It's real late at night when I wake up on the sidewalk curled up next to the fire hydrant. I wake up because someone poked me in the ribs with a shoe.
The balloon man in the red and white striped shirt is standing above me. I sit up and rub my eyes under my goggles. Mr. Happy Puppet Head is sleeping next to me, breathing loudly through his open mouth.
"Good evening, Henry." says the balloon man.
"It's the Midnight Mailman." I stand up. "Why did you give me that balloon of destiny and why did it make me do those things?"
He smiles and rubs his stubbled old face with his palm. "Every balloon of destiny is different, and they all have their reasons for doing various things. Sometimes what you really need in life is to find fifty bucks on the ground, sometimes you need a big goiter on your neck, and other times all you need is to become a crazy religious fanatic who takes famous morning talk-show hosts hostage on national television. But it's always for the best."
"I don't get it."
"Think about it, Henry. Think about all the great things that happened to you since I gave you the balloon. Remember how you stayed in your room for days on end without eating or sleeping? Remember selling your house and everything you own so you could be homeless for the sake of it? Remember how the balloon took over your brain and made you yell incohrent things at strangers and alienate your only friend in the world?"
I nod my head. I remember.
"Well," he says. "Wasn't that pretty great?"
This time I shake my head. "I don't think it was pretty great at all."
"In time, Henry. In time. You'll understand."
I hear something behind me and it's all those kids that chased me all those weeks ago.
"Charles." they whisper. "Charles. Charles. Charles. Charles." They pick up the sleeping Mr. Happy Puppet Head and carry him gently in their little children arms. "Charles."
"Go with them, Henry. They'll set things straight again." He tips his red hat, "Goodnight to you, the Midnight Mailman." And he walks off into the shadows of suburbia.
"Charles. Charles." A little girl tugs on my cape and I follow them down the street.