(8th in this challenge)
“Maybe this could be a new hobby?” Colton’s mother handed him a wrapped pack of fresh colored papers before hunching over the kitchen island onto her pile of purse, keys, and briefcase. He reached slowly from the stool, very conscious of his little flip book that he’d stuffed under himself moments ago. He’d carefully worked on the personal project it contained since walking home from school.
“Origami,” she said, voice muffled by her purse.
“Like the paper planes you like to make.” She extended her arms out, teetering, and Colton couldn’t resist laughing. “Someone at work told me you could find a lot of how-to videos on YouTube. Anyway, two onions and one garlic clove, please?”
He held the flip book under the paper as he got up, kissed her head as she leaned up. “Oh, make it two cloves.”
When all had been chopped, Colton turned on a gas burner but it didn’t ignite. The little pyromaniac in him—in almost all pre-teen boys—excited. He reached for a match, lit two and watched them burn to his fingers before leaning to the burner with a third. VFFF! said the burner. (VFFF! said the expression on his face.) He wetted and trashed the matches, began dinner as normal. In stolen moments, alone and at his mother’s side, he played with the height of the flame.
A month passed of afterschool origami boxes, flowers, and animals, and Colton had used up the last of the origami paper building a three-dimensional swan. He needed a few more pieces to complete it, though. As he searched, he dreamed of bringing his origami to life somehow, that the animals he’d created would animate with his breath, with his power. He skipped to the thought of it up the back staircase to his mom’s too-clean, too-organized office. The printer tray was empty and the magazines and returned school work of his in the hall recycling bin was unsuitable. He walked up the attic stairs.
He enjoyed the warm air embracing his air-conditioned body. It was brighter up here than in the rest of the house, sunlight looking in from above the neighborhood. A chain on the inside of the door wrapped, startling Colton. He’d never understood why there was a chain lock and even a deadbolt there. Why would anyone want to keep themselves up here?
He rummaged in boxes of his older artwork until a color across the space caught his eye. He spotted a velvet cube box, waiting on the floor just behind a larger box in a way that made it seem to be looking around the corner toward him. A mat of dust covered it, adhered to Colton’s hand, somehow adding to the boxes’ intrigue. Opening revealed a cigarette lighter, hefty and old. No part of it could shine in the light, the metal of it rusted, the wooded handle stained dark in the middle and worn smooth. It lit, though, lit a finger-long flame that both excited and scared Colton, caused him to shutter and grin. He closed the cap over the flame, uncapped, and lit it again, repeated. It seemed to challenge the sun with its brightness. Whose was it? Colton wondered. It could’ve been his father’s, though he couldn’t ask (his mother still couldn’t answer a question about the father he’d never known without her face seeming to melt, he eyes squinting out tears so Colton had very reluctantly stopped asking) and he didn’t know what his late uncle or late grandfather would’ve owned. He slipped the lighter into his pocket, though. Someone had to own it now. No fun to live in a box.
He found a sheet of orange construction paper perfect for the swan and completed it soon after downstairs. He hadn’t heard the phone ring while in the attic but the message was from his mother telling him she’d be an hour late. He admired the swan, turning it, adjusting pieces here and there to make it more admirable. He took a photo with the camera for his mother, then reached for the drawer with the matches. Once finished with an animal, he’d set it on fire—though he’d told his mother he’d given it away at school. But, wait! he had a lighter now. He retrieved a cookie sheet with more energy than usual, placed the swan on it just so, then lit the match. He had to hold the lighter at a distance as he lit the tail feathers, fearing it would catch the whole body on fire with the long flame and diminish the time he could enjoy watching it burn. A smoldering line rippled with the rapidity of a cartoon fuse, graying the tail to ash. But the tail sustained shape instead of curling into disintegration, perhaps because of the thickness of the pieces. The body sustained even while engulfed by the color gray, neither shriveling nor inflating. An orange flame swelled in one small place in the breast of the swan, where a heart would be. It swelled inside with a tiny explosion that worried Colton. He stepped back. When the light ended, the body of the swan returned to paper as if he hadn’t lit it on fire at all, all with such quickness that Colton hadn’t seen how the gray turned to white. He looked in his hand, wondering if his palm was truly sensing the shape and coolness of the lighter’s wooden handle. Then the wings began to move. The swan waddled in the cookie sheet, as if waves rocked beneath it. Its neck stretched in Colton’s direction. Before he could wonder, the swan shot toward him. He ducked as it circled back toward the kitchen into the dining room without noise.
TO BE CONTINUED as COMPANION
Was too big. It tried to shorten it, and then it grew. Several influences right now but for now just thinking of one of the kids that I was manny for in the fall. He seemed very lonely and made origami swans. (Colton Haynes as Jackson from ‘Teen Wolf’ is also an inspiration…soon…).