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Bright Balloons and A Bright Future

First Sequence: An unhappy and very lonely little boy lives with his mother and four other siblings in a run-down apartment in Chicago. His father left years ago when he was too little to understand what and why and how. The only memory he has of his father is this: On his sixth birthday, his father brings him a red balloon home as a gift. His father says it may not be much but it represents a whole lot more than the empty air inside of it. It represents wishing, a bright future, and a lot of happiness to come. When you let it go and the balloon floats away, all you wish and want for will one day come true. Now, at the time the boy thought this was the best present ever. At age eleven, he now knows his dad was probably just being cheap, yet sometimes he still thinks about that story and secretly wishes it might be true. For the next five years the boy goes on slowly becoming sadder, more alone, and more quiet until he barely says a word to anyone ever: not at home, not at school, not even on the street to a passerby that might listen. No, the boy knows no one will listen. Maybe no one even cares. One day, the little boy leaves for school just like every other day: alone, sad, affected by little to none. The weather is chilly, dark, and cloudy even though it is almost eight o'clock in the morning. Unbeknownst to him, a colorful red balloon begins to float up behind him. Somehow this balloon stays with him all the way to school. The little boy still has no idea. As he comes down the stairs at the end of his school day, he sees something out of the corner of his eye: a bright red balloon. He glances over to it and for the first time in months, years maybe, he smiles. He makes a wish and begins thinking what his bright future will hold. Second Sequence: A little boy walks out of school one dreary day with his bag in hand, ready to make the long, 45-minute walk back home. He notices a red balloon out of the corner of his eye. They used to remind him of his dad because his dad gave him one for his sixth birthday. He told him the balloon was a symbol for happiness and a bright future, so before he let it go into the sky, he should make a wish on it. The wish he made at age six never came true, his dad left soon after that, and the little boy just grew sadder and more alone as time went by. About 20 minutes later, the little boy noticed that, somehow, the red balloon was still behind him. He grew a littler nervous. Is this a joke? How does a balloon follow someone? Is there a string attached somewhere? His brain flooded with these thoughts yet when he turned around the balloon was not there anymore anyway. Oh well. As the little boy opened the door to his run-down apartment situated in downtown Chicago, he dropped his bag on the chair, opened it, took out a book, and ran to his bedroom. No one in the one-bedroom apartment said hi to him, nor did he to them. He jumped up on his bed and made sure his pillows were fluffed and ready to endure the long evening hours of holding him up while he read. Little did the boy know, as he began his new mystery novel, the bright red balloon floated by his window, full of wishes, happiness, and bright futures that have yet to come true.

ALEXANDRA HIRSCH