‘You have to be rare to be invited. Or preferably extinct. And naturally you need to be well-preserved…’ Maude was explaining this business of a party in Paris. ‘It’s all very glamorous. It’s chic, in fact. And it’s a wonderful place to be at Christmas. Oh yes, in the Natural History Museum in the Jardin des Plantes on the Left Bank. Away from the main parade of animals there’s a special hall kept dimly lit, so as not to fade the colours of the extremely rare creatures. And here there are amazing specimens… very few of whom still walk the earth…’
Deidre was listening to all of this, agog.
‘And it was this collection of extinct animals who started issuing annual invitations to all the rare beasts in all the museums and collections, worldwide, to gather in Paris during the festive season…’
‘It sounds magical,’ said the Dodo.
‘Oh, it is. To see these creatures, squeezed out of existence by calamity or brutality, all bounding their way happily to Paris by any means they can find… it’s quite something. And for that night all animals are equal and best of friends. Even the Tasmanian Tiger is less snappy than usual…’
‘Best of friends like we are, Maude,’ said Deidre rather dreamily. ‘Because in real life, had we ever met, I’m sure you’d have made short work and an easy feast of me.’
Maude stared solemnly with her gold glass eyes at Deidre’s plump breast and belly and chunky thighs. She could almost imagine she was starting to salivate. If she’d been the Maude of old, trapped alone in her tiny cell at Belle Vue Zoo where she was never quite fed enough, she’d have gobbled up Deidre in two deft bites. ‘I’m sorry,’ she purred. ‘But I’m sure you were very delicious.’
Deidre shrugged her stunted wings. ‘I don’t have any memory of being alive or what I was like. But if I close my eyes very tight I can picture all my flock scrambling through the undergrowth, screaming and panting like mad. I can hear the guns going off and I can smell… roasting…’ She shuddered. ‘All of which is quite bizarre because hardly any of this body you see before you is actually the real deal. My feet once belonged to some old turkey. I’m mostly made of sawdust and wood. My feathers are goose and swansdown. My face is papier-mache and yet… and yet… My beak is real. This daft old honking thing.’ She could feel a tear forming in her false eye. ‘I know I am a true Dodo in my soul.’