PAPERWORK • by Pamela Love

As the rain fell outside, Peng’s hands danced with a piece of paper, folding, smoothing, and turning. Fascinated, Ms. Lewis watched as the fourth grader turned a square into a diamond, then a kite, and finally a crane. “I’ve always wanted to learn origami,” the teacher said. “Would you like to teach the class to make cranes, Peng? We could do it as an art project someday.”

With an eager nod, Peng held out his creation. “This is for you.”

Peng’s impromptu gift put Ms. Lewis in a good mood until she spotted Ethan, the new-kid-in-April-with-a-folder-too-thick-to-hold-in-one-hand. All those hyphens looked like minus signs, but they added up to trouble. Trouble always meant more paperwork for her to do, as if she didn’t have enough already.

As Ethan made the final crease in a paper airplane, she accelerated toward his desk. “Let me see that, please.”

Without protest or eye contact, he handed it over. Then he stood. From his record, Ms. Lewis knew much of his daily exercise in his previous schools had come from going to and from the principal’s office.

“Ethan, how long have you been making paper airplanes?”

“I only made one—”

“Sorry, I meant when did you learn how?” she asked.

He blinked. “I — I don’t remember.”

She tilted his work this way and that, examining it from several angles. “Next month, I’m giving a science lesson about how airplanes fly. After that, we could make paper airplanes and see who can throw theirs the farthest on the playground. Why don’t you teach the class how to make one, Ethan?”

Sofia groaned. “Everybody knows how to make paper airplanes, Ms. Lewis.”

“I don’t,” said Peng. “Would you teach me, Ethan?”

Ethan nodded. “Sure.” For the first time ever, Ms. Lewis saw him smile.

Well, that’s one note I won’t have to write, she thought. Let my class do its own paperwork.

Pamela Love was born in New Jersey. After graduating from Bucknell University, she worked as a teacher and in marketing before becoming a writer. Her work has appeared in Page & Spine, Tales from the Moonlit Path, Havok, and Luna Station Quarterly, among other magazines. She won the 2020 Magazine Merit Fiction Award for “The Fog Test”, which appeared in Cricket. She lives in Maryland.

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