Beginnings

As soon as I woke up, it played on my mind that today would be the day that the animals were to fly to Perth. I had a shower then got dressed, and moved out into the kitchen where Mum was making breakfast.


“Adam told me that everything is going well, so far. I’ll text if I hear anything more.”


I packed myself lunch, then kissed her on the cheek.


“Thank you.”


I raced out the door. As I rode to work, my mind was cluttered, even though I knew that I needed to concentrate, to avoid getting caught up in traffic. When I arrived at work, I wheeled my bike around to the rack, where I usually chain it up. The familiar bike rack, however, was nowhere to be seen. I turned around, to notice Frank with his hands in his pockets.


“Hi, Frank,” I greeted him. “Do you know where the bike rack is?”


“We moved it. It’s not good to be riding through the loading dock.”


“Alright. Where is it now?”


“It’s out the front of the centre.”


“Right, thanks.”


Feeling sheepish, I wheeled my bike around. Sure enough, I found the new bike rack and chained up my bike there. As the store wouldn’t have been open yet, I then needed to walk back to the staff entrance. I passed through the staffroom and got on with my day. This is the day that the animals are leaving the Cocos Keeling Islands. I went to my assigned checkout and got to work. My body felt heavy, but I offered a cheery smile to customers one by one.


“Can I ask you,” one of them requested, “are we able to put these up?”


She thrust forth a flier, the heading in WordArt reading ‘Oppose the Salamanca Monorail’.


“Well, we do have a community noticeboard.”


I gestured in its general direction, and thankfully that seemed to satisfy her. The customer paid for her groceries, then waddled off to the community noticeboard, to put up her flier alongside the call for auditions for community theatre. When it came to twelve o’clock, I was able to take a fifteen-minute lunch break, and Caleb took over my checkout. I thanked him, then departed through the store. I sat down at the staffroom table to have lunch. Lucy was opposite me, scooping noodles out of a glass container and eating them.


“It is quieter without the students around.”


“Yeah, it is,” I agreed, although I was distracted.


“Listen, I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”


“Sure.”


“How did Kevin find out that Sloane was pregnant anyway?”


“I don’t know. I’m not really that close with Sloane.”


“She came on the band trip.”


“We both went on the band trip too.”


“Who invited you, Patrick?”


“Yeah.”


My mouth felt dry.


“Who invited you?”


“Caleb and Maryam both did.”


“And who invited Maryam?”


“Ricky did.”


“Lucky Maryam.”


Lucy cocked an eyebrow.


“So Patrick invited you--.”


“Yes,” I echoed, tired of this conversation.


“Listen, I’m sorry, Jumilah, but I noticed your hand across his back when you were looking at those little monkeys with the hairdos--.”


“Cotton-top tamarins?”


My phone beeped. I checked it, noticing a message from Tallulah telling me that she was thinking of me with the animal move.


“Sorry, it’s Tallulah.”


I opened the message. The three dots were bubbling.


“She lost her job.”


“That’s rough. Do you think that she’d want to come and work here?”


The new message popped up and I grinned.


“No.”


“You don’t want her to come and work here?”


“No, no, she just got another job.” I leaned over the table as I selected the right GIF to send back in congratulations.


gif

“She’s just got a job at the café at Bellerive Oval.”


“That’s great.”


My phone beeped again, but this time it wasn’t Tallulah, but Mum. She confirmed that the plane has taken off with all of the animals onboard.


“My grandmother’s animals are flying to Perth today.”


“I presume they’re not flying the plane themselves?”


“No, they’re not,” I answered with a laugh. “They’re flying on a cargo plane, and then some of them are being moved on across Australia.”


“And some of those are the macaques which will end up in Launceston where we went?”


“Yep.”


After finishing my lunch, I ran my tongue across my teeth to clean them off.


“Awesome.”


I checked my watch and figured that I would have enough time to make myself a coffee. We have a home-brand coffee machine in the staffroom, which I think Dad would consider sub-optimal. I made the coffee and sipped at it, as Lucy bid farewell as the end of her lunch break arrived. It wasn’t long before it was my turn to return to the checkout. I ultimately got carried away serving customers, that it wasn’t until Ricky arrived to replace me that I realised my shift was over.


“Thank you,” I said to him as we swapped over.


“No problem. See you tomorrow.”


When I was leaving work, I needed to walk through the mall, to get to the new bike rack. The Rotary Club was running a raffle in the middle of the centre, so I kept my head down and motored towards the exit. Once I passed through the automatic doors, I reached for my phone. The plan had been to call Mum, to check if she needed anything before I headed home. Yet, I didn’t, as Frank was in front of me.


“What do you think of the bike rack?”


“Well, to be perfectly honest, it’s not as convenient as the old one.”


“I hear that, but it’s dangerous to have bikes riding through the loading dock.”


“That’s fair enough, I understand.”


Once Frank finally left, I could have called Mum. It slipped my mind, though, so I just unchained my bike and rode home. At least at home I could stash my bike under the house, where I always do. When I walked inside the house, I knew that Mum was already home. I greeted her with a smile, then sat down on the lounge so that I could appreciate the cool spinning of the pedestal fan. Mum poured me a cold glass of water, placing it on a coaster.


“Thanks.” I didn’t look up from my phone, checking the work group chat.


“Are you alright?”


“Yeah,” I confirmed. “I will be.”


I sent a message to Patrick, telling him that I hoped he’d had a good first day back at school. Then I felt guilty that I hadn’t messaged Sloane, too, so I copied and pasted the message, changed the name, and sent it to her too.


“Well, I have an update. They found something in Georgia’s medical check. She’s pregnant.”


“How pregnant?”


“I don’t know, but pregnant enough that they could feel the baby moving.”


“That’s wonderful news.”


“Well, I might go and make some dinner. Are you happy with enchiladas?”


“That would be lovely, thank you. Do you mind if I go and have a shower?”


“That’s fine, I’m all good.”


I went off to have a shower, to wash off the day. When I returned, Mum was cooking.


“I knew this would happen, the call came through when you were in the shower, from a woman called Charlotte at Perth Zoo.”


I’d never spoken to her before, but I recognised the name from Reuben’s list of young zookeepers.


“And?”


“The plane’s landed, all the animals have been moved to Perth Zoo and into their quarantine facilities.”


Mum served up dinner.


“Mission accomplished.”


I could hear the wind howling outside while we were eating. Dad reached for the television remote to turn up the volume on the evening news.


“Some precious cargo arrived at Perth Airport today,” the newsreader announced. “A planeload of primates touched down from the Cocos Keeling Islands.”


The pictures switched to footage of the plane on the tarmac, with crates being offloaded.


“Having been rescued from poachers in Sumatra, this collection of gibbons and nocturnal animals will start new lives at zoos across Australia.”


My eyes welled with tears as I caught a glimpse of one of the siamangs, likely Medan.


After the news item finished, my phone rang, so I rushed into my bedroom to answer it from where I’d left it on my bed.


“I believe that congratulations are in order,” I told Tallulah, leaning back against the pillow.


“Yeah, I’m pretty relieved. I start next Tuesday.”


The phone call cut off all of a sudden. With a sigh, I walked back out to the loungeroom.


“The power’s out,” Mum confirmed.


Dad went outside and, when he returned, concluded that it must have been due to the high winds, and decided that we ought to just go to bed. So that was what we did. I said a prayer of thanks for Georgia’s pregnancy, unexpected but delightful news. A siamang pregnancy lasts for just under eight months, so it won’t be that long until she is due to give birth. Tomorrow Bruce is visiting from the council, and hopefully the power will come back on before then.


 

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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