Three couples and a pilot, strangers to each other, chat amiably in a basket hung in the sky under an oblate creature the colors of stained glass. The kind morning air drifts us slowly over safflower, corn, tomatoes, dirt. Our shadow is ridiculous, obviously untrue. Our wingless beast snuffs and whooshes its Bunsen breath, then floats us, silent, over cows. Slowly a field steps up to meet us. We pat it, leap away, then snuggle down and step out. Afterwards a crew ensnares our rain- bow animal & stuffs it headfirst in a bag. It doesn't struggle. Such is the gentle- ness of balloons.