Launceston

I awoke to the sound of the door clicking shut, with a soft gasp. Propping myself up onto my elbows, Sloane wandered into the room with a dazed and joyous smile on her face.


“Hey,” I greeted her, in a hushed tone.


I gestured towards Tallulah and noted that she was sleeping, so that Sloane would keep quiet. Sloane shifted onto the bed and lay down, both hands resting on her belly. She’s pretty thin to begin with, so I feel like she does have a little bump now. I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.


“I’m twelve weeks today,” Sloane divulged. “The second trimester.”


I didn’t really know what to say. Sloane is only sixteen, in year eleven at high school. She seems impossibly young. We have never been particularly close.


“I’m due in August.” I wasn’t sure whether Sloane was talking to me, or just to herself.


“I don’t know if I ever said, but congratulations,” I wished her. “I’m really happy for you.”


“Thank you,” Sloane replied. “I really didn’t plan for everyone to know, I didn’t plan for anyone to know.”


Then I really didn’t know what to say anymore.


“It was awful what Kevin did, I’m so sorry that happened.”


“It’s OK,” Sloane assured, but she went silent. “No matter what that place has done to me, at least there’s Patrick.”


She fell asleep before I had the chance to query her statement. I rolled over. It doesn’t matter whether or not there is something going on between them, at least it shouldn’t matter to me. We’d had a lovely night at the wedding, and Bushmint Lovechild are actually pretty good, both in original music and in the repertoire of covers they play. Especially with Luke now in the band, I like spending them with them. I must have overthought my brain into submission, and eventually fallen asleep. When I woke up in the morning, Tallulah was already awake, although Sloane still slept peacefully next to me. After I’d gotten dressed for the day, I had a bit of time out in the hammock. It was nice to stare up at the trees. After a little while, Tallulah came out and stood over me to talk to me.


“Sloane’s awake. She’s having a shower and getting dressed.”


Tallulah handed me my phone.


“Also, your phone keeps ringing.”


“Thanks,” I replied, before Tallulah turned to walk back into the room.


I was starting to regret not having brought sunglasses or a hat with me into the hammock. We didn’t have plans for the day, other than eventually driving home. Thankfully there’s nice, sunny weather with only a nice dusting of fluffy cloud. I didn’t recognise the number which had called me. As I phoned it back, I noticed Sloane emerging from our girls’ room.


“Hello, David speaking.”


I recognised the voice.


“David, it’s Jumilah here.”


“Hi Jumilah, your grandmother told me that you’re in Launceston today. Would you like to come down to the zoo?”


With that, I had a plan. I got out of the hammock, as the others gathered around.


“Alright, what’s happening this morning?” Ricky wanted to know.


“I’ve gotten in touch with David from Tasmania Zoo, I’d like to go,” I told the group. “We’re not leaving to go back to Hobart until this afternoon, aren’t we? So we’ve got time to go, or at least I’ve got time to go.”


“That would be great if we could all go.”


“Alright, let’s go to the zoo,” Lucy agreed, and we piled into the cars.


It was a little squishy, as it was on the way up, but the trip across town was only short. At Sloane’s request, we listened to a Madonna CD in Patrick’s car.


“Wait, isn’t this song about--?” Tallulah spoke up. “We’re here!”


Patrick pulled into the carpark. I studied him as he parked, then got out of the car with a little bit of a sway. Patrick hadn’t been drinking. We were united, a group of ten of us ready to explore Tasmania Zoo, a chance for the rest of them to discover my world of animal care. Once we entered the zoo, there was a long, J-shaped row of bird aviaries to the right. Their rooves were mostly flat, although slightly sloped for drainage, and painted bottle green. I paused before one well-planted aviary containing a sleeping Tawny Frogmouth. A part of me felt like I needed to be quiet, to avoid waking the nocturnal bird which almost camouflaged. We lingered for a moment, then moved on. I turned to the left, where there were three well-planted cages adjoining each other.


“Hey, little buddy.” Patrick leaned against the fence.


With a smile on my face I wandered over. As we watched a cotton-top tamarin eat grapes out of a swinging basket, I gently touched my hand between Patrick’s shoulder blades. Before he had the chance to react, my phone rang within my bag, and I sprang back so that I could retrieve it and answer it.


“Hello, Jumilah, are you at the zoo?”


“Yes, I’m just outside the tamarin exhibits.”


“Perfect, I’ll come and meet you there.”


The others started to move on.


“I’m just waiting for David, he runs this place, he’s coming to meet with us.”


Shortly David arrived, a stocky man, a little short, a salt-and-pepper moustache spilling over his top lip.


“It’s such an honour to meet you in person,” I gushed.


“Likewise, Jumilah.”


“These are my friends, we’ve been up here with their band. They performed at a wedding last night.”


“Very pleased to meet you, I’m David. Welcome to Tasmania Zoo.”


“Thanks for having us, I’m Patrick,” he introduced himself, extending his hand for David to shake firmly.


“Nice to meet you, Patrick.”


Everyone introduced themselves, then we started to make our way around the zoo. I did know that we needed to keep an eye on the time. David and I fell to the back of the group. I desperately hoped that the others were enjoying themselves as much as I was. David explained to me how Tasmania Zoo is a successful breeder of Swift Parrots, which are rare in captivity. We paused in front of the quoll exhibits, but unfortunately didn’t manage to see anything.


“I’ve heard that you want to open your own place like this.”


“Yes, I would.”


“I’d like to show you something.”


David led me towards the siamang exhibit, and my grin confirmed that he was right that I would consider it a highlight.


“This is a very impressive exhibit,” I praised. “It’s almost wasted on just housing the one siamang here.”


David shrugged his shoulders.


“We would love to become a breeding institution.”


“You weren’t on the table for my grandmother’s siamangs?”


“No, not this time.”


We strolled on through the zoo.


“Despite its grandeur, we don’t have the holding facilities to keep this guy separate from a breeding pair. Next time.”


“I have a meeting tomorrow morning to become a wildlife carer,” I noted.


“Ah, wonderful,” David replied. “Wildlife carers do very important work, that’s very good of you. You’ll be following in your grandparents’ fine footsteps.”


We ambled on, towards the top corner of the zoo which adjoins the swamp. The otter exhibit has a pool in the centre, and doesn’t need to be particularly large to only house an elderly pair who have been retired from breeding.


“So what is the plan for your zoo?”


“To honour my grandfather’s legacy.”


“That’s a noble goal.”


“Thank you.”


“I trust that you’ll do him proud.”


“It means a lot to me that you would say that.”


We curved around the exhibits at the top of the zoo. David and I curved towards the left, following the others in the direction of a row of koala exhibits. I peered up into the foliage, and finally spotted a koala within the tall tree. While I was fascinated by watching the koala eat, I could hear hooves behind me, so I spun around and David needed to follow. The giraffe exhibit is mixed with the zoo’s ostrich group. I’d lost the others, although I could find them again when I glanced around. David received a phone call.


“I’ll have to come and find you again,” he mentioned, with an apology. “There’s a branch down in the serval exhibit which I need to fix.”


I wanted to go with him, but I didn’t. Instead I went and found a seat in front of the tiger exhibit. Tasmania Zoo now only holds one female Sumatran Tiger, who is unlikely to ever breed.


“I thought that I might find you here,” Patrick remarked, catching me by surprise.


He sat down beside me.


“Where’s David?”


“He needed to go and fix something within one of the exhibits.”


“You weren’t going to go and help him, learn the zoo ropes.”


“No,” I answered, then stood up and walked away.


The white-cheeked gibbon exhibit would have been about five metres tall, providing the animals with plenty of brachiating space.


“This reminds me of the quarantine centre, on the Cocos Keeling Islands,” I told Tallulah. “They’re bringing the animals to Australia as we speak.”


“And the macaques are coming here?”


“Yes. That’s how I met David, in the primate meetings.”


I felt bad for walking off on Patrick. Tallulah and I walked through the second half of the zoo, to catch up with the others. Indeed we passed the serval exhibit. No animals were on display, although David was inside with a keeper, fixing it up. The barbeque area is near a large exhibit for African painted dogs, in the bottom corner of the zoo, next to the carpark. We filed into the picnic tables to have lunch. While my stomach was rumbling, I felt agitated.


“Are you going OK?” Patrick asked me across the table.


“Yeah, I’m fine,” I responded.


My tone couldn’t have been more passive-aggressive if I tried. Patrick’s eyes panned across the group, starting to have lunch.


“Here, let me find you something to eat.”


Patrick handed me a plate of salad and a bread roll, along with wooden cutlery. I couldn’t find Sloane, so I had to ask.


“Is there something going on between you and Sloane?”


Patrick swallowed hard.


“Yes, but we can talk about this later.”


Sloane returned, and she sat down next to him.


“Aren’t snow leopards absolutely beautiful?”


“Yes. They are.”


I ate my lunch. Afterwards I took some time to myself, to walk around the zoo. I wanted to talk to Tallulah, but she followed me while waiting for me to keep, because I didn’t want the others to hear. It was to the gibbons that I kept returning, remembering how my grandparents had cared for primates, like the white-cheeked gibbons who had a tiny baby clinging to the female’s chest. By the end of the day, it was time to leave Tasmania Zoo and bid farewell to David.


“You’ll have to come back once the macaques are here.”


“I sure will, thank you for showing us around.”


“My pleasure. Will I see you at the primate meeting tomorrow?”


“Yes, Sam has invited me back again.”


“Good. It’s good to have you learning the ropes.”


“Thank you. I’ll see you then.”


I waved goodbye and headed to the carpark, knowing that I would be home soon. We got back into the cars, ready to drive back from Launceston to Sorell McDonald’s. It would take around two-and-a-half hours. Patrick drove, with Sloane in the front seat and Tallulah, Luke and I in the back. We listened to more Madonna and didn’t talk much. Luke started tapping his fingertips along with the music. When we returned to the McDonald’s carpark, Dad had come to collect us. We decided that Tallulah and Luke would come back home for dinner, which Mum had stayed to cook. Waving farewell to the others, I figured it won’t be long until I’ll see them again. I’ll be back at work on Tuesday. Then I’ll have to untangle what’s happening next, if I even do at all, when I can instead listen to Tallulah and Luke’s chatter. We arrived home and went inside.


“Did you have a good time?” Mum asked, as she served up dinner for us.


“Yes, it was great,” I assured, accepting bowls to help carry them through.


Tallulah, Luke and I had dinner with Mum and Dad, a delicious curry which Mum prepared.


“Who went on the trip?”


“Well, the three of us, obviously, and then the rest of the band is Patrick, Ricky, Caleb and Chris from work. Some other people came from work, girls, Maryam, Lucy and Sloane.”


“She’s the pregnant one?”


“Yeah.”


Patrick must be the father of Sloane’s baby. I didn’t even realise that they were together. Sloane’s twelve weeks along, so I did the maths even though I felt terrible for doing it. She would have conceived around the end of October or the beginning of November, so they must have been together since then.


“Do you think that you’ll keep performing with the band, Luke?”


“Well, if they’ll have me, that would be lovely.”


“Oh, I’m sure that they’ve have you. They were pretty desperate for a drummer.”


Luke shot me an expression of mock offence.


“Not that they would have had to have been desperate to choose you.”


Mum and Dad washed up after we’d finished dinner. I wondered if we would have dessert, and sure enough Mum served up peaches and ice cream. It was positively delicious, and I definitely needed the sweets after a long day filled with unexpected curve balls. I felt quite tired, and was ready to go to bed, but agreed to tag along with Mum. She was driving Luke home, then Tallulah. Uncle Luciano waved from the front door, when we dropped Luke home to their place at Seven Mile Beach, not far from the airport. Then, it was just Tallulah, Mum and I left in the car.


“He’s nice, isn’t he, Luke?”


“Yeah, he is.”


We arrived at Tallulah’s place.


“Thanks for having me along. We’ll have to catch up again soon.”


“Thanks. See you later.”


Tallulah headed back into the house and closed the front door. On the way back home, I was almost nodding off.


“I’m worried about you, Jumilah,” Mum told me, as she drove. “You were quiet during dinner.”


“I’m just really tired.”


“Are you worried about the rezoning application?”


“No, no, it’s not that,” I answered.


“Even if the rezoning doesn’t come through, we’ll work something else out. You could always move to Launceston.”


I know that I could move to Launceston. What I don’t know is why I desperately don’t want to, or why I feel so terribly tired all the time. Right now, it’s easy to ascribe it to a long day of travel and walking around the zoo. I don’t know how I feel about Patrick, not that it really matters anyway, if he and Sloane are having a baby. We arrived home and barely bothered to turn back on the light as we moved through the house towards the bedrooms. I didn’t even bother getting changed into my pyjamas and decided to just sleep in my clothes for the night. Once I finally got into bed, I was too exhausted even to doomscroll, or flick through Instagram for longer than a couple of reels.


 

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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