I took Mawar the gibbon to the vet.
“Good morning, Jumilah, how are you?” Doctor Thomas greeted me outside the clinic at Dodges Ferry.
“Well, thank you.”
“Good.” He nodded his head. “And this is our patient?”
“Yes,” I confirmed. “This is Mawar, the white-handed gibbon.”
“And she’s a breeding animal?”
“Yeah, she’s in a bonded pair with our male, Laki, and there’s been mating observed, so I suppose it’s your job, it’s your job to tell me whether or not she’s pregnant.”
Doctor Thomas connected Mawar to the anaesthetic gas, meaning that we no longer needed to worry about the sedative wearing off. My eyes traced over the surfaces. The clinic at Dodges Ferry may not have been as accustomed to exotic animals as that at Melbourne Zoo, but I trusted Thomas. I didn’t have to, but wanted to be, helpful.
“If she is pregnant, would you prefer a boy or a girl?”
“Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.”
I thought that I could hear a chatter of birds, possibly other patients.
“What is your role at the zoo, officially?”
“Look, I’ve been going with ‘co-director’, I reckon that sounds pretty good, what do you think?” I proposed with a smile. “It’s sort of a three-way thing with my parents.”
“Look, you’ll get no arguments from me, Jumilah.”
All of a sudden, the monitor flatlined.
“She’s out. We’ll need to start compressions.”
“Jumilah, Jumilah, the lead’s just loose.” Thomas picked it up and reattached it. “I’m sorry, I put it on loosely because I didn’t want it to accidentally waxing her.”
Thankfully, a normal heartbeat resumed.
“Take a moment, Jumilah, Get your breath back. I’ll be fine here.”
I nodded, still shaky. Tallulah burst into the room. She escorted me outside, in a manner which didn’t humiliate me any further. Sensations like electricity zapped through my body. Tallulah didn’t ask me to explain, which I was thankful for. She sat me down and produced a sandwich, sliced into two halves. I grounded myself by running through the procedures which Doctor Thomas would carry out. The thought still made my stomach quiver, even though she was in good hands. Tallulah and I had lunch at one of the picnic tables, under the shade of a frangipani tree.
“When we thought we couldn’t find her heartbeat--.”
I didn’t have much of an appetite. Tallulah took my hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“Make sure you breathe through it. That’s what you would tell me.”
I nodded, with a nervous laugh.
“Yes, that is what I would say,” I agreed, “or saya mau susu.”
Tallulah furrowed her brow.
“Sorry, I don’t follow,” she admitted.
“I was saying I’d like a drink.”
I finally started taking bites of the sandwich.
“You know, susu was one of my first words. I loved my milk.”
“Well, you still do.”
“If you get me in the right mood,” I quipped.
I surveyed the surroundings around the Dodges Ferry vet clinic, knowing I ought to get back inside. In the meantime, my best friend and something in my belly brought me a little bit of comfort.
“I’ve decided to start saying that I don’t see myself getting married. I know that it might make Mum’s head spin--.”
“Mine, honestly, would applaud me.”
“Well, she never did get married herself, so that makes sense.”
“Do you think what’s happened has affected you?”
“What happened with you?”
“No, well, yeah, that too. I meant with you, and with your trauma.”
One of the vet nurses slipped out.
“Doctor Thomas has taken the bloods, and he wanted you to come back inside.”
I nodded my head and abandoned the rest of the sandwich. Tallulah and I followed the nurse inside. The sterile smell made me well up with tears, but I’d intended enough funerals in recent years to learn to hold it in. We turned the corner into the examination room, where Mawar remained on the table, long arms above her body.
“Is everything alright?”
“The bloodwork will come back in a few days. Until then, there’s something that I’d like you to see.”
As soon as he applied the doppler to Mawar’s stomach, my gut tightened. A fast heartbeat throbbed, unmistakably belonging to a foetus. Tallulah rubbed circles in my back. I wiped my nose.
“Alright, so what do we do now?”
Doctor Thomas wiped the gel from her gel.
“Oh, there’s nothing less for me to do. You can take them both home.”
“Right.” I smiled. “Thank you.”
I couldn’t wait to tell Nanek. Doctor Thomas took Mawar off the gas, then re-created her, as she started to become lucid again following her anaesthetic.
“See you another time,” I farewelled.
I drove back to the zoo with Mawar in tow, carefully but keeping up to the speed limit.
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.