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Awe

“Oh, I wish that I would be able to stay home.” I kissed Mum on the cheek. “I’ll see you tonight.”


I started to walk away. Farewelling Mum with a wave, I left the house on my bike. I rode down the hill to work. Chaining up my bike, I entered the store and encountered Patrick in the staffroom, where I greeted him with a smile.


“Hey, Jumilah.” He swished the water in his bottle. “How are you?”


The fluoro lights overhead were dazzling.


“Yeah, good.” I yawned. “I’m a bit tired.”


Patrick nodded with sympathy.


“Some of us have been thinking of going on a camping trip.”


“Oh, yeah,” I replied, trying to keep the conversation as subtle as possible while I was still scanning a customer’s groceries. “Where were you thinking that you might go?”


“Up to Cradle Mountain.”


“That would be lovely.”


We got to work, the day as busy as the middle of the week usually would be, during the day. When I ducked out to have my break, there were sparkies in Aisle 2. There seemed to be an awful lot of them required to stare at something, that something being a fluoro tube which was out. Truthfully, it wasn’t my problem. I sat down to join the carnivore TAG meeting, stomach grumbling. Whilst I thought I could hear a frog croak, it could have been anywhere within the structure of the building. Maybe I was even imagining the noise, some sort of divine hallucination. I tuned back into the screen. Following the acknowledgement of country, Reuben was handed the floor.


“I thought I’d allow us a little throwback, from twenty-five years ago.”


That was before I was even born, not that I wanted to mentioned it and ruin the others’ nostalgia. Reuben started sharing his screen. The image showed a cheetah behind wire.


“Twenty-five years ago, Melbourne was hit by severe storms and flooding. Several of our structures were damaged and the zoo was forced to close for a day during the cleanup. Fortunately, no animals were injured.”


Reuben flicked through a few more of the photos.


“Thank you, Reuben. Let’s move onto the member reports. We don’t have too much to cover today.”


I startled as the staffroom door opened, so I made sure that I was on mute, as another staff member ducked in behind me.


“Auckland Zoo?”


“We’ve received an update from America. Our Sumatran Tiger pair are still on track to arrive before Christmas.”


“Hamilton Zoo?”


“Just give me a second, please.”


She pulled back her hair into a ponytail. I noticed what looked like a tattoo on Tessa’s wrist, but couldn’t quite make it what it was.


“Sorry. I’ve got some sad news, I’m afraid. Mencari’s taken a turn for the worse.”


Nobody wanted to say anything straight away.


“So, what are we talking about--?”


Tessa solemnly nodded her head. I’d encountered the end of the road myself from time to time. Even if it was wise, it didn’t make it easy.


“Can I ask, how’s John going?”


Tessa sat forward in her chair.


“Better, much better,” she confirmed. “We’re hopeful he’ll be back to work soon. At least that’s a bit of positive news for today, although it’s still a long road. Adjusting takes a lot of therapy, for sure.”


I presumed she meant physically and mentally.


“Monarto Safari Park?”


“You’ve been introducing cheetahs as per your breeding recommendation, if I’m not mistaken,” Des mentioned. “How’s that going?”


Blessing nodded.


“Yes, you’re correct, we have already attempted introductions. So far, there hasn’t been a good rapport between the female and any of the genetically appropriate males, unfortunately. We’ll keep trying.”


“Taronga Zoo?”


Sam announced meerkat twins.


“We haven’t made any public announcement yet. We’ll wait until they’re both on display.”


My stomach ached. I would have loved to be able to talk to Joel. He would have had something witty to say, inevitably, and I would have laughed. Stepping out the back, I breathed in the sunset. The fresh air was more than welcome after staring at my laptop for an hour. I wanted to capture the moment, although a photo never could have done it justice. The colours bled as they really were. They joined a long line of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. Eventually I walked back inside. I had the house to myself this evening, as Mum and Dad had gone out for dinner in town with some people from Dad’s work. Therefore, I decided to have cereal for dinner and put the TV on, because I was pretty exhausted from the day at work. Once the news finished, Isobel called, and I lay on the lounge to speak with her.


“Have you had rain?” she asked.


My chest felt tight at Isobel’s casual tone.


“Yeah, we have,” I confirmed, determined to keep the conversation going. “How are the clouded leopards going?”


“We have witnessed mating between them,” Isobel divulged. “Now we’ve just got to wait and see if she’s pregnant.”


“That’s exciting,” I praised, starting to feel a little more at ease.


We eventually finished on the phone. Mum and Dad still weren’t home by the time that I started yawning and wanted to go to bed. I considered texting them just to make sure that they were alright, although I knew that once the wine started flowing it might not be an early night. As I got into bed and could hear the rain, I decided that it would put my mind more at ease, than just trying to sleep. I must have gone to sleep, though, because I was woken up by Mum and Dad coming home. They walked through into my bedroom.


“Kamu kuat,” Mum murmured, then kissed my hair and bid me goodnight.


I beamed.


 

Jumilah Fioray is a recent high school graduate from lutruwita, Tasmania. Her parents, Catherine and Adriano Fioray, met at the University of Melbourne in the 1990s and returned to Hobart after finishing their degrees, where they raised their daughter and worked in agriculture. Jumilah's passion for conservation reflects her grandparents' work running a sanctuary in Sumatra.


Abbey Sim is the founder of Huldah Media. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Abbey has long had a passion for the weird and the wonderful of stories, sport and zoo animals. 'From the Wild' is her first anthology.


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