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The chicken thief

The chicken thief

The chicken thief is a smart young man struggling to find his way in a southern African country wracked by political unrest and a crumbling economy.
Leonard, Fiona

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€ 22.50
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Title: The chicken thief
Author: Fiona Leonard
Genre: Novel
Publisher: The Penguin Group (South Africa)
Cape Town, South Africa 2014
ISBN 9780143538554 / ISBN 978-0-14-353855-4
Softcover, 15 x 23 cm, 223 pages


Alois smelled the intruders before he saw them, or rather, he smelled their anger first. He knew the smell of anger well. He had learnt to smell it coming, and to duck and run. The chickens knew too; they were restless, wings brushing against the wire that caged them in. They knew something was wrong, and yet it was not him they smelled. He had been here many times before. Even though tonight his bag was lighter than it should have been, Alois pulled himself back up into the branches and waited. On average, Alois stole five to ten chickens per night. Five was a good take, easily achieved: ten, and his spirits soared. He kept his operation tight, spacing each grab, with no more than two chickens per house. Any more than two and he figured he might as well be running bare-arsed down the road and through the front door of police headquarters.

No bird will stay quiet forever while its sisters disappear head first into a flour sack. Solidarity among chickens had been the death knell of many a careless thief. For all the town was overrun with thieves, he'd still had to learn the trade the hard way. He often wondered why there always seemed to be a manual for something you could easily work out how to do yourself, but with the important stuff, you were out there alone in the dark, trying to decide what the hell to do next, with someone taking potshots at your head. A lot of it was simple, like it pays to be fast. Any idiot could guess a thief needs to be fast, which was probably why the streets were full of snatch-and-grab thieves with speed but no smarts.

The trick was knowing when to stand still and when to walk, even though your heart wanted to explode in your chest. Then there were skills only a chicken thief needed to know - important lessons like never carry a full bag of birds over a fence. The weight slows you down, plump bodies slapping against your back as you climb. He'd discovered, too, that if you think too much you can feel a head here, a foot there, death lingering between your shoulder blades. Far better then to leave the bag behind in a tree so your arms and conscience can move freely. Besides, he found comfort in the sight of the waiting bag, hooked over a branch, swinging slowly with the passing of time. Placed right, it was only a quick grab on the way out: jump, snatch, run and you're gone.