The moment Sean opened his mouth to answer, a deafening pop burst directly behind his head. A jolt of adrenaline shot through his body and he quickly spun around, eyes bulging and heart racing, to find a stocky man with a round face and a larger-than-life smile staring back at him.
He was a young guy, probably around twenty, with a dark mop of hair and a pencil-thin mustache. He held the torn and shriveled remnants of a red balloon in his chubby fingers and erupted into obnoxious, almost hideous laughter that came from the very depths of his stomach. His bewildering amusement seemed to be at Sean’s expense.
It pissed Sean off. His hand reflexively shot up under the man’s multiple chins and clenched his throat. With a squared jaw and steam nearly blowing out his nose, he squeezed the man’s neck until his eyes bulged and his laughter ceased.
“Wait, wait, wait!” Sean heard Claudia plead from behind him.
He pinned the offender against a tall dresser, tipping it back against the wall. Trinkets fell from its top and crashed to the floor.
“What the hell are you doing?” Sean snarled, ignoring the man’s hands feebly tugging at his arm.
“Stop! He lives here!” Claudia shouted. “That’s Dusty!”
“Dusty?” Sean’s head pivoted toward her.
“He’s my son. He’s just . . . he has a different sense of humor than most people. He didn’t mean any harm,” she said. “He’s one of them balloon enthusiasts, ya know? He gets carried away sometimes.”
“A balloon what?” Sean softened his grip only a little.
“A balloon enthusiast.” She spoke faster now, almost frantic. “People hire him for birthday parties and other shit. He makes animals, hats, and other things. Just stop it, okay? I think you’re hurting him.”
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