Sunday, February 24, 2008
The Balloon Boys of Paris
Place: Paris, France
My wife and I were in front of the Hôtel de Ville. The city had put up an ice rink and a carousel. Vendors were selling roasted chestnuts, sodas, and cotton candy, which in French translates as “daddy’s beard.” Families were having a great time. It was during the week between Christmas and New Years and everybody was in a festive mood.
We happened to notice these four boys zigzagging through the crowd. They were around ten years old. They had that breathless excitement of boys looking for mischief. What really caught our attention was their balloons.
We had noticed the balloon vender earlier. He was dressed as a clown with red, white, and blue stars and stripes. I couldn’t decide if he was pro or anti American. An argument could have been made for either direction.
All of the clown’s balloons were the same. They looked long pink sausages with a twist on one end. Normally the only time you’d see a balloon like that was right before it was further twisted to resemble a poodle. Maybe the clown was only providing the raw material and the buyer was expected to come up with his or her own design.
“Come on,” my wife said, “they look like penises.”
“Penises a man could be mighty proud of,” I added.
The resemblance that was so obvious to my wife and I was also obvious to the ten year old boys. Each boy had a balloon attached to his belt so that he had a long curved pink balloon protruding from his crotch.
The boys’ elongated pink balloon penises bobbed gently as they scampered about. One boy tried to catch the tip of his balloon with his mouth, but it kept bouncing just out of reach, making the boy look like a chicken trying to capture a giant worm. It also reminded me of the limerick of the man from Nantucket. I was inspired to write my own limerick.
There was a young boy in Paris
Who wore his balloon to embarrass
It was attached to his waist
He showed very poor taste
But, it excited that young boy in Paris.
One of the boys noticed my wife and I watching him and his friends. He gave us an aren’t-I-naughty smile before disappearing into the crowd.