Will McIntosh is an exceptional writer whose work deserves more recognition than it gets. He won the Hugo Award several years ago for the excellent short story “Bridesicle,” but I wish people had paid more attention to his following novels and short stories. He does aliens really, really well.
However, this story has no aliens. It has dreamy magical realism instead.
“One Paper Airplane Graffito Love Note” by Will McIntosh:
A paper airplane drifted high in the sky above the field. I nearly crashed my bicycle, straining to follow its path as it circled above the treetops at the far edge. It held the wind beautifully, effortlessly. Pausing, it hovered over the field just as a seabird holds its position above crashing waves.
I slowed to a stop, feeling for the ground with one foot, afraid to take my eye off the craft lest I lose it in the clouds. Neck craned, eyes to the sky, I let the bicycle drop. I tracked the paper’s elegant flight, running this way and that like a boy as it slowly, slowly lost altitude.
As it made its final pass, it gained speed, careening across the field. I loped after it as it tumbled end-over-end and lay still.
I plucked it from the grass.
It was folded in a distinct design—squat and wide, with a hinged belly. It was covered in writing. I recognized Anna’s handwriting instantly, and that familiar ache that I both loved and hated coursed through me. I flipped the hinge and unfolded the airplane. It was a letter to me, though because it was a graffito confession, I wasn’t named.
The leaves outside my window rustle like dry paper. The cat, stalking prey in the yard, is a paper cat. The paperboy is a paper boy, the waning sun a lightbulb. I miss you. . . .
Fingers trembling, fighting tears, I put it in my pocket. I would read it carefully in the privacy of my room above the sail shop.