Saturday Storytime: Gift of the Kites


Jim Hines is one of the good guys of modern fantasy and science fiction. I mean that literally. He doesn’t just write his books and talk to other authors and fans (a generally artificial distinction). He works hard and risks alienating potential readers to work toward making his industry one that anyone would want to work in.

He’s also funny as hell, as demonstrated by his first series of novels and their odd little goblin hero, and unwilling to be bound by tradition, as he showed when he took a number of fairy tale princesses and made them the heroes of their own, new, adventure tales. This story stands on its own.

The door slammed. Jesse counted to twenty, first in English, then Japanese. When Sam didn’t return, he went to the trash and pulled out the remains of his kite. One look told him it was unsalvageable.

“Kentaro was my father,” he muttered as he retrieved his Exacto knife and tried to cut the few bits of undamaged paper from the frame. It had been four months since his last letter to Kentaro. Sam had almost caught him sneaking back from the public mailbox down the street. Jesse didn’t dare use their own mailbox. He even had to buy his own stamps from the machine at the grocery store. Sam noticed missing stamps as quickly as he spotted long-distance calls on the phone bill.

Jesse glanced down and found he had cut the paper into a rough hexagon, like a Rokkaku kite. He trimmed tiny sticks of bamboo, fitting them to the lines of the Rokkaku. A strange warmth flowed through his fingers. The glue dried impossibly fast. He grabbed a spool of black thread and tied a small four-point bridle.

As he finished the last knot, the kite leapt from the desk. The spool of thread bounced to the carpet.

Jesse held out his hand in amazement, and the tiny kite returned. The thread tickled his fingers. Abstract shapes of red and blue covered the back, like an exotic butterfly.

“Hold still,” Jesse said. The kite obeyed, hovering on an unfelt wind. Smiling, Jesse cut the thread, leaving a yard or so dangling from the bridle. “Fly around-”

Before he could finish the thought, the kite flew a fast circle around the room.

Fingers shaking, Jesse scrawled a quick note on another scrap of paper. He tied it to the thread.

“Can you find him?”

Keep reading.

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