Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories appear in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Ghost City Review, Spelk Fiction, Door = Jar, Levitate, Yellow Medicine Review, Ellipsis Zine, Wilderness House Literary Review, Drunk Monkeys, and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Every autumn day Rose passes by the hot air balloon field in Stillwater, wishing she had enough money in order to go up for just one ride.
Last winter had not just taken a toll on Rose, it took nearly everything she had left. Now, she has a frostbitten toe and a frostbitten heart.
Rose knows that even the happiest golden leaves grow weary when they catch the first gust of winter’s harsh might. Rose knows that if the sun ever decides to go away for good she’ll try to make it promise to come back. Rose knows that if she would have had her life together, her adopted boy Frankie would still talk to her.
Across the air balloon field, sits a pawn shop. A pawn shop is a depressing place when you’ve got nothing to pawn, nothing to sell, and not enough means to buy anything. A job application turns into a hopeless slate the moment you see “three years of experience needed.”
After staring at her weathered reflection in the pawn shop window, Rose turns around toward the field and observes an unattended hot air balloon. She crosses through the dewy green grass, looks around, and decides to hop into the balloon’s gondola.
The balloon is much bigger than Rose thought it would be. Her eyes widen as she gazes up at the balloon’s bright rainbow colors. Suddenly, a pair of balloon tour guides run toward her, yelling “Stop!”
Rose quickly unravels the ropes from the ground, boosts the propane flame, and takes off into the sky. From this view, the falling leaves look like fluttering butterflies. Rose knows that when she comes down she’ll be in a lot of trouble. So she squints up at the sun and gives the balloon some more power.