Balloon, Orange Juice, Tape Recorder

Dominique Manfredi sat outside at a corner table at The White Peacock Café. He had just ordered two eggs (sunny side up), toast with raspberry marmalade, espresso, and a half-glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. It was just after ten in the morning on yet another perfect day in sunny Hollywood, California.

He was anxious. A looming deadline haunted him. In two days, the screenplay he had spent the past two months pouring himself into was due. Galaxy Studios wouldn’t tolerate another delay, and Dominique desperately needed the cash the finished screenplay would bring. His brainchild and labor of love, An Heiress’ Son, was nearly complete. In fact, he was up late the evening before crafting the final scene. However, he felt it lacked something‒a certain nuance he couldn’t quite put his finger on.

He pressed the red button on his portable voice recorder. The tape was nearly full. He intoned thoughtfully, “Idea. The boy walks away, down a long dark alleyway, having seen his mother for the last time. He sobs. The sun falls behind the skyscrapers that loom over him like frozen granite monsters. It starts to rain.”

It didn’t feel right. Something was missing.

Dominique set the recorder down and sipped his espresso. He observed the wake of bobbing heads of passing pedestrians‒tourists, stars-to-be, locals‒drift by in an orderly chaos with a rhythm all its own.

He saw a boy with a blue, helium-filled balloon. It buffeted on the air a couple feet above his head as he happily skipped by without a care in the world. As he passed Dominique, he tripped and fell, and the balloon sailed up and away, free from its master, to God knows where. The boy cried plaintively, beseeching Dominique with tear-filled eyes to do something. Anything.

Dominique was at a loss.

“Sorry, kid. It’s gone.”

The boy sobbed and walked away. Dominique watched him recede into the crowded street. He gulped the last of his orange juice and pressed the red button on his voice recorder yet again. “Idea. The heiress gives her son a blue balloon, an unsatisfactory parting gift. It does nothing to soothe the boy’s broken heart, but the heiress appears unconcerned. He cries. She dispassionately strokes his hair and walks quickly away. He walks into the alleyway, head bowed, and lets the balloon go. The camera follows the balloon up into the sunset. It drifts out of view.

Dominique paid his check, walked home, and fell quickly asleep.

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