MONDAY: Choking Hazard

Flash Fiction Week First Place Winner!


Copyright is held by the author.

I LOVED helium balloons when I was a little girl. Back then, when I was still brave, I would always choose a red one. My mom would tie it to my wrist so it couldn’t escape, making a loopy bracelet of ribbon to connect us. 

I’d wave my arm to make it dance, and the tight plink-plink-plink . . .




but caught sharp at the end of its string)

. . . forever made me heartburst-happy.

Once home, I’d wiggle my skinny wrist bones free and let my balloon drift along the ceiling over my bed like a cartoon thought bubble, like a dream.

But time would pass, the balloon would lose its bounce, and one day I’d wake up to a wrinkly, shrunken used-to-be-balloon, lying limp on the carpet.

Have you ever put the deflated remains of a balloon in your mouth? Chewed the latex in noisy squeaks, pretending you had a mouthful of bubble gum?

I still remember the taste of sad plastic memories. 

“And that’s what I am to Matthew,” I tell my therapist. “I probably taste like that, too.”

In university, I took psychology. I figured, since I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, maybe that would help me to discover what I already was. Matthew, my boyfriend, took some of everything, changing his major three times. In the end, he graduated with a degree in Philosophy with a minor in Canadian history.

His friends joked about prepping for a one-word final exam (“Why?”) and smoked pot, endlessly. They were always around, sprawled all over our second-hand sofa like spider webs. They grew red-eyed and round; I grew invisible. 

I’m still wearing the same skin, but it’s tired and wrinkled, it’s done. Matthew chews on me until I squeak and then he spits me out.

“Not literally, of course,” I tell my therapist. Her eyes are bright and kind. 

“Take the world and make it yours again,” she urges. But I don’t know what she means. Balloons, once deflated, don’t climb back into the sky. 

“Can’t you see?” I ask.

“Can’t you?” she fires back. She hands me a childcare pamphlet. Smiles at my puzzled frown and points to the section on safety. “Two words. Read them.”

My voice, barely a whisper, obeys.

“Choking hazard.”

“Yes,” she said. “Be that.”


Image of Corrie Haldane, smiling at the camera.

Corrie Haldane has a number of online and print anthology publications. Most recently, her work can be found in the print anthologies, What We Talk About When We Talk About It Vol. 2 and Branching Out. Corrie lives in Holland Landing, Ontario, Canada with her husband and an assortment of their mostly-grown children. She finds inspiration in nature, bubble baths, and carefully curated playlists.