One Thousand Balloons

I feel empty these days. Just plain empty. It's like being a balloon.

I remember one time in elementary school when they put on this lottery prize with balloons at Ben Franklin Elementary in West LaFayette, Indiana. All you had to do was tie a card with your name and address on the string of a balloon and then let it go. The balloon that travelled the furthest from the school would win the prize. All you needed was the $10 to enter - or $5 or whatever it was. I asked my dad for the money. I tied my name to the balloon and then BOOM! It was off.

There were like a thousand balloons in the sky. I prayed that my balloon would catch the wind and keep going forever. Then I realized that it would be pretty hard to find my balloon. What if it just went so far that no one would find it? How were they keeping track of all those balloons? How did they know if one went further than all the rest if they couldn't account for every balloon? What if someone just popped their balloon and then drove 5 miles down the road and put it next to some house and then VOILA - there's the farthest travelling balloon?

Those questions really got me thinking a lot about balloons. First, I thought about the science of balloons. I thought about the helium capacity in a typical balloon, and how a balloon can only go so far or high before the heat busts the balloon, or the helium inside loses its potency and the balloon begins to drift downward again. Then I thought about how I could cheat and win the prize, by riding my bike down the road and popping my balloon, or even calling into the school that I found the balloon like in another town or something.

I didn't think anymore after that. I was too honest to cheat, so I just started praying again. I did that kind of thing a lot, except it wasn't like a Hail Mary or anything. It was more like, "If I make this basket at the basketball hoop, then my balloon will win the money prize, and I will get my mom this, and my dad this, and some toys for me - like a real light saber or something."

Anyway, I didn't win shit. They announced it on Monday when we got back to school. It was a real let down for everyone. They must have been thining the same thing as me, too, because everyone was like, "Oh, they cheated and drove down the road" - just like I had thought before. That only got me thinking about more stuff. I just couldn't figure out why everyone was thinking about cheating, but no one was smart enough to do it. How come everyone didn't just drive their balloon like ten miles away? Why's everyone got to be so honest in the second grade?

That was when G. I. Joe's came out or something, because I stopped thinking about it. I think it was just too big of a thing for me care about for more than 5 minutes. At the same time, I like that I get to take my second grade philosophical meaderings back into the forefront now. Those were some pretty good questions. I think I know the answers, too. At least that's what my mind says. I don't know if I'm right, but I figure it has a lot to do with being in second grade and being afraid of cheating and being told that it's bad by your parents, and that the only way someone would do it in the second grade is if they were taught that it was okay.

As far as accounting for every balloon, the contest might have been to raise money for the kid that won, and that was an easy way for them to get people to donate and all, but they didn't let the kids in on the donation aspect of the whole thing - just the parents. Either that, or the contest was just poorly thought out, and they didn't consider that my balloon would go on forever, and just be floating up there for all eternity.

Man, I have got to learn some magic tricks. I think that's the answer for every second grader. Teach them how to do some magic and then they won't be fooled by some contest. They'll know what's going on and not get their hopes up that some balloon is going to go on forever. Man, magic tricks is all kids need. That's why Harry Potter is so big. It's like all of them are in on it in a way. Like they might learn how to get out of a situation by making their Draco Malfoy at School, Anywhere, go batty with a little incantation they got from Hogwarts.

It's all about magic. I think I can solve this balloon issue. I am just going to have to learn the history of magic. Then I won't feel like a balloon anymore. Thank you, Merlin.

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