Three miles west of Ghost River, Lake Superior – September 1, 2013
Lost balloons are rare in Canada. Until yesterday, I’d found only one and it bore the stars and stripes of the U.S. flag. I picked it up, partially to preserve national pride, and partially, as with all balloons I find, for luck.
Yesterday, I found a giant cluster of long-deflated mylars just far enough off the water to force me out of the boat. It was near sunset and I was rushing to find a campsite.
“Damn balloons,” I said.
I almost left them, not wanting to get out for them, but superstition stopped me. Balloons have always been lucky to me.
I found an “I Love You” caught in the trees on a mountain and sent it to my girlfriend with a letter. It went over well as far as sending garbage to lovers go. On my thirtieth birthday, in a remote, barely traveled canyon in Southern Utah, I found a “Happy Birthday” half-buried in the mud. Not once have I regretted picking up a balloon.
I scrambled out of the boat, splashed ashore, grabbed the balloons and in my rush back to the boat, I slipped and fell on a wet rock, felt some pain in my right foot, cursed, jumped in the boat, and took off in search of a quiet cove to sleep in before sunset.
I woke up today as soon as I could see and looked out at giant waves crashing ashore, went back to sleep, woke up an hour later, saw more waves, closed my eyes again, woke up to rain pouring down and blowing under my tarp, curled in a ball, tried to sleep again, couldn’t, sat up and watched the waves crash, knowing I wouldn’t move all day.
“Some luck from those balloons,” I thought.
Then I thought about my foot. I’d forgotten about it in the rush to set up camp. I twisted my foot upside down to look at it in the light of day. An inch-long gash stretched underneath my big toe.
“So that’s why my toes felt so sticky,” I thought. “Lucky balloons indeed.”
The day passed slow. I adjusting my tarp and fought off constant rain. I watched waves and frowned at the grey sky. I listened to the adventures of D’Artagnon and the Three Musketeers. I took naps and broke into my last stash of candy.
As the sun set and the sky grew dark, I lay down to go to sleep and saw a single star glittering faintly through a thin cloud.
“There’s the luck,” I thought.
But it wasn’t the star that convinced me. I already knew it. I knew it since I wiped away the dried blood on my toes and limped to the boat to pull out the twisted mass of balloons for a better look.
“Get well soon!” they said in bright, metallic colors.