In the early hours of the morning, I woke up to an almighty thud. I sat up suddenly, panting, then threw back the covers. My heart was thumping within my chest. I rushed through the house, following after Mum and Dad, who scurried out the back door. A trampoline was on its side on the grass. Dad went out to store it in what used to be the shearing shed, so that it couldn’t blow any further.
“It must have come from one of the other properties.”
We went back inside, with the hope of going back to bed. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to do the Wordle. We did seem to have power again, somehow. I tried WINDY as the first word.
Well, that worked fantastically. To use completely different letters, I tried AROSE.
Lucy had told me before that Wordle has American spellings, so I tried HONOR. I had been wondering if the two gold letters were the ending.
That got me closer. The only other word that I could think of was HUMOR.
I’m always satisfied when I get it in four. I copied my squares and posted them in the group chat. After I put my phone down, I must have finally nodded back off to sleep. Upon waking up this morning there was a smile on my lips and a sense of optimism in my heart. Nothing is certain, that I know. I got out of bed, smoothing my unruly hair with my fingers. I’ll have to wash it at some stage. I expected Mum and Dad to be around, but I didn’t find them until I made my way out the back.
“We have sheep.”
They bleated, as if they were answering him.
Dad looked at his watch.
“I’m just reminding myself of what year it was.”
It could have been ten years ago, because there was indeed a mob of sheep in our paddock.
“Fences must have come down with the wind, they’ve probably come in from next door.”
We went back inside, so that Dad could call Gavin, our neighbour. I made myself some toast. Mum headed outside to check the fences. I ate the toast, to calm myself down. Once breakfast was finished, I followed Dad back outside. Mum had gotten the trampoline back out of the shearing shed.
“I figured that it probably belongs to Julie and Gavin’s kids, considering the wind was coming from that direction.”
My eyes were bulging, I was so tempted to jump on it.
“I’m pretty sure that the fence is down, that’s how they came across.”
“He’s coming around.”
I could see a glint in Dad’s eye. It’s been hard since we gave away the farm. My body felt a little lighter as we strode up the hill. It wouldn’t be long before Gavin would be around, to muster up his mob and return them to his paddocks.
“Jumilah, I’ve been meaning to ask you, do you know what you’d like to do for your birthday?”
“I haven’t really thought about it, to be perfectly honest.”
“It would be nice to have some sort of celebration.”
“Yeah, it would be. I’ll have a think about what would be nice.”
I heard Gavin’s ute approaching. Originally I thought that it was coming along the road, before it appeared over the rise of the hill.
“Hi, Gavin,” Mum greeted him, when he parked and stormed out.
“He’s down near the house.”
Gavin stomped off to find Dad. Mum and I watched, not quite able to hear the full conversation. Gavin started waving his hands around, so Dad just nodded his head.
“We’re going to need to intervene, aren’t we?” Mum remarked.
I nodded, and the two of us made our way down the hill, as Gavin charged back up it.
“It’s good that the power’s back on.”
“What’ll happen when you have lions and tigers here? Are they going to eat my ewes?”
“Well, I certainly hope not, but what makes you think we’re planning lions and tigers?”
“Everyone knows that you’re planning on building a zoo here.”
“Word travels fast. We could help out, fix the fence.”
Gavin didn’t have an answer to that, other than to accept the offer. Once the sheep were safety mustered back onto his property, we went and collected some supplies, so that we could help out.
“This takes me back, to when I was little.”
We drove out to the fence.
“Do you miss having the farm?”
“Not really, it was very difficult. Don’t tell your father that though, and definitely don’t tell Gavin.”
I hadn’t been expecting Mum to say that. We completed the fence in silence, then drove home. When Mum and I arrived back at the house, Gavin was driving the trampoline away in his ute.
“It’s a shame. Would have been fun.”
We didn’t have long then, until Bruce would be arriving from the council. It was just enough time to go inside and each shower and get dressed. I stepped out the back to survey our land. When I came back in, everything was ready.
“Do you reckon that we should make them a coffee?”
“I reckon that we should wait for them to actually get here first.”
I felt my heart leap into my throat when the doorbell sounded. Exuding false calm, I padded towards the front door. Smiling, I opened it to view Bruce standing there, with another council employee.
“Hello, Bruce, good morning,” I greeted. “Come on in.”
I led him through the house to the back door, as Mum and Dad emerged from the loungeroom.
“Thanks for coming, Bruce.”
We still hadn’t learned the name of the second man. I opened the back door and held it ajar so that everyone could pass through. The sunlight seemed a little too bright, and I wished that I had taken some sunglasses with me.
“As you know, I’m Bruce McKay and this is Isaac Pedersen. Isaac, Catherine and Adriano Fioray are the land title owners, and Jumilah is their daughter.”
Nodding his head, Isaac offered a smile and a wave in greeting, then flicked through the pages of his ring-bound folder. We walked out into the paddocks. I really didn’t have that much to do.
“Take us for a walk through the property,” Bruce urged.
Dad nodded. I followed after my parents, Isaac’s gaze darting between the hills and his notes.
“Of course. We’ve got two-hundred-and-seventy-five hectares here.”
“That’s a very impressive property.”
We started walking towards the slope.
“Do you have any waterways on the property?”
“Yes, we do.”
Dad gestured in its direction.
“There’s a creek which runs down there.”
“And does the creek run onto any other properties?”
“No, it pools in our dam.”
Dad offered a smile towards Bruce and Isaac.
“Look, how much of the property would you like to see? It’ll be quicker if we drive you around.”
“That would be great, thank you.”
We walked back to all get in the car, Mum and I in the back with Isaac with Dad driving and Bruce in the passenger seat.
“What did you used to use this land for?”
“Well, we had a sheep property.”
“And how long ago was that?”
“Almost six years ago we sold the last mob.”
In the back, it was a little squishy. I kept quiet, not trusting that I would have much helpful to add. Thankfully Dad took us to the right first, across a more even portion of the property. My stomach churned with nerves.
“Bruce told me that you’re seeking to rezone the land to build a zoo,” Isaac piped up.
“That’s the plan,” Mum agreed.
“And what made you decide that you wanted to do that?”
Thankfully Isaac’s tone was curious, not accusatory.
“My grandparents ran a sanctuary in Indonesia.”
“That’s very good of them.”
I realised that we’d never offered Bruce and Isaac a coffee.
“Would you be seeking to use the whole property for animals?”
“Well, not initially. Initially we would have to start small.”
“But do you anticipate using the whole property for animals in the long-term?”
“Yes. There’s no part of the property we’re not planning to use.”
When we arrived back at the house, my heart felt heavy. I missed Kakek, I missed my childhood, I missed our farmhand Tim who was my first crush. Except for Kakek, it wasn’t that I wanted it back. Rather it was that I felt acutely tuned to what I had already lost. You cannot lose what you’ve never had, and it’s better to grieve than have to never loved.
“Well, we’ll consider what we’ve learned today, and we’ll be back in touch.”
Bruce and Isaac firmly shook hands with Mum, Dad and I.
“You have a beautiful property here.”
I wasn’t sure though, if that was a good thing or a bad thing for him to say. Finally, Bruce and Isaac left. We waved them farewell from the front porch and stayed standing there until their car was out of sight. I breathed out slowly, and we went back inside the house.
“I am so proud of you,” Mum gushed, getting all of her nervous energy out. “I’m so, so proud of you.”
We hugged tightly.
“But now I’d like something to eat.”
I made sandwiches for the three of us to have for a late lunch.
“It’s nice having the two of you home during the day.”
After we had lunch, I checked my phone. The Wordle group chat was going off.
Ricky got it in two, and there was much debate about the use of an American spelling. The home phone rang, and Mum answered it, while I received a message from Patrick, outside of the group chat.
i’m really struggling with the wordle
I’m not going to give you a clue; I responded. Aren’t you at school today?
I left coz Sloane had to go to hospital
Is she alright?; I asked, feeling awful.
Yes, she’s fine and the baby’s fine; Patrick confirmed, which made me feel relieved.
He must be the father of the baby, that he would leave school to go to the hospital with her.
“Do you want to talk to Ibu?”
“Yes, please,” I requested, and Mum bid her farewells, then handed the phone over to me.
I greeted Nanek with enthusiasm, and we shared our joy about the news of Georgia’s pregnancy. The siamangs will be flying to Adelaide tomorrow. I asked Nanek if she suspected and she said she did. She hadn’t said anything. Kakek had been planning to get the vet in, he was going to do it when I was there, so that I could learn. My chest started to feel tighter and tighter, the adrenaline of the day catching up with me. I gave the phone back to Mum once we’d wrapped up our chat, and ambled into my bedroom. I needed to send through the new photo for my work ID, which I took myself against my bedroom wall, when emailed to Frank. It made me feel better that I’d gotten it done, and a day earlier than the deadline. I texted Tallulah back, to tell her that the inspection went well. Well, I don’t really know how it went for sure, and that thought was enough for me to have a nap for the rest of the afternoon. At least once I woke up I was feeling more rested, and strolled out to the loungeroom. Mum had made haloumi burgers with chips for dinner, which the three of us ate at the kitchen table. Afterwards Dad offered to clean up, so that Mum and I could watch Neighbours, now it has possibly been axed. Once it was finished, she flicked over to the news, but by that point I was zoning out. I could have stayed up until midnight to do the Wordle, but I have to go to work in the morning, so I decided against it, instead finding a podcast to put on, to listen to while I went to sleep.
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.