Photo by Natasha D'Souza / Flickr
And here we are whoopee in our rented house, a merry shambles of sticky shot glasses, torn condom wrappers, scrunched tissues, holes in the curtains, stains that nobody wants to clean. You do it. No you do it. Both of us young, foolish, and greasy with plenty of time to take afternoon naps. Like now my boyfriend Punch is asleep on the sofa. I leap about with excitement. It’s the perfect time to use my powers because the recipient of any spell must be unconscious or sleeping. An electric thrill ignites the sitting room. It illuminates the mess. Oh God I should tidy up. No. No distractions. I must spellbind Punch by turning him into an inanimate object capable of great love. Of course he does really love me. I think he does. But not enough. Though he frequently shouts,
“Kiki, I goddam loves ya babe.”
He’s such a ham. He adores ham. He eats too much ham. This boy is thick as a ham, which bothers me. I often tell him,
“I am different from you.”
Punch has cute dribbles of ketchup on the front of his T-shirt. He wears strange musky cologne and has filthy scarecrow hair.
“Yeah right,” he blinks bleary eyes. “Youse got a few marbles loose in the top paddock.”
He is just joking. I am a very smart witchy girl combined with intensity and trickiness, but not carefree, yet on the verge of spectacular. Every day I dress in track pants and a pink pajama shirt, but I can’t hide my bright witchiness, not with my blacker than black hair, pale bluish skin, a classic saucy grin and ice grey eyes shining magnificence.
Punch starts snoring. I begin the spell by opening and shutting one hand like someone miming a conversation. I move my fingers as if playing scales on a piano and trill feathery circles above Punch’s sleeping penis. Then like a menacing wide-eyed cat, I lean very near to his face. Our noses almost touch. My nostrils flare breathing in all the warm smelly air that he exhales. Then Punch opens one eye and shrieks,
“Christ! What the fuck are you doing?”
I stare deep into his shocked eyes and act nonchalant, which is difficult. This pretense of casual plus focused at the same time as concocting a blatant lie.
“Oh nothing much. You snore so I took this opportunity to experiment with an innovative cure for snoring. I came this close to success. See?”
I hold up my forefinger and thumb to indicate the measure of a tiny space. This embarrasses Punch. A crimson flush crawls across his cheeks. He pushes me away and snorts.
“What’s my dick got to do with it?”
I love to hear a man snort. My right hand turns into a claw and I let my talons gallop up Punch’s torso to his armpit. I burrow in and relentlessly tickle him. Punch gurgles and gurgles. Men don’t giggle, they gurgle.
He grabs hold of my wrists.
“Quit it Kiki. You know how ticklish I am.”
I stamp my foot.
“You’re no fun.”
Still intense, I pretend to be blasé and petulant all at once. These things that I am are mounting up. Also I must confess to being a not quite witch slash sorceress, equipped with a limited amount of enjoyable voodoo. I flash my pointy teeth.
“I told you to call me Splendora Endora Wanda Eucalypta Medusa.”
“Thems big words Kiki. How’s about a lil’ ole roll in the hay?”
He often says jokey stuff like this. I find it almost endearing.
Until the next day. Yes, here comes the next day, a cold sunny day waiting for money to arrive, the dole checks in the mail. We sit in our small overgrown yard, shady from the muscular suckers of ivy going insane. Punch smokes a cigarette and says,
“Gonna get some rays today.”
He unfastens the buttons on his biker shorts and scratches his balls. Sometimes men do this in public. It’s kind of revolting.
I shut my eyes and remember songs from our past. I only have eyes for you You send me You You You really got me I got you babe love you more I get a kick out of you You’ll never know we’ve only just begun that's amore the nearness of you let’s get it on…which reminds me. Where is my wand? My lovely broken wand. Last week I frantically waved it trying to magic myself beautiful. The wand flew from my hand and smashed the bathroom mirror. Oh shit-a-brick, seven years’ bad luck, that's something to look forward too as well as all the sometimes. Sometimes Punch says,
“Hey baby-cakes. You’re a weirdo. Get over yerself girl.”
Sometimes, the sharp blades of his accusations stab at my special charms. Sometimes the morning becomes a pointless blood bath. And I wonder.
How can I find my true inner self in this cruel universe? Maybe, I could appreciate the wonders whatever they are. I stand to attention. I raise then lower my arms and bow to the natural world. Thank God. Spring persists in springing. Space junk drops from the heavens. Bees always buzz. Oh those jubilant bees shimmy from flower to flower. Bees collect nectar. Bees trust each other. They have to. Especially when sucking the nectar from each other’s bellies. They must suck the nectar to get the honey.
And I remember we have no honey or money. Such profound uncertainties. I tell Punch, “We’ve run out of honey.”
Punch calls me ‘hon’ which is not witchy enough for me.
“Yeah hon and dontcha reckon it’s possible to die without ever tasting honey?”
I consider this for a moment. “Well, yes.”
Punch wants to be clever. But there is a difference between wanting and being.
I ask, “What is true love? Tell me.”
There is more thoughtful scratching of balls before he observes,
“Love is a red balloon filled with confetti. Get it?”
We always end up talking about balloons. There is something loving about a balloon. It's the fragility, lightness and impermanence. Also a balloon possesses masculine characteristics as in rubbery, tenacious and with the prick of a pin, a balloon goes bang and disappears. But why has he mentioned confetti? Is this a marriage proposal? Maybe he wishes to make a baby. Oh cripes. I should have told him my ovaries don’t ovulate the necessary eggs. This is such bad timing. How shall I distract him from my dried up womb? My voice becomes malicious and tight.
“Don’t you mean a balloon full of hot air?”
It’s too nice a day to quarrel. Punch raises his mug of beer.
“Cheers sugar-bun. Happy days. Lets not be an ungrateful witchy-poo. You gotta let go of the string and watch the cute balloon fly away.”
Confused and still tetchy, I assume he means the balloon is him and I am nothing but the string.
“What string? Nobody said anything about string.”
He is the one who said no strings attached. I must do something. I shout a quick spell and magic him into a red balloon. Right there in the garden. Ha! It took less than a second. What a shocker. Yet how the color red suits him! It matches the tips of his ears. His astonished eyes, nose and aghast quivering lips, haystack hair, everything stuck to the balloon crying,
“What have you done?”
I hold the balloon and whisper,
“You’re going to land on cloud nine now…”
I squeeze the neck of the balloon and listen to the long agonized sound of air escaping. Eeewwaaweeaahh.
Huh. That squeaky noise makes me cackle. Now he is a deflated man-balloon and whoosh the confetti, fallen seed, maybe its misdirected sperm shoots away, scattering over the earth. Ha ha eeewwahh.
For a little while, I delight in torturing the balloon. But without oxygen, the balloon looks shriveled and just terrible. Someone should fix him. Of course it’s up to me. My cheeks bulge with air as I blow up the balloon. All better now.
To prevent any air from leaking out, I tie the neck of the balloon in a tight knot and attach a length of dainty satin ribbon. Satin inspires me and feeling girlish, I rub the balloon against my breasts. Brilliant. The balloon and breasts both the same size and pretty bouncy. We fondle and bounce. It’s so easy to remain affectionate with a balloon. Ahhh. His muffled squeaks of pleasure. That's really nice. But I can’t let go of the string. Not yet. Not before the magic starts working. Not until he vows undying love for me. So what shall I do? Turn Punch back into a man? He will be in a rotten mood, worse than normal. With a weak whistle, I summon my ruined wand. Hells bells, I get panicky. I can’t remember the spell.
And then in a fluster, I accidently let go of the string.
Oops. That cannot be good.
The balloon looks upset. I forgot Punch was afraid of heights. The terrified balloon races away, carried by a gust of wind and vanishes behind a cloud. Oh damn and blast. I have failed to keep the balloon safe while he is in this fragile state. He is not accustomed to being vulnerable and minus a brain. He might make foolish decisions, especially if he meets other balloons. He’s easily influenced and such an idiot balloon.
The idiot balloon emerges from a bunch of fluffy clouds and squeaks,
Helpless, I watch him waft towards a forest looming on the edge of the golf course behind our garden. Punch regularly indulges in a game of golf. Oh I know. Golf is a ridiculous game. Once I watched Punch play golf. After he hit the ball, I politely inquired,
“So what happens next?”
“I have to hit the ball again.”
Being inquisitive, I ask,
The red balloon has escaped but I am adjusting to this terrible loss. Ten, twenty minutes pass… Tick tock. La de dah, jolly and relaxed I ransack his sock drawer. I unearth a secret stash of cream centered chocolates and nibble the cherry fudge. Ho hum. Should I chase after the balloon? And run through imaginary fields of lavender, (so romantic) begging, Come back, I’m sorry I forgot the spell.
I see him through my high magnification binoculars. The red balloon seems to have flown further away. Deeper into the dark forest.
What in hell?
The bloody string gets tangled in a tree. My balloon-man stuck forever. Which is a tragedy and I say,
“Shit. What must I do to make this right?”
Well, the slapdash slash sorceress must magic herself into a courageous confident sort of superlady. It’s a chilly day so I stretch my leopard skin bikini over my pajama top and tracky dacks. I search for my cape. The cape is gone and its his fault. Punch has borrowed it to play super hero. I improvise by pinning a pillowcase to the back of my collar. My silver belt buckle sparkles. Do I need a dagger? A diamond ring? I crack my whip and hear a distant whimper. I sprint in my floppy slippers across the ludicrous golf course and dodge golf balls. At the sight of me, three surprised golfers stop swinging mid-swing.
Anticipating true love, I crash into the forest and dive over a log. Ow. Here I come, a sorceress slash heroine swinging from branch to branch through the jungle and howling,
“Punch my darling! Umgawaaa.”
Unbelievable. Such excitement. Rescuing dearest Punch. Hooray. I will accept him for what he has become. An idiot balloon. We will learn to co-exist.
I reach for the lowest branch of the tree and another catastrophe happens. Bugger. A twig pierces the thin-skinned latex of the unsuspecting balloon. Of course it bursts. Bang. Oh my God. That must have hurt. So sad and unfair this disaster. And I sigh,
“Dammit. My breath was inside that balloon.”
Judyth Emanuel has short stories published in Electric Literature Recommended Reading, STORGY London literary magazine and One Page Literary Magazine. In 2016 she was awarded a Residential Fellowship at Varuna Writers House NSW. And her collection was suggested for the Writer’s Victoria Personal Patron’s Scheme. In 2013 she was accepted in the One Story Writers Workshop at the Centre For Fiction in New York. She graduated BA Visual Communications at Sydney College of The Arts, BA Fine Arts at National Art School, and MA in Creative Writing at The University of Technology, Sydney. She is currently completing a collection of short stories and working on a travel memoir.