Wednesday, June 16, 2010

1000 Paper Cranes

After the first dozen, her hands learned the way around the paper: mountain fold, valley fold, crease, pull, lift. Her fingers moved with the precision of a machine but the speed of a kid just learning to ride a bike. She refused to fall. The little pile of paper cranes grew like a stalagmite, one drop at a time.

She had no interest in origami, or China, no Asian influences in her life. She didn’t even believe in miracles. A miracle, however, was what she needed and, not knowing how to pray for one, she taught her hands the folding dance. Every folded crane, she would allow herself to believe, drew that miracle a little closer, even as the minute hand swept its way, again and again, around the face of the clock.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


He counted the money late at night, with the bed sheet tented over his head and a tiny flashlight to help him see the denominations on the bills. The pile was almost getting too big for the secret place in his dresser. Tonight, he counted three hundred eleven dollars, all of it stolen. Once, he’d had a reason for the thieving, something he had wanted to buy, but he couldn’t remember now what that thing had been, except that he didn’t want it anymore. He liked the part of taking the money best, and after that he liked the part of having the money. And the part of having a secret he liked too.

They had fired Rita for that first stack of twenties, so he guessed they would just fire the new maid if they ever noticed, but he was so much smarter than he’d been a year ago. Now he only stole dollars from his mom’s purse, or maybe sometimes a five from his dad’s wallet. He never took a ten or a twenty, except sometimes from his grandmother’s bag, because she always carried a lot, and never knew how much.

He liked the part where he was stealing, a funny Ferris wheel feel in his tummy and head, a scary and delicious upside-down feeling about being sneaky and smart. And he liked the counting part. That was a big feeling, like how it must be to be a grown-up and tell children things like whether or not they could have another Coke or stay up past bedtime to watch the end of the movie.

The bad part was after the counting, the part of not sleeping. He would cocoon himself up in the comforter, very cozy, starting with the delicious idea of the hidden pile of dollars, but something else would shove the nice feeling. There was a picture in his mind, which was the picture of his church, and the place out front where they had the Ten Commandments and it said VIII Thou Shalt Not Steal, and it was a very big picture that always had to crawl in and make him a little bit sick. It was like the game of not thinking about a pink elephant: the more you didn’t want to think about the picture the more the picture filled up the corners in your brain.

Sometimes he saw that picture in the daytime, too, but it didn’t have a sick feeling with it when he was doing the stealing, or if it did, that feeling was not as strong and proud as the amusement park part of taking the money. At night he would wonder if the bad feeling was worth the good one, and sometimes he could even go two whole weeks without stealing, but he never gave the money back and the bad part was always there, and he always got to wanting the first feeling again.

If he was going to feel bad about it anyway, he might as well do the interesting part first.