Billy was chanting. He had some coconut in his hands and was breaking little flakes of it off in his fingers and sprinkling the flakes over the terracotta tube. He also sprinkled water from a dish onto the floor. I couldn't follow what he was intoning - presumably it was in the Yoruba language. Kiki put his hand in the raffia bag and pulled out a grey bird, it looked more like a pigeon than a dove. He held the bird tightly in his palm, so tightly that it was unable to move a leg or wing. The bag continued to twitch - perhaps it held more than one "dove". It reminded me of those novelty laughing bags that you used to be able to buy from joke shops. Kiki gave the pigeon to Billy. Billy in turn held the bird up to Kiki's forehead, just brushing its wingtip against his skin. He also brushed it against Kiki's throat, Kiki turned round and Billy touched the pigeon's wings against Kiki's back. Kiki faced him again and Billy pressed the bird against his palms, knees and ankles. He continued to chant. I recognised the name of Eleggua. At one point, Billy double-checked my name. "It's ****** ?"
Kiki called his wife. The attractive woman I'd seen once from Kiki's chapel, through the veil of privacy-preserving fronds and prodded a girl of seven or eight into the room. I was introduced to the babaloa's wife and to Cynthia, his youngest daughter. They were both brushed by the pigeon. It attempted to flex its wings but remained pinioned by Billy. Cynthia recoiled as the bird beat against her bare shoulders. Finally it was my turn. Billy pressed the pigeon into my palm and I inhaled the close odour of pet shops. I noticed as he continued to dab me with it that its feathers were soiled. I turned my back on him the wrong way, turning anti-clockwise, and had to come back on myself and start again.
Literally Lost 26: The excerpt came from Sara Wheeler's book, Terra Incognita. The action was set in New Zealand. The winner was Fiona Hall of Enfield.Reuse content