“Billy Balloon,” Friend, Mar. 1982, 8
Mister Biggins had to tie the yellow balloon around his wrist. It was the only yellow one in his whole bunch of balloons. There were red balloons and blue balloons and pink and green and white balloons, all bobbing and bumping together over his head. But the yellow balloon bucked like a bronco. It pulled straight up, harder than all the others, hunting the sky.
Mister Biggins was selling balloons. Other people were flying kites—a box kite, a dragon kite, and one like a bat. The wind was glad to have them all to play with. The wind was laughing, and Billy could hear him. “He’s whuffling,” Billy said. “May I fly a kite, Mommy?”
“When you’re older, Billy.”
“Older? I’ll be older tomorrow.”
“But not old enough,” said Mommy. “See how fast the big boys run to get their kites up? You’ll have to have longer legs like theirs to fly a kite.”
“When I’m in kindergarten?” asked Billy.
“Well, we’ll see.”
The March wind whuffled around a rock. Billy stretched out his arms. He ran and ran. “Maybe the wind will fly me,” he called to his mother. “What fun it would be!”
The wind flew kites and leaves and papers. But it didn’t fly Billy. It only whuffled.
“Mommy! Why won’t the wind fly me? It flies clouds and they’re bigger than I am.”
“The clouds are bigger, all right, but they’re lighter than air.”
“The papers aren’t.”
“The papers are flat and light enough to sail on the wind.”
Billy ran again. The box kite was flying. It wasn’t flat or lighter than air. A jet plane drew a streak like a chalk mark as it flew across the sky. Even the sun—round and yellow—seemed to be flying.
Only Billy wasn’t flying. He was jumping and jumping, but he wasn’t flying. Billy saw Mister Biggins with all the balloons jostling together over his head.
“Mommy, may I have a balloon?”
“All right, Billy. Which one?”
“A flying balloon. Mister balloon man, do you have a flying balloon?”
“I certainly do. And a nuisance it is! It’s that yellow one in the middle. But keep a tight hold on it. It wants to fly.”
“So do I! I want to fly!”
Billy danced excitedly while Mister Biggins untied the yellow balloon from his wrist. He was glad to be rid of the restless balloon. “Hold it tight or it’ll get away. They put too much helium in it,” Mister Biggins explained.
Billy held the yellow balloon’s string with both hands and felt it tugging and tugging. He jumped a little to see if the yellow balloon would fly him, but Billy was too heavy for the yellow balloon. He bounced back down the path to the park, jumping like a kangaroo with the yellow balloon. But being a kangaroo wasn’t flying.
The dragon kite dipped over his head. The March wind whuffled. Little clouds scooted in front of the sun. The sun was as yellow as the yellow balloon.
“It’s a flying balloon. Fly away, balloon!” And Billy let go of the string.
“You lost it,” said Mommy.
“It’s flying away! It’s Billy Balloon, and it’s flying away!”
The balloon went up and up, above the dragon kite, over the box kite, higher and higher to where the clouds scooted.
“See Mommy! See! It’s Billy Balloon. It’s chasing the clouds. Billy Balloon! Billy Balloon!”