“Hello, balloon!” Oscar spoke into his mobile. “Can you hear me?”

“Why shouldn’t I?” a somewhat nasally voice immediately replied. “I’m not deaf, if that’s what you mean. What do you want?”

“I … I thought …” Oscar was taken back. “I was actually just … I wanted to ask how you’re doing up there.”

“I’m doing just fine, thank you,” the red balloon said crisply. “The view from here is incredible. It’s great being up high in general. But I suppose that must be hard to imagine for someone as tiny as you are.”

“I’m not tiny!” Oscar protested.

“You certainly seem so from way up here,” the balloon jeered. “It’s a wonder that you can talk at all—where does a mouth even fit on someone so teensy-weensy?”

“Ha!” Oscar huffed. “Of course I have a mouth! And I have arms and legs, too!” he declared, playing his trump card. Just yesterday, Oscar had discovered that having such qualities could make you an outright celebrity among immobile objects, but his boasts had no effect on the balloon. 

“My sympathies!” she snickered. “It’s got to feel pretty awful having sausages hanging from your sides. They must get in the way whenever you’re flying. Oh, right; I nearly forgot—you can’t fly! Poor little thing! Well, I guess it makes sense that if you should have to just settle for a pair of arms and legs, to show them off all the time.”

“I’m not showing off!” Oscar yelled. “I was just saying …”

“You were, too.”

“I was not!” Oscar was furious, especially because he had, in fact, only brought up his limbs to earn the balloon’s respect. Still, he’d failed spectacularly, because the balloon high up in the birch tree just continued making fun of him:

“What was your name again? Oscar? What a weird name! What are your famous arms and legs called, huh? And how many of them do you have? Just two?! Ha! Why’d you even mention them in the first place?! I hoped you’d have at least a hundred!”

“I’m not a centipede!” Oscar snorted. The balloon was getting on his nerves with all her mocking, but strangely, he didn’t feel like ending the conversation yet. “Can I ask you something?”

“Me?!” the balloon echoed in surprise. “You want to ask me something? What an honour! But I don’t have arms or legs! Not a single one! What could you want to ask somebody like me?”

She laughed spitefully.

“How’d you get stuck in this tree?” Oscar asked.

“What do you think? I grew here like a fungus!”

“No, you flew there,” Oscar corrected.

“Is that right? Aren’t you smart!”

“Where’d you come from?”

“The Moon.”

“No, for real.”

“For real—right off the surface of the Moon! Why don’t you believe me?”

Oscar snorted, making the balloon snicker again.

“Fine, stop pouting,” she finally sighed. “I didn’t fly here from the Moon. I came from a house. I was blown up and tied to the porch, but I didn’t feel like sticking around, so I skedaddled. Some people chased me, but they couldn’t catch me, naturally—my pursuers had arms and legs just the same as you. He-he-he! They were as slow and awkward as potato sacks! I bet you’re all related! I didn’t pay any attention. Nope—I rose higher and higher and flew over field and forest. Once, I even sped through a little cloud and left a hole in it! In the end, I came across this tree and decided to land. It’s pretty nice up here. Are you satisfied? Is that all you wanted to know?”

“Who inflated you?” Oscar asked.

“How should I know!? Why should I even care? I didn’t look back,” the balloon snapped.

“I came here from the city,” Oscar said. For some strange reason, he felt like getting everything off his chest and telling it to the balloon in particular—the thought had never crossed his mind with the iron, the chair, or any of his other new acquaintances. “My mum is in America, but my dad has to go to work, so I’ve got to live with my grandma for two whole months. I was unbelievably bored and down in the dumps at first, and everything seemed so wrong, but then, I made myself a toy mobile that I can use to call things like you.”

“Tch! You’re a thing! A teensy little thing with arms and legs! I’m a balloon, if you haven’t noticed. ‘Course, I  have no idea if you’ve got eyes or not—I wouldn’t be surprised if you were blind.”

“I’m not blind,” said Oscar, trying to make peace. “I’m sorry—of course you’re a balloon. A red balloon.” He hesitated. “And a very pretty one, at that,” he added.

“You think so?” the balloon asked slyly. “You just might be right. It’s lucky I landed in your treetop, then!”

“It sure is,” Oscar agreed. “And I’m especially lucky to have gotten myself a magical mobile. Otherwise, I really don’t know what I’d have done here at my grandma’s house. I was honestly bored to tears, at first.”

“It must be boring for all you things down there,” said the balloon. “You can’t fly, so you spend your time on all sorts of foolish things. Just imagine—a magic mobile! I don’t even have a phone, but I can talk to whomever I please.”

“Can you talk to birds, too?” Oscar asked.

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“I don’t think I can …” Oscar murmured, trailing off into thought. “I don’t believe my mobile will let me, though it’s true I haven’t tried yet … Hey, balloon! I’m going to hang up now …”

“Is that right! Tired of me already? Fine!”

“No, I just want to see if I can call birds or bugs with my mobile, too,” Oscar explained. “I’ll call you back later.”

“You can try, but I’m not available all the time, you know,” the balloon replied importantly. “I’ve got better things to do than to gab on the phone all day long.”

“I can’t imagine you have too many things to do up in a treetop,” Oscar reckoned.

“You don’t, huh? Well, fine! Goodbye, then!” The balloon hung up. Oscar stared at her from the ground. Framed against the bright blue sky, she was as radiant as a big red blossom.