You won’t remember this but you used to love watching the travelers come through the rye field in their dark suits, dragging the big rubber sacks. You’d crouch just inside your little princess tent cradling your stuffed animal dog. I’d lie on my stomach beside your tent with the binoculars pressed against my face, elbows in the dirt, waiting for the white crane to show up.
There came a day when you were finally ready to go up and meet the crane yourself. You’d outgrown your princess tent and the stuffed animals. Now you lay on your stomach beside me with your own binoculars. I think I see him, you told me. You’re right, I said. That’s the crane. Are you ready to meet him?
Yes. I looked at your bright face, your mouth very serious. Take this, I said and handed you my scythe. You rose up from the ground and pulled your hood over your head. You pushed through the rye, your black cloak flowing. It almost looked like you were floating. You brushed past all the travelers who still dragged their lumpy bags across the dirt.
The crane stood very still on its stick legs, feathers ruffled by the wind. He turned to face you as you moved closer, your cloak flowing. Through my binoculars I could see your hand reaching out to him with your long fingernails. It looked like you were asking him something. Then he opened his sharp beak and spread his wings wide. He shrieked, sounding almost human, and in seconds the travelers surrounded you. But you swept the scythe like I taught you, parallel to the ground, and took them out two at a time, cutting through their dark suits. I watched as they piled up.
The crane took to the purple sky, still screaming. This time I knew he wouldn’t be coming back. Before long his wail was replaced by the lonely sound of police sirens.
I was proud of you but sad too.
This is what I told your mother: She’s become an expert reaper. When she comes back she’ll do much better than we ever did. And your mother agreed.