A breeze caught the balloon and blew it away from the house and the chimney sweep. It flew over small houses that were surrounded by trees and meadows and over big buildings. Some of them had swimming pools on the roof tops or green gardens in which tiny people were moving about. In front of some buildings there were loads of cars looking like toys.
Then the balloon flew over a lot of high chimneys, and although it was midsummer and nobody had to use their heating, there was thick white and grey smoke rising up from them that didn’t let the sun come through.
Amid those houses an old woman was sitting by the window and gloomily staring into space. When she moved here with her husband more than 50 years ago, the factory had only consisted of a single workshop and a small administrative building. She didn’t mind living only a few streets away with him. So her husband could get there easily on foot and be back home quickly after work. She could walk into the wood in front of the house with the children and while hanging up the washing she could hear woodpeckers and cuckoos.
In the course of time the wood was cut down by and by. Where they had formerly fed the ducks by the small pond in the wood and where the children had learnt ice skating, there was now a factory shop and the view of that grey concrete block reminded her daily that she had lost more than birds’ twittering and the smell of fir trees.
The factory had brought them money for food and clothing and coals for the winter. But in exchange it had taken the father from them. Bit by bit. He had had to do overtime more and more often – they were to understand, he had said, the company was a growing business and therefore every hand was needed. The family understood. The price for it was that they only rarely saw him. And then they never saw him at all. While a machine was being set up a heavy steel frame had plunged from the transport crane and buried him under it. The company had been extremely generous with soothing words and financial settlements and they had granted her the right to stay in her old flat for the rest of her life. Her only reason for taking the offer was the satisfaction she felt over the fact that sooner or later they would come to regret letting her live there. When one day her house was standing amidst the factory premises she was the one who regretted it. But she had grown too old to move somewhere else and her three children had long since scattered into every direction and created their own families.
Now was her 75th birthday and she was waiting for the arrival of her daughter, her son-in-law and their wayward children. The last thing she heard of her two sons had been the announcement to immigrate to America to found a company together. That had been 15 years ago. Fifteen years like a day, she mused, while absent-mindedly staring at the chimneys of the factory.
Suddenly she saw a bright red balloon emerging from the grey smoke. It was whirling through the stream of air coming out of the chimneys high up in the air and when it had left the cloud of smoke it slowly sailed towards the old woman’s house. She made big eyes and watched it amazed and fascinated. The small red dot of colour amidst this area dominated by grey was as if someone had planted a field covered with poppies right in front of her window. All of a sudden the woman felt as if the dark shadows had been wiped off her mind and a smile sneaked into the corners of her mouth that spread onto her eyes and finally across her whole face.
Then the woman heard the doorbell ring and turned away from the window to answer the door. She could only speechlessly throw her hands up in the air in surprise, because not only could she see her daughter but her sons with their families cuddled up in the stairway. When they fell into each other’s arms kissing and hugging, the red balloon was long off and away.
~To be continued…~
Go back to part 2 –> here