Mostly Hot Air
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The Landlord of the Duck Hotel was feeling the pinch.
He needed to host some interesting events to lure in more customers.
Last year he held the World Famous Balloon Model Making Championship and did quite well out of it.
Folks come from far and wide to marvel at this art, (it said on the leaflet!).
He decided to hold the event again this year hoping to make more money on the food.
The weather was fine with a light breeze, which bode well for a successful day.
"Have you finished making the sandwiches yet Gladys?" asked the landlord,
"We need to cater for about 100 people you know."
"You'll be lucky, but yes I've done a pile of sardine paste ones, and some cheese spread and tomato. I'm putting cling-film on them now. I've made sausage rolls too, they're in the oven." replied Gladys wiping her hands on a tea-towel.
"I hope you haven't put too much meat in them, I'm not rich." he mumbled looking glum.
Gladys shook her head; he really was a mean man.
She was on minimum wage and did her very best each day in the kitchen making meals with the cheap ingredients he provided.
She didn't want to think of where the sausage meat originated.
Last year's Balloon Modelling Champion was young Jasper Brown.
His speciality was twisting the balloons into animal shapes for the children.
His secret was making them very quickly ensuring nobody became bored and wandered off.
He had begun making balloon animals when he was 15 years old and was too shy to go out, staying in his bedroom practising the complicated shapes.
He ordered all the different shaped balloons from Amazon, and was happy being on his own.
He could make a very lifelike penguin from black and white balloons in 20 seconds.
This year he was coming to the Duck Hotel again to defend his title, but was going to have to invent something new and exciting as the young audience can be very discriminating.
After leaving school Jasper worked full time at an opticians, overcoming his shyness and talking to the customers, and puffing air into their eyes with the special machine.
He could practise balloon art in his lunch break, using the eye puffer to blow them up saving energy.
He made such a good likeness of Gok Wan, that the manager put it in the window display.
The day of the Championship arrived and Jasper took his big box of balloons out of his car and set up on the trestle table provided.
He had brought his mother's large dog, Wrecks, as she was going to watch the sheepdog trials at the country park and would not risk taking him there again.
Remembering the embarrassment of last year, she seriously thought about going in disguise.
She recalled that all the vendors had set up their stalls in the sunshine, the beer tent was being erected in the centre of the meadow.
A Hot Dog van and Super-Soft ice cream kiosk parked on the other side hoping for plenty of customers.
She had put Wrecks on his lead and walked around enjoying looking at the variety of items when a small child picked up a squeaky toy and squeezed it over and over again.
Wrecks' ears stood on end and he pulled the lead away, ran after the child grabbing the toy.
His jaws clamped over it making it squeak louder.
The child held on to Wrecks' tail shouting for him to give it back.
Unused to such familiarity in his nether regions Wrecks bounded on, dragging the child behind him.
The child's father shouted at Jasper's mum for having such an unruly animal out of control.
They gave chase.
As the dog rounded a sharp corner the little child who had valiantly held on was swung against the Home Baking stand and had to let go coming to rest on top of the tray of scones.
"I want my squeaky toy" he cried, covered in jam.
Wrecks galloped on unwilling to give up his prize.
He looked over his shoulder to check if anyone was near enough to catch him and banged into the bran tub which fell spewing its contents on the grass.
The loud squeaking frightened the pigmy goats in the petting corner.
They leaped over the enclosure and ran into the beer tent.
The beer drinkers parted like the Red Sea as the excited little goats bounded along.
The barman was bending over to retrieve mixers from the bottom shelf, when the leading billy butted him hard, causing him to fall headlong into the ice bucket.
The fuss scared the goats back outside where they peacefully nibbled the grass oblivious to the mess inside.
As Wrecks charged around the Hot Dog stand his lead caught on the metal litter bin standing outside, nearly strangling him as he was brought to a sudden halt.
The Hot Dog man had seen everything from his high vantage point, laughing his head off, he swapped two sausages for the squeaky toy.
Then he went to the Home Baking stall to return the toy to the jam covered child.
Jasper's mother ran up holding onto her straw hat trying to decide whether to claim Wrecks or pretend she had never seen him before.
The child's father knew who was responsible for the dog and handed the lead back to her shaking hands.
She felt obliged to reimburse the scone lady and offer her handkerchief to the sticky child.
This year she made the right decision to leave Wrecks with Jasper.
Back at the Duck Hotel Jasper had finished setting up.
"Oh bother, Wrecks old boy, mum hasn't left me your long lead. You can't sit in the car all day it's much too hot."
Jasper quickly improvised and made a tether out of several long uninflated balloons, knotting them together firmly.
He tied Wrecks to the table leg leaving enough room for him to get comfortable.
"Sit there in the shade, good boy." he patted Wrecks and sat on the grass to absorb the atmosphere.
The balloon enthusiasts were strolling around drinking cider and nibbling the curling sandwiches and meagre sausage rolls.
They tried not to catch Gladys' eye in case she offered them seconds.
"Hello there, it's Jasper isn't it?" boomed a gentleman in a posh suit
"I saw you last year, you were very good."
He clapped Jasper on the back making him cough.
"Thank you, that is kind of you to say so. I am doing something different this year. I've had a lot of new ideas."
"Can I get you some food?" he said pleasantly, as Gladys approached.
"Not on your nelly son." he slipped his half-eaten sausage roll to Wrecks
"I'm off to get a drink, see you later."
Jasper began to get ready for his turn, he tied a bunch of red and blue inflated balloons together and waited by the podium to be called.
AND NOW, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE PRESENT LAST YEAR'S WINNER, JASPER BROWN.
Amid sporadic applause Jasper stepped carefully over and around the other entrants' efforts, the snakes, swans and poodles were bobbing in the breeze.
He heard a loud bang and some swearing as a contestant squeezed his model too hard.
He managed to clamber up onto the podium without letting go of his balloons.
He bowed and clearing his throat said his rehearsed introduction.
"Thank you everyone, I am now going to make, in under two minutes, and using only 15 balloons a ........aaaargh"
When Wrecks heard Jasper's voice coming out through the tannoy system opposite, he lunged forward toward the loud speaker thinking Jasper was hiding inside it.
The improvised lead stretched and stretched until at maximum extension it catapulted him backwards onto the podium, right into Jasper's stomach, hurling him onto the ground.
He collided with poor Gladys and her tray showering the contestants with stale sandwiches.
The kind man in the posh suit helped Gladys up, while Wrecks sat on Jasper's chest licking his face enthusiastically.
The man told everyone
"He said he was doing something different this year!"
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