Self Inflation

“The pandemic was a hard time for street performers. The lockdown cut off their income. They lost access to that most important nutrient, applause. Come with us as we take the role of flies on the wall in a decrepit two bedroom apartment where three street performers are roommates trying to stay sane while waiting for self isolation to end. Holly is an inflatrix, working in the incomparable medium of latex balloons. Alex juggles knives, axes, chainsaws, flaming torches, flaming axes, flaming knives and that one chainsaw with a leak in its fuel tank. She was falling out of love with her living statue boyfriend, Wade, the most boring man on Earth. Could Alex win her heart? Was it a love that could never be? Alex was determined to find out before lockdown ended.”

“I can hear you!” yelled Holly.

“No you can’t!” yelled Alex. He grimaced at himself in the mirror and returned to running the electric razor over his face.

Time passes.

“Why don’t you sit down?” Alex said to Wade, who was standing in a half squat next to the couch with his arms straight out.

“He’s staying in shape,” said Holly. “If he starts sitting down he’ll lose tone and static endurance. A shaky statue isn’t going to make enough money to eat or even buy silver body paint.”

“He should try juggling chainsaws.”

Alex pulled up the sleeves of his t-shirt and flexed his biceps.

“Get an eyeful of this tone.”

Holly wasn’t impressed. “If you’re not going to choose a show give me the remote.”

Wade, as always, was silent.

Time passes.

Alex waited in the kitchen. He had two eggs in each hand and he was rolling them around each other, carefully, as they were the last eggs in the house. Women loved it when you cooked for them. He knew that. And women loved omelettes. That was less of a fact and more of a hope. Cheese omelettes were the only thing he knew how to cook. Why wouldn’t women love them? They were delicious.

He recognised Holly’s footsteps coming down the hall. He commenced juggling. The eggs were dancing in the air as Holly entered the kitchen.

“Good morning! Can I interest you,” he said, catching two of the eggs and spinning around, ready to catch the next two, “in an omelette?”

His concentration was impeded by Holly’s sleepwear, which appeared to be just a t-shirt, and not an over-sized, stolen-from-my-boyfriend one, a t-shirt like a tube of the thinnest cotton that ended halfway down her thighs.

The eggs in the air collided with the eggs in his hands. Shell sprayed through the air, albumen dripped through his fingers and onto his bare feet.

“Wade bought those eggs. He was going to have them this morning. Weren’t you, honey?” said Holly and looked over Alex’s shoulder.

Alex turned, following her eyes, and jumped, nearly slipping over on spilled egg. Wade was somehow right behind him, the black frying pan held up in one hand, a cleaning cloth in the other. His eyes were fixated on a point in the middle of the kitchen. He didn’t blink, but the effect was quite aggressive.

“We think you should clean up the mess,” said Holly, nodding at the cloth.

Time passes.

Alex was in his room polishing his chainsaws when Holly called out. “Delivery for you, Alex!”

Bless Amazon’s delivery speed. Even during the pandemic some essentials were still arriving punctually.

He made a big show of opening the box on the couch, taking his time cutting through the black tape that sealed the box.

“What did you buy?” asked Holly, perching on the arm of the couch. This was the most exciting thing that had happened in days. Alex was pretty sure even Wade’s eyes were glancing over at him.

“A chainsaw sharpener,” he said, taking the item out of the box and placing it on the coffee table.

“Three LED enhanced juggling clubs, for night performances. If I ever get to do another one.”

He placed the clubs on the coffee table. “And what’s this? Three, 250 count packs of Qualatex 260q balloons? Including one character pack? However did they end up in there?”

Holly was rolling her eyes, but nevertheless she was smiling as she accepted the balloons from Alex.

“That’s so sweet,” she said. “Thank you.”

He was sure her cheeks were pinker and her eyes were shining.

A rumble seemed to emanate from Wade’s position. Alex turned in his direction, reaching into the box.

“And for you, Wade,” he pulled out three inflated plastic shipping pads. “Some little pillows for your little head.”

Holly couldn’t see, but his middle finger was sticking out from between them. Wade stared into the middle of the room, motionless.

Time passes.

Holly knocked on Alex’s door frame. He looked up from the juggling video he was watching.

“I made you something,” she said, and pulled out from behind her back a chainsaw twisted out of orange and grey balloons.

He jumped off the bed, took it gently from her hand.

“It’s amazing. You’re amazing. Thank you.”

He proceeded to juggle it along with two of his new LED clubs, and pretend to chop off his hand with it, and his legs, so he ended up kneeling in front of her. Holly laughed and messed up his hair, then skipped out of the room.

A storm rolled in that night. A crash of thunder woke up Alex, who was surprised to find himself cradling the inflatable chainsaw. There was a figure waiting beside his bed.


A flash of lightning revealed Wade, frozen in the moment, a juggling knife in each hand, poised to leap upon Alex.

“What are you doing with my knives?” said Alex into the darkness that followed, the after images from the lightning making it impossible to see anything.

Another flash of lightning. Wade loomed over Alex’s bed, ready to bring the knives down.

“You know they’re plastic, right?” Alex said to the dark.

The bedroom light snapped on. Holly stood there in her tube shirt. Wade stood immobile beside Alex’s bed.

“What are you doing, Wade?” said Holly. He didn’t answer or move. Alex slid off the bed and Wade still didn’t move. He walked over to Holly. She still had her hand on the light switch. He took it and held it. She didn’t pull away. He switched off the light.

He looked back as they left the room. Lightning silhouetted Wade, still motionless next to his bed, but he seemed smaller, folded in on himself.

Time passes.

They had just curled up in bed together when they heard a pop. It was followed by others. The popping went on and on and came from different parts of the house, accompanied by a constant stream of profanity and broken laughter.

“Someone’s found their voice,” said Alex.

“Hush,” said Holly, placing her fingers over his mouth. “That’s enough talking.”