Chapter no 173 – Paper Airplane‌

All the Light We Cannot See

“And Francis said there are forty-two thousand drawers of dried plants, and he showed me the beak of a giant squid and a plesiosaur . . .” The gravel crunches beneath their shoes and Jutta has to lean against a tree.


Lights veer toward her, then away. “I’m tired, Max. That’s all.”

She unfolds the tourist map and tries to understand the way back to their hotel. Few cars are out, and most every window they pass is lit blue from a television. It’s the absence of all the bodies, she thinks, that allows us to forget. It’s that the sod seals them over.

In the elevator, Max pushes 6 and up they go. The carpeted runner to their room is a river of maroon crossed with gold trapezoids. She hands Max the key, and he fumbles with the lock, then opens the door.

“Did you show the lady how the house opened, Mutti?” “I think she already knew.”

Jutta turns on the television and takes off her shoes. Max opens the balcony doors and folds an airplane with hotel stationery. The half block of Paris that she can see reminds her of the cities she drew as a girl: a hundred houses, a thousand windows, a wheeling flock of birds. On the television, players in blue rush along a field two thousand miles away. The score is three to two. But a goalkeeper has fallen, and a wing has toed the ball just enough that it rolls slowly toward the goal line. No one is there to kick it away. Jutta picks up the phone beside the bed and dials nine numbers and Max launches an airplane over the street. It sails a few dozen feet and hangs for an instant, and then the voice of her husband says hello.

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