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The Balloon Seller

A quirky story about a search to complete a collection

By Wilkie StewartPublished 2 years ago 3 min read
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A Balloon Seller

The room was a hubbub of high excitement from the kids, and low murmurs from the serious fans as John flicked through the box. He'd attended many comic marts over the years even before the explosion of superhero movies. Sometimes he just browsed, picking up a few old comics more on whim than on purpose. Today he was on a mission. He could feel a tightness in his stomach as he worked through the issues of a favourite title. He recognised the covers and the story arcs. He slowed down as he approached his quarry. Flick. No 34. April 1995. Flick. No 35. May 1995. Flick. No 36. June 1995. He paused. Flick. No 38. Fuck, he said under his breath. He checked over the rest of the issues, but they were in numerical order. There was no mistake.

You've no more Balloon Sellers, have you? he asked the guy who was standing at the back of the stall.

Just what's there, mate. The guy picked at something stuck in a corner of his beard. What are you after?

No. 37. The only one I'm missing.

The guy opened a well-scribbled notebook. Checked a few pages. He shook his head. Not even in the shop, he said before turning to two girls looking through some Star Wars graphic novels. Oi, he said, be careful with those. They're like gold to some of us.

John checked all the other dealers, but few had any Balloon Sellers, and none had no 37. 36? Yes. 39? He could have bought a dozen of them. 37? Not even a torn copy.

At one of the bigger stalls, he checked a copy of the comic buyers' guide. There was no special listing. Issues 1-10 of The Balloon Seller were marginally more collectible than the rest of the series but there was nothing special about the comic he wanted. No guest artist. No origin story. No new super villain. He'd even read the story in an anthology. It was a great series, but that issue wasn't one of the best, more filler than any real plot development. So why was it so difficult to find?

As he was leaving the hall the Star Wars guy called him over. You'll never guess what I've got? he said.

John waited. He knew some of these guys. Their sense of humour was often on the cruel side. He braced himself. What? he said.

He held up a copy of The Balloon Seller #37. It's not mint or even fine, but it is readable.

How much?

Well, I had to pay to get it. Let's say a tenner. And, he lowered his voice, you'll find out why it's so popular.

John puffed out his cheeks. He'd paid a lot less for #1. The guy was grinning. How he'd like to smash that smile off his face. But could he wait to see if the next mart would turn up another copy?

He handed over the money.

On the train home he turned the pages. It was a bit rough but not that bad. The colours were good and the paper mostly intact. Good that is until he reached page 19. Someone had cut something out of an ad on the following page. Something half a page sized. Something in the shape of a boat. The boat from a new science fiction movie. Waterworld, it read below. Win tickets to the no 1 action movie. No wonder that dealer had grinned at him. He had spent all this time hunting for a comic that was only collectible because so many had been damaged. Because of a competition. A competition for one of the worst movies of all time.

Short Story
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About the Creator

Wilkie Stewart

Writer of strange little tales living in Glasgow, Scotland. A former IT professional who loves literary fiction, poetry, Eurovision, art-house film, post-crossing, and comics. Walks daily with his camera when he can. @werewegian1 on Twitter

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