In solidarity with Tigger, I’m adopting her goal of 10,000 words–333 per day. Today’s entry: 337. I’m four words ahead!
My mother died saving my life.
The advertisement on the colorful flyer drew us out of our tiny apartment on a sunny June morning.
1 hour ride in a hot air balloon
Like nothing you’ve ever done
So up we went, Mama and me, with a balloon guy that looked too heavy to have his job. As we rose into the air he grinned at me with perfect straight teeth that looked plastic. His nylon jacket stunk of cigarettes.
“You ever fly like a bird before?” he asked me.
“Birds don’t fly like this,” I said. “Birds flap their wings.”
“Well, you can flap if you want,” he told me, waving his arms up and down and causing the balloon basket to lurch. My stomach lurched with it.
I don’t know what went wrong. The balloon went up and up, the ground got farther away. The wind blew my hair in my eyes and my mother gripped my shoulders so hard I could still see marks later. The balloon man yakked at her and at me. I looked for our Pontiac on the ground.
When I first noticed the Pontiac getting closer, I thought our ride must be coming to an end. Then I heard the balloon man shouting. I heard my mother screaming. I heard the wind rushing in my ears, and I covered them with my hands.
My mother lifted me up and clutched me tightly, my legs wrapped around her waist. When the basket hit the ground I felt the impact muted through her body. I landed on top of her, splayed across her and the cushiony middle of the balloon man. I felt flattened.
As the onlookers ran towards us, I stood up and shook myself out to my usual form. The bits of broken basket made jagged obstacles that I moved gingerly around as I took my first steps away from my original life and stumbled into my new one.
I was five years old and alone in the world.