To 2015 - 2016
paper cranes

By molly friedel

  1. Untitled
    By Dale Kerem, 12
 The back room of Marjorie’s shop is filled with paper cranes.
They are everywhere, hanging delicately from the ceiling, sitting compliantly on the windowsill, organized in rows on the desk and shelves. I asked Marjorie once what they were for. Why she had so many.
She had stared at me for a moment.
Her eyes glittered.
And she reached over and ruffled my hair, face relaxing into her warm, familiar smile. “Don’t worry about it, dear,” she said lightly. “And don’t ever go in there again.”
Obedience has never been my strong point.
There is a tree in the yard behind Marjorie’s shop, and if I manage to skirt around the stones engraved with names lying all over the place and climb high enough in the tree, I can see in the window into the back room.
I spend a good amount of my time in this tree. Watching. Studying. Musing.
It’s not particularly amusing. Marjorie does not spend much time in this room. When she is in the room, it’s not for very long. Sometimes she adds another crane. Sometimes she rips one in half. She leaves.
The window is never locked.
Marjorie closes the shop when it gets dark.
Obedience has never been my strong point.
The window is trickier to open than I had originally assumed.
There are cranes hanging in front of it, cranes resting on the sill. I can’t disturb any of them.
Marjorie would notice.
I slide the window open, slide myself through. I brush against a few of the hanging cranes. There is a blue one and two red ones. I hope it doesn’t make a difference.
The floor is tiled and makes a loud noise when I land on it. I freeze. I don’t know why. Marjorie is not here.
I hope.
I relax and walk slowly around the perimeter of the room, examining the cranes. There are so many. They are everywhere.
A violet one sits on the shelf pressed up against the left wall. Its paper face is directed at me. Watching me. Like I’ve watched it. I suppose it’s fair.
I hesitate, and then slowly pick it up. Obedience has never been my strong point.
The crane is folded cleanly, and the creases are sharp. The wings tilt up at a perfect 45º angle. I am impressed.
There is a name written on the neck. I squint, but I can’t read it. Marjorie’s handwriting is too sloppy. Perhaps she intends it to be that way.
I return the crane to the top of the shelf.
Marjorie asks me the next Wednesday whether I had been in the back room recently.
I lied. I told her I hadn’t.
She told me not to lie.
All the cranes have names on them. I have touched and examined each one. A few of the names I can make out. Rebecca. Sam. Chris K. The rest are a muddle of ink.
I’m not sure why the cranes have names on them. Especially considering they are all names of people I know.
Yesterday, I watched Marjorie rip a crane in half again.
Yesterday, the optometrist a few blocks down died of an unknown cause.
It was a just a coincidence, I told myself, watching Marjorie add a new crane where the one she had ripped in half used to be. Just a coincidence.
Marjorie and I spend Wednesday afternoons together.
She closes shop, and I walk over. She makes tea, and I drink it. She talks about the weather, and I listen.
That’s just the way things are.
I sip my tea. Today Marjorie had made the jasmine herbal blend. It was her favorite. I had others I liked better.
She bustles around, tidying up, explaining her speculations about the clouds and why it was going to rain, laughing lightly at jokes she made.
I sip my tea some more and smile. It is at these moments I forget about the cranes in the back room. I forget about Marjorie’s secrets.
Just a coincidence.
Are coincidences still coincidences if they happen six times in a row?
I lie back on the tree branch, feeling slightly sick. I close my eyes, although it doesn't help. I can still picture Marjorie delicately brushing the shredded pieces of the crane into the palm of her hand. Marjorie walking calmly out of the back room and back into the shop. Seeing it five times before was enough to replay it in my head however many times I liked.
I visit the back room every night. Studying the cranes.
They remain silent.
Marjorie asks again if I had been in the backroom recently.
I don’t answer and leave.
I find the crane with my name on it. It is a deep red, and folded just as neatly as the others. It rests in a corner, behind a music box, for the most part out of sight. Hidden. Safe.
I feel oddly touched.
I return it to its position of origin.
As soon as I do so, Marjorie opens the door.
I freeze. Staring at her. I am shocked. She is not.
Her eyes glitter.
She takes note of the open window, and then slowly runs her gaze over the rest of the room. Over the rest of the cranes. All the cranes I have touched. Over me. I simply stare at her. It seems surreal. She should not be here.
I should not be here.
She suddenly walks past me, slowly, methodically. Her footsteps beat once for every two beats of my heart.
She takes my crane. It isn’t hidden. It is no longer safe.
Marjorie turns to me.
Her eyes glitter.
My heart stops.
And she rips my crane in half.
The floor rises to meet me as I crumple like a deflated balloon. I can’t breathe. I don’t understand. My head slams against the tiles. They are red now.
The pieces of my crane fall before my eyes, almost in slow motion. Deep red paper shreds. Falling. Slowly.
I never see them touch the ground.