Hanging Paper Cranes

The tall person is explaining something to her, something involving brightly colored paper and hand movements. “Xhd kelo bpq meanl, kss,” she said, for the sixteenth time, “kle mneo pq ek laeh. Ekmq mqif.” Her voice is kind, and her face concerned. Dagmar wants to please her, so she takes a piece of paper and moves her hands like the tall person. The tall person smiles, wide as the whole outdoors. “Kman’s nemsap!” she says.

They work slowly, the tall person adding things now and then in her nonsense language, or guiding Dagmar’s hands with her scarred fingers. When they are done, two delicate paper birds have alighted on the table, Dagmar’s misshapen next to the elegant, sharp angles of the tall person’s, but recognizable none the less. They hug each other in victory, and Dagmar is lifted off the ground, her feet coming only to the thighs of the tall person.

At the end of the day an old man comes by with a wheelbarrow, and takes all the birds that Dagmar and the tall person have made. As she walks home alone, the engines of the planes catch and sputter. The birds are flying.