The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination 

Issue Twenty-Two

Chess and A Fairy Tale by Andrzej Bursa
from Dreams of the 1990s by Michael Ruby
Flights by Phil Richardson
Hole in the Ground by Laurence Klavan
Maternal Aorta by Girija Tropp
Good Neighbors by Bruce Holland Rogers
A Word From Our Sponsors by Andrew S. Taylor


irreal (re)views


by Phil Richardson

I. The green and orange balloon

The balloon strained at its ropes as a slight breeze caused it to turn and twist. Sometimes the orange side was visible, sometimes the green. The basket, painted a bright yellow, seemed oddly out of place. In the basket, a young couple and the Pilot. A honeymoon adventure was about to begin. He kissed her for the cameraman and then the ropes were loosed and the balloon and the people began a gentle journey.

“I love you,” he said.

“Me too,” she said.

Once more they kissed as an embarrassed Pilot busied himself with the controls of the burner. The balloon ascended almost to the clouds and then began moving eastward. Beneath them, the earth seemed as distant as the moon. She leaned over to point to their town. He leaned over too. The basket tilted and they fell from the basket as though they were two seeds spit from a giant face. . Like skydivers they embraced and made their last journey in each other’s arms. The Pilot, who had been hanging on when the basket tilted, watched them plummet downward, shed two tears, and began his slow descent.

The orange and green balloon rotated slowly in the breeze. Sometimes the orange side was visible, sometimes the green.

II. The blue and white balloon

The wind howled around them and, in spite of the actions of the Pilot, they kept going higher and higher. The blue and white balloon seemed to have a mind of its own; climbing toward the peaks of clouds that covered the mountains.

The Pilot did not look concerned. The passengers did.

“I'm having trouble breathing,” one said.

“I'm getting sick,” said another.

The Pilot smiled.

They were moving very fast and, from their height, the clouds covered the sky so they seemed to be moving through an ethereal whiteness that touched but did not touch. One of the passengers reached out because he wondered if he could feel the whiteness.

The Pilot shook his head in admonition.

The wind died and for a brief moment they hung motionless above a white carpet of swirling mist. Their ascent had not stopped, however, and soon they were shivering with the blue cold that enveloped them in the upper air.

“Can we not go down?” the man asked.

“I'm so cold,” the woman's voice shivered the words.

The Pilot shook his head.

The blue and white balloon crept upward like a buoy suddenly released from its mooring and enjoying a new freedom. Ice crystals formed on the balloon and when the sun touched them, the balloon looked like a giant reflector globe in a dance hall.

It was not long before the sun warmed only the blue and white balloon.

III. The red and yellow balloon

When the shadow passed over them, they looked up to see a red and yellow balloon. They watched as it drifted lower and lower and they wondered where it would land.

“The Pilot must know where he's going,” one said.

“They always do,” the other answered. “That's why they are Pilots.”

They walked across the meadow not noticing the burrs that tagged along on their clothing, nor the rabbits that scurried away; their eyes followed only the balloon.

Oddly enough it was no longer moving, but falling faster and faster toward the ground.

“The Pilot may know what he's doing, but he's going down very fast.”

“The balloon is going to crash,” the other said.

It did. There were no flames, no explosion, the red and yellow sphere collapsed upon itself and covered the basket so they could not see the passengers.

Holding hands, they began running in hopes they could help the people; they had to pull aside mountains of fabric to get to the basket and when they did, there was no Pilot and no passenger.

“Strange,” one said.

“Very strange,” was the reply.

“Not so strange,” said the other as he pointed to the name on the basket.

Phil Richardson is a retired professor of modern languages and former director of the Richardson Language Resource Center at Ohio University. Phil met his wife Joyce in a creative writing class at Ohio University and both continue to write. He is currently working in the area of flash fiction. His stories have appeared in The Storyteller, Northwoods Journal, ELf: Eclectic Literary Fiction; Fantasy, Folklore and Fairytales; Wild Violet, and Writing on Walls Anthology.

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