveway for what he perceived to be a late-night walk. I let him nose around the mailbox and pee in the grass, then pulled him back up the driveway. I’d planned to tie him to the white plastic lawn chair Mom leaves near the garage in case she wants to sit out, but I realized Rusty’s leash was too short. He was yanking violently to retreat back up the front walk. Finally, I put one leg of the chair through the loop in his leash, then attempted to arrange the letters on the lawn sign.

It was much breezier than I’d expected. I leaned on the stake part of the sign and pinned the sheets of vinyl letters under my elbow as I tried to peel and position the message “Mom is 80!” on the sign. A windy gust sent the entire sack of balloons tumbling across the neighbor’s lawn. I ran after it, hoping the sign wouldn’t blow away in the meantime. Rusty, meanwhile, was outraged at having to stand out in the cold, blowy dark night and strained at the leash, dragging the chair a few inches as he went.

I took the completed sign to the pear tree and tried to shove the stake into the mulch at the tree’s base. The stake’s sharp point hardly penetrated, even though we’d had a lot of rain recently. I returned to the hood of my car, which I’d been using as a work table, and pulled off a length of curling ribbon. I hadn’t brought scissors, so I risked chipping my front teeth grinding through the ribbon. When I tried to tie the sign to the base of the tree, I found the ribbon wasn’t nearly long enough.

I cut another length, this time by rubbing the ribbon against the edge of the concrete walk. By this time, Rusty had had enough with all the back and forth. He tugged mightily at the chair, which made it tip enough for the leg to rise and free the leash. Before I could lunge for him, Rusty charged up the front walk, insistent on getting into the house this time.

With the two lengths of ribbon and the sign cradled in my left arm, I caught up Rusty’s leash and struggled to force him back down the walkway. Even though Mom can’t hear well enough to detect a commotion outside, I didn’t want to disturb the neighbors, so I tried to keep my curses at a low decibel. Of course, Rusty can’t hear either, so my growls and threats literally fell on deaf ears.

It wasn’t easy to tie the two lengths of ribbon together with Rusty’s leash looped around my left wrist—and Rusty pulling every which way. It was even harder to tie the sign to the trunk of the tree with Rusty bucking and circling. Finally, it was done. I opened the sack of balloons and began to tie them to the lowest-hanging branches of the pear tree. I still had to lift my arms up, though, and each time Rusty chose that moment to try to drag me away. I have constant pain in my left shoulder as it is, so my predicament was uncomfortable as well as frustrating.

I was looping the last ribbons around the branches when Diamondqueen’s van appeared. When she stepped out, I noticed there were two full garbage bags in the passenger seat and four or five more in the middle seats. Rusty regarded her uncertainly–should he be happy to see her or distressed at this newly unexpected twist to his harrowing evening?

We decided to tie the balloons onto the branches two at a time. It was reasonably quick work, despite Rusty making every attempt miserable for me. Diamondqueen seemed to enjoy my constant stream of profanities every time Rusty exerted his tug-of-war. When I went to the van for a new sack of balloons, I tossed the bags from the passenger side to the middle seats and tried to get Rusty to jump up in the van where he could sit and be warm. He balked and retreated so fiercely I nearly slammed my face against the side of the van. If only I could have that much strength and will when I’m over 91 years old.

Diamondqueen brought the plastic lawn chair over to the grass and stood on it to tie balloons onto the higher branches. She glanced at the front room windows, curtained only across the lower panes, and said, “I keep expecting to see a fuzzy head looking out at us.” I’d been glancing warily at the windows myself, afraid to spot a silhouette moving behind the curtains.

At last we were done. I gathered up the sign-making things and Diamondqueen tucked her empty garbage bags in the van and prepared to drive away. Just as she was about to shut the door, I heard a sound. “I think a balloon just popped,” I told her. She saw a ghostly blob skidding along the lawn and leaped after it: one balloon popped, one loose, and we’d only just finished. I thought maybe I should tie on the five or six small white balloons I’d blown up as reserves, but Diamondqueen didn’t think it was necessary. As she backed down the driveway, the tethered balloons danced on a very active breeze.

Rusty was jubilant to be getting back to his warm home at last. I felt a little sorry for him, so I gave him an extra tidbit of chicken (Mom has him spoiled to think he should get a small treat every time he comes in the door) and refilled his dry food. I also sat down to have a few potato chips, which he gladly shared. I lay down on the futon, ready for our nightly ritual of giving him a brief massage before he goes to sleep. I waited and waited, then I heard a murmur of a whine from the kitchen. Rusty was standing at the door as if he needed to go out. (He didn’t. He uses that ruse to get himself an extra nugget of white meat chicken.)

That was the last straw. I leaped up from the bed, charged into the kitchen, and clapped my hands at him. “I’m going to get a paper! Get in there!!!” He galloped past me and dove into the middle of the futon as if he’d been shot out of a cannon. I lay down next to him briefly, petting him and gently rubbing his neck muscles. Then I got up, took up my crocheting, and settled in the chair to relax and watch some television. It was about 11:15.

Minutes later, I was startled to see Mom, tousled and weary-looking, standing by the futon. [to be continued]

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