Next Level

The door opened, but no footsteps came down the hall. A smiley-faced helium balloon hovered before them, smiling. It was lollypop pink with crinkly edges. Its eyes were two black upside-down Vs. A red tongue lolled out of its black semicircle mouth.

Are you the new housemate? asked the boy with floppy hair and piercings. 

The balloon bobbled up and down as if to say, Yes. 

What’s your name? asked the actress. 

The balloon zigzagged, its string sketching a question mark. 

Want us to guess? the basketballer asked.  

After several hours of guessing (boring viewing, never made it to air), the floppy-haired boy said: Smiley? 

She jiggled in a frenzy of pleasure. 

Smiley was an instant hit. Her friendly smile and upbeat personality brought a fresh, bouncy energy to the show. Everyone said so. Ratings hit a helium high. The girls in the house weren’t jealous, even when the boys said how sick she was, the freaking GOAT. She didn’t make any mess. She was a great listener. 

A few days after her arrival, the floppy-haired boy turned 21. The housemates threw a party on the rooftop. 

Smiley hasn’t seen the terrace, the actress said. 

You’ll love it, Smiley, the basketballer said. 

Smiley smiled while the others blew up balloons. She wobbled over and rubbed her head against their yellow, blue and green heads. 

Smiley can make friends with anyone, the housemates said. 

She followed them upstairs. 

Smiley loves the terrace! they said. She’s jumping for joy! 

Smiley rose higher. 

She’s super-bouncy tonight! they said. 

Smiley melted pinkly into dusk. 

Don’t leave us, Smiley! they cried. 

Stars rushed into the balloon-shaped hole.

Her sudden exit killed the party mood. They slumped in their banana chairs, deflated. 

She was always smiley, even first thing in the morning, the actress sobbed. 

The floppy-haired boy admitted crushing on her. Like, big time.

Bounce, said the basketballer. She was next-level bounce. 

While they mourned, the doorbell rang. The basketballer sprinted down to answer it. 

What’s the go, bro? the floppy-haired boy shouted. 

It’s a cheese, the basketballer shouted back. Maybe brie, maybe camembert. She’s in my arms. I thought I liked bounce, but, man oh man! She’s soft. She’s next-level soft. 

Faye Brinsmead’s flash fiction appears in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, MoonPark Review, New Flash Fiction Review, Emerge Literary Journal, and others. She won first prize in the Spring 2020 Reflex Fiction competition, judged by Kathy Fish. She lives in Australia and tweets @ContesdeFaye. 

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