(Author's note: my friends and I were walking downtown for our photography class, and we randomly found a building with an open room that was filled with hanging paper cranes. Photo op! I got a really nice pic of a single crane with the words "all my suffering" along its back. And thus came the inspiration for this story. Enjoy! ~not Ross)
One thousand, two hundred and forty-six. Soon to be one thousand, two hundred and forty-seven. Ray just had to find a pen first.
He found one in the back of the junk drawer underneath the telephone. The phone was the kind with big numbers and caller ID, so he could make sure he didn't dial the wrong person and he didn't accidentally pick up the phone when someone annoying called. Ray liked his telephone.
That punk kid from the cable company sawed through my television wire.
Ray put the pen down.
It was a gross mistreatment of his right as an American citizen, that the cable company would chop his wire in half and not do anything about till Monday because "I'm off at five." Someday, Sam with the spiky hair would be an old man, too, and then he'd be sorry that he didn't respect his elders when he had the opportunity. He'd be sorry that he ever took advantage of anyone. Sam with the spiky hair would die just like everyone else, even if his useless, minimum wage brain couldn't handle that truth just yet.
Folding the paper was growing more difficult by the day. Ray felt his fingers going numb and drying like old toast. He saw the cracks in his skin, the gray around his creased and yellow fingernails. His entire body looked like one bad Halloween mask. But he could still fold the paper – diagonally, horizontally, vertically, in half and half again. It was kind of thing he never forgot.
The cracks in his fingertips absorbed the words.
When the bird was done, Ray flapped its wings twice before he snagged his letter-opener (a truly useless tool since that Steve Jobs man invented the internet) and skewered the bird through the spine. He looped a length of thread through the hole and tied it tight.
One thousand, two hundred and forty-seven sorrows, all hanged above the blue wall. Ray pushed another thumbtack into the ceiling, and his shoulder cracked as he reached above his head, and wrapped the other end of the thread around it. Sometimes, late at night when the shadows from the kitchen light were long and black, the birds of sorrow flapped their wings and flashed their pain back to him. Ray stared at his one thousand, two hundred and forty-seven sorrows. The muscles in his shoulders, dwindling as they were, went taut as he saw his sorrows flapping in code to each other, competing with each other – which of us is the sorriest?
That punk kid from the cable company would live forever in the guts of a tittering white bird.
Ray's birds of sorrow swayed in the air from the open window as he struck a match and lit the candle that Rosemary kept in the cabinet above the oven. It was rosemary-scented, of course, her favorite plant for the smell of it and the name. Ray hated the smell of that candle. But he burned it. He told Rosemary he would.
Ray wrinkled his nose (which was already wrinkled and didn't need much help) and left the room.
One of the sorrows fell. That punk kid from the cable company sawed through my television wire. It fell onto Rosemary's rosemary candle. It smouldered.
When Ray came out of his steaming shower and ambled down the hallway wearing nothing but his slippers and the towel about his neck because he was a bachelor now, the fire had spread and was busy consuming the front door. Ray screeched and took his towel to the flames, fighting them back wearing nothing but his slippers because he was a bachelor now.
The fire bit his hand. Ray screeched again, and in his panic dropped the towel into the flames, which ignored its wetness and nibbled away at it. Ray skirted the fire and ran into the living room, where he found his birds of sorrow smoking down like injured fighter planes one by one. The words fell into piles of ashes, the strings and the paper all the same. He tried to save the living. The fire kept biting.
The report read one casualty.
The report should have read one thousand, two hundred and forty-eight casualties.