Escalation

As soon as I placed down the ‘closed’ sign on my checkout just after four o’clock this afternoon, I jolt of adrenaline rushed through me. I must have simultaneously shivered or something, because Patrick – from the checkout behind me – noticed immediately.


“Are you heading off now?”


“Yeah.”


I collected up the paperwork I needed to complete before twirling around to face Patrick, who seemed to be finishing his own shift from the next checkout.


“Take care of yourself, Jumilah,” he urged, leaning over the clipboard.


“Thank you,” I replied. “I’ll do my best.”


Customers started moving on to other checkouts, where they would be able to be served. I knew that I was being replaced, probably by Sloane or Wayne.


“I mean it,” Patrick insisted. “If you ever need me to take a shift for you--.”


I scoffed, and he tried not to look hurt.


“Thank you,” I assured him, “but mostly we’re working at the same time anyway, so it’ll be fine.”


I appreciate Patrick’s kindness, but there’s not much that he can actually do to help.


“Do you think that you’re going to go back over there?”


I stretched my neck from side to side, because that’s the million-dollar question.


“Quite possibly. Just depends on what we sort out. Mum really wants to go, she ought to, but if she does then it’s probably best that I stay here and work more, earn the money back for the flights, especially because I came home early.”


Patrick sighed.


“I’m sorry. I wish that I could do more.”


“It’s OK, Patrick, it really is,” I tried to reassure him. “There’s not much more we can do. We just have to wait.”


Finally, Sloane arrived, breathless.


“Sorry,” she huffed. “I cycled here and I didn’t go quick enough.”


We swapped spots, so that she could remove her bag. Sloane stashed it underneath the counter, then flipped around the sign so that she could reopen the checkout.


“All good,” I assured. “Have a good shift.”


“Thanks,” Sloane replied.


By then she’d caught her breath. Patrick and I walked back through the store, to collect our belongings from the staffroom, clock off, and head home for the afternoon. My body felt sore and I was ready for rest, although I needed to ride home first.


“Have you got anything on tonight?” Patrick enquired, as we passed through the door into the staffroom.


“No, I don’t think so,” I replied. “You?”


“Some of my mates were thinking of going into town. Maybe hit up some bars in Salamanca.”


“How classy.”


“You in?”


I considered it, but ultimately shook my head.


“No,” I declined, “but thanks. I’m quite tired. I’ll come next time, I promise.”


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“Hello, Jumilah,” Mum called out when I walked through the door.


I wandered through the kitchen and into the loungeroom, where she was sitting at the computer.


“How was your day?” she wanted to know.


“Yeah, fine and normal, thanks,” I answered, then put down the letters I’d collected from the mail.


Mum gazed at them, but seemed dazed.


“What’s the matter?”


“I’ve been on the phone to Nanek. We’ve decided that we need to evacuate the animals.”


While I was at work, the situation must have escalated beyond what I would have expected in a single day. Mum and I found ourselves making plans, even though we didn’t know what would be achievable.


“We would need to organise a plane, I don’t think that we’d be able to take them on a regular flight, even if they travelled in the cargo.” Mum ran her fingers through her hair, the outcomes still uncertain and no doubt swirling through her mind. “That’s a question for Reuben.”


She reached to the phone to call him.


“I should wait, shouldn’t I? Until we’ve figured out all the questions.”


“Send him a text and see if he’s free, and we’ll go from there.”


Mum nodded, and we decided to go just that. I went to fetch her phone from her room. On the way back I grabbed my own phone, noticing a message there from Tallulah.


“Thanks, Jumilah,” Mum said, once I’d returned to the loungeroom and handed her phone over.


She sent the text through to Reuben.


“What else do we need?” Mum asked.


Her eyes remained fixed on the screen of her phone. The read receipt came up, then the three dots to indicate he was typing.


Yes. Call me if you’d like.


Mum made the call.

“Hi, Reuben.”


She placed the call on speaker, so she could keep planning.


“We’re planning to evacuate the animals from the sanctuary, and we’re looking into how you would organise a plane.”


Reuben tried to stifle his laugh. I couldn’t help but worry that we’d erred. So far I didn’t know what Mum had planned, while Dad cooked dinner so that we would be sustained for the evening ahead.


“I would normally say that you’re in way, way over your head--.”


“For goodness’ sake, Reuben--.”


“But this time, I have been making some calls.”


I appreciated Reuben’s support more than he’d realise. Evacuating the animals is less than ideal, but will hopefully allow Nanek to be safe.


“The zoos are able to book the quarantine station. If you’re able to get the animals there, we can try to rehome them.”


Dad passed a bowl of spaghetti into my hands.


“Thanks,” I murmured, dazed.


“And to do that, you could transport the animals via plane or via cargo ship. I can email you through a list of companies we’ve used.”


My head spun at the thought of the cost.


“Thank you,” Mum said, to Reuben and to Dad, for her dinner and his assistance.


“We’ll do our best,” Reuben promised, and that’s all that any of us could do.


Another call came through. At Dad’s urging, I tried to eat. Mum brushed Reuben off, so that she could talk to Nanek.


“We have access to the quarantine station.”


“I know,” Mum confirmed. “How did you know?”


“Reuben phoned me, your friend. He’s a lovely man, Catherine, very kind and helpful to me.”


I swirled spaghetti around my fork. Despite Dad’s Italian heritage, I’ve never been very good at this, the twirling endless. Mum and Nanek continued talking about the plans which had rapidly come together. I took a seat at the kitchen table, feeling nauseous but more ready than ever, because I needed to be. We have relatives who live close to the airport, who have a property where animals can be kept temporarily. Nanek has promised to move them there at the outset. Mum sounded relieved, that it meant that they would be safe from harm, and hopefully Nanek too. It’s also convenient, for a plane. A flight is more expensive than a cargo ship, in order to get to the quarantine station. At the same time, the animals would have to be moved a second time, which could be risky. Once I finished my dinner, Dad took my plate.


“Thank you,” I murmured. “That was delicious.”


From there it was decided. I decided that I needed to get changed out of my work gear and have a shower. As I returned, Mum was concluding her conversation with Nanek.


“What’s happening?” I wanted to know, running a brush through my hair.


My heart thumped as I sat down on the lounge, while Mum spun around on her chair.


“The poachers came back, today. They killed some of the animals.”


I gasped softly, blood running cold. Nanek must have been fine, from the conversation I’d overhead. Still I couldn’t help but be worried, filled with anxiety and wondering about exactly what had occurred.


“That’s why Nanek changed her mind,” I murmured, “and that’s why the animals are going to be evacuated.”


“Yeah,” Mum agreed, sadly.


I knew that Nanek wouldn’t want to leave and I couldn’t blame her, because I couldn’t manage it. It had been hard enough when we’d lost our farm, to be able to keep the property.


“Is there a plan, other than getting the animals to the quarantine station?”


Transport seemed the obvious block. At the same time, if Nanek and Mohammed could set the animals away from the sanctuary, perhaps that would be an appropriate decoy. I hoped that it would be, at least, for their safety, and Nanek’s wellbeing.


“We’re all going to keep in touch with each other and keep making calls.”


“To organise a plane?” I checked.


“Yes,” Mum confirmed. “That seems like the best outcome, and we’ll work out how to afford it another day.”


The thought didn’t exactly make me feel any better, but I could only pray that it would work.


“What can I do to help you?” I offered.


Mum’s computer pinged.


“Well, you could start calling some of these companies. I’ll forward you the email.”


“Thanks,” I replied, reaching across to fetch my work bag, which contained my phone.


A smile came onto my lips.


“What?” Mum wanted to know.


“Nothing.”


I wouldn’t be able to get away with that answer.


“Patrick’s just sent me a photo.”


Mum’s eyes bulged, but she was relieved when I flashed it to her. It was a great shot, lights zipping around the bar, where people were dancing.


“He’d asked me to go along with his mates tonight, but I said no.”


I checked my emails for the one Mum had forwarded with the list of transport companies.


“There’s nothing going on there, is there?”


I could have played coy, but I knew that it wouldn’t have worked. This wasn’t something which we needed to be discussing with everything else going on, because nothing is going on. Nothing will be going on, I’m sure.


“No, there isn’t,” I promised.


Mum and I looked each other in the eye. Neither of us wanted to blink first.


“Patrick has been very kind to me, especially recently,” I assured. “He’s a good friend.”


Mum took that as a complete answer.


“I’ll start making these calls,” I promised, switching back the subject.


“Thank you. Let me know if you hear anything.”


“Of course.”


I walked into my bedroom for privacy. Ringing the first number I didn’t quite know what I was going to say. Still, all the information that I would need was included within the email. I made the call, leaning back against my bed. My neck ached, but the doona was soft and inviting, and I could have gone to sleep. The first number rung out. I called out through the house, to let Mum know the less-than-encouraging news.


“Are you ringing places too?” I asked Dad, when he lingered in the doorway to my bedroom.


“No, I’m booking flights.”


I presumed that they were for us, to head back over to Sumatra. Things couldn’t have been more different from when I’d been excitedly planning my trip, last year.


“Hello, I’m Jumilah Fioray,” I introduced, when I finally got onto the second company. “I was just wondering what your company does in terms of animal transport.”


I tried my best to concentrate to the options. With each question I answered diligently, placing the call on speaker so I could read the email. It would be ideal to move all the animals at once. I reported confidently that I was affiliated with Nanek’s sanctuary, but calling from Australia. Dad wandered back into the doorway of the room, mouthing something I couldn’t quite pick up.


“We have flights,” he whispered.


I smiled, because that meant that I could promise I could be over there.


“We’re planning on moving the animals to the property at Pantai Labu, 5A.”


There was an uncomfortable silence over the phone, but I hoped it would be a done deal.


“We can organise that from a logistical perspective. We’ll need evidence of permits in order to move the animals out of Indonesia.”


I wasn’t sure if that was something which had already been organised.


“Listen, I’ll put you onto my mother--.” I scampered through the house and handed over the phone.


Dad was there, to place an arm around my shoulders. I wanted to fill them in, but I figured that the woman on the other end of the phone would do the trick, and my mind was too scattered otherwise.


“Get some sleep, Jumilah,” Dad urged. “We’re flying early tomorrow morning, to Sydney and then Singapore and then onto Medan.”


I decided to follow his advice, leaving Mum to organise. Perhaps it would be Nanek, working in conjunction with Reuben and his contacts, who would be able to organise the right permits.

 

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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