Gerrold Vandershuuk had a plan.
He was a young man whose career had been sent asunder when he corrected his boss at the HVAC Company by stating, “No sir, ammonia cools with single drops sucking heat out of everything inside a refrigerator thereby cooling the items.”
Exacting, Gerrold had said it with such definitive precision. Human Resources, aka the wife of his boss, simply put down insubordination on his dismissal form.
He felt he had to escape both the earth’s oppressiveness in both heat and people. Gerrold, armed with his associates degree in HVAC maintenance and a head full of how every household appliance functioned, figured the heat of the day on earth was going to take him eventually.
Why not take it first? Use it.
The air in the atmosphere, even at a mere 5,000 feet, was cooler. A given, pure scientific evidence. Gerrold could use science, and his penchant for solitude, to his advantage.
There was a hot air balloon, deflated, sweating dirt, sitting in a junkyard full of broken cars and hope. Every day Gerrold had spied it, the balloon’s colors attempting to peek out from under its dirt. He bought this used forgotten treasure and in no time had fixed the basket plus covered the balloon with advertisements for income. His former employer even chipped in, buying an ad that spread along two lower sections to give the HVAC business a ‘sight advantage.’ It wouldn’t work well given their desired location, but Gerrold accepted their charity, coolly ignoring his own desire to correct them. He was done with that. He got the balloon to run on refrigerant coolant to fire up the tanks, thereby enabling him to keep a good stock of perishable items at hand so he could spend weeks in the air without having to land and deal with people.
The ammonia did the trick. He was able to keep the balloon aloft at a desired 5,000 feet, avoiding the rusty outdated electric wires and keep away from potential theft. It wasn’t as if the entire state of North Carolina, where Gerrold lived from inception, was blanketed with nefarious people, but there were those who’d like to have his creation.
The state was a stunning sight from the ground. Aloft, it was really something to behold. The ever-cool Gerrold beamed at how he had effectively mastered a way to live, including having a smart septic system, without having to deal with any heat whatsoever. He dreamt of a time when there would be thousands of residences in the air avoiding all sorts of heat. He dreamed a lot for there was not much else to do but to gather his thoughts amongst a crowded sky of emptiness.
One April morning his alarm, AKA the sun, was clouded over a bit. It couldn’t roust him from his thermal-charged blanket, his sole option to stay warm at night.
He heard a pop. Then another. In his semi-dream state he thought it might be his bones, perhaps a hipbone buried in weight during his long sleep. But here came another pop along with a very loud, “Well, hell’s afire! How in damnation…”
He peeked over the edge. He had lowered to less than 1,000 feet overnight. That was common. What wasn’t was a man with a rifle upset with himself for missing.
Or so he thought.
He had hit the balloon in the middle quadrant. Gerrold could see the material flapping about as if a spastic swan. He sunk back into the basket to think. He had to land but not near this ‘hunter.’ Gerrold pumped up the refrigerant to keep sailing for as long as he could. There was much struggle as the balloon was bleeding, but he landed in a field of bleating a half-horizon away from the armed man. For a good fifteen minutes Gerrold debated how to properly mend his flagging creation as a herd of goats talked amongst themselves. Buried in his basket, he barely heard the farmer come along, walking the goat gauntlet while yelling toward Gerrold, “Seems you got yourself a bit of a leak.”
Gerrold stood up in his basket, as the farmer, getting closer, added, “Been watching you for a bit now. Figured you’d hit the ground somewhere’s close. You okay?”
“Didn’t land on one of my goats, so that’s good. Well, looky here, gotta hole. Welp, you’re in luck, the wife is a fine seamstress. Course this here balloon’s not gonna fit under her sewing machine. She’ll get ‘er done though. Fine woman.
The farmer held out his hand as he finished, “I go by Jonesy by the by.”
Gerrold accepted Jonesy’s hand and climbed out of the basket, answering, “Gerrold.”
They took the short walk to the farmhouse as the goatherd followed along in an order deigned by the goats. Once there, after a good lecture to the goats to go back to their pasture, Jonesy talked to his wife. Off she went, taking their three boys with her. Gerrold sat with the farmer for quite a bit of time, telling him about how he had been shot down.
Jonesy exclaimed, “Crazy ass cracker over yonder. Harmless as a three-legged goat.”
Gerrold went through the whole process – his plan, life in the balloon and how his balloon functioned. Before his third cup of coffee got too cold and the offered coffee cake was reduced to crumbs, the balloon was ready to go.
Jonesy inspected his wife’s stitch work, gave her an approving nod as he asked Gerrold, “Got to ask you a favor. Never been up in one of these. None of us have, fact told.”
“We’ll fly a little low due to weight.”
“Long as we can clear wires.”
Balloon fired up. Ammonia did its cooling without a hitch. Stitches held. Airborne, Jonesy did all the talking as his wife and boys looked over the edge.
“Up here alone?”
“Long life you know.”
“You do? Huh. Welp, The world, in both temperature and temperament, may soon, if not nowadays, be getting hotter.”
He fished out his wallet and flipped it open.
One of the flaps held a faded four leaf clover.
“Found it one day. Bout yer age, I ‘spect. Things changed. Found that girl. She came with the clover. She, and it – the four-leaf clover – were just sitting in her daddy’s field surrounded by goats. Actually fished that clover right out of a goat’s jaw before he et it. Goats’ll et anything you know. Before long we were hitched… me with the girl, not the goat. Farm came along. Boys came along. More goats came along.”
Jonesy peered over the edge. From this perspective, he could see how far they had floated along with the breeze.
“Good five miles, Gerrold, give or take. You can turn around now.”
Gerrold deftly maneuvered the balloon back. He found a suitable spot closer to the farmhouse than where he had his emergency landing.
Jonesy climbed out. As he helped his wife and boys, he stated, “Quite a contraption here. Being above it all in a hot air balloon? Interesting for sure. For sure. Does it gain you, anyone really, some sort of better perspective? Something to think about, I ‘spect. Like to give you my four-leaf clover, but not entirely convinced of its magic. Overall? Think it’s the wife.”
Gerrold Vandershuuk had a plan.