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From Your Jerry

Story by Kevin Sterne (Read author interview) March 25, 2019

Art by Ricardo Wang

I

Jerry writes letters to his dead mother. He ties them to balloons and lets them float up up up.

They land in back yards, they land in swimming pools, they land in forests never to be found. They fall from the sky onto freeways and freak out motorists.

One reads: Dear Mom, hope you’re doing okay. Have you found a good bar to frequent? Do they have darts? From your Jerry.

Jerry befriends the clown in the park who sells him helium filled balloons. He and Jerry take turns wrapping their mouths around the release valve and inhaling until their eyes roll back into their heads.

She never replies, Jerry says in a high-pitched voice.

If she did what do you think she’d say?

Probably nothing.

They sit on the bench by the fountain and share a bottle of whiskey and watch Jerry’s letter travel into the jet stream. They watch it float on until they can’t watch it anymore.

 

II

This one is more of an apology, Jerry tells the clown.

Dear Mom, sorry about that time I borrowed the car for my date and forgot to pick you up from work. From your Jerry.

She walked all the way home from the Waffle House in a rain storm to find Jerry and his date butt naked on the sofa. Jerry ties the apology letter to a big red balloon. They sit on the bench and watch it float into the blue.

Jerry takes a swig of the whiskey. My mom kept saying: You seem like a very nice girl. You’re more than welcome here any time. I’d love for you and me to sit and get to know each other.

You should send her a gift, the clown says in a high-pitched voice. What’s an apology without a gift?

 

III

Jerry buys a carton of Marlboro cigarettes and ties it to four balloons. He and the clown watch it float to the heavens.

Jerry ties five balloons to his mom’s favorite coffee mug and watches it sail on. Inside is a note that reads: Dear Mom, sorry I missed your birthday because I was huffing drugs behind the water treatment plant. Hope this mug cheers you up. From your Jerry.

He and the clown string 19 balloons together to raise a sixer of beer skyward. Dear Mom, sorry I asked about dad so much. From your Jerry.

They land in parking lots, they settle on power lines. They descend upon an outdoor seating area of a fancy Italian restaurant.

Dear Mom, are you proud of me? From your Jerry.

Jerry asks the clown if he wants to write one.

I never had a mother, the clown tells him. He writes something anyway.

Dear Jerry’s Mom, I love you like my own mother. From your Clown. 

 

IV

Jerry empties his dead mom’s house item by item. He and the clown send a Mr. Coffee maker into the clouds, her collection of CDs, her pink bathrobe, her clock radio. Her collapsible TV trays, the electric mixer, and a set of salt and pepper shakers shaped like chickens. They spend an entire day tying 340 balloons to a loveseat.

They take pulls from the whiskey and watch Jerry’s mom’s possessions fill the sky.

Dear Mom, hope you’re not lonely. I’m sending you some of your favorite things. From your Jerry.

The clown tells Jerry he wants to go too, so Jerry ties balloon after balloon to him until he finally lifts to the heavens.

No one knows where these things will land.

All must go, Jerry says and waves goodbye to the clown. Up up up.

Jerry sends it all until there’s nothing left except himself.

About the Author

Kevin Sterne is a writer and journalist based in Chicago. He’s the author of I’ve Done Worse (Long Day Press) and creator of LeFawn Magazine. His fiction has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Jokes Review, Five2one, and others. Kevin went to community college and works in landscaping.

About the Artist

Ricardo Wang is an audio/visual artist living in St. John’s, Portland who hosts What’s This Called? an experimental radio show at Freeform Portland. He would like to dedicate this photograph to the memory of Deanne.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Three
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