Sky Boy by Anthony J. Langford
There was a giant helium balloon in Kenny”s backyard. His parents were professional balloonists but this was the first balloon they had ever made. His mom had outfitted the basket and his dad had just filled it with the gas to make it fly. It was all ready to go. A big crowd gathered around, too. Suddenly, Kenny said that he wanted to go with his dad. Everyone laughed.
“You”re much too young to fly, Kenny. When you”re older, I”ll think about it.”
Kenny didn”t agree. As his dad shook hands with people, Kenny slipped into the basket, undid the rope and off it went. Everyone, especially his mom and his dad, yelled at him to come back. The balloon went sideways into the house and everyone below went, “Oooh.” Kenny thought his trip may be over before it had begun but somehow the balloon pushed free of the roof and continued to rise. His dad was yelling at him but Kenny didn”t care as he knew everyone was watching. He felt like a king. King Kenny, the Sky Boy.
As the balloon climbed higher though, he thought maybe his dad was right. It was too high. But Kenny did not know how to go down.
The back yard shrunk and he could no longer hear the people shouting. Soon, they turned to black dots and not long after that he couldn”t see his house anymore either. The clouds became his new roof.
He drifted right out of town and into the green of the countryside. It was beautiful but very quiet, like when the television is off. Kenny relaxed a little, looking at the reflection of the balloon in a lake and the fields shaped like rows of green toast, until he heard a loud hissing sound. You don”t want to hear that sound when you”re up in a gas balloon. The balloon was leaking! Kenny could suddenly taste his breakfast, but this time it wasn”t so nice.
“Mom? Dad? I think I want to come down now!”
Kenny looked around, but all he could see were the clouds and the sun and the ground.
The balloon began to hiss more loudly. Was the hole getting bigger? “Please help me!”
The balloon began to drop from the sky. Kenny looked over the edge. It was a long way down. A very, long way.
Kenny was a stubborn boy. He never did what adults told him, not only his parents but his teachers too. If he did something bad, which was often, he would never admit to it. Even now, after he had stolen his parent”s balloon, he felt like he had done nothing wrong. It was always someone else”s fault. “This isn”t fair dad. I didn”t really want to go up. You should have known I was joking!” But no one could hear him.
Just then a huge tear went up the side of the balloon like a teacher slowly ripping a sheet of paper. The basket shook like crazy and Kenny did all he could do, which was to tie a rope around his waist and hang on as tightly as he could. It was like being inside a party balloon that someone had popped. It plummeted, getting closer and closer to the ground. Kenny was certain he was about to find out what an egg feels like when it hits the floor.
And yet, he still felt as though he had done nothing wrong. Screaming didn”t help, but he did it anyway. “AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”
The balloon plunged like a sock dropped from a tree with a big marble in it. It was going to crash and Kenny thought this might be the end of his short life.
From out of nowhere, Farmer Tino in his one man crop dusting plane came zooming underneath him and hooked the balloon onto the tail. Farmer Tino had watched the balloon floating through the air, which was unusual in his area and had witnessed its sudden drop. As the plane caught the balloon, the basket flipped sideways and Kenny hung on for dear life. This was even scarier than before!
“Dad! Help me!” Kenny said as the balloon jolted. “I didn”t mean to take your balloon!”
Farmer Tino flew towards a dirt road, but just as the wheels were about to touch, the basket smashed into the ground and sprung up again.
Kenny wailed. “I”m sorry!” The basket bounced off the ground, almost spilling the boy onto the road. Each time it bounced, Farmer Tino heard Kenny yell; “It”s all my fault! I”ve been a naughty boy!”
Up and down, up and down, Kenny”s voice was heard all around. “I”ve been a naughty boy!” He wished it were a dream, that he would wake up in his backyard with his dad lifting him from the basket and his mom wiping away his tears. But this was no dream.
Dust filled the basket and he spluttered and shut his eyes. He jittered like microwaved popcorn.
Luckily Farmer Tino was a very good pilot. He brought the plane to a steady halt and leapt from the cockpit, running to check inside the basket, afraid of what he might find.
Sandwiched in the corner amongst the woven cane was a dust coated bundle of clothes. Was that a little boy in there? Tino reached in and lifted him out.
“Boy, my dad”s going to be super mad,” said the bundle. Tears began to cut a trail across the dirt caked cheeks. “I”ve been such a naughty boy!”
“I”d say you”re a lucky boy! I think you should keep your head out of the clouds for a while.”
“Don”t worry, I will! From now on, I”m going to do exactly what my parents tell me.”
AUTHOR BIO: Anthony grew up by the river in country Australia but after several years traveling now lives in Sydney with his baby daughter and three step children. He has had numerous stories published, including in the Verandah 25th Anniversary Edition and his novella Bottomless River will be published by Ginninderra Press in early 2012.
ILLUSTRATOR BIO: Nathan Wyckoff has been an illustrator, painter and writer on the scene for over a decade. Between gallery shows, Nathan frequently publishes illustrations and fiction in numerous magazines, recently being nominated for an AWP Intro Journal Award for his weird poetry. His online illustration portfolio can be viewed at nathanwyckoff.squarespace.com.