Paper is a blank canvas, until the ink has built its town, its city, no, its grand empire, on the snowy, barren plain. Cautiously I grab the stack off the printer, careful not to bend its corners. I flip the pages like an old-fashioned, hand-drawn animation. As the pages turn, a breeze of cool air brings butterfly kisses to my cheeks. I ensure each piece found its place and the ink didn’t smear. Pristine. Crisp. Perfect.

I stand the papers upright and clack them against the table, marching like the hooves of regal Gypsy horses. Taking the stapler in hand, I hover it over the top left corner with a slight tremble in my wrist. The alligator waits to snap its teeth upon the prey. Holding my breath, I clutch the ends together and pull back apart. A straight sliver of metal now hugs the pages together in a neat little family.

Thoughtlessly, my fingers brush the cover page as a grin tugs at my lips. Did it smear? No, thank goodness. My heartbeat slows from the scare. Holding the stack to my face, I deeply inhale as the inspiring smell of crisp paper and fresh ink wafts into my nose. I ponder all the blood, sweat, and tears. My eyes are bloodshot, my hair unkempt, my head aches from lost sleep and computer-screen glare. But this one’s a keeper. It’s sure to impress, I convince myself while slipping the stack into one of my sturdy, protective folders.

The anxious longing sets in immediately upon handing over my newly birthed child. For days I wait and pace and worry for my moment of reunion. Will she like it? Did I remember to add in that comma? Certainly I removed all the contractions—right? I read it over a thousand times. Was it “do” or “due”? I just can’t seem to remember! Judgement. Stares. I can feel them already, as if sitting in court waiting for the judge’s sentencing.

Just when I can bear it no longer, a stack of paper slaps the desk in front of me. My hand trembles as it reaches toward the blank, back sheet. My inner teapot shrieks upon the stove. “Turn me over!” the paper screams in my ears. My head pounds. It’s now or never.

I quickly flip over my stack and stare.

What once was black and white in holy matrimony was now stained in red. I close my eyes, but the red remains. Red. rEd. reD. It blots my vision. Opening again, the red remains. Words scribbled out. Entire sentences scratched from existence. Comments and foreign words litter the once spotless snow.

My head meets the desk, resting on the remains of my creation. I add more sweat. I add more tears. Once so spotless, crisp, and clean, it’s now stained in the blood of a murder scene.

Published in the Wineskin, April 2016


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