If one balloon was just for you, as you lay dying, in some sterile hospice center, perhaps the brief bright color and silly shape might make your pain less. If that one balloon was brought by a small child who loved you and didn't know what else to do except give you her favorite stuffed animal, a white bunny named Maggie, one balloon would do. A small child who knows about death happening to gold fish and cats, but not to a big sister. What magic would she stop believing in? The next day, she might bring one more balloon, a yellow smiley face so you would smile, as you lay dying. She doesn't know you were holding her favorite stuffed animal all night because it held the scent of her.
If one balloon was for a small child you loved but knew was dying, would you pay extra for one with helium, so it might last longer? Or would you choose one balloon, in the shape of a unicorn, in purple, her favorite color? Or one balloon from the drawer marked Valentines Day, a red heart with words she cannot read, three small words because your heart is breaking? One balloon for every year of her short life, five?
If one balloon does not a circus make, nor another birthday party, cancel the cake and the clowns. Go to the grocery store and look up at all the escaped balloons, just waiting to be useful. Ask the manager if you can take them to a children's hospital and explain why. Over the loudspeaker, he calls a name, a young man who stocks shelves helps to gather the balloons, one by one. The woman who is in charge of the floral department and sells the balloons, helps too. She adds more helium, replaces faded ribbons, then picks one more balloon, a blue one that says nothing. She and the stock boy and the manager all help you bring the balloons to your car.
You drive your unintentional circus to the hospital. It is more difficult to see when there is more than one balloon and you are crying because of the kindness of others. It takes three trips to get the balloons up to the fifth floor where all the children lay dying. A tired nurse at a desk looks at you, surprised. You tell her it all started out with one balloon and she says she will give them to whoever needs a balloon or two. She is too tired to smile, but says this was the best ending to a day in quite some time. Before you turn to leave, you tell her that one balloon is for her.