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Death of an Origamist

Chapter Two—Doctor Death

“So what we will be folding is…”

Sachi felt her heart pound hard. Was her lanyard ID badge over her chest moving up and down, too? What was Craig “T-Rex” Buck, the 21st century master of origami, going to have them fold?

The mood around the polished wood table was indeed emotional. They were supposed to be the elite folders at this Left Coast Origami Convention in Anaheim.

Holly West, known for her nimble hands, rubbed her fingertips together. Sachi figured Jag Griffin, part of Buck’s entourage, would have received some insider information, but he was squeezing a napkin so hard that his fist was turning red. There was an Asian man about Sachi’s age in the hotel penthouse, too, but he hadn’t been introduced. Grim faced, he just walked up and down the room. Only Taku, the 12-year-old origami savant, seemed completely unfazed by the excitement of Buck’s unveiling.

Buck bent down to pick up something by his feet. It was something box-shaped, covered by black fabric. He carefully placed it in the center of the table and then pulled off the cloth like he was an old-school magician.

And there—all of them seemed to sigh in unison—a most spectacular and menacing sight. A gray Grim Reaper—the robe, skull face, and even sickle—made with one piece of paper.

“Impossible!” Jag cried out. He seemed more in ecstasy than anguish.

“No way,” whispered Holly.

Sachi couldn’t find the words to say anything. She had actually folded something similar in the past for a Halloween centerpiece but it wasn’t as complicated as this.

Taku made an annoying clicking noise with his tongue as he silently examined the origami model. It was as if he was registering each fold with a click.

Sachi wished she could just leave right now. She didn’t want to make a fool out of herself. There was no way she could re-create T-Rex’s Grim Reaper.

Buck was obviously taking great pleasure at their reactions. He removed four sheets of large gray origami people from an accordion file and placed a sheet in front of each of the folders, including himself. “This is my Doctor Death,” he announced proudly.

“What about Fold Anew?” Sachi couldn’t help but to reference his bestselling book. That’s why she wanted to study under him—because he offered new, living possibilities. His message had been of renewal, not darkness. With her work in the ER, tragedies befalling her coworkers, and her late husband’s passing, she had been surrounded by death. Why would she want to spend any more time in creating a Doctor Death?

Fold Anew is done with,” Buck said, his blue eyes magnified by his glasses. “It was juvenile, a dream for the sheep. But this, this is for those who wish to achieve the next level of consciousness.”

Sachi rose, clutching her convention bag. “I’m not feeling well. I think I better go.”

“Nonsense, nonsense. Kenji, can you get some water for Ms. Yamane?”

Sachi furrowed her eyebrows. How could he remember my name—but then yes, there was her name on her convention badge.

The Asian man went to the mini-fridge next to the window and retrieved a cold water bottle. Sachi stepped away from the table. Origamists knew that paper and water didn’t mix. After a few sips, Sachi did feel better. Maybe she could do it. Maybe she wasn’t giving herself enough credit. She removed any moisture on her hands by rubbing the sides of her jeans and returned to the table.

Even without instruction, Taku was about a quarter into his origami creation.

Buck was one of those instructors who didn’t verbally articulate each step. Instead he first bowed to his sheet of paper, as if it were deity. He then engaged in each fold as if it were a religious experience. Holly was an elegant folder with fluid movements, while Jag took on a more strong, confident approach. Taku, on the other hand, was like an insect, his tiny fingers like antennas manipulating the paper.

Sachi was more cautious, hesitant. She knew when she got like this it usually led to mistakes. And, in fact, as she was attempting to form the sickle, it happened. Her folds got out of whack and the blade began to look like more a thick machete. She was hoping that no one noticed, but, of course, everyone did.

Buck got up and gently took Sachi’s piece from her hands. He was redoing one of the folds when he abruptly pulled his hand back. He winced and then Sachi noticed a dark red line of blood dripping from his index finger.

“Mr. Buck,” she called out. And then the rest of them stopped folding, mortified that the master had cut himself.

“Oh, Craig, are you alright?” Holly was on a first-name basis with T-Rex? Both Buck and Holly were married—that much Sachi knew.

Buck then let out a dry laugh. “I haven’t had a paper cut in years,” he said, trying to minimize the wound, but it kept on bleeding.

Sachi usually kept a couple of bandages and even a mini-Neosporin in her purse, but she had left it in her hotel room. She then remembered the tissue pack that had been included in their convention bags—a stocky woman with hair like clumps of cotton candy had handed hers to her at the registration table.

She pulled out the tissue from the pack and pressed it against Buck’s cut. It wasn’t deep, but it was long, about a couple inches along the side of his right index finger.

“You seem to know what you are doing,” Buck commented.

“I’m a nurse,” she said. “An ER nurse. I don’t think that you need stitches, but you should disinfect it.”

Buck pulled his finger away from Sachi, leaving the bloody tissues on the table.

Holly wrinkled her nose at it, so Sachi quickly discarded the mess into her bag.

“In light of this mishap,” Buck announced, “I’m sorry that we will cut this session short. I’ll try to post a tutorial on our web page.”

“Wait—” Taku’s voice was high-pitched like a whistle. “I haven’t finished!”

“None of us are finished, kid,” commented Jag.

“Mr. Buck, you said that we were specially picked to complete one of your creations. You promised. We haven’t completed anything.”

Buck had already taken hold of his accordion folder and his Doctor Death origami sculpture and was heading out the penthouse door.

Taku grimaced, his small face resembling a frog’s. “This is all your fault,” he accused Sachi.

She couldn’t believe that she was being shamed by a 12-year-old boy, but she was. She looked down at the table and noticed that her mangled piece of origami had drops of the master’s blood splashed on the crooked sickle.

Chapter Three >>


© 2015 Naomi Hirahara

fiction naomi hirahara origami


Sachi Yamane, an emergency room nurse, escapes the pressure of life-and-death situations through the precise and calming world of origami. Attending an origami convention in Anaheim, California, she looks forward to meeting her idol, Craig Buck, a guru of not only origami but also life. Over the past two years, Sachi has gone through her set of losses—her husband’s fatal heart attack and unexpected deaths of some coworkers. Meeting Buck and being immersed in origami will again restore peace in Sachi’s life, or so she thinks. But as it turns out, the origami convention is not the safe haven that this sixty-one year old Sansei imagines it to be.

This is an original serialized story written for Discover Nikkei by award-winning mystery author Naomi Hirahara. 

Read Chapter One