Jan 192010

by Brent Schnee        

You can try strawberry Crèmesavers if you want, but for me it was those red-and-white-swirled peppermints you get at restaurants. The green ones never worked…they had to be red.

We went to eat at Pizza Hut, back when people actually ate inside. It was out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by farms and highways. We were meeting family there, most likely; I have a vague recollection of my aunt being there. I also remember my early troubles with melted cheese, the gooey string forming an unbroken conduit from my stomach to the pizza slice—to this day I avoid foods like French onion soup.

Upon receipt of the check, before we departed, the waitress handed to everyone those red-and-white-swirled after-dinner mints, which I consumed immediately. We got up to walk out the door (stopping briefly to gawk at the Pac Man machine–I used to pretend I was playing the demo while waiting to be seated), and as soon as we stepped out into the blinding day, I looked across the parking lot, over farms and trees, to the sight of a hot-air balloon in the distance. Its details were mostly indiscernible, but I clearly saw through the dusty air that it had a red and white strip.

Undoubtedly it was there on account of my mint. The similarity was unmistakable. Back then I was enamored of flying things, but I had never before caused one to appear by sucking on a breath freshener. It dawned on me: I was the all-powerful summoner of hot-air balloons, and here, before us all, was unmistakable proof of my craft.

It was no accident or coincidence. It happened again, at the same Pizza Hut. I expected it this time. I was skeptical, though, at first. I checked the windows by our table before leaving the restaurant, and saw nothing. I popped the red and white swirly in my mouth, exited, and scanned every visible horizon. No balloon. But as I walked a bit, and turned the corner, my disappointment vanished: there it was.

I was amazing.

Mom and Dad seemed strangely unimpressed by my ability to summon aircraft at will (though tugging on a pant leg and pointing may not have adequately conveyed the situation). My sisters, too, were apathetic. They thought the balloon was pretty, but were unaware of its significance. Only I knew…it was my secret hidden in plain view.

Upon a third visit to the Pizza Hut, however, my powers failed. It was with a heavy revelation that I realized I squandered my abilities (or it may have been my sustained exposure to melted mozzarella, my only weakness). I didn’t know at first that my capacities were finite, and I wasted whatever mystical currency I had to cater to my own amusement. I never again was able to conjure a hot-air balloon by sucking on a mint. I do not discount the experience as coincidence entirely, though. My faculties need time, I think, to renew their intensity and volume. Soon the world will no longer want for red-and-white striped hot-air balloons. I cannot yet invoke them yet, though, but the peppermints inevitably give me gas. I just need enough…