Red Birds



Red Birds revolves around three major characters who lead the narration — American pilot major Ellie whose plane has crashed in the desert near the refugee camp he was supposed to bomb; precocious 15-year-old Momo from the refugeee camp whose elder brother has mysteriously disappeared and who dreams of making it big as an entrepreneur to escape the poverty of his surroundings; and Momo’s dog Mutt whose brains were partially fried during a freak accident and who can see strange birds nobody else can.

The following excerpt is our first introduction to Momo’s narrative voice.

This place is full of thieves. I know what you gonna say. You’re gonna say what’s there to steal? And I’m gonna tell you: look with care, there is nothing to steal because everything has already been stolen. You’re gonna think maybe you can have a camp without water taps, a camp with road tax, a camp without a road, a camp with electric poles, a camp without electricity, but surely you can’t have a camp without a boundary wall? So where is that boundary wall, you gonna ask? Stolen.

You’re gonna say how can anyone steal an entire boundary wall? And I’m gonna say you don’t know these people, my people.

When it comes to stealing, they are artists.

They stole it brick by brick. Foundations were dug up and every single bit of concrete, mortar was taken away, steel wires were pulled with bare hands. There are those who’re gonna blame me for prying the first brick loose, but I did that to keep an eye on the comings and goings of the international-aid types, nice-smelling do-gooders who obviously were the biggest thieves of them all. But they did their paperwork. You see that crater there? That was gonna be a dam for a water reservoir. You see that pile of shining steel poles tied down with chains and locks? That was gonna be electricity. You see that shack with two buffaloes in it? That’s my alma mater. For every wad of cash being pocketed, for every sack of grain or sugar being stolen there is a pile of paperwork to prove that it’s not being stolen. There was a complaints register where you could report this kind of thing, it had a ball-pen tied to it with a piece of nylon string.

Yes, you guessed that right, it was stolen along with the ball-pen.

There was a waterfall here, yes a proper waterfall, it had shrunk to three feet and the fall was only basketball-hoop high. Bro Ali and I used to bathe under it when I was a child. And that was not a very long time ago. Some people’re gonna say that if I was only a child back then how would I know? How can there be a waterfall in the middle of the desert, they’re gonna ask. And I’m gonna say you know nothing about this place, my place.

Dawn for more

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