The Paper Woman
Words By Jenna Glover, Art By Hailey Renee
On the corner of West and Market, the paper woman sold desire. For a dollar or a donated piece of paper, the paper woman could make anyone anything they wanted.
Four tech workers received tiny, folded polo shirts to match what the paper woman always saw them wearing when they went for coffee across the street. They laughed and tipped her an extra dollar but never invited her to come with them.
A business executive stopped on his lunch break, and the paper woman made him a watch—the one his wife had bought for their thirtieth anniversary that he had lost. The paper woman could not draw the time on the front though, because she had no watch of her own.
Once, a bus full of school children stopped by her corner on their way to a museum field trip. She delighted the children with paper bicycles and cars, dinosaurs and flowers. She spent hours making what they wanted and writing their names on each creation, but no one asked for the paper woman’s name.
The next week, a news crew paid a visit to the paper woman, praising her as a neighborhood treasure. The paper woman made the reporter a ring and told her not to be late for dinner that night. The next day, another two-minute slot was reserved to follow up with the reporter’s engagement, but no one followed up with the paper woman.
When a storm hit, the wind blew away the paper woman’s stores, and rain turned the delicate papers into tacky puddles of pulp in all colors of the rainbow. When they heard what happened, a local business bought her reams of new paper, but that was not what the paper woman needed.
Late one day, a homeless man that roamed the blocks approached the paper woman with a bit of newspaper and asked for a sculpture he could tape to his shopping cart. The paper woman accepted the newspaper in exchange for her last sheet of gold and made the man an orange. She offered him the newspaper back, but he did not want it.
The homeless man left and the sun sank. The paper woman gathered the unsold cranes and frogs, the beautiful paper left unused, and retreated into the alley to an old and patched tent. She sat on the cardboard front porch and packed away her wares, leaving the newspaper from the homeless man out. The paper woman smoothed the wrinkles and began to fold.
Down, then up, side to side, open, and fold again. The paper woman inspected her sculpture and, pleased, crawled into the tent for the night.
Carefully, she set the new creation next to seventeen identical ones she had made from her secret store of unwanted paper. Torn magazine pages, flyers tossed by the wind, stained food wrappers—all reborn as tiny paper houses.
They were exactly what the paper woman wanted.