The Balloonauts - Double Trouble
It was almost completely dark when the raised voices from downstairs finally died down. Timmy sucked his grey-furred thumb, even though he knew he wasn't supposed to, as he bit back tears. The little kangaroo baby boy didn't like it when his parents argued, which they seemed to do more and more often. And now it was getting dark, too. He definitely didn't like the dark.
There was, as always, a sliver of light seeping in through his curtains from the street lamp outside, but it only made things worse. The faint light cast shadows on his ceiling and walls, shadows that the little boy's imagination turned scary. And then there were all the places where the light failed to reach. Those places were even more frightening, since he never knew what could be hiding there. Timmy didn't believe in ghosts and monsters, not really. At least not by day.
He slid deeper into the makeshift pouch that Mommy had folded out of his blankets, so that only his quivering nose and his large toes peered out. No, he decided, that made it scarier, to not see what the shadows were doing. He sighed as he glanced around in his crib, then shuddered as he saw the fangs. Daddy had told him that it was just the tree outside that cast its shadow, but Timmy knew they were fangs. Just like he knew they might some day decide to bite him.
Yet there was something else with him this day, that comforted him. A round, yellow balloon hung upwards from where Mommy had tied it before he went to bed. It reminded him of his friend Dave, and made him feel a little bit more safe. During the day he had been at a fair with Dave and both their families, and they had both got balloons.
Balloons were funny things. Everything else fell to the ground when you dropped it, but balloons fell up.
Timmy gurgled happily as he thought about the fun he'd had that day; aside from all the usual games they had played, there had been rides and twinkling lights and strange smells and candy. He also thought about his friend, and he kind of wished that Dave was there with him. They had napped together many times, and sleeping next to the wolf pup made Timmy feel safe. He liked to snuggle up to his friend and feel the warmth of Dave's thick, jet black fur. This thought made him settle down, so he closed his eyes and let tiredness take him away.
It seemed only moments later when Timmy woke up, suddenly not feeling tired at all. He looked up at his balloon and giggled as he remembered Dave's story from the previous day. The wolf pup wasn't very good at talking, and Timmy wasn't very good at listening, but he remembered something about Dave flying with his balloon, going on all kinds of adventures. The thought seemed weird. Surely such a small balloon couldn't carry a kid? Yet... It thrilled him just to think about it. To fly!
Everything seemed quiet downstairs, so he decided to try. He struggled out of his pouch and stood up, wavering slightly before he got a good grip of the crib's railing. Timmy wasn't very good at walking yet, but with support it was no problem. He made his way over to the balloon and tugged on the string. It sank towards him, then bounced right back up again. Timmy choked back a giggle so as not to wake up Mommy and Daddy, then tugged again. After a little while of playing he began to wonder how he would ever be able to fly if the balloon were tied down. Just then, the string came loose in his hand. Bouncing happily, he wrapped it around his wrist and willed the balloon to lift him towards the skies.
But nothing happened.
Disappointed, he thumped down on his padded bottom, while tears welled up in his eyes. He tried not to cry, or at least to keep it quiet, but couldn't help letting out a couple of sniffles. Just as he was about to go back to sleep, though, he felt a soft tug on his arm. As he watched it, his eyes wide and his mouth forming a silent 'oh', the balloon tugged again, this time harder. Slowly and gently, it rose into the air and brought the little kangaroo with it. Timmy giggled as they bounced against the ceiling, moving steadily towards the window.
His tummy tingled as he flew out into the night sky, up and up, higher and higher. For a second he thought he would wet his nappy, as his house disappeared below him, but he was soon distracted by a wonderful sight. Above him, the sky was filled with stars. Bright, twinkling and friendly, they seemed so close that he was mildly disappointed when he failed to reach out and touch one with his free hand.
Timmy and his balloon drifted along on a mild breeze for a while, as the boy gurgled happily at all the sights above and below. There were little lights streaking along dark roads, and he somehow knew that they were cars. Timmy liked cars, especially now that they looked like little toys, and didn't make so much noise. He wished all cars could be that small, then he could play with them all.
Just as he passed a low cloud, he heard a shrill scream coming from nearby. Timmy knew that voice immediately, but it took him a while to locate its source. Then he saw a pink balloon, bobbing lazily up and down just a few metres away. In the darkness, all he could see of Dave was large, bright blue eyes and a white nappy. The rest of the little wolf pup was even darker than the night. Both boys squealed happily as they met, and hugged. Timmy breathed in his friend's scent, and rubbed his nose in the warm, thick fluffy fur at Dave's neck. He was so happy to see his best friend in the world. Dave's presence took the last of his fears and worries about flying away.
Dave let out a string of burblings that was totally incomprehensible, until he finally remembered to take his pacifier out. From what little Timmy could hear and understand, the wolf pup had sneaked out, just like him, for a nightly flight. The two of them swung around each other, until the strings of their balloons were twisted together. Pressed tightly together now, they kept drifting along with the breeze.
The full moon was up, so they could see the landscape below. Dave yipped happily and pointed at his house, but Timmy was more interested in the nearby playground. He wanted to land and play in the sandbox, until he remembered that he had no toys with him. His bucket and spade, and his plastic toy cars, were all packed away in the shed. Well, maybe they could ride the little seesaw. He was too small to get up on the swings on his own, and he didn't dare to ride the slide without Daddy there to catch him. But the pink and the yellow balloons seemed to have a mind of their own, and rose higher still. They passed through clouds, which looked so scary in the pale moonlight that Timmy began to sniffle.
His tears never came, though, because the warm furry body next to him turned around, and he got yet another hug. Dave nuzzled him, then rubbed noses with him until it tickled, and Timmy started giggling. That was just one of the many best things about Dave; he would never let anyone be unhappy. Timmy kissed his cheek, and they both broke into squeals of joy.
Feeling much better now, Timmy was able to appreciate the beauty of the moonlit cloudscape. The shapes seemed friendlier now, and he could make out sheep and flowers and balls and one cloud that he thought looked like a big piece of candy. He wanted to have a closer look at that one, and the balloons seemed to obey. But it was just an ordinary cloud. Brushing against it felt wet, like the wash cloth Mommy used when she bathed him.
On a whim, he grabbed a piece of the cloud and squashed it into Dave's face. The wolf pup gasped, then retaliated by stuffing a handful of cloud into Timmy's nappy. The chill wetness against his tender bits made him shriek, and soon a fight broke out. Both boys snarled and growled as they punched and kicked and bit each other, meanwhile getting the balloons' strings even more twisted. Soon they ended up stuck, cheek pressed against cheek and their free hands trapped behind the other's back. Timmy seized the opportunity to cuddle his friend, while Dave was still growling and trying to bite his ear. The pup soon gave up the fight, though, and joined in the snuggling.
The balloons rose higher still, while the two boys managed to get somewhat untangled. They were still pressed tightly together, but now they could at least move their free arms. Timmy noticed that the moon was getting bigger and bigger, and he wondered if they were going there. He tried to ask Dave, but his pup friend was too busy staring at an airplane flying by below them. After a little while Timmy knew for sure that they were going to the moon. It grew to fill his field of vision, while the Earth shrank into a brightly blue-green ball below them. Dave, too, had noticed now, and was cooing excitedly.
Soon they weren't rising anymore, but slowly descending on a barren, pale landscape. Timmy had seen pictures from the moon on TV, so he knew that they were really, truly there. He could see craters large as oceans, and others so small he could probably walk across them without even stumbling once. And then he saw astronauts as well, driving around in their lunar vehicle and exploring and... well, he didn't really know what astronauts did. Only that they had really cool spacesuits and got to go into space. The boys waved at them as they flew by, then their balloons took them to a moon mountain. There, they saw other astronauts in leaner suits who were climbing the mountain. They waved again, then gasped as they reached the top of the mountain.
Beyond lay a vast city. Timmy recognised it immediately; this was also something he had seen on TV. He couldn't remember the city's name, but he knew that the huge dome covering it had something to do with air. Or was it sunlight? He couldn't quite remember, nor really understand. Dave was squirming next to him. The pup clearly wanted down, so he could explore the place, but the balloons wouldn't let them. Instead they flew around the city, outside the dome, looking in on all the people inside.
And all of a sudden, they rose high again. Soaring up and up and up until the moon disappeared and the Earth was back underneath them. Timmy felt relieved that the balloons knew the way; he had no idea how to get to his house from the moon. Dave looked disappointed, though, until he suddenly let out a scream of joy. It took Timmy a little while to realise what had got the pup so excited, but then he saw where the balloons were heading. The toy store! One of his favourite places in the world.
Though it was night the door opened, and the two tots soared in. Timmy's eyes went wide as saucers, and both he and Dave struggled to get free from the balloons. They gave each other a push so that they spun around, untangling the strings, then they both landed on their padded rumps with a thud. His hands shaking with excitement, Timmy pulled the string away from his wrist, then looked around. What caught his attention was the section for toy cars, but then he saw where Dave was going.
The stuffed animals. He wobbled after his friend, and noticed that their balloons were following them around like puppy dogs. There was no time to reflect on this, though. Dave had found a huge panda, and was squeezing it for all he was worth. Timmy looked around until he spotted a giraffe who was almost as tall as he. Squealing happily, he threw his arms around it and rubbed his face in its soft pelt.
The two of them played around in the toy store for what seemed like hours. Timmy got to try all the toys that he was too young for, and all the ones that he could never get for his own because they cost too much. Somehow, he and Dave even managed to put a train set together, and they watched transfixed as the little trains went round and round. By the time Timmy's eyelids began to feel heavy, there were discarded toys strewn all around, and almost nothing of interest remained unplayed with. Except for...
Timmy's hand was trembling as he reached out and grabbed a tiny guitar. He loved to listen to music, but had never really touched an instrument. The toy guitar made beautiful plings as he picked its strings, and the little kangaroo boy had tears in his eyes as he started to play. Meanwhile, Dave had found a drum set, and was happily causing loads of noise. It blended well with Timmy's notes, though, and for a little while the two of them made the best music Timmy had ever heard. By the time they had played enough, he could barely keep his eyes open. The yellow balloon pushed up against him, and he grabbed the string. Dave took his pink balloon, and the two of them flew out of the toy store.
They soared next to each other in silence, both boys too tired and too happy to even giggle as the balloons scared a cat, which dashed into an alley as fast as its legs would carry it. At Timmy's house, the roo boy waved goodbye to his friend, after another cuddle-hug, and his balloon carried him gently through the window of his room, and to his crib. Once he had thumped down, he shook the string free and wrapped it around the railing as it had been when he first took it. Then he yawned widely and wrapped the blanket around himself. Before he knew it, he was asleep.
When Timmy woke up, sunlight was shining in through his window. He sat up in his crib and yawned, rubbing his eyes. The memory of flying with Dave and their balloons made him giggle, as he recalled both their visit to the moon and to the toy store. He could not decide which he had liked best. Just then, the door opened, and Mommy greeted him good morning. He gurgled a reply, then held his hands up to her. She lifted him out of the crib, then proceeded to change his nappy. Clean and dry, he was treated to a bottle of warm milk.
Timmy had no more than finished his breakfast when the doorbell rang, and Mommy let in Dave and his mother. The boys squealed happily as they were let down to play. Dave immediately started up his bubbling chatter, and Timmy joined in as best he could, assuming that they were both talking about their nightly adventure. Together, they made their way over to Timmy's toybox, and grabbed their playthings for this morning. Timmy chose his favourite truck, a large yellow one, while Dave chose a green plastic lizard. Soon they were deep into some game or other, and the balloon flight was momentarily forgotten.