(Thank you, darling!)
Judith’s first birthday had been a success. A supply raid at
a nearby party store had earned Alexandria several bags of balloons, spools of
ribbon, wrapping paper, gift bags, and four tanks of helium. In a spurt of
levity, Tara and Carl had inflated several balloons with helium, and to Judith,
they had been the most interesting part of the party.
But now the party was over, the little girl had been put to
bed, and they still had nearly three dozen colorful, floating balloons to deal
with. Daryl had suggested target practice, but Rosita had shot that down
(“That’d be like killing joy.”). So, instead, Carol, Tara, Rosita, and Glenn
had gathered up the inflated balloons and decided to have a little fun, sitting
on the floor in the living room.
Tara held an orange balloon to her lips, inhaling two
lungfuls of the helium before belting out: “Won’t you take me to…FUNKYTOWN?!”
Her voice came out like a squeaky chipmunk, and she sang a
few more chords before the effect faded. Glenn took a big gulp of helium from a
purple balloon and leaned back from his seat on the floor, calling out to the
occupants in the other room.
“MAGGIE, YOU’RE REALLY PRETTY.”
Maggie’s voice drifted in from the other room in a long
suffering tone. “Oh my God.”
Then it was Rosita’s turn, and she had an impressive lung
capacity, Carol thought, as her blue balloon shrank while she inhaled.
“This. Is. Sparta!” she squeaked.
“What the Hell is going on in there?” Daryl leaned into view
from the other room, where a beleaguered Maggie was laughing. “Sound like a
buncha drunk chipmunks in there.”
“Daryl!” Glenn held up a pink balloon. “I gotta hear what
you sound like, dude.”
Daryl’s expression was deadpan, and he exchanged a look with
Maggie, who was out of Carol’s line of sight. “No.”
Carol chuckled and inhaled from her green balloon. She had
something clever planned to say, but it got lost when she lost her grip on the
balloon. It blew a loud raspberry as it whizzed out of her hands and landed on
the couch behind Tara.
“Whoops,” she said, and the squeaky tone of her voice
She looked over at Daryl, who was grinning at her.
“Ya’ll are ridiculous,” he stated.
Carol grabbed up an orange balloon and took a deep breath
from it, making a second attempt at her earlier bit.
“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father.
Prepare to die.”
“Oh, oh!” Tara took another gulp of helium. “Inconceivable!”
Glenn nudged the pink balloon toward Daryl again, and Daryl
groaned loudly before taking the thing, muttering along the lines of “fine, if
it’ll make ya’ll shut up.”
Rosita’s voice was high pitched. “You keep using that word.
I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Carol watched Daryl breathe in from the balloon, and he
locked eyes with her, as if to ask if this was really necessary. She nodded and
“Go on,” she giggled. “Say something.”
When he spoke, his voice came out just as squeaky and high
pitched as theirs, but with enough of his drawl that it immediately had Glenn
rolling. “As you wish.”
He deliberately let go of the balloon, and it whizzed over
until it hit Tara in the shoulder. Carol cackled and clapped her hands