The Test

It was a miracle. The little boy was finally allowed to get a helium balloon at the seaside market. It was yellow with a blue swirl and looked to him like a tiger’s eye. After his mother had finished her shopping, she even allowed him to run down to the soft dunes and to the gray beach beyond to play alone for awhile. The sound of waves and the solitude were perfect. It was time to test the wisdom that had been planted in his heart. What goes up must come down, he whispered almost breathlessly. When you love something, you must set it free and it will return to you. The little boy ran along the surfline, ecstatic and terrified, anticipating the event, the great moment of his test. At last, he turned to face the cold breakers and the cry of shore birds. The little fingers let go of the string. The helium balloon rose quickly. It soared higher than the birds towards the clouds. The tiger’s eye was beautiful, the most beautiful thing he had ever seen; he loved it dearly, and waited. It was hard to breathe. The balloon did not return or fall. The wind carried it higher and higher into the colorless sky, further out to sea, beyond the gray clouds. The tiger’s eye disappeared from sight. And the boy sighed heavily, unable to stand the new, vast weight of his desolation, a desolation greater than the endless sea. The cold waves curled and broke on the sand.

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