Where do the Balloons Go?

by southwardtide

Today I saw an deflated aluminum balloon land in the surf. It wafted down slowly until it was an inch above the ocean, swayed to and fro by a skimming wind. Finally its aluminum skin was gripped by the fingers of the sea and wrenched to the bottom of the breaking wave. How will circumstance make use of this aluminum intruder -how long will it roll along mountains of underwater sand before wrapping itself around a sea fan? A clown cluster floats into the sky, long filaments hanging behind to catch the wings of eagles and rubber to choke the great leatherback sea turtles.

I wonder if they all land in the ocean. Do some have enough gas to last them to the upper limits of the stratosphere? Do they just explode? Where do all the pieces land, the torn Spongebob faces and Happy Birthday letters?

I read recently that our world’s helium supply is dwindling. In thirty years, we will ration balloons to the rich only, fifty dollars for a single Thank You balloon, twenty thousand dollars for an MRI. What will the brave new world bring?

My one-year-old celebrated his birthday with a three-foot wide aluminum balloon. It’s still hanging about the playroom bouncing dutifully when his chubby fingers pull its string. The smile on his face is so wide, it is worth an uncertain future.