David Raffin, editor & Gentleman "Take a book home & put it under your bed– Tonight!"

Her Story of Ballooning

An excerpt from the WIP “Sigmund, Falling Up!”

Man has always dreamt of flight, free through the air. A dream attained. Through effort and persistence.

But for the longest time it was attainable only in dreams. And what did that mean, they thought. Why want something which cannot be had? Madness. 

But that is the way of dreams. They persist. Timeless. In repetition.

The first dream was to fly like a bird. To rise, soar, and dive. To flutter about, careless. 

But this requires a fragility of bone structure. A hollowing out. And wings.

At first this is the desire. The simple answer, to attain wings. And man, initiative, looks to the construction of tools. To build wings, themselves tools, to attain lift off. To rise up. In emulation of birds.

Wings have feathers. These could be borrowed. These could be assembled. Blended in to the apparatus. They might even be faked. To make a man look like a bird, or a facsimile, a fake bird. 

Thus assembled comes the test. But there is no lift. There is no take off. No flight. To start from on high, to glide, is to have dreams deferred. No jumping, no flapping, no gliding to speak of. Just dreams dashed on the rocks of higher expectation. Even some birds cannot fly and they all have feathers. Feathers are more a mark of a bird than flight. Still, if a man were to wear feathers, it would not make him a bird. Hope dashed.

The same goes for women, though they are more grounded in thought. Though just as ready to rise up.

But a balloon. An artificial construct filled with air confined. Was discovered to be able to sail through the outer air. The air inside the construct being different than the air outside. An anomaly. Rises to the occasion. As long as it is mastered.

Ballooning is a rather safe way to fly. Do not let the thought make you a basket case. The balloon may be mastered. Our Lady Madeline Sophie Blanchard is a master of the balloon. She knows the way of the air. She keeps current. She has risen up more than anyone on earth, and let her passengers, and herself, down gently. Every time. You could do worse.

Further, to prove a point, she throws fireworks from the air. People come from all over to see the spectacle of lights popping in the air and a woman sailing away. Free. Like a bird. But not at all like a bird. 

Sigmund met her in the morning. In the field. In the commune of Avignon. By the left bank of the Rhone river. Once the home of seven successive popes. You can still see the ramparts.

He is an old man, a man obsessed. A father figure. She a vibrant woman of the air. Together they are classic figures of modernity, but a miss-match.

They size each other up and are impressed, each with the other.

“Shall we fly?” said Madame  Sophie Blanchard.

“Yes,” said Sigmund. “I have often dreamt of such.”

He held his hat in one hand, to his chest, and bowed slightly. His cane was hooked on his other arm. A cigar hung from his mouth.

She took him to the basket case. Swung open the door. They climbed in. There were seats inside, and under them a stockpile of explosives. Fireworks. 

“Is this safe,” Siggy asked.

“But of course, you silly man,” said Madame Blanchard. “Ballooning is the safest way to fly.”

“That is what they say,” Sigmund said. “But is it not, if we are to be clear, the only real way to fly?”

“Do not be pedantic,” Sophie said. “Fill yourself with the wonders of the modern age. This will do until something else comes along. If you will do the honor, Doctor Freud, please light the gas flame with your silly cigar.”

Sigmund did, and Sophie pulled in the grounding line. And soon they lifted off the field of Avignon. 

Up, up drifted the adventurers. Sigmund fell back into one of the seats. “Silly Sigmund!” Sophie said. “Falling Up!” He noted that the seats were simple. Not more than three legged stools attached to the basket, the walls of which made up the back. Certainly not first class seating. Or second. 

From the air they rose over the city walls, the ramparts. Obsoleting them. Though they looked nice from above. 

“This is what it is like to be free!” shouted Sophie Blanchard into the sky. “As a bird!”

Sigmund was well on the way to prove his point to the other gentlemen of the Psychoanalytic Club, those upstart whippersnappers. He would show them all. Again. Also, there was a matter of a gentleman’s bet.

Madame Sophie Blanchard needed to prove nothing to no-one. Different motivations. Altogether.

Ho Ho Ho, Away We Go

It is winter, you see, in candy-land, frosting spread everywhere. Snowmen stand at cold attention whilst Miss Velcro is fit to be tied. The city goes crazy all night my friends, long as Mr. Claus goes a-wandering. Yes, Anything goes in candy-land a land where anything can happen.

On Xmas eve Mrs. Claus goes wild. Lets it all come loose. In Candyland. The elves know, but do not tell. All is well, the saying goes, all is swell. ‬

Aghast in three rings

Take me to the circus

Where the devils dare

To balance at the precipice

Up there in mid-air

Sitting like a thinker

Ass upon a chair

Did I leave the stove on?

The devil’s mind declared.

Below the clown was crying

Nose up sniffing in the air

Now the daredevil is lying

To himself up on that chair.

Whoa is me, whoa is me!

Said the dog faced boy

Ordinarily without a care

The dancin’ bear watched helplessly

As the Barker was struck

By a falling chair.

Moaning Joe

The day you could no longer buy leaded gasoline was the saddest day for every waiter in America who was dependent upon the “leaded” or “unleaded” joke whenever approaching a table to offer caffeinated or decaf coffee. Now the coffee service was a hollow gesture. A mechanistic gruel. But Broadway beckoned. And “Leaded or unleaded the musical” opened to pour box office. Which, trivially, was a joke in the first act.