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I woke up early, which shouldn’t have been unexpected. My body knew that I needed to get up and go to work, to be on the opening shift. These days were short-lived, even though the work wouldn’t stop. The wind in my hair got me through while I rode down the hill. I thought back to the person I was twelve months ago, completing my final exams. When I arrived in the staffroom, Patrick waved, while eating his breakfast.


I stashed my backpack, including my laptop. Patrick finished his mouthful.

“What’s on your agenda for today?” he wanted to know.


“Well, I’m working.”

“Do you have any of those meetings today?”

“Yeah, I’ve got the Australian mammals TAG meeting, if I can spare the time for it.”

“Oh, that’s what they’re called,” Patrick responded. “Is that what all the groups are called?”


“Well, there are committees and there are TAGs, and there are SAGs.” Patrick laughed. “What?”

“It’s just funny.”

“Really, it’s not that funny.”

“No, it really, really is.”


“Alright,” I conceded the argument. “Let’s get to work.”

Patrick trailed me out of the staffroom and we worked on the checkouts for a couple of hours, then we took our break at the same time. He fetched his drink bottle out of the fridge, sculling the chilled water, some of it spilling onto the corners of his mouth.


“Have you got the SAG meeting now?”

“Yeah, the TAG meeting.”

His broad grin indicated his mistake had been intentional.

“I’ll leave you to it.”


Patrick exited the staffroom and I put my headphones on to join in fully with the meeting.

“I heard that you’ve secured your licence,” Cathy mentioned. “Congratulations, Jumilah.”

I grinned.

“Thank you, we’re really pleased about it,” I affirmed.


“We’ve identified the four female Tasmanian Devils. I believe we’ve spoken about that before.”

“Yes, yes, we have,” I confirmed. “Four females, sisters from the same litter, from Healesville Sanctuary. I remember them from my time there – Nipaluna, November, Nayri and Niara.”

We moved onto the member reports. Usually I would have been surprised by Dawson’s presence in this meeting, his American accent a little jarring. However, the theme park at Coomera did house native animals. We were keen to hear about the newest Lumholtz’ tree kangaroo. Unfortunately, the update wasn’t the joyous one which we would have been anticipating.


“It didn’t work out.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Death was a part of zoo life, although that didn’t mean it wasn’t difficult to learn that a young animal had passed away. The TAG meeting came to an end, so I closed the lid of my laptop and packed it away, along with my headphones. I returned to work and relieved Stevie on the checkout, so that she could take her lunch break. Patrick was working on the next lane over, so we would be able to sneak in the occasional conversation, when neither of us were serving customers at the time. After about fifteen minutes, the moment came.

“I wanted to let you know that we’re planning on opening the zoo on Boxing Day,” I told Patrick.

“The anniversary of your grandfather’s death?”

It touched me that he remembered.


“Yeah, it is.”

My heart felt heavy. Yet, I didn’t have time to ponder, because another customer arrived with a full trolley. I scanned groceries and spoke politely to the middle-aged woman. She looked like she might have had teenage children, which was confirmed over the course of our chat. Customers tended to divulge these sorts of personal details all the time. Finally, I reached the end of my shift, bidding farewell to work and fetching my bike. I departed, legs pedalling hard to over-compensate. My work would only get harder once we did open the zoo on Boxing Day, as long as everything went to plan. I returned home from work, stashing my bike underneath the house. When I headed inside, the house was empty, which didn’t necessarily surprise me. Mum and Dad would have still been at work, so I breathed out and tried to find myself a job. Even though I felt tired, something stopped me from resting. I cleaned the bathroom, then Mum and Dad returned home.


“Oh, thank you, Jumilah.”

“It’s alright, it’s no problem.”

It was easy to become overwhelmed by change. Instead, I decided to clean, but once that work had expired, there were administration tasks to distract myself with. While Dad vacuumed, I checked through my emails. Someone had offered that I could speak on their podcast about starting the zoo. It seemed like a great opportunity. While many people hated public speaking, I concluded that it wouldn’t be that bad. I organised a time that we would meet up to record the episode.


“Next thing we’ll need is a map.”

I sat down at the computer while Mum cooked dinner, mocking something up. All I needed to do was look out the window if I needed inspiration. I was starting to get used to the presence of the buildings of the landscape. After a little while, I had a design which I was happy with.

“How about this?”

I tilted the laptop so that Mum could better view the screen.

“I love it.”


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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