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Paper Dragons

Agnes Chan

© Copyright 1999 by Agnes Chan

I conceived of this story when I was doing a writing prompt for my Creative Writing class. It’s about a young woman returning home from Taiwan after the earthquake and having to face her family. She had run away from home and wouldn't have returned if her father wasn't in the hospital.

It’s on the television. News of the earthquake in Taiwan. Look, they’re already cleaning up. Time has stopped still for me. Sigh… But ten hours from now, time will race by me, dragging me by the hair, because I won ’t be able to follow otherwise. And it will be all my fault. My fault for making Daddy worry, my fault for making Daddy sick. They’ll gang up on me, the whole clan of them, and they’ll make me pay. For this, for old slights, for my being born. She will enjoy slapping me, striking the face that so resembles my mother’s. In ten hours, the world will fall down on me, again. This time, more inevitable, more vicious, powered by the pent-up anguish of twenty some odd years.

“Miss, are you all right? Is this your first time flying?” The airhostess is looking at my hands.

I look down at them, clenched them so hard they are bloodless, with deep welts where my nails have bitten in.

I untangle my fingers, give her a watery smile, and say, “I guess I’m still nervous about flying. Once we’re in the air, I’ll be fine. It’s just preflight jitters.”

Smiles, smiles, and more smiles. That is the order of the day. Smile confidently at everyone at the house, smile reassuringly at Daddy in the hospital, smile convincingly at everyone, positively everyone.


I’m at the hospital now.


“You’re here. They told me you refused to come home, that you just left and that was that.”

“Who left who, Daddy?”

“Let’s not get into that now.”


My father looks at me. Neither of us has the courage to dig up old wounds.

“The food’s not bad,” he says.

That’s my cue, but he squeezes my hand when he says it. Now I know I’m really home, no matter what the others say. They all come marching in. Paper dragons.

Agnes Chan is a 16 year old living in Vancouver, Canada. She usually doesn't do a lot of writing because it drains her emotionally. But having to hand one in for class is all the motivation she needs, even when she's suffering from writer's block.

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