Contributor: Elizabeth Collins

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Once upon a time there was an artist. His name was Mikey and he lived near the heat vents on 33rd and Maple. Mikey was an origami master and could make anything and everything out of stray newspapers or fliers.

“How do you do it?” One tourist asked as Mikey handed him a replica of Mt. Rushmore.

“I’m not sure. My mama never showed me, and my pa only had one hand!” Mikey chuckled, showing off his seven magnificent teeth.

“You have to do something with this! The world has to know!”

The tourist took out his smartphone, and with a crazed look in his eye he started recording himself talking about the homeless wonder who was to become an internet sensation.

Mikey muttered to himself, “Sure, sure. Millions of views. Ahuh.” He put on his origami Napoleon hat, strapped his origami fanny pack around his waist, slung his origami backpack over his shoulder, slipped on his origami slippers, and slipped away from the tourist who was busy crying about how moving Mikey’s story was.

“I heard it all before.” Mikey told his squirrel-friend that night under their tree. “They can do all they want with the youtubes and the tweeters, but it don’t put food on the table, you know?” Squirrel-friend was sitting on an origami table nibbling on an origami apple. “Real food!”

Mikey and squirrel-friend laughed the night away, drinking from origami champagne flutes, and pointing at misshapen trees. The next morning a woman in a business suit approached Mikey and offered him a check for $10,000. “To kick-start your brilliant art career!” the woman told Mikey as he stared at the little piece of paper. After a moment his eyes lit up.

“Squirrel-friend! Where are you?! Lookit, we’re not gonna have no money problems no more!” Mikey looked around for squirrel-friend, and finally found him halfway across the road, and halfway under a tire.

Mikey was sobbing uncontrollably and the woman muttered something about “Good luck,” and “Sorry about your thing,” as she slipped away.

“Don’t worry,” Mikey cried out to his roadkill-friend. “I’ll take care of you! I’ll take…”

His words fell away as his fingers worked and created the most beautiful origami Viking funeral boat the world had ever seen. He pulled the bits of squirrel-friend he could get a hold of out from under the tire and placed them in the boat. He marched to the nearest pond, drew an origami match from his origami fanny pack, lit the boat on fire, and pushed it off into the pond.

As it floated away from him he could just make out the number on the port side of the vessel: “$10,000.” As the fire spread, the number diminished. “$10,00” “10,0” “10” “1” until there was nothing left, and the squirrel-bits sunk to the pond floor.

A few years later, Mikey was telling a tourist about how he had once been given $10,000 to kick start his art career but that he had turned the check into a Viking funeral boat for his squirrel-friend and then burned it on the pond.

“Oh.” The tourist said as he pulled out his phone to text someone. “Do you regret destroying that much money?”

Mikey glanced over at his origami table sitting below his tree near the heat vent on the corner of 33rd and Maple.

“Yeah, of course I do.”

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Elizabeth is an English graduate student at the University of Northern Iowa. She lives with three fish and a sock monkey and still doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up.
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