Τhe Bicycle the Air balloon
Rania Kyrkintanou was born and lives in Athens. She studied French Literature and Special Education at the National Kapodistrian University of Athens. Her occupation is teaching Greek as a foreign language and writing.
Τhe Bicycle and the Air balloon A short story
Rania Kyrkintanou, Τhe Bicycle and the Air balloon ISBN: 978-618-5040-99-4 November 2014 Original Title: Το ποδήλατο και το αερόστατο
Translation from Greek: Editing: Cover photo: Page layout, cover design:
Christos Boubalos email@example.com Metaxia Tzimouli firstname.lastname@example.org Diana Seitanidou email@example.com Iraklis Lampadariou www.lampadariou.eu
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To Chris, who watched the world from high above
The bicycle changed gear and started running not knowing where to go, because for the first time in its life it had no one on its handlebar. How nice freedom is! To run and go wherever you want, to have no one giving you a hard time with their weight or scaring you every now and then by pointlessly ringing your bell! It thought, as it ran with all its strength. It was neither big nor small. It was pink and had a white little basket. It was owned by a little girl, Stella and she loved it very much. Every evening, she would take a ride to the countryside, picking flowers and leaves and taking them home. The bike loved her too. If at times she got too excited and forgot to use the brake, the bicycle would slow down to save Stella from falling and getting hurt. However, she wouldn’t notice because it never crossed her mind that a bicycle could think like people do! But let’s leave the bicycle and go to a country far away where a hot air balloon lived. It was huge and puffy and so lightweight, that even the slightest breeze would take it away. Painted on it was a clear blue sky with a smiling sun, lots of butterflies and birds, and of course it had a basket for anyone to get in and take a ride. It was designed by the humans that ruled the land, to send it flying over other places, to spy on other people, watch how they live, how many soldiers they have and where they keep their weapons, in order to make war and conquer them. They purposely made it so beautiful, so that no one would suspect it was a spy coming to bring harm. The humans worked for months to make it. When finished, they called their bosses to come and see it. They looked at it with admiration and rubbed their hands with glee. “Let’s test it!” someone suggested. “Yes, hurry” the others agreed. “You will go for a ride and then you will come back and tell us what you saw in every detail,” they ordered the air balloon.
So the balloon got ready for its first flight. The breeze helped it go high and slowly move. What wonderful things it saw from the sky! A woman was hanging her colorful clothes to dry, a child was sitting and reading under the sun, a little dog was chasing its tail, and a family was eating beans under a vine arbor. It also saw a kitten playing with some okras which were left to dry under the sun, two workers fixing the roof tiles of an old house, and a rooster chasing the chickens that were eating seeds on the soil. It was looking at the world from above, mesmerized, until it suddenly remembered it had to go back. What a pity! It thought. The world is so nice! But it’s ok, I will return tomorrow. It made a turn and moved lazily. When it came back down to earth, it told the humans everything. They were listening carefully; suddenly their faces got red, their eyes widened and their lips got tight and thin like a line. “Stop!” they screamed. “Who told you to spy on cats and women hanging clothes? We made you to spy on soldiers and their weapons, and then tell us where they keep them hidden” they said in an angry tone. “Perhaps, we should give it another chance?” someone suggested. “We will explain exactly what it has to do and then we will send it for test flights before its job begins.” Everyone agreed and decided to train the air balloon. “You will go and see how much army they have, where they keep their weapons, and you will come to tell us. Now pay attention, because if you mess up, we will deflate you and you will never fly again!” they threatened, and shook in front of it a rusted nail. The air balloon began its flights with a heavy heart. It would fly and watch, then return, report and fly again. On the inside it felt that something was wrong, and that all this was a big mistake.
In the meantime, the bicycle and Stella were having their rides in the countryside. Time went by and Stella grew so much that she could not fit in the bicycle any more. “Mom, dad, I want a new bike, this one is too small!” she complained one morning to her parents. “You must buy a new bike for the young lady, my love!” said her mom to Stella’s dad. He did not say anything; he shrunk to his corner, and put his hand deep in his pocket, like he did every time they were asking him to buy something. But Stella’s mom was yelling that the child will get hurt with this clunker. Finally, he was convinced and they all went to the store to choose a new bike. The old bicycle was resting at the yard waiting for them to return; from far away it heard Stella laughing and her mother babbling endlessly. First one to enter the yard was Stella’s dad, holding by the handlebar a shiny blue bicycle with strong large wheels, many sprockets and many gears. The old bicycle was watching, awestruck. What a nice bicycle this was! How fast it would run! “What are we going to do with this wreck?” it heard Stella’s dad asking. “We will throw it away of course!” her mom answered. The bicycle jumped in fear. It turned and looked at Stella, who was dancing wildly around her new bike. “Don’t let them throw me away!” it begged her. Stella, excited as she was, heard nothing. “We had so much fun together! Isn’t it a shame to throw me away?” it yelled again. “At least give me to another child!” In vain, Stella wasn’t looking or listening. The bicycle realized that nobody would feel sorry for it, and when they were not looking, it went out of the open gate and on to the street, and now free it started running. It was so excited it did not notice a little black dog, which chased it for a while, barking.
“Don’t run so fast!” it suddenly heard a voice. It stopped, startled and turned the handlebar left and right to see who spoke. It was a butterfly with yellow wings, flying by its side. “You could trip on the rocks and fall down,” she said and stood for a while on its handlebar. “It would be a pity, since you are so beautiful!” “Thanks a lot,” replied the bicycle, bashfully. “Would you allow me to take you for a ride, to rest your wings a bit?” “Good idea!” said the butterfly and stood still on the handlebar. The bicycle and the butterfly moved together into the forest for a while, until they saw a wild rose with flowers all in white. "Nice roses!" marveled the butterfly. "I'm going to say hello. Thank you very much, my friend! Maybe someday we’ll meet again." The bike said farewell to the butterfly ringing its bell that made a silver ‘ding’, and woke a weasel sleeping nearby. Then it continued on its way. So, this was the new life of the bicycle. It was travelling day and night without getting tired, and everyone who saw it would admire it. The cobs stopped their gentle rocking, the bees raised their heads from the flowers, and the birds would bring leaves and twigs to decorate its basket. When it rained, the trees would lower their branches to embrace it, so that the rain could not get to it, and when it got dark, the moon would light the way for it to carry on its journey, listening to the crickets and the frogs telling their stories. One day, it had gone to a forest which was located on the mountain slopes. Going uphill made it tired and it moved slower, but after a while it was on level path and started running. Suddenly, it saw a large mouse sleeping in the shade of a chestnut tree and as he was lying on his back, his round belly was moving up and down rhythmically. A snail approached slowly, climbed on the belly of the mouse, sat back and immediately fell asleep. The bicycle giggled, and stood for a while to see the mouse with the snail, and when it moved again it did not pay attention to the path in front. It
felt something tearing its tire and heard the air leaving. The mouse jumped up startled, and threw down the snail, which woke up as well. "What happened?" He asked in surprise. He saw the bike standing there with the deflated tire, and ran close to it. "Wow, what damage!" he said. "It’s this one's fault,” he said pointing at a rusty can. "What is that?" asked a hedgehog passing through there. "A can,” said the chestnut tree, and stretched out its branches to get a better view. “What is it doing here?” asked the snail. “People must have left it,” said the mouse. "Well, of course," said the chestnut tree. "They come here often and some of them leave a pile of useless things behind". "Right!" said a butterfly flying nearby. "I've seen them too. They are always chasing me to catch me and they do not leave me in peace for a minute". "They spoil our nests!" said two birds that approached the bike, and sat in its basket. "They carve our nest with sticks!" cried three ants carrying a large seed. "What am I going to do now?" said the bicycle sadly. “I'll stay here forever. I will stand still, until I rust from the rain and become useless!" "Do not worry, we will never leave you alone!" said the butterfly. "I will be coming to tell you all the news of the forest," said one of the little birds. "I'll be singing to you," said the other one. “The snail and I will be sleeping on your seat,” said the mouse and the snail agreed, waving its antennae. "Thank you so much!" replied the bicycle. "I'm lucky to have so many friends!" "I will give you shade,” said the chestnut tree and stretched her branches even more, embracing the whole gang with her shadow.
While the bicycle was in the forest, the air balloon was up in the sky, lofty and majestic, it was flying over unknown lands. It watched from up above the soldiers and the people, recording their habits and daily life. People would stare at it too, but none of them would suspect, as it was so beautiful. Adults would smile and children would wave their hands. Days had passed since it began its journey and it had seen many countries. It was flying over a small village and was looking at people working in their fields. Further ahead, outside a small stone house, five little girls were playing hopscotch. When it passed by them, they turned to the sky and saluted, screaming with joy. Just beyond, other children playing hide and seek stopped their game when they saw it. It went on flying, until it left the village and passed over a forest. Among the trees, a fox feeding her cubs saw it and wagged her tail. The balloon continued its journey, thinking, if it was to go back to the people with the information they requested, sooner or later they would attack this country and the children would not play again nor would the fox cubs grow. It would be all its fault if that happened. "No, I will not do that!" it decided. "Iâ€™ll fly away and get lost forever! People will not ever find me and they will drop their plans!" It then raised high, hid behind the clouds and light. Cheerfully, it continued travelling for many days. One day it was flying over a green forest full of pine, chestnut, cherry and fir. What a nice scent they had! It descended a bit lower and it seemed that something among the trees glistened. It approached even closer and saw the most beautiful thing it had ever seen: a pink bicycle with a white basket resting at the shade of a chestnut tree, and sitting around chatting, was a hedgehog, a mouse and a snail. A butterfly fluttered around and two birds twittered endlessly. The balloon approached the company. â€œHello,â€? it said loudly and smiled. Everyone turned and looked at it. The bicycle turned too. What a beautiful thing this is it thought. It looks like a
balloon that Stella had when she was little, only this one is very large, and it has a basket like me! “Hello” greeted the mouse. The butterfly flew close to the balloon. “What are you?” she asked and looked at the butterflies painted on it. “I am a hot air balloon” it replied. “I fly in the sky. I saw you from above and came down”. “Where do you come from? Where is your home?” asked the snail. The balloon told them its story. It told them about the bad people who built it, about its journey and the decision not to do the people’s bidding. "Well done, you thought very well!" said the chestnut tree. "Besides being beautiful, you are also very nice,” said the snail. The balloon smiled, and inflated even more. "What are you doing here?" it asked. The hedgehog began explaining to the balloon with his slow voice. The butterfly got irritated. "By the time you are done explaining, the day will have gone dark,” she said impatiently. "I will explain,” and in one breath she said about the bicycle’s accident. The balloon stood for a while with its thoughts. “Did you try to move a little?” it asked the bicycle. “It is better to roll slowly than to stand still. You definitely must be able to move a little”. “Give it a try!” said the mouse. The bicycle tried and with joy realized that it could move slowly, even with a flat tire. “I might not be able to run as I used to, but at least I will not rust,” it said joyfully. “Great!” said the bird, flapping its wings many times with joy. “You will not stay here forever!” said the other bird. “I will stay here forever, but I do not mind at all,” said the chestnut tree. The balloon stared at the bicycle, and thought.
“I have an idea. I will take you with me,” it said. “I will put you in my basket and we will travel together. We will go around the world! We will have a great time, I promise!” The bike got excited. “What a nice idea! I will see how the world looks when you are high up in the sky. But what if I get bored of flying? I am made to run on the ground”. “Then I will put you down, I will fly next to you, and I will watch that you do not step again on any trash or a sharp rock. This way, I will also see how the world looks when you are down on the ground.” The bicycle agreed and climbed into the balloon’s basket. They said farewell to the company and rose high. The chestnut tree waved her branches, and the mouse put the snail on its head for it to see. The butterfly and the birds flew for a while next to the balloon and the bicycle. “Goodbye!” they cried before flying back down to earth. “Goodbye!” cried the balloon. “Goodbye!” cried the bicycle. “I will always remember you!” it said, and disappeared in the horizon with the balloon. That is how the bicycle and the balloon became inseparable. They were flying together over cities, forests and villages, over oceans with waves, and over mountains full of snow. They saw the dolphins play in the water, the fishermen going out with their boat before the sun rose, and the mountaineers climbing the highest summits. They saw a camel rider playing the flute, and far away from there a penguin tumbling on the snow. When the bicycle wanted to run on the ground for a while, the balloon would put it down and would fly next to it. They saw the cyclamens dancing in the breeze, the squirrels carrying nuts, the leaves catching the morning dew, and in all the places they passed, the birds would greet them and the flowers would give them some of their aroma.
Countless days and nights passed, until one day the wind led them far away to the land where dreams, which children see in their sleep, are made. They stayed there forever.
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An old bike and an air balloon, strangers to each other, take life into their own hands and decide to discover the world. They each travel their own way and discover different things. However, one unforeseen event forces the bicycle to stop its course. It all seems like its journey has come to an end, until it meets the air balloon.
Published on Nov 16, 2014
An old bike and an air balloon, strangers to each other, take life into their own hands and decide to discover the world. They each travel t...