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Edition 49

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Fiction

Black origami birds

IN THE DARKNESS, she counts them off like sheep. Black sheep.

And another…

And another…

And another…

Blinded by the night, disorientated by half-sleep and the heaviness inside, Grace can’t tell if each jolt is her heart, the baby or the earth.

Sometimes loud and angry as a scar, their pain frightens her. Sometimes weak as a whisper, their voices sing her to sleep. Even so, it is always worse at night. When darkness presses in upon the emptiness. When the city, still and noiseless as a frightened animal, magnifies her unsettlement. As if, at its most terrible, land-mind-body-heart collide.

Eventually, when another quake rolls through, she climbs out of bed and stumbles into the murk, feeling her way to the door and down the corridor.

In the lounge, the curtain open at the window, a sliver of moonlight slices through the room as if guided by a mean hand. Grace sits at the table, picks up some paper and begins to fold.

IT IS RAINING when she lands. She’s witnessed April downpours that race in towards Christchurch from the Pacific like kids bearing jellyfish stings, and September thunderstorms that drench the Canterbury Plains. But this rain – a constant flow of water, as though God (if He exists) has absentmindedly left a tap running – is as curious as her new concrete landscape. So once she’s checked in to her gaijin house and settled her things, she ventures (umbrella in hand) into both.

The parts of the torrential city that disclose themselves to her are like elaborate, layered ornaments. At first glance, they are networks of roads heaving with automotive and human traffic, but when Grace ventures deeper they reveal side streets where plain but profound shrines huddle side by side with small shops whose shelves teem with simple Buddhist icons.

The jumble of the city is clearer to behold once the deluge stops. Dazzling with neon signage, black, reflective glass and wide, silver architecture, its difference to her hometown, its bustling energy, absorbs her. Suddenly, perhaps for the first time, she feels part of something, something vast, energetic, electric and inescapable. She walks for hours – through the arcades and craft shops of Asakusa, past the grey-faced office blocks and Dior, Chanel and Gucci boutiques in Ginza – until, finally, Tokyo’s inner workings take her to black, iron gates.

Here, the vast green lawns, loops of pathway and square-fronted museums of Ueno-Koen surround her. Randomly, she selects a pathway to follow, a line of huge, ancient sakuras taking her to miniature rock-and-water gardens reminiscent of those in Christchurch’s Botanic Gardens. A weathered statue of Samurai Takamori points her towards lakes containing signal-red rowing boats and nesting black cormorants. Beneath Aesop Bridge, she glimpses a tented city of business-suited itinerants.

And there, suddenly, is Ken. Dressed in full uniform. Skin pale as a spectre. An illusory presence inserting himself indiscriminately into her memory. His hand reaches out for her.

THE EARTH SHUDDERS once more.

The strange jolt of Ken’s presence among the lost and dispossessed. A rejection of the truth, that’s what his appearance in Grace’s memory was. Unreal. Out of place. For she didn’t meet him until much later. All these tremors since the loss of her husband have shifted her sense of what is real and what is not.

Abruptly, her senses are alive. Her eyes see a shadow cast by the Japanese maple cross the window. Her ears are abuzz with birdcall, an odd medley composed by blackbirds, tuis and starlings light in the air.

Only now does Grace realise she is lying on the sofa, that on the table nearby nests of colourful paper cranes are watching her. She traces herself back to the previous evening. It dawns upon her that, while taking up her origami, her mind re-living her first day in Tokyo, she must have fallen into a dream.

The chill morning air walks her to the kitchen. There she prepares a pot of green tea. While the kettle boils, she stands at the window, where her hand instinctively reaches out for a black paper bird resting on the ledge. Apart from the colour and the fact that it was made by Ken, the delicate bird is identical to those she’s preparing now for their son. She holds it up to daylight, studies the intricacy of its folds, its wings, neck and beak. As her little finger strokes the papery mandible, her gaze drifts outside to the star jasmine her husband planted when they first came to Christchurch and which, until a month ago, he tended with the infinite care a parent offers their child.

Suddenly Grace is crying again.

AN HOUR LATER, the last of the tea cold in its cup, Grace settles down to more folding. A ripple of fingers, feather faint against the front door, disturbs. In the silence that follows, Grace holds her breath and waits.

Coming into land, a plane roars overhead. She focuses on this, the noise, the image of an object propelled by mechanical flight, rather than the stranger standing on her doorstep waiting to be let in.

The clock on the wall tells her it is Flight NZ94 from Narita.

Grace visualises a cockpit, an empty seat where Ken should be, the preparations for descent.

Only when Grace is certain the visitor has departed does she rise from her seat, her stomach now so swollen that movements like this are becoming increasingly difficult, her bulge making movement an act of negotiation with her body. She treads softly down the hallway, then peers through the front door’s bevelled glass. Wedged into the frame, an envelope. The script upon it is stubby, as if clawed on to the page. Miss Grace Bird. Like the handwriting, the use of her maiden name confuses her. She finds headed notepaper inside.

Miss Bird

I recently visited your father. He is very ill. Please call me urgently to discuss his situation.

Mrs Rona Matata

Christchurch Public Health NurseGrace sighs. After her mother’s funeral, she stood upon New Brighton Pier, looked out at the Pacific Ocean and knew there must be more to her life than teaching English at college and looking after her father. Wings, invisible, unfurled at her back and she flew to all the countries she’d never seen. Her first stop was the place she wanted to visit most, Japan. A few weeks later, she told her father, his wheelchair parked in a grey corner of the room, she was going away to teach in Tokyo. The newspaper he was reading ruffled.

‘Who will look after me?’ he asked.

As she listed the agencies that could support him, she felt twinges of selfishness. But then her father added, ‘Grace, of all the places to choose, why there...? You know how I feel about them Japs.’

Back in the dining room, Grace places her half-finished origami bird to one side, rests Rona Matata’s letter on the table and reads it once more. For a month, she’s closed her door to neighbours, her midwife, Ken’s workmates and Victim Support. Grace knows Rona Matata can’t be so easily dismissed. So she settles the envelope close to the telephone and tells herself that she’ll call as soon as she’s ready to deal with her father again.

Later, as the house grows dark, Grace sits in the rocking chair in the baby’s bedroom. In spite of the ongoing quakes, the day hasn’t been without success. Strung together, dozens of rainbow-coloured cranes sit peacefully upon the dining table. She surveys the bedroom’s blue walls, expectant cot and empty change table, then at the wooden mobile that waits, patiently, to play its song. Even the slightest thing, small as her memory of Ken decorating this room, seems impossible to bear at a moment like this. She closes her eyes, turns her mind away from the plans once conceived of in this room and lets the memory of first meeting Ken wash over her like sleep.

IT IS THE beginning of her second term in Tokyo. In the distance, the white peaks of Mount Takao remind her of the snow-dusted Kaikouras. In the city the air is crisper than Colombo Street in July, snowflakes falling on Armani- and Chanel-suited businesspeople, kimono-wearing women and the cosplay tribe alike. And at night the lights – neon signs of the metropolis, constellations of office-lights in a dark, cloudless sky – flicker as brightly as pinpricks of illumination in a southern twilight. Hanging out with a group of teachers from New Zealand, Grace has discovered a shop that sells Vegemite, Ojays, Pineapple Lumps, Cloudy Bay sav blanc and all the things that remind her of home.

Like Grace, Ken is an outsider. Not that she realises it when he appears in her advanced class. Tall, bone-thin, with feather-white skin and a ruffle of jet-coloured hair, he carries himself with an ease that refuses to set him apart from the Japanese men around him. He is different though. Grace is confronted by it when he explains in soft, unbroken English that he’s a trainee pilot in need of a language qualification. The bank employees, Nikkei stockbrokers and housewives planning overseas holidays who are Ken’s classmates treat him differently thereafter. During group work, they abandon him. Each time he looks at his teacher when he speaks, they furrow their brows and whisper their disapproval. Then, when it’s their turn, they rise and lower their heads slightly as if addressing the floor.

Ken has already gained his certification by the time he and Grace meet again, accidentally, in a ramen-ya in Ueno close to Christmas. She’s there with a Kiwi friend, Becky, to sample what the proprietor of their gaijin house claims is the best yakisoba and plum wine in the district. Ken is there with a fellow trainee pilot, Ryosuke. The couples sit at tables some distance apart. Only when the teachers are leaving does Grace knock Ken’s chair. Her apology, expressed in rudimentary Japanese, quickly evaporates. She and Ken fall into conversation about the excellent food and then the coincidence of their living nearby.

That first meeting outside the classroom lasts into late evening. Ken and Ryosuke taking Grace and Becky to the Kei Plaza Hotel’s Aurora Lounge, where they drink Manhattans and look at the synthetic city far below. They chat about life in Tokyo, teaching, flying and New Zealand.

Ken tells the best stories. Grace listens attentively as he recounts the tale of how, aged ten, he moved to Auckland where his father took up work at a medical practice in the city.

‘It didn’t work out,’ he says and laughs lightly. ‘Mum was homesick all the time. So eventually we returned to Sendai. Living overseas changed me though. As soon as I came back to Japan, I begged my parents to let me have flying lessons. Even though I was only twelve, my parents knew I was serious. So Dad took me out to the aero club where I had my first lesson with an old friend of my father’s, Kenzo-san. I was lucky. Kenzo-san was a retired flight captain and very generous teacher. When the first lesson began and Kenzo-san lifted the plane gently off the ground, I felt incredible. As if, in the sky, I found a place where I belonged.’

THE WAY GRACE’S memories overlap is draining. One recollection folds into another, just as, each time the earth crumples these days, one quake signals the next. So destabilising, like the way current events merge with the past in her mind. She feels she is robbed of every certainty. Even her grief is an ongoing envelopment of her existence, its history with Ken and its present without him in which, like a bad accident visited over and over again, turmoil, confusion and despair snarl.

The landscape of her mind morphs into the pagodas of Senso-ji Temple. It’s New Year’s Day, the oshogatsu festivities. Grace and Ken stand outside the Thunder Gate, a crowd about them, the smoke of collective breath fusing with burning incense. Ken strokes Grace’s face, places lips gently upon her. A moment’s tenderness, so brazen, so un-Japanese. Afterwards, the crowds – some wearing kimonos, some holding ancient Buddhist icons – surge through Thunder Gate and start their march into the Temple. Ken seizes her hand and leads her into the Temple grounds. Nakamise-dori’s bright arrangement of stalls selling woodblock prints, sweets, Godzilla toys and T-shirts flashes past. The next thing Grace knows she’s standing in the Great Hall before the golden statue of Kannon, Goddess of Mercy, which radiates warmth like a halo.

UPON WAKING, GRACE opens windows in the kitchen, lets unseasonably hot air flood into her home. Light, too: how it drenches bench-tops cluttered with dirtied crockery, cutlery and cups. For the first time in a month, Grace fills the sink with hot, fresh water 

and a squeeze of detergent. Into this, she places dirty plates and starts to clean.

More planes overhead. They pass at regular intervals as if they are large, elegant birds folded into being from immense sheets of metal-grey paper. Her mind strings them together and hangs them in the sky, migrants awaiting safe harbour.

For a moment she thinks she sees Ken standing in his garden, the star jasmine in flower again. He has stopped cultivating, the sight of an airplane captivating him. A wave as he welcomes his colleagues home.

This causes Grace to remember the day when she and Ken traipsed from one open home to another until they landed up here. She thinks of how her husband set out his reasons for wanting to purchase the house in typically methodical fashion, as if they formed one of those checklists he used each time he sat in a cockpit and readied a plane for flight.

‘It’s close to work. It’s modern and well built. Brick and tile. It’s a good price. And in a safe area.’

Given what has happened, Grace wonders if she accepted Ken’s desire to live in this part of Christchurch too lightly.

A knock upon the door. Grace opens it to find a tall, thin, beak-nosed woman dressed in grey.

‘Miss Bird.’ That name again, Grace thinks wearily. ‘Rona Matata.’

Grace makes a fresh pot of green tea. Then she and Rona sit in the dining room, overlooking the stone path Ken laid, the neglected magnolia and abandoned bamboo.

Rona looks around her. ‘I see you make paper ornaments. Aren’t they sweet?’

Grace smiles weakly.

‘Now, Miss Bird, where to begin? As a public health nurse responsible for the elderly, I deal with cases where the relevant agencies and the council have tried to care for someone but, for various reasons, this support breaks down and other solutions need to be found; which brings us to your father. Miss Bird, are you aware that your father’s nearly blind, his kidneys are failing and he’s suffering from peripheral arterial disease?’

‘He gets help, doesn’t he? Public nurses and home help?’

‘It’s not enough, I’m afraid. Especially since the earthquake. Like a lot of residents in the east of the city, your father’s home was hit hard. The chimney collapsed. There was so much liquefaction; mud and water swamped the property. At present, he has no heating and the whole house reeks of damp. We’ve tried to find him alternative accommodation but he refuses to leave. Things can’t carry on as they are.’

Grace nods

Rona Matata continues, ‘Especially given your father’s…temperament.’

‘Temperament, what do you mean?’

Rona leafs through her notes. ‘Abusive comments towards some of his home support ladies… We feel it would be best if alternative arrangements were made for your father. He requires specialist help. Some family support too.’

‘I’m not sure…’

‘Yes, when I spoke to your father I sensed there’s some bad blood between you. At first, he refused to tell me your name or where you live. He took a lot of persuading.’

‘He would.’

‘Perhaps he could be convinced to see the benefits of a move towards supported accommodation? If you agree, I could raise the issue with your father again and take him to see a few facilities. But I’ll need your help to prove to him it’s in his best interests.’

‘I don’t think I can do that.’

Grace sees Rona survey her stomach momentarily before asking, ‘Could your partner talk to him?’

‘No.’

‘I see…’ Rona scribbles on the papers in front of her.

‘No, you don’t. My father doesn’t…didn’t approve of my husband.’

Rona nods sympathetically. ‘I see…’ she says again.

‘No Mrs Matata, you don’t,’ Grace replies, shaking her head. She feels pressure welling up inside. Tears begin to emerge. More softly, she adds, ‘I’m sorry but I can’t do this. I… I thought I was strong enough, but I was wrong, I see that now.’ She negotiates her body out of the chair and stands up. ‘Another time, perhaps.’

Rona sighs as she packs away her things. ‘I’m sorry too. I didn’t mean to upset you. The situation with your father is tricky. I’d hoped that we might be able to sort it out today.’

Deaf to Rona’s remarks, Grace leaves the room. In the hallway, she opens the front door then waits for her guest to leave. But Rona stops before reaching the door. Her interest is drawn towards a photo on the wall.

‘His face looks familiar,’ Rona says. ‘He was in the newspapers recently, wasn’t he? The man who was…’

Grace continues to weep, ‘Ken, my husband.’

‘Oh,’ Rona’s voice cracks, ‘I’m sorry. Your father didn’t say anything about this.’

It’s not tears anymore, but a howl of pain formed from weeks of loss that escapes Grace’s body.

Another kind of quaking comes on.

RONA MATATA IS right. Ken was in the newspapers.

In the days after his death, when Grace’s days twisted together, a policewoman visited and requested a picture of Ken. Grace remembers fumbling through a drawer in Ken’s lacquered bureau until she found a photograph, a replica of the framed image hanging in the hallway. She recalls little else about that moment apart from how cold the skin of the film felt in her fingers and how serene Ken appeared, captured in a moment of happiness.

Sometime later, the policewoman telephoned to say that various newspapers planned to publish Ken’s picture on their front pages. The thought of it, Ken as a ghost living on in other people’s lives, caused Grace’s heart to swell and break with equal measure. However, when she went over what the policewoman said, she began to believe that the call wasn’t an act of heartbreak but of warning, preparing Grace for the sight of Ken in unexpected places like newspapers and the television news. So she heeded the advice. She cancelled the newspaper delivery, turned the television off, locked the front door and, to stem the increasing loss she felt, started to make origami cranes.

Now Rona has left, Ken has become a bird, the visit resurrecting him in avian form and turning Grace’s recollections into shapes slender as quills.

Grace sits at the dining room table making more origami cranes. The trouble is, post-Rona, the papery flock Grace constructs seems like pale imitations of the herd of small black waders Ken gave her as gifts when they lived in Tokyo.

SOON KEN WILL be awarded his wings.

These are the weeks during which he sits numerous examinations in a flight simulator. And these are evenings during which Grace listens to her lover discuss his assessments, her mind picturing him as a character trapped in a fantasy, a boy aboard a magical bird (something Japanese – the green pheasant or red-crowned crane). Each time a drama unfolds, Ken an avian jockey navigating a creature through surreal, black space and a series of equally illusory dangers.

These are also nights during which Grace awakes in darkness, her brain turning over again with these chimerical impressions of Ken as she worries whether this is what it means to be married to a pilot, one’s life and sleep shadowed by recurrent jeopardy.

The morning of the final appraisal, Ken and Grace agree to meet later in Ueno-Koen. Grace floats through classes at the language school, speaking to her students about tenses (the pluperfect, the future), clauses, irregular verbs, silent letters and allophones, while her mind drifts somewhere else: with Ken and his dreams of taking to the air.

Her last class dismissed, she discovers him sitting on a picnic blanket on a verge in the park. They kiss, then he hands her a glass of wine, something distinctly New Zealand. He takes her free hand and lays a black crane in it. The origami bird sits beneath the summer light sparkling with the single diamond ring it bears on its back.

Of course Grace said, ‘Yes’.

Once they’re married, their home becomes a nesting site for paper birds. Whenever Ken leaves for LAX, Chek Lap Kok or Heathrow, he leaves another crane on Grace’s pillow, in the fridge or next to her toothbrush. Always, his cranes are black and inscribed – the faintest peck of metallic ink pen upon paper – with the word aishiteru.

When Grace and Ken move to Christchurch, the birds migrate too. Grace hangs them in the master bedroom. The window ajar, they rustle furtive as a secret even when Ken leaves to do some light baby shopping on an otherwise ordinary Tuesday morning, never to return.

Half an hour later, there is such a shuddering, Grace becomes something paper-light and folding.

The next thing she knows her body is a rumple upon the floor.

FOR THE FIRST time since Ken’s funeral, Grace leaves their home. She walks through the blood grass. She brushes past the star jasmine and Japanese maple. She climbs into Ken’s car, cold as it is from weeks of inactivity, and turns the engine over. She’s surprised by how easily it starts.

As she drives towards the east of Christchurch, to Aranui, glimmers of the time she spent growing up return – the playhouse at the bottom of the garden her father built from stray wood; the lessons he gave her from his wheelchair in how to ride a bike; his plotting of the constellations on dark nights – Crux, Centaurus, Vela… Then there’s a void. Grace hasn’t spoken to her dad in such a long time that his absence has turned him, in her mind, into a thin, ashen point of light. To which, she reminds herself, she’s returning now.

Ken is the reason for this.

‘Family is too important to let differences of opinion come between you,’ he told her time and again. ‘Your dad belongs to a different generation. It’s not prejudice. He’s just set in his ways.’

Grace wishes she possessed such tolerance. As she weaves through the maze of Aranui’s backstreets, she’s full of hesitancy and despair. This isn’t the landscape she once called home. Abandoned houses rest beside sections reduced to a crumble of brick and tile. Where homes have collapsed, she sees garages have been transformed into makeshift living quarters. There are portaloos on every corner. The once concrete roads have become mud tracks, undulating and pot-holed. Only occasionally does a familiar home, still standing, greet her.

When Grace arrives at her father’s place, she spies the mud and silt, remnants of liquefaction, settled at the entrance, the chimney a grief-stricken pile of rubble. A stone-heavy certainty that she’s doing the wrong thing sits inside her.

The last time Grace travelled to see her father, her doubts were heavy too. Back then, she and Ken left an autumnal Tokyo, crossed the Pacific and made for where its waters wash up at the bottom of the world. High in the sky, she thought of the letters she’d sent her father preparing him for Ken’s arrival. Her correspondences included details about how she and Ken met, their ninth-floor apartment close to Ueno-Kōen, Ken’s busy flight schedules and their visits to his parents’ Sendai home. The closer she got to Christchurch, the more she knew that her offerings weren’t going to be enough to change her father’s mind.

She was right.

When Grace introduced Ken, her father nodded, then turned back to the jigsaw he was working on. Throughout dinner that night, while the sweethearts talked about their lives in Japan, Grace’s father stared out of the window. Each day of their visit, Grace and Ken toured the city – the Port Hills, Lyttelton, the Gondola. They invited Grace’s father to accompany them, but he preferred to stay at home and spray his weeds and aphids.

On the last afternoon of the holiday, Grace sent Ken down to the pier to watch the fishermen and marvel at the ocean, then called her father insensitive. He took a sudden interest in a framed photo of his wife. Eventually, he said, ‘I don’t care. If he was a Maori or a Pacific Islander, I’d tolerate him. But that Jap! Never! I fought against his kind. They’re the reason I lost my leg.’

‘That’s the past, Dad,’ Grace sighed. ‘Anyway, you fought in Vietnam. That has nothing to do with Ken.’

‘They’re all the same. If you want to shack up with one of them then that’s your lookout. Just don’t expect me to welcome him into our family.’ With that, her father negotiated his wheelchair on to the deck and down the ramp into the garden where he appeared to admire his blooms.

When Ken and Grace left the next morning, her father remained in bed, his eyes closed. Six months later, she sent him an invitation to the wedding in Sendai. Later still, once she and Ken had relocated in Christchurch, she notified him of her new address. The silence that greeted both overtures kept alive her memory of him feigning sleep.

AT THE BACK door of her father’s home, Grace knocks then lets herself in. The house is chilly, the warmth her mother once generated – strategically placed heaters, the oven cooking something or other – missing.

In his wheelchair, Grace’s father sits in the corner of the lounge close to the television, the curtains pulled across the windows buttressing the room against midday light. The television flickers greyly with an old war movie. From experience, Grace knows that the war being fought on the screen is a blur to her father. It’s not the images which matter to him, but the words, voices and the company they offer. As if to validate this, he mumblingly repeats the hero’s speech.

Suddenly alert to a presence in the room, he squints. ‘Ruby, is that you?’

‘No. It’s me.’ Cold words for a cold house.

There’s a pause, then her father says, ‘What the bloody hell are you doing here? Where’s Ruby? Bloody chinks!’ He turns back to his movie.

‘Dad, Ruby’s not coming.’ Grace approaches her father and sits near him. She’s so close she can see his sallow skin and the crease of his clothes across his body. Silently, she watches the end of the movie.

As the credits roll, her father asks, ‘You still here?’

‘I’m not going anywhere, Dad. You need help.’

‘Who says?’

‘Rona Matata. And I agree.’

‘I’m fine. I don’t need that Rona or you. I’d have all the help I need if only that damn nursing agency sent someone.’

‘But they’re not going to, Dad. Not anymore.’

‘And I suppose you’ll be cleaning and feeding me from now on, will you?’

‘No, Dad. I’m having a baby, your grandchild. He’s due soon.’

Her father huffs. ‘So where’s Len, Ben or whatever he’s called?’

‘Ken, Dad. Short for Kenji.’

‘Well, where is he?’

‘Dad, Ken’s not here anymore.’

‘Hah, told you he was no good! Bet all he wanted you for was a passport.’

‘Dad!’

‘Well, it’s true. Thieving little blighters, the lot of them. They come here. Steal our jobs. Steal our kids.’

HOW DELICATE AND fragile love is. So fragile, it can be taken from us at any moment. Leaving only the memory of what was and what might have been.

This is what Grace concludes as the kindly policewoman holds Ken’s photo and says, ‘Your husband passed away on the pavement just outside the entrance to Riccarton Mall. Close to Baby City. When the quake hit, pieces of masonry from old shop frontages toppled on to the pavement. Unfortunately, one of them fell right where your husband stood.’

‘Did he suffer?’ Love aside, this was all Grace could think about.

‘It was quick. He wouldn’t have felt anything at all.’

ONCE GRACE HAS described Ken’s passing, she looks at her father and sees a tired, old man whose tired, old eyes look back at her.

Delicate as paper, he whispers, ‘I’m sorry.’

It’s too late, of course it is. Grace knows this, just as she has learned to accept Ken won’t be coming back. But she still pushes her father’s wheelchair to the window. And there, she looks out with him at the roses that, even though encircled by silt, continue to grow.

There is a weakness possessed by those who remain tethered to one position. Place, geographical or ideological, is unstable, subject to fault line, rupture and quake. Sitting in the shade of the Japanese maple, the warm afternoon air lazing around her, Grace arrives at this realisation: how weak are those who tie themselves to one fixed location, be the terrain physical or principle. And how strong are those, conversely, who occupy the sky. Like Ken. He was at home in Japan, New Zealand, the heavens, everywhere... Such power, such freedom, such belonging as he will pass on to their son.

Inside, the phone rings. She lets the call go to answerphone. Rona Matata’s voice crackles into the machine.

‘Grace, I called on your father today. He told me you visited him. He’s asked me to take him to see some care homes.’

Grace senses her time has come. She climbs to her feet, returns to the house, cool with shade. In the lounge, she collects the thousand bright cranes she’s made during the past few weeks. For a moment, as she lifts them, they soar, light as newborns, around the room. But soon they’re gathered in and hanging high upon the walls of the baby’s blue room. She stands for a moment admiring her work, thinking of Ken.

Another shake rolls through.

And another…

Just for a moment, Grace feels nothing – absolutely nothing – but their son kick.

 


From Griffith Review Edition 49: New Asia Now © Copyright Griffith University & the author.

Griffith Review