My Paper Boat Empire


Erika Lewis



Throughout our lives, everyone will have at least one major accomplishment. Something that they call upon when they want to brag or that they remember when they need motivation. Some of these accomplishments are small things such as winning a Nobel Prize or living past 100. In fact, there is only one achievement that exceeds all things and I am proud to say that I accomplished that. This achievement is starting a paper boat empire. 

That’s right, you heard me, I built an empire on a foundation of paper boats. It wasn’t very hard, probably because it has never been done before, but it’s the best thing anyone can do. And the best part is, like every American Hero, I want to share my story. 


It all started back when I was in the eighth grade. My family had decided that we would visit my relatives out in Utah for Thanksgiving. I wasn’t extremely thrilled, as it meant nine hours in a car with siblings that have to use the bathroom every thirty minutes, but little did I know that it was on this trip that my future would be paved. 

The day before Thanksgiving, my Grandma asked for some help with making placement signs for everyone. I wasn’t doing anything else so I headed over to the table in the corner. I took a seat and my Grandma called everyone again before giving up and sitting down with me. It’s unfortunate that my family was oblivious to the sacred and empowering knowledge my Grandma was going to impart. She showed me how to fold a plain piece of paper into a boat. It was the most amazing thing and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to replicate it. But after a few attempts I had the skill down. 

Hours had passed before I finally finished folding all of the boats and I was exhausted. My hands were cramped and my legs had fallen asleep, but I had gone from the student to the master. I had unimaginable power at my fingertips, of course, I didn’t know it at the time. 


Speed forward months later, I found myself in my math class turning in the test we had taken. My teacher had told us that when we were finished, we just had to sit quietly, but that never really worked for me. I sat for a few minutes trying to think of something I could do with the supplies I had when a thought came to me. I had plenty of paper sitting in my bag. The skill my Grandma had taught me was to prepare me for this exact moment. I pulled out a piece of paper and folded it into a beautiful boat. After I finished, I rested the boat on my desk and my friend, who was seated beside me, glanced over and picked it up. I was about to ask for it back, when she asked, “How did you make this?” Her voice carried such awe in it. 

At first, I was hesitant to expose my abilities, but she was my friend, we were both bored, and there was still plenty of time in class. I removed two more pieces of paper from my backpack and handed one to her. I then taught her the same way my Grandma had taught me, and soon enough she had a boat seated in front of her. We practiced a few more times until she was confident and then we went on our ways. However, before parting ways, I made my friend swear that she would never tell another soul what I had taught her today. She could give away the boats, after all they were never made for hoarding, but she couldn’t teach anyone else the art. She also wasn’t allowed to tell anyone who taught her how to make boats. 

As time went on, I decided that it would be okay if I taught a couple of others the way of the paper boat. Although, I made all of them swear the same things. They weren’t allowed to reveal my identity to anyone and they couldn’t teach anyone else. They were only allowed to hand out the boats and keep me anonymous by referring to me as the Boat Master. We were building an underground organization and I was at the top. 


As more time passed, I watched as more and more people had paper boats on their person. I would see people in class who I didn’t know with boats on the desk or tucked in their backpacks. I even saw younger classmen in the hallway holding boats. My reach had gone so far and the best part was nobody could link it back to me. I would be lying if I told you that it wasn’t an empowering feeling. I felt like I was the one character who’s behind the scenes through the whole story but was pulling all the strings. I was unstoppable. Or so I thought. Sadly, every empire must someday fall. 

One fateful day, I had felt ill and was forced to stay home from school. Not much was happening, until my phone went off. I had received a text from my friend, the first paper boat disciple. I read her message and was shocked by what she had to say. Apparently, in school, administrators had gone into the classrooms to deliver a very important message. They had told every class that the paper boats that were floating around (no pun intended) had become a problem in the school. Every person that was caught making one, or even with one, could face suspension. They also explained that they would be searching for whoever had started all of this. 

I had to reread the message to check that I wasn’t imagining things. Unfortunately, I had read it correctly the first time. My empire was crumbling beneath my feet. The only good thing was there were only a select few of my closest friends who knew that I was the mastermind. I was at least safe from the blame. In fact, I was probably one of the least suspicious people. I was always a good kid in class, got good grades, and more importantly was never found with a paper boat on my person. I was still anonymous, but my empire had disappeared. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it burned in one. 


It’s not that we gave up with the boats, we still made them and dealt them, but there was no longer an empire. We had to become an underground organization. It felt like we were all but forgotten. However, whenever I mention the great boat empire to people, they tend to look upon it fondly. The empire might have crumbled but the legacy has lived on.