Excerpt from ‘The Green Zone Rabbit’ in The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim (Comma Press, 2013)
Before the egg appeared, I would read a book about law or religion every night before going to sleep. Like my rabbit, I would be most active in the hours around dawn and sunset. Salsal, on the other hand, would stay up late at night and wake
up at midday. And before he even got out of bed he would open his laptop and log on to Facebook to check the latest comments on the previous night’s discussion, then eventually go and have a bath. After that he would go into the kitchen, turn on the radio and listen to the news while he fried an egg and made some coffee. He would carry his breakfast into the garden and sit at the table under the umbrella, eating and drinking and smoking as he watched me.
‘Good morning, Hajjar. What news of the flowers?’
‘It’s been a hot year, so they won’t grow strong,’ I told him, as I pruned the rose bushes.
Salsal lit another cigarette and gave my rabbit an ironic smile. I never understood why he was annoyed by the rabbit. The old woman Umm Dala had brought it. She said she found it in the park. We decided to keep it while Umm Dala looked for its owner. The rabbit had been with us for a month and I had already spent two months with Salsal in this fancy villa in the north of the Green Zone. The villa was detached, surrounded by a high wall and with a gate fitted with a sophisticated electronic security system. We didn’t know when zero hour would come. Salsal was a professional, whereas they called me duckling because this was my first operation.
Mr Salman would visit us once a week to check how we were and reassure us about things. Mr Salman would bring some bottles of booze and some hashish. He would always tell us a silly joke about politics and remind us how secret and important the operation was. This Salman was in league with Salsal and didn’t reveal many secrets to me. Both of them made much of my weakness and lack of experience. I didn’t pay them much attention. I was sunk in the bitterness of my life, and I wanted the world to be destroyed in one fell swoop.