MONDAY: Choking Hazard

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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.

  1. Great story. Loved how you tied in the past with the present and how the title relates to the story. Well done.

  2. This was wonderful! I can practically taste the squeaky red balloon myself. Thank you for sharing. M.

  3. Super story. I enjoyed it and particularly how the ending in few words sums up the action, all of it including the psychotherapist (who is a bit of a mystery). It also leaves the reader with involuntary speculation about what’s going to happen next; lots of scope for imagination!!! Thx.

  4. An enjoyable story. I didn’t see the ending coming. A delight. Thank you.

  5. I admire the psychology in this story, Corrie. Such a brilliant ending.

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