Up or Down
I wrote this about a year ago on a Tuesday. Special thanks to Book Club Brian for the title and an occasional edit:
A man was walking down a road. In his hand he held a rope. The rope was very long and one end of it dragged behind him for hundreds of yards as he walked. The other end rose, gently, up from his grip and into the sky. It was attached to a hot air balloon. The hot air balloon floated delicately above him, moving across the land with him as he walked. There were many sunny, cloudless days when the balloon was the most beautiful thing in sight, and the man wanted nothing more than to climb into it and float off into the sky. Other days, however, were not so beautiful. The man was glad to have the firm ground beneath his feet. Even so, he knew that someday he would work up the courage to climb that rope and see the world from his balloon. Eventually the ground he walked on began to slope downhill. The change was very gradual and, at first, he did not notice it. After many downward steps he was clearly able to see the road ahead. It stretched gracefully for miles and miles and miles. He admired his view, and saw that he would be safe on this road no matter what happened. Still, he found himself looking longingly up at his balloon. He knew that the view from up there would be far better than any vantage the ground could give him. One day the man found himself looking back on the ground he had covered, and thought he noticed that the rope dragging behind him was shorter than it had been before. Looking up, he realized that the balloon had gotten further and further away from him as he walked down the slope. He tried to pull it back down toward him, but he simply was not strong enough. He tried climbing, but he knew that his arms could not carry him to the top. He knew that he might have been able to climb it before, when the balloon was closer. So instead he kept walking, and kept readjusting his grip to let more of his extra rope out, and kept reassuring himself that the balloon was still there if he really needed it, and that one day it will be close enough to climb to again. He did this for many days, until one day he didn’t hear the rope dragging behind him. He looked down and found that he was holding onto the last feet of rope. He looked up and could barely see his balloon. Was it red? Was it blue? He couldn’t even remember what it looked like. If he held onto the rope any longer, it would lift him off of the ground. He let the rope go and kept walking further and further down the road.