Potatoes Cause Brain Tumours (and Other Things His Mother Told Him)

The father, his wife and two children are standing in the basement when the bird flies in. It must have come in through the chimney. It circles and circles over their heads, desperately trying to find something familiar and get away from the faux wood panelling and green shag carpet. The bird’s circles get closer and closer to the ceiling, its black feathers glistening as if wet. The wife screams, covers her head and runs to the safety of upstairs. The two small daughters stand quietly, their fly-catching mouths open. They are too afraid to move. Don’t worry, their huge liquid brown eyes seem to say. Daddy will fix it. They are still at the age when children think their parents are part magic and believe everything they say.

The father’s eyes are fixated on the black bird. His thoughts are thousands of miles away. He’s thinking of something his mother told him long ago growing up in Murid Wallah, a tiny village in Pakistan. He thinks of the village and the mother he hasn’t seen for twenty years. Her words echo in his head: when a bird comes into your house it’s a sign of bad luck, a winged messenger sent to share bad news.

Published in TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 2. Purchase the book to read the full piece.