Once upon a time, there was a little beach ball. We’ll call him BB,
shall we? he was a cheery ball; bubblegum pink with stars of white,
yellow and red. he was made in china, or perhaps Taiwan, but he came
to rest in a tiny toy shop in a tiny town in California. There he
waited patiently, wondering what was to become of him. The other
beach balls talked about being thrown about on the beach endlessly,
but this little pink beach ball knew that it had more interesting
things in store.

One day, in wintertime when beach balls usually sit quietly on their
shelves waiting for summer, a cute redhead came into the toy shop.
She wasn’t a child per se, but her heart was young and light and the
beach ball was glad when she picked him up and bought him. Little did
he know that just a few hours from then he would be onstage in a
burlesque show, surrounded by half-naked ladies and lingerie. When
this turned out to be the case the little beach ball was quite pleased
with the way things were going post-toy shop, and nearly popped then
and there.

After several months of burlesque shows BB was an old pro, and though
he still loved being tossed about by gorgeous gals, and quite enjoyed
the limelight, his little inflated heart longed for more. And so
when he was packed away amidst bras and garter belts he sighed
wistfully. Perhaps his dreams of grandeur were never to be realized.
But then, late one night, he was whisked from his box and packed into
a strange canvas bag, and in the morning he found himself heading
south. Soon he was going through an x-ray machine (he felt that,
being transparent, the x-ray was a bit superfluous, and mildly
insulting), and then he was on a plane miles above the earth. When it
grew dark out the plane window the girl who had packed him heeded her
mother’s advice and inflated BB, using him as a rest for her weary
upper body. BB held her as she slept across the atlantic. he didn’t
even mind when she drooled just a bit somewhere over Greenland.
After a brief spell in Europe, BB was back on a plane, this time bound
for the famous sub-continent. BB had every intention of spending this
flight as the last, with Melinda snoozing on him, but several rows up
a child was crying, and BB couldn’t sleep. Incidentally, neither
could Melinda. But she blew up BB, to the chagrin of her seatmates,
and then reached across the aisle to the screaming child. At the
sight of BB the child’s wails turned to giggles, and soon the little
one was crawling up and down the aisle of the plane, happily pushing
BB along in front of her. BB spent the rest of the flight keeping the
little girl company, and thus the entire plane-ful of people were
grateful to BB and thanked him, or meant to, for his presence. BB
glowed with joy.

When the plane landed the little girl let BB fall, and Melinda walked
by, in a fog of exhaustion. Just as she was about to leave the plane
and step out onto India she felt a tug at her heart, and she turned
and found BB waiting patiently for her, some rows back. He knew she
wouldn’t forget him.
The next few days were quiet, and BB rested and enjoyed the heat and
sounds of his new country. When Melinda put him into the canvas bag
once again, he thought that it was time to go home. But no… onto a
train, past many, many people who stared at Melinda and BB as though
they were circus freaks, and finally to a pink-walled building full of
girls.

Melinda sat in the middle of a room, on hard concrete, and inflated BB
again. ‘hawaa,’ said a small girl in yellow. that is how Melinda and
BB learned the word for ‘air.’
Soon the girls began to dance. Every once in a while they would
glance furtively at the corner where BB sat, or tiptoe towards him in
anticipation, reaching out to touch his colourful stars. At last it
was BB’s turn to dance, and he was whirled about from girl to girl,
all around the room. Whoever held BB got to dance in the center of
the circle, and so BB was passed from one to the next, each with a
smile or a laugh. BB had never felt so loved and glad to be a pink
beach ball. These girls thought BB was just wonderful, and BB was
having such fun.

Even after the dancing was done, BB was still the center of attention.
The girls formed a circle with Melinda and tossed BB around, up and
down and twirling, for hours, while J.S. Bach’s cello suites played.
The girls had never played with Bach before, either. But they liked
BB more. BB could tell, and was secretly glad to win the popularity
contest over Bach.

And then, when it was dark both in and out, the girls ran off to do
schoolwork, and Melinda gently pressed the air from BB so she could
place him once again in the canvas bag. She promised the girls that
BB would be back when she came next to dance with them, and from the
depths of her bag (there was a ripe banana down there that Melinda had
forgotten about, and it was very icky) BB heard the girls’ excitement,
and was glad.

BB rested that night to the sound of singing and crickets and trains.
his little pink heart nearly inflated itself with joy at having been
so adored. And he settled down to rest, knowing that the next day
would surely bring more close encounters with ceiling fans, as well as
with beautiful children. And bb was very, very happy.
The end.

Melinda’s explanatory note: in my defense, apparently when bananas
are picked ripe instead of green their skins slip right off, and,
unbeknownst to me, if you put a banana in your bag it will unsheath
itself and leave a disastrous mess in its wake.

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