Tony Rauch has three books of short stories published—I’m right here (spout press), Laredo (Eraserhead Press), Eyeballs growing all over me...again (Eraserhead Press). He has additional titles forthcoming in the next few months, including as I floated in the jar, a 177-page short story collection of imaginative, whimsical, dreamy, absurd, surreal fantasy, sci fi, and fairy tale adventures. He can be found at—trauch.wordpress.com.
for Barry Yourgrau
I was lying in the grass on a hill watching the clouds curl and drift by when an accountant floated by in a bubble. Actually, I’m not aware of his occupation offhand, and couldn’t definitively tell from his conservative business attire, but I assumed he was an accountant by his wardrobe. He looked to be somewhere in middle management, something in finance, I suppose. He was all curled up in the bubble and wearing a suit and tie and clutching a briefcase. The bubble just floated on the breeze as if it weighed nothing at all. It looked organic, like a transparent womb, and sort of oozed and jiggled about in the air, wiggling as if subject to the whims of the winds.
Down to the ground the bubble jiggled to rest in the grass twenty feet before me. It laid there in the bright afternoon sun, the wind whipping the long grass around it.
I watched the accountant slosh around for a moment, then he slipped out of the bubble and rolled onto the grass. Slowly he rolled to his knees and stood. He stretched his back, looked around, then walked up to me. He stood in front of me for a moment, looking me over as I sat up in the grass.
“Hey,” I nodded to him politely, “Nice bubble.”
He turned to look behind him at the bubble glistening in the sun. Then he looked back over to me and smiled. He was wearing tiny old grandma glasses. He squinted in the sun as giant clouds folded and twisted past behind him like great fluffy blankets in the distance.
I could see the bubble was clear and liquid-like. It rippled slightly in the wind and seemed to form rainbows on its surface, with all sorts of colors oozing about like gasoline in a puddle of water.
The accountant just stood there, looking at me and looking at me, in a sort of curious admiration, as if he was really me from my future and that future me had come back to the past to visit and now here he is/I am, looking at his/my past in nostalgia, as if he wished he could be my age again, even just for a little while, even for just one afternoon, even for just a few brief hours or so.
Eventually the accountant reached into his suit and pulled out a piece of paper and reached down to hand it to me. I reached up to take it. I brought it closer and looked it over. It was a brochure of some type, but written in a language I didn’t recognize. I looked up at the mysterious, well attired stranger, then back at the paper in my hands. The accountant looked down at me hopefully, as if the paper was something useful or important, like instructions to the secrets of life or something. But I couldn’t understand the language at all, couldn’t read the writing.
I studied the glossy document for a second, then looked up and said, “Yeah, I can’t read this, my man. I don’t understand this language at all,” I squinted up at him in the sunlight. I held out the brochure to give it back to him and shook my head.
He just looked at me and smiled an amused little smile, as if in admiration.
For some reason this ticked me off. I was already getting bored, the hot afternoon wearing on me even though I sat in the shade, and now this interruption was becoming bothersome, so I got up and ran down and climbed into the well dressed businessman’s bubble. I reached my arm in and made my way inside, moving sideways and squeezing my way in the opening I had created with my hand. I crawled and settled inside, all curled up in the fetal position. Immediately the wind lifted me from the ground, out of the long, blowing wheat-colored grass and into the summer air. Before I knew it, wee-haw, I was floating along in the sky.
I turned my head and looked over and saw the accountant guy standing there, beaming with pride as I bounced along with the wind. I mean, the guy was just standing there, doing nothing. He was just watching, just gazing up as if in satisfaction. Perhaps he was some kind of salesman, and he was selling these bubbles. Maybe he considered this to be my test drive, to see if I found this bubble suitable to my desires.
Then two gusts of wind hit me from two different sides and thrashed me about. The bubble wiggled and jiggled in the air, sending me higher and spinning me faster, over a tree line and down into a valley. The wind swirled me around, jerking me to and fro. I didn’t know how to control the thing at all.
The wind turned and thrashed me, accidentally knocking my hand against the bubble, and tearing a rip across its side from my fingernail. The wind tipped me one way and then the other. I sloshed around inside, gravity forcing all my weight against one side. I slipped out of the tear and dropped out of the sky. I fell for what seemed like forever, watching the bubble twist and wobble without me. The wind carried the bubble up and away, as if it were a large, clear baggie, as if without me it had no ballast to keep it steady. I tumbled through the air until I crashed through a circus tent and landed in a pool filled with whipped cream (from a clown act under a circus’s big top).
An angry clown emerged from the darkness, looked down on me and said, “Hey, out of the way. My hippo will be jumping from the platform,” the clown gestured above, “Move or you’ll be flattened.”
Suddenly a whistle sounded and I panicked, trying to swim out of the way, but just slipped around. It was too late. A giant crashing sent me out of the pool in a wave of whipped cream. I landed on the ground and rolled. I was so scared I just got up and took off, running out of the circus tent and into the grass of the field. There was scattered applause from the darkness as I ran, people assuming this was a part of the clown act.
I walked back to the hillside and sat back down in the same spot in the grass that I was in before the bubble showed up. In the distance I saw the bubble wobble awkwardly past in a broken bubble kind of way. It was a sad sight, as if the bubble was lost without someone inside of it. I thought about running after it, but I was far too tired to chase it, and it was probably too far away for me to catch up to.
I wondered if it was all a set-up, just a trick, maybe part of the circus act—that the bubble purposely dropped me onto the tent. Or if it was all just an accident. Seemed more like an accident. Or at least I wanted it to be an accident. Suddenly I wanted to believe in bubbles, in floating things.
I looked around. The man in the suit was nowhere to be found. So I just laid back in the long grass and watched the clouds roll past again, oozing and twisting in the baby blue while I licked the whipped cream from my arms and waited for the next thing to happen to me.