Birds of a Kinder Climate

by Bronagh Curran. Shortlistee of the Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults competition 2021

I call myself Mee because no one has ever bothered to give me a real name. I had other things that babies don’t usually have, a class A drug addiction, HIV positive blood, an all-round pretty shit looking future; but not a name; not one that stuck anyway. They tried later on, the do gooders and the deluded, to make me normal, one of them, a functioning member of society; but it doesn’t matter how many times you call a wolf a dog, it’s still a wolf and no one wants their kids to play with it. I’ve been a Dolores, a DeeDee, a Dollie and a plan old case number 3349 of the New York Children’s Services. But whether anyone saw it or not, I’ve always just been Mee, alone on the inside and the out, it’s just now that I’m 16 it’s finally become official.

‘Move your god damn feet.’

The screech of a boozed up bag lady shakes me from my daze in the NYC Metropolitan Emergency Room. I mutter something under my breath to assert my position but take my feet off the seat in front of me anyway. The smell of the extra strength disinfectant stings at my nostril as I adjust to being awake again. Thanks to her that’s probably my lot for the night. I don’t like it much when too many of us try to sleep here, the nurses turn a blind eye if it’s just one or two.

‘You want some.’

The craggy old face attempts a toothless smile and shoves out a fist clenching a brown papered bottle. I shake my head and curl away from her into the far reaches of my plastic chair.

‘Little miss high and mighty bitch.’

She hisses through her gums before wrapping them around the neck of the bottle.
‘Who do you think you are, you’re just like the rest of us girl, you’re here ain’t ya? You’re just the same as me.’