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The vendor flinched. “Come on man, it looks exotic.”
“You have no idea.”
“I could get a lot for it. Probably got a distinct taste.”
“Probably does. Shouldn’t have been out here in the first place. It needs to come with me.” Tom placed his hand on the gun.
The vendor exhaled, annoyed and defeated. “God damn it.”
Reaching underneath the table, the man pulled out the dodo. The bird was crammed into a homemade wooden cage, clearly discomforted. It attempted to use its large beak to cut through the wooden bars but the cramped quarters made it difficult to manoeuver.
Tom seized the cage and examined it. The dodo looked a little worse for wear.
“Come on man,” the vendor said desperately. “That’s a fair hunk of meat. You want cash for it?”
“It’s not for sale. It’s...an important animal.”
“Fine. Let me get back to business.”
Tom backed away as the meat vendor continued to serve his customers. He nodded. “Thanks.”
“Yeah.” The vendor refrained from eye contact.
Tom placed the dodo on the back of the Drift Scooter and rode off into the night, disappearing behind the glowing condos. After returning the scooter with a half hour to spare, he hit Ken’s name on his mobile. Tom could feel his Turtle Island and Nazar Eye amulets thump against his heart.
“Please tell me you have good news.” Ken’s voice oozed fatigue.
Tom grabbed the cage. He paused. He looked at the pained and cramped dodo, cawing and pecking at its cage as best it could.
“Tom? You there?”
Tom hit the red button and ended the call. He kept his eyes on the bird. “Did you climb out of that sewer?” he asked it.
The bird blinked and tried to move its squished neck. It managed to nudge its beak forward and chip some wood from the bars. It cawed, but it was getting low in stamina now.
Tom took a deep breath. He opened up the internet on his phone: he typed, where did dodo birds live?
Mauritius. An island nation off the coast of Africa. An island that still exists, despite island nations being not so common anymore.
Tom hit the dial.
“Tom?” Ceren answered, sounding worried.
“Hey babe. I got it.”
“Great. So I’ll see you soon?”
Tom hesitated. “I can’t take it back.”
“What do you mean? Something wrong?”
“I just can’t. I can’t give it back to Campbell.”
“The bird speak to you?” Ceren’s voice was sarcastic yet sympathetic.
“Sort of,” Tom said.
The dodo wriggled around, poking its right foot through the bar, catching a splinter in the process.
“Do you know where dodos originally came from?”
“I have a feeling you’re about to tell me,” Ceren said.
“When was the last time we went on vacation babe?”
Ceren laughed. “We can’t afford one.”
“Maybe we should go on one anyways,” Tom said.
Ceren paused. “How are we going to do that?”
The dodo nudged the bars.
Tom looked at the skyline, taking in the never ending onslaught of condos. “I haven’t figured that out yet,” he said.
Tom opened his browser and punched in travel to mauritius. “I’ll work something out,” he said.
The dodo chipped one of the bars off of the cage with its beak, and came a sliver closer to freedom.