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Fallen Hobbies

by Susan Fleck Pennington 2 years ago in literature
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A Father's Dream

New York City Skyline

Richard, 60, stood on the porch of his rundown shanty with his son Nick.

In the distance, the sun slowly sank below the mountain peaks in its usual

nighttime ritual. The two men stared quietly into the near darkness.

Richard’s face beamed with pride while Nick’s appeared somewhat

uninterested and amused.

“A thing of beauty,” Richard proclaimed.

Nick shook his head.

“After all the blood, sweat, and tears it is almost done," Richard

continued, "Can you believe it?”

Feigning an interest Nick nodded. Before him stood the hideous

structure that had been his father’s obsession for as long as he could

remember. The object of his father’s love and purpose for life, the object that

robbed him of his father’s presence at every important event in his life; his

first no-hitter, his graduation, his wedding, the birth of his son.

“All I have left is the wiring. Then it will be visible from every planet in

the Galaxy. There are over one million lights in there. I know, I counted each

and everyone.”

“Wow, aren’t you a bit worried about blowing your electric meter, when

you light ‘er up?”

“Nah, she can handle it. No different than all those awful Christmas lights

your mom had to have every year. This baby is going to shine to the Heavens

and then some.”

“Whatever you say Pop,” Nick headed for the stairs, his dad following.

“I got to go. Sally and the boys are waiting on me for supper.” Nick patted

his dad on the back.

As he walked toward his car he glanced up at the hand-made New York

City skyline that swallowed up his father’s entire backyard.

Standing a good four stories high and covering close to one acre of

ground, the structure was massive and oddly out of place in this small rural

area.

Nick never understood his father’s obsession; in fact, it drove him crazy.

Nick shook his head, mumbling under his breath, “What I wouldn’t give to

be here when that thing goes up in smoke.”

Suddenly the quiet of the night is broken by loud screams and warnings.

“Look out, get out of the way, move.”

Nick looks up at the sky in disbelief. Overhead, another man-made

monstrosity loomed. A huge combination hot air balloon and blimp lunged

rapidly in their direction. It came at them like a party balloon, hissing, and

swirling around the room with no clue where it would land.

Richard stood on his porch staring in disbelief as the huge balloon hurled

itself toward his skyline.

“No, No, No,” he cried out as he ran toward his structure.

The balloon was huge, decked out much like the Good Year Blimp, only

covered in stars and stripes. At first glance, you would have thought a huge

American Flag was dragging the basket from the Wizard of Oz’s through the

sky. An enormous flag, unfurling as it breezed through the sky, heading

straight for Richard’s New York City skyline.

Grinning from ear to ear, Nick marvels at the impending doom. His joy

suddenly interrupted as he spies his father charging toward the wreck that

was about to happen. In a desperate attempt to protect him, Nick lunges

forward, grabbing his father and throwing them both out of harm’s way into

a large pile of cow manure.

After a few seconds of thrashing around both come up gasping for air.

Wiping at the brown muck covering them from head to toe, they peer out at

the destruction before them. The man-made balloon had collided head-on

with the New York City skyline, and won.

Nick tried with all his might not to let his father see the sadistic pleasure

and satisfaction that was filling him, but inside the evil laughter reached

Nick’s ears. Quickly, he covered his mouth, diverting his attention toward

his father. Had he heard him? No, the sounds had only been in his head.

Richard’s face was ghostly white, his body trembled. Nick reached out,

grabbing for Richard as he went weak dropping to his knees in disbelief.

“Pop, Pop are you alright?”

From out of the mess cries rang out alerting Nick that people were still

inside, buried beneath the balloon. His father safely settled on the ground,

Nick ran toward the heap of mangled metal, glass, wood, and rubber.

“I’m coming, hold on,” Nick called out.

This would be no easy task. The entire acre-sized structure had collapsed

on impact. The huge deflated flag fanned out almost completely covering the

entire area as well. Rummaging through the wreckage, led by desperate

voices, Nick found what was once the basket dangling beneath the bullet-

shaped balloon.

Reaching in, Nick helped the frightened travelers that had been thrown to

the floor on impact.

One by one, he pulled each of them was to safety, sixteen in all, and

although a bit disheveled, they were luckily, none the worse for wear.

As they stood dusting themselves off and thanking Nick for his help,

Richard came screaming at them from behind, a shovel raised high over his

head.

Nick grabbed him and wrestled him to the ground, “Dad, Dad, what are

you doing?”

Both, still covered in dung, now somewhat dried out, were a sight for sore

eyes as they rolled around the ground. Not wanting to hurt his father Nick

tried carefully to get him under control and somewhat restrained.

The travelers stood in awe, watching the two crusty covered men rolling

around on the ground.

“I’m going to kill them. Look what they did. They destroyed my work, all

of it, there is nothing left.”

“Are you out of your mind? Dad, it’s a sculpture, they are

human beings. What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking they need to pay for what they have done. All

I had left to do was the lights, the lights, the lights.”

Richard began to quake as Nick held on to him. Sobs came

from his lips and madness filled his eyes.

“I am so sorry,” the owner of the balloon said.

“It’s okay,” Nick said, “It was an accident, you couldn’t

help it.”

“Of course they could have helped it. There's lots of sky up there,”

Richard said. Standing up, Richard waved toward the sky, his loss of mind

evident in his chatter, “See, there is sky there, and there, and there,” Richard

said, spinning around, pointing up at the sky, now lit up with millions of

stars.

A trail of smoke crossed their field of vision as they stared up at the

twinkling stars. Suddenly, a bright orange flash sprang up from the rubble;

the small gas engine used to propel the balloon was on fire.

“Oh my God,” Nick cried out. Letting go of his father, he grabbed his cell

dialing 911 as he ran toward the house. Seconds later, he emerged, carrying a

small fire extinguisher, but by then, New York City was in flames.

A voice on the other end answers, “911, what is your emergency?”

Nick yells into his cell, “A really big balloon just crash-landed into my

father’s New York City skyline and it’s on fire.”

“Sir, have you been drinking?” The 911 operator asked.

“No, I have not been drinking.”

“So, a balloon crashed landed into New York City’s skyline

and it’s on fire,” the operator chuckled.

The smoke began to overcome them. Reaching into his pocket

Richard grabbed a handkerchief and held it across his face. Nick

yanked his shirt up over his face. The survivors of the crash waved and

fanned at the air, covering their faces with whatever they could.

“Look,” Nick said angrily into the phone, “I don’t care if you believe me or

not, just get the fire trucks out here before the house catches fire.”

Glancing over his shoulder at his dad’s shanty, he turns to his dad and

asks, “Hey Pop, are you insured?”

“Of course I’m insured,” Richard cries out hopelessly, “but

my skyline, all my work, all those years, all my work, all those

years.”

Richard sat staring at the flames, lost in his own little world. Nick

returned to the phone, “You know what, take your time, my Pop could

use a new house,” and he hangs up.

In the distance, sirens blared as the local fire, rescue and police sped

toward the scene. One by one they pulled up, rescuers leaping from them

before they had even come to a stop. Grabbing the hoses, the rush was on.

You could hear whirring as the water rushed through the hoses suddenly

bursting forth from the end, pelting the burning remnants with water. The

heat so intense the water created steam that rose into the sky like a huge

cloud.

Hundreds of volunteers arrive on the scene, hustling about in

their brave attempts to put out the fire.

As Nick stood there watching, he couldn’t help but revel in the fact that

his nemesis had, at last, met its doom.

Richard sat on the porch swing, swaying back and forth, mumbling

nonsense aloud. For the first time, Nick sees how truly devastated his

father is.

Reality sinks in, as he becomes aware of just how great this loss is

for his father, and how this whole event has driven his father into madness.

A life’s work, destroyed in one felled swoop, literally.

Suddenly, Nick realizes how petty he has been. All those years he blamed

his father for not sharing in his life, when in fact, he had been just as much

at fault.

Walking toward his father, Nick prepares himself to be the supportive

son. He approaches silently and sits beside his dad. After a few minutes,

Nick puts his hand on his dad’s knee.

“I’m sorry Pop. I know how much it meant to you.”

“It’s beautiful isn’t it Nicky?” Richard said.

“What Pop? What’s beautiful?”

Richard fans the air in front of him, “Look at all the lights. Funny, I don’t

remember finishing it, but I must have. The orange lights add something

don’t you think?”

Nick stared out at the burning structure. Water from the fireman's hoses

rained down upon the flames causing them to dance and in an odd way Nick

could see the neon lights of New York City. He looked back at his father.

Richard sat rocking, a peaceful expression on his face. The loss of his

life’s work had proved too much for him.

“Pop, Pop,” Nick tried to elicit a response from his father.

“Pop, it’s gone. The balloon, remember?”

“Of course, balloons, they will be coming soon, lots of them. After all,

what would Macy’s parade be without them?”

“Oh Pop,” Nick wrapped his arm around his father’s shoulder.

“We finally made it Nicky. New York City. You and me kid, you and me.”

literature

About the author

Susan Fleck Pennington

Susan Pennington was born in Norwich, Connecticut in 1956.

The author of “The Adventures of Toby and Doby,” Susan received her MA in Creative Writing in 2017.

You can find more of her writings on her website: www.susanpennington.website

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