Short Story by Ben Loory (The Jakarta Post, April 23, 2018)
Once there was a dodo, and he died with the rest, but then he suddenly got back up again. And he started running around, saying, Hey, look at me! Everybody, I’m a dodo! And I’m alive!
Of course, no one believed him, because the dodos were all dead.
The dodos are all dead, they said. You, bird, must be a chicken.
So act like a chicken, they said.
The dodo was confused. He didn’t know what to do. For a while, he kept on insisting.
But I’m a dodo! he said. I’m a dodo! I am!
But the people just laughed.
And then ignored him.
So finally, the dodo gave it up.
Maybe I’ll just pretend to be a chicken, he said. Just for a while — on a temporary basis. Just to see how it goes.
So the dodo did some research into the whole chicken phenomenon, and then he started to practice. He got pretty good at going bok-bok-bok-bok, and bobbing his head back and forth.
It wasn’t a very interesting existence, being a chicken, but it was better than being laughed at and scorned. And, in time, the dodo was very good at it.
He even won a few awards.
But then, one day, the dodo walked by a museum and he saw a big banner out front. The banner said A CELEBRATION OF DODOS. So the dodo walked in and strolled around.
The dodo learned all about the history of dodos. Where they were from and what they ate and all that. It was nothing that the dodo hadn’t always known before, but it seemed somehow he’d forgotten it.
Near the end of the exhibit, the dodo came to a diorama — there were replicas of his ancestors behind glass. And below, it explained that the dodos were all dead.
And the dodo became very sad.
But I’m a dodo! the dodo said. And I’m here — I’m alive! Why don’t these people understand that?
Then the dodo caught sight of his own reflection in the glass.
And what he saw was a chicken staring back.
Oh my god, said the dodo, looking down at himself.
He saw his chicken wings, his chicken feet.
How did this happen? the dodo said. I’m a dodo! This isn’t true! This isn’t me!
So the dodo went home and did some soul-searching. And he decided that things had to change. So he stopped bobbing his head around and saying bok-bok-bok-bok. He walked around like he was a dodo again.
He didn’t care that he looked like a chicken; he knew what he was inside. And, what’s more, he wasn’t shy about talking about it.
I’m a dodo! he screamed at everyone. You understand?
Of course, people laughed, just like they had before. But this time, the dodo didn’t care.
I’m a dodo! I’m a dodo! he screamed.
And he pecked at people’s knees when they ignored him.
In no time at all, the news got around.
There’s a crazy chicken out there attacking people! people said.
So they got up a committee — well, a posse, really.
We’ll go teach that chicken a lesson! they said.
The dodo saw them coming from a mile away, but he didn’t run; he didn’t hide.
I’m a dodo! he yelled. I’m not a chicken!
Oh yeah? the posse said, and drew their knives.
The dodo looked at them. And then finally, he smiled.
All right, he said, and went forth to fight.
And the posse came at him, but the dodo didn’t take flight.
And his true feathers shone brightly in the light.
A long time ago, the dodo — a species of flightless bird — lived on the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar. It was endemic to the area and had lived for thousands of years virtually undisturbed among other birds on the island. It lived on the ground and ate fruits that fell from the trees. Because it didn’t have the need the fly, in its evolution, the dodo lost its ability to take flight and the size of its wings was greatly reduced. In the 16th century, after having lived peacefully without any mammals around, a group of settlers set foot on the island. It took 100 years following the arrival of humans to Mauritius to deplete the entire species of the flightless bird. The last dodo bird was killed in the mid-17th century.
Ben Loory’s newest collection, Tales of Falling and Flying (Penguin, 2017), was called “mesmerizing and magical” by NPR and named a Favorite Book of 2017 by the staff of The Paris Review. He will be a guest speaker and workshop instructor at the upcoming Writers’ Series on May 5 in Jakarta. Find out more at writerseries.org.
We are looking for contemporary fiction between 1,500 and 2,000 words by established and new authors. Stories must be original and previously unpublished in English. The email for submitting stories is: [email protected]
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