Mum was angry at me.

I was gone less than five minutes and you manage to spill ice-cream all down your dress. You are such a messy child!”

She was right – I had ice-cream all down my favourite dress, but all I could say was,

No Mum, you were gone exactly five minutes.”

You sit here and eat your ice-cream while I nip in the bank, don’t go anywhere!” she added with more force. I sat down, licked my ice-cream twice and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my bare legs. I loved the sun, ‘cos mum let me wear my favourite red and white striped summer dress. I saw the town hall clock turn two forty-one pm.

I licked the strawberry ice cream into the vanilla. I took two more licks, looked up from my cone and saw it. I think I was the only one who saw, not even the man selling them saw it. It broke free from the others and began its flight. It was red with a white stripe just like my dress and started to float free from all the others. No-one paid attention as the wind blew it around. It seemed to dance in the sky. As it rose I noticed its string was still dangling behind it like a tail. Ice-cream began to drip down and warm and cool caked my hands.

Then, just as the balloon was about to be freed from the busy city street, I noticed it stop. It hung there in mid-air, like when a cartoon character steps off a cliff. But this balloon was travelling up, not down. I held my breath. I felt puddles of ice-cream between my fingers.

I noticed the tail had got stuck on the town hall clock. It read 2.42 pm. I sat there while the balloon struggled. It tried to fly away, but the iron clock held on to it without any effort. Everyone else seemed to melt away, and I stared at the clock, willing the balloon on its way. But no amount of wishing could help it. It was stuck. It reminded me of our cat Jay when I hold on to her tail and mum tells me not to be so cruel when she tries to wriggle away.

But the clock only had a hold of the balloon with its very tip and at any minute I thought it would join the birds and the planes and the sun. Something sticky was crawling down my arm.

The clock had reached 2.45pm. The clock’s grip was now less than before. The second hand was racing around the clock 10…15…20 and with it, the minute hand was inching up to the sky. Just then, the second hand pointed to the sky and the minute hand plodded on to 2.46pm, sending the balloon on its way. Something landed in my lap and I heard a voice.

What happened? That was fresh on today! I was gone less than five minutes…”


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