by Marissa Hoffmann
Her papa folds a crease into a flattened-out paper grocery bag, turns it over, folds it again, turns it, folds it, again, again. Her papa tells her, Paper dolls hold hands to keep them safe on a journey.
The girl watches her papa. He folds two more bags, same and same. He draws a small doll, tells her, Paper dolls make paper beds, when the night-time comes when they’re walking.
The girl checks with him, she says, Do they snuggle between their paper mamas and paper papas?
Under the stars, her papa tells her. He’s nodding. He draws a smile, draws a flower on the paper doll’s hair, he points at the drawing, he says, Like you.
On the second bundle of folded paper, the girl’s papa draws a tall, thin doll. He shades a black t-shirt, draws arms stretched up above its head, tells her, This one’s waving, this one’s strong. He presses the pencil into the paper doll’s arm, turns the point slowly, presses harder.
The girl touches her papa’s bullet-sized scar, points at the doll, she says, Like you.
The third doll has long, black hair. The girl leans in closer. Her papa draws more, he tells her, Paper dolls think of everything. The girl tilts her head. Her papa says, Paper dolls can even cross the Rio Grande, and around the doll’s waist, her papa draws a giant floaty doughnut. The girl colours sugar sprinkles, dot-dot yellow, green, pink.
They cut, they unfold, they tape together—the mamas, the papas, the children.
Her Papa crouches and she crawls up onto his back. The girl holds tight around his neck. Her papa hangs the paper doll chain. The girl asks, Can the little ones swim Papa?
Her Papa says, The little ones don’t let go. Like you.