Tuesday, June 22

We're in line to buy ice cream from the ice cream truck. Me and Mr. Happy Puppet Head begged for money and some kids gave it to us. Three dollars. I wanted to buy a sandwich or a burrito or something, but Mr. Happy Puppet Head demanded an ice cream cone. He had this look in his eye, really intense and verging on crazy. So I acquiesced. And here we are.

I don't want to be street people anymore. My cape is getting all torn up and I smell bad. Mr. Happy Puppet Head keeps getting twigs stuck in his fur and he cries when he thinks I'm not looking. I don't know what to do next. The balloon of destiny told me that selling the house and living on the sidewalk was a good idea, the best posible idea. I haven't yet figured out why. Maybe that balloon of destiny was broken.

I get some fudge pop thing and Mr. Happy Puppet Head gets one of those big mega cone things with nuts and chocolate and almond ice cream inside. He's so excited about it that he eats it all in one big gulp before I even open the chocolate pop.

He looks sadly at his empty wrapper, then looks sadly up at me. I give him my chocolate pop, and he tries eating it at slowly as he can, which is still pretty fast.

"Hey," he says, chocolate smeared around his furry mouth. "Let's have a race!"

"What kind of race?" I ask.

"Like a running kind. Where we see who can run faster."

That sounds like a good idea. I haven't had a footrace in years and I'm genuinely interested to see who is faster, me or him.

"Okay," I say. I point to the stop sign at the end of the block, maybe a hundred yards away. "First one to the stopsign."

"I'll eat you alive and spit you out, shit bag." Mr. Happy Puppet Head yells. The little kids in line turn around and stare at us.

"You ready?" I ask. He nods his head yes. "On your mark, get set, go!" And we run. Or I run and he floats as fast as he can, bobbing up and down in the air, tongue flapping around in the air.

We're even so far. I'd be ahead if I weren't wearing these big rubber boots, but I might still win.

Mr. Happy Puppet Head suddenly jumps in front of me and I stumble a little, just a little, but enough for him to get ahead. I use the last little bit of energy to surge forwards and knock him out of the way. He's still ahead, but I'm catching up, using everything I have.

Closer and closer to the stopsign. I slowly pass Mr. Happy Puppet Head, who's breathing is ragged and wheezy.

Almost there, rubber coated feet pounding the hot black pavement, threadbare cape flapping in the winds, gloved hands pumping... and then I see him. The balloon man with the red and white stripped shirt. He's sitting on someone's porch swing smiling at me. The man who started all of this homelessness stuff. I trip over my own feet and fall down.

I roll a little bit and tear my cape pretty bad, but I'm not really hurt. Just some scratches and bruises. I look up to where the balloon man was, but he's gone. All I see is Mr. Happpy Puppet Head running past the stop sign and yelling joyfully.

I pull myself to my feet. "Balloon man?" I call out. But he's nowhere. That's who I need to find, that's who'll know why everything turned out the way it did. Maybe he'll even be able to set things straight. Or at least lend me some cash to get dinner.

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