Tom ducked under the doorway. The dirty white walls needed another coat of paint and the door squealed in protest when he opened it. The sun came through the moth-eaten curtains, shining on the bare, dark floorboards. This room had always been Tom’s favourite spot in the house but the part Tom loved the most was the tatty bed and the person in it.
Tom’s grandpa was doubled up, shoulders shaking, coughing into a bright, chequered handkerchief. When Tom came in, he smiled. Despite his frail, shaky hands and his weak heart there was still a sparkle in his eyes. “Come here,” he rasped. “I have something to show you.”
Tom came closer and sat on the edge of the worn mattress. Grandpa began his story. “When I was a boy, we didn’t have all these gadgets and hoodackies that you kids have today.” He coughed again. “So we would take a few sheets of paper and some wire into the bush. We would sit in the shade of a kowhai tree and listen to the tūī. Then we would make these…” His hands folded and twisted, moving so fast they blurred together until he was holding a perfect paper crane.
“We used to string them on to wire and make plays for each other.” His bright blue eyes met Tom’s and for a moment Tom could see Grandpa as a boy. The moment passed and Grandpa took another two sheets of paper from his bedside table. He gave one to Tom, showing him the simple steps.
Later that week, Mum came into Tom’s room. Her lips trembled as she took Tom’s hand and squeezed it. Tom knew what she was going to say before she uttered a word.
He tore himself away and raced up the stairs. He saw the eyes he once thought were pieces of the sky staring up at the ceiling. A single tear traced his cheek as he took a piece of paper from the small bedside table. He sat in the corner and leaned against the chipped paint. He took a deep breath and made his first fold.