A little hot air

By Steve Galea

“Jenn,” I said, “do we have any more of these extra-large garbage bags?”

‘Main floor closet,” she said, without even raising her eyes from the book she was reading.

“What about duct tape and twine?” 

“Same place,” she muttered. 

“Hey, can I borrow that big wicker basket in the basement?” 

“Sure,” she replied.

“How about birthday candles and a lighter?” I then asked. “Do we have any?”

“Shelf over the fridge,” she grumbled.

“Great, thank you,” I said. “Hey, which cat would you miss the least?” 

“I think probably Mumbles…” she answered. 

“Great,” I replied.

“Ca… ca… cat…?” she sputtered. “Duct tape? Twine? Candles? Lighter? Garbage bags? Miss the least? What have you done!?”

In fact, I had done nothing yet. And, frankly, there was no reason for the panic in her voice yet either. After all, it was not as if I was going to trigger an international incident that might cause fighter jets to scramble and air-to-air missiles to be launched.  

No, all I planned on doing was making and releasing a simple hot air balloon. 

Yet, even after I told her as much, Jenn still appeared a little perturbed. OK, a lot perturbed.

“A…. a… hot air balloon,” she said, while looking up towards the heavens. “Have you seen the news?”

“Relax,” I said. I haven’t even made it yet.”

“So, Mumbles is still safely on the ground?”

“Of course,” I said. “I’m waiting for the catnip to kick in.”

“What are you thinking? Who in their right mind makes a hot air balloon for a cat?”

“You mean aside from someone desperately seeking more Instagram followers?” I answered. 

“Yes,” she snapped. 

“No one,” I replied. “But I am not making a hot air balloon for Mumbles,” I said.

“You’re not?” she replied.

“Heck no. That would be ridiculous.”

She heaved a sigh of relief.

“I am making it for us,” I continued. “You know, in case gas gets even more expensive. I just want to test the prototype on a simple, guileless creature first.”

“Oh, thank heavens,” she said. “Well, have fun, wear a helmet …”

“I meant the cat,” I replied.

“No,” she said. “You will not send up any cat in a hot air balloon.”

“What if the cat has already signed the consent form?” I winked.

“No,” she said. 

And, as if that were not enough, she also vetoed the idea of me sending Maggie, our other cat up, despite the fact that I promised to wrap her in a pillow and keep a trampoline at the ready below.

It occurred to me that this is how great ideas gets derailed.

If Jenn had been around, the inventors of the hot air balloon, the Montgolfier brothers, would have never sent up a goat, chicken, or duck in their first balloons. And then Francois Pilatrê de Rozier and Francois Laurent, Marquis of Arlanders, the first humans ever to take flight, would have never been the household names they are today. 

So, I had to scrap the scaled down version of my hot air balloon, which featured a garbage bag balloon, a wicker basket platform, and a 30 birthday candles to produce the hot air required. It would have worked great too, had I been able to control the urge to blow out the candles and sing “Happy Birthday” every time it was lit. But, alas, it was not meant to be. 

Jenn deemed the candle below a garbage bag a fire hazard. And she was apparently not in favour of me spending money on a cordless blow dryer either.

I thought it was a good idea, but after talking to her, I left deflated.