The wall of multi-colored balloons lined the shore right at the waters’ edge.
It was pretty much useless. Didn’t really keep anything in or out. But it wasn’t meant to.
It was a memorial to those who had died protecting the shores. It was considered holy. It was considered sacred.
Maisie DeLuise didn’t care about any of that grown up stuff.
She wanted the red balloon.
Her mother pushed her own warm day and ocean stiffened hair back. “Baby, those balloons aren’t for the taking.”
“Oh! Oh! Look at this!” She grabbed a drab black stone out of the sand. “Look at this, Maisie. Isn’t this pretty? Look how smooth this is.”
Maisie afforded one glance at it. “Not pretty. Red balloon!”
“Now, baby. We can’t. It would be like stealing the nose off of Lincoln’s statue at the Lincoln—”
“Red. Balloon. Now!”
Her mother tried to take her hand.
Maisie flung herself on the sand. And screamed. And kicked. And flailed about.
A newlywed couple walked by and tsked her untoward behavior.
“Maisie. You are being a very bad—”
“REEEEED BAAAAAALLLLLOOOOON NOOOOOOOWWW!”
Her screams lurched up into choked sobs and weeping. Oh, such weeping.
“Maisie. We can’t. We—”
“You don’t LOOOOOVE MEEEEEEEEE!” Her EEE’s were a shrill shriek.
An elderly gentleman came up. “Miss. Could you take your screaming banshee child away? She’s disrupting our yoga time over there.”
Maisie’s mother glared a Medusa death glare at him.
Just a glare that should have frozen his joints into stone.
He harrumphed and returned to his beach yoga group.
Maisie settled down. “I…I…j…just want one…one…one…b…b…balloon.”
“That’s stealing. We can’t steal. It’s not nice. It’s not right.”
“A…are they going to miss one red balloon?”
Her mother raised her head and considered the long multi-colored wall.
I’m sure they’ve had some deflate, float off to sea, disappear into the sky. These things aren’t chained down.
Just one red balloon.
“Just one. That’s all I want. I need it. It’s a red balloon. I need it so much. I love it so much. I want to keep it in my room I love it so much.”
Her mother snapped out of her pilfering thoughts. “You’re being ridiculous. I can buy you a balloon. I can buy you a bag of 100 balloons for fifty-nine cents at the Junk Junko Mart.”
“But they aren’t THAT balloon. I love THAT balloon.”
“Well. Sometimes we don’t get who we love.”
Maisie rubbed her nose and contemplated her mother’s words. There was some big concept in there. Some secret that grown-ups know, but don’t tell their kids. It was a code that only adults could crack because only they had the decoder ring.
Such contemplations made her sleepy and confused. She rubbed her eyes hard with the back of her hand.
Her mother picked her up. “You tired?”
Maisie didn’t answer. She laid her head on her mother’s shoulder.
She fell asleep before they even left the beach.