She knew what he was planning to do but only after it was too late. By then they were several days from home and she could never reach them in time. All she could do now was wait, alone with her thoughts and her anger, for her husband to return.

She should have known. Her husband would do anything for what he believed in. And people admired him so much for it. But they never saw what it cost or considered what it cost her.

She sat outside the house while she waited. When he came back she would be ready.

She saw him first when he was just over the horizon, out on the flat, arid plain, still hours away, approaching on foot with his hired hands. By the time she could finally make out their faces she could tell that their son with them. He was still alive.

She should have been relieved but instead felt nothing. By then she could no longer feel anything. When she realized what he had planned to do she had changed permanently. Nothing would be the same again.

Her husband approached her hesitantly. He could see in her face that she knew.

“I didn’t do it,” he said.

“But you would have,” she responded flatly. “You were planning to.”

He was silent for a time but then stood to full height and spoke deliberately. “I do what I have to. Everything we have, everything you care about, we have because I am willing to do what needs to be done. He would not be here in the first place if it were not for that.”

“I know that,” she said. “I love him and I know what it cost.”

It was true and she could not rightly blame him. But she could not love him either. Everything has its cost.

The People Inside the Balloon

Story by Todd Decker and his daughter
Illustrated by Todd’s daughter


Anna went to a restaurant with her Mommy. They had chicken sandwiches and milkshakes. And best of all, she got a big, red, shiny balloon in the shape of a heart. She was so excited to get a balloon. They were her favorite. She loved the way they floated and bounced around. But there was something really special about this balloon. There were two little people floating inside it. The people at the restaurant told her about the little people but she thought that they were joking. That would be so silly. How could there be people inside a balloon?

They walked outside the restaurant and to the car. Anna held on really tight to the balloon. She didn’t want it to float away.

When they got home she ran inside pulling her balloon by its string. The balloon floated up to the ceiling. But she wanted to pop it. So she pulled it back down by the string. Then she got a tooth pick from the kitchen. It was one of the toothpicks that Mommy and Daddy used to check the bread when they were cooking to make sure it was done. But today it was going to be used to pop a balloon.

Anna pulled the balloon down toward her. And nervously she brought the toothpick toward it. Then she counted. One. Two. THREE! And she poked the balloon with the the toothpick and it made a big POP! Then two little people popped out.

Anna couldn’t believe her eyes. There really were two little people inside this balloon. The little people were frightened and they started to run away. But Anna chased them and picked them quickly. And then she carried them over to her box and threw them inside. Anna was just a little girl and she was still a little rough with animals and toys. So she was a little rough with little people too. But she did make a window on the side of the box so the little people could see outside. But she covered the window with glass panes so that they couldn’t get out even though they could see through them.

Anna’s mommy saw her over by the box and asked, “What do you have there Anna?” “Oh, nothing,” said Anna. But Mommy came over to see anyway. And she peaked through the window and saw the two little people. “Oh my goodness!” said Mommy. “Where did those two little people come from?” Then she remembered what they had said at the restaurant about the balloon. “Oh, there really were two little people in that balloon. Anna, did you pop it?”

Anna just shrugged her shoulders and said nothing. But Mommy looked around the room and saw little pieces of balloon. She picked them up and put them back together and saw that it was the balloon from the restaurant. She also saw her toothpick from the kitchen. “Ah, you did pop the balloon, Silly.” Anna was embarrassed but Mommy told her, “It’s OK, you didn’t know that there were people in there. But let’s see if we can make them more comfortable.”

Mommy went over to the box and propped up the cardboard top into a triangle to make a roof. Then she cut out some more pieces to make a door and more windows. Then she said, “It’s OK, little people. You can come out and in whenever you want. This is you’re home now.” The little people said nothing. They were still very shy. But they were happy to be in this home inside a bigger home with people who seemed pretty nice. Even if the little girl was a little rough.


The Sneaky Piano

The family piano had an strange habit of sneaking around the house when no one was watching. It couldn’t just sit still the way a proper piano should. Not that it was a bad piano. It was upright and usually stayed in tune. Most guests found its music pleasant. By all the usual pianistic standards no one would have any complaints. But you wouldn’t usually think to ask whether a piano remained stationary.

The girls were the first to notice. Daddy asked, “Who put your shoes in the middle of the floor? That’s not where they go.” “I don’t know. Maybe it was the piano.” Kids have a way of figuring these things out that grownups tend to miss.

They noticed other oddities. Things in the house that would “wander”. Toys thrown into the middle of the floor. Socks and dresses pulled from their drawers and dressers. It was quite a mess. They didn’t wander by themselves of course. That would be ridiculous. It was the piano that moved them. And it seemed to follow the girls around the most.

Being a piano, it was musical in its mischief. For stealthy accompaniment it might play Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther”. Or Arnold Schoenberg’s “Pierrot lunaire”, plunked out in slow staccato. It would pause or trill on long fermatas as it peaked around the corner to make sure no one was there. And as soon as anyone returned it slunk right back to its spot.

Mom and Dad found it kind of irritating that the piano left its messes for everyone else to pick up. But also mildly entertaining that it was the piano that had done it. It was unique at least. No one else had a moving piano. They tried to get the girls to do most of the clean up, since it was their stuff that was thrown around. But mom and dad helped out a little. After all, the kids weren’t the ones who’d made the messes. It was the piano.