I thought it was just an ordinary headache at first. At first, I thought maybe it was Carl’s insistance on us wearing red at all times. I know his red suit made my eyes hurt. But aspirin didn’t make the pains go away.
And then I saw them up there, hovering near the ceiling: some familiar, huge, black and white disembodied heads. And I knew those two: it was dear old Mom and Dad, that’s who. Parents: you just can’t get away from them, right? It must be the strings tied onto the end of the balloons: invisible, sure – but there, all the same.
Mom, Dad, I shouted up at them, What are you doing here?
Dad said: Don’t marry Carl, Sheila. He’ll make you miserable!
And Mom chimed in: His way of life is wrong…and sinful.
Um, could you possibly be a little more specific? I said.
Mom said: Well, take a look at that red suit of his, for one thing. That is a sin against fashion, for a start.
And Dad added: And I think he dyes his hair, too. Nobody in the world was ever born with that shade of orange – not even Bozo the Clown!
Carl gave me a funny look. “Sheila darling,” he said, “I knew there was something strange about you. My parents warned me about this! They said: don’t marry Sheila, Carl – she talks to invisible balloons up on the ceiling and says they are her parents. What sort of girl comes from a family of black and white parade balloons?”
I sighed. Hadn’t Mom and Dad warned me that I should marry another balloon head and not try to pass as a Regular Girl? Just be myself, in black and white, up on the ceiling. Because these magic red pants weren’t going to work forever, you know. Soon I’d be a big headed balloon again, just like them. And I had a feeling Carl wasn’t going to be too impressed.
[From Cover Browser - bigger version over there, too.]