'Inflation ' is the fourth part of Cilla McQueen's Serial, which is being published on this blog in small sections every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

The preceding chapters were:

1. Higgs

2. Hotdog

3. Birdie

Next week we begin chapter 5 - 'Pleochroic'.


Acanthus leaves carved like lawnmower tracks through the plush velvet of his armchair.
Most of his clothes were drying on the clothes-horse.

Steam rose from the socks.

Wavering upright in the draught a white thread loose from a buttonhole caused Digby to
imagine Jacques Montgolfier musing by the fireside at Annonay, smoking his pipe,
tendrils of smoke drawn up the chimney.

Leaning forward, suddenly alert, to scrutinise a fine thread rising from the hand-made
lace on Madame Montgolfier’s lingerie.

Seized by the thrill of serendipity he ties the bloomers tightly at the knees and holds them upside-down above the heat. His thighs begin to scorch. As the bloomers fill with hot air he appears to be grasping by the waist a stout woman falling head-first down the chimney.

The early Montgolfière was made of silk and paper, Digby pleasantly recalled, and held together by one thousand eight hundred buttons.

Hot Air Egg. Blow the egg. Plug the hole at the little end with a dot of wax, enlarge the big end hole to admit a flame and voilà, up she rises, bobs against the ceiling.

He opened the fridge, shaking his head. Poor old Fossett. Bones, shoes, driving licence all over the Sierra Nevada.

Pearled with dew, he thought, drawing on the cold glass with a fingertip.

The overgrown lawn glowed bright green. Spiro jumped up on his knee. Beyond the line of poplars to his right was the old water tower. See that? he asked Spiro. Just above that height Minnie Viola hit the cold air, poor girl, knocked the heat out of her.

At least she had her Moment d’Hilarité Universelle, he nodded, stroking the cat backwards. Good on her. Euphoria. Spiro jumped down and stalked away, stiff-tailed.

Doris was passing the gate.

Hey, heard of Madame Blanchard? Digby shouted to her. Hey, how about setting off fireworks from a hydrogen balloon! Hubris! Doris shook her head and walked on.

Something fell from the branch above him. A small blue egg broke on the path. Reaching for it, Digby toppled into the hydrangeas.

When he opened his eyes Doris was on the porch picking up broken glass. She looked annoyed. I left my keys on the kitchen table. I need to open a window.

Have a beer first. Just the one. She glared. Digby looked unkempt, for somebody who had won Lotto. You ought to be in the Bahamas.

After a few bottles he put the broken blue shell on his little finger and waggled it at her, grinning. Can’t take it with you, babe.

The chisel made a mess of the frame. Crossly she thanked him and climbed in.

He tried to explain about the Montgolfière that carried a sheep, a rooster and a duck. How the sheep had pissed in the basket and was removed to Marie Antoinette's private zoo.

About inflation, but she clicked the window shut and drew the curtain.

Drawing Room, Government House, Wellington, between 1897 and 1903
Reference Number: PA1-f-194-05

Steam crane, Gisborne wharf, 1889
Reference Number: 1/2-096270-G

Chateau Tongariro, and Mount Ruapehu erupting behind, 1945
Reference Number: 35mm-00702-a-F

Chair and divan, exhibited at the Great International Exhibition of 1851
Reference Number: PUBL-0164-05/06

Stereoscopic photograph of a hot air balloon over the Domain, Auckland
Reference Number: 1/2-077688-G

Sewing kit for every WWII soldier enlisting from Wadestown, 27 April, 1940
Reference Number: PAColl-8557-71

Activities at Massey College, December 1951
Reference Number: 114/408/16-F

Upper Clutha Plains, ca 1860
Reference Number: E-208-q-008-1

Interior of an NZR railway carriage, c1920s
Reference Number: APG-2093-1/2-G

Thomas Ord-Lees and Sergeant Newall about to parachute from an observation balloon, 1 July 1929
Reference Number: 1/2-020064-F

South of France, 1947-48
Reference Number: C-127-001

Piece of K.M.'s yellow silk dress
Reference Number: D-014-030

E class locomotive, Josephine, E175, 0404-OT, 7 November 1925
Reference Number: APG-0234-1/2-G

Gondola-type ride at Christchurch International Exhibition, 1906-1907
Reference Number: 1/2-049706-G

Flares being fired in celebration in the New Zealand Division area near Trieste
Reference Number: DA-03307-F

The fat boy. Pickwick papers
Reference Number: E-026-q-004

Flora McMillan Forde, ca July 1948
Reference Number: PAColl-6303-23

Corrugated iron shearing shed and pen for holding shorn sheep ca 1920s- 1940s
Reference Number: 1/4-023109-F

Yunnan, China: Dora De Beer and Marjorie Edgar Jones sitting in bed, 20 November, 1938
Reference Number: 1/4-083252-F

Embroidered Chinese silk shawl belonging to Katherine Mansfield
Reference Number: D-014-007-detail-2

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