IAN McKECHNIE The Balloon Goes Up

The Balloon Goes Up
He brushed his teeth again and he could still taste it, at least he thought he could.Toothpaste snaked over the wash-basin and on the floor, and his hands were still shaking.
“The Prime Minister on the phone, Sir.”
“Christ,” he thought, looking in the mirror, “this looks fucking comical.”
His mouth was wreathed in toothpaste foam. The aide’s face, reflected a look of amused puzzlement.
“What’s so fucking funny?” he screamed.
Suds spluttered from his mouth over the mirror and wash-basin. The aide
jumped from sight. It was obvious what was funny. He was hysterical and he
knew it. Objectivity was part of his hysteria.
He rinsed out his mouth and dried his face. Toothpaste was smeared in his moustache.
“This,” he thought, “is a Keystone Comedy.”
He walked out of the bathroom still towelling his face and picked up the telephone.
“Yes Ma’am.”
It was the school matron voice. Soothing and clinical. The one matron used as you winced when she dressed your cuts and grazes.
On the T.V. the day’s events were being replayed.
“Yes Ma’am,” he had cancelled tomorrow’s engagements.
“No Ma’am,” he hadn’t yet seen a doctor.
“Yes Ma’am,” he would let the doctor look at him.
The voice kept on. Ten years now. Does the bitch ever stop?
On the T.V. he was going through the motions again.
Cutting the ribbon, declaring another Yuppieville well and truly open, the balloons going up to orchestrated applause and then he stopped speaking, the T.V. fixing his attention.
The balloons went up.
One of the balloons, a red one, detached itself from the main flight, described an arc and burst on his head.
He was in and out of the memory, the taste of petrol in his mouth and the shivering terror.
He saw and remembered himself being rushed, blinded, into the flats, the bodyguards shouting, shoving him, holding him at arms length, taking no chances.
There was the possibility of fire.
A white-faced citizen was being hauled from the crowd, a man in his fifties,
dressed in a shabby blue anorak, grimacing or grinning? as his arms were twisted behind him.
“The bastard!” he said, dropping the phone.
He turned and made for the bathroom, fear bringing up the taste.
The aide retrieved the phone and made stammering apologies to a shrill small voice.
He entered the bathroom and closed the door, then wearily, he sat down on the toilet and covered his face with his fists.
“The bastard!”, he repeated, knowing now with certainty the attack was merely to frighten.
He began to weep, feeling sorry for himself. He was very tired and he had been badly frightened and the world had seen his terror and embarrassment.
“The bastards! The fucking bastards!”
He began to shiver.
Petrol.
The taste was back.
He would have to wash his mouth out again.
S

 

From:
Workers City “The Real Glasgow Stands Up”
Edited By Farquar McLay Clydeside Press

 

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