THE CRANE GIRL • by Patrick Cobbs

The girl on the corner has made paper cranes for as long as anyone can remember. Last month, one of them came to life.

Now live cranes are everywhere. Walking our crowded street, pecking at litter for scraps of value. They’re noisy, like Mommy’s cocktail parties just before there is a fight.

People from the news, and churches, and investment firms invade our little block now too. It’s funny because they ignored our side of town before, even when the water got bad and folks got sick. Now it’s like they’re holding tours.

Dina and the other young kids run out for the cameras whenever they see them. Always smiling. “I know her. I can tell you things,” Dina says. “Take my picture.” She pouts and poses at them with a hat tilted like a movie star.

Mrs. Torres and her Gospel Ladies form a brigade and march their bright dresses straight up the middle of the street when a new churchman and his flock find our block. They show up here in buses, like opposing armies, and the Gospel Ladies sing loud at them until they turn around.

Daddy’s one of the Big Men of the block. Their job is handling all the deep pockets who promise to fix things up and make them pretty for once. To finally tear out the old lead pipes and let the water flow clear again for the new buyers who want to come in and take our homes, so they can be close to the Crane Girl. The Big Men don’t usually need to get rough. They just stand there, shoulder to shoulder. The rich folks’ imagination does the rest.

You can see why people from outside don’t catch the girl too often anymore.

But I heard the times in the beginning, when there weren’t as many cranes and hardly anyone believed yet. The Outsiders always wanted the same things.

“Exclusive! Exclusive!” The press would command, “Another time for the camera!”

The churchmen would ask: “What religion, child? Why not follow me?”

The investors were the most practical. “If you knew how to fold a diamond just right,” they would say, “would it become the real thing, like the cranes?”

I feel bad for the girl. No one ever spoke to her before. Living in that box and eating from the trash, she was too different from us. Now the world can’t do without her. She must know it’s only because of the magic cranes.

But I’m no hypocrite. I still don’t talk to her. I just go to school, don’t lie, say my prayers. And I have a paper crane on my bedroom wall, where the cross used to be.


Patrick Cobbs writes for a neighborhood newspaper in Philadelphia and teaches a bit at the Community College of Philadelphia. His likes stories that get him thinking about people. He is suspicious of perfection and easy things, like automatic billing. He likes dogs, and he cannot multitask for crap.


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Every Day Fiction