Mum, Dad and I had agreed that we’d go and pick up Uwak Andrew and Kem, to take them to church with us for Easter Sunday. We would meet Uncle Luciano, Aunty Paula, Luke and Angus there. As we were about to run out the door, the phone rang. Mum answered it, and quickly slipped into Bahasa, making me think that it was probably Nanek. My heart thumped within my chest as I waited patiently. Mum mentioned that we were just about to leave for church. Therefore, the call came to an end.
“Your grandmother was wishing us a happy Easter,” Mum explained, then we left.
Dad drove us to the church. We arrived at Mass and slipped into the back, finding empty pews. I felt right at home, I eagerly anticipated taking Communion, I adored the preaching that Christ is risen. The service concluded with us singing Amazing Grace together, with the words off the screen. I rose to my feet with gladness and sung the words with a fervour which I wasn’t necessarily expecting. My grandfather loved this hymn. A memory came back, of him singing it to me when I was little. Kakek knew the words in Bahasa, and in English. He would sing a perfect tune, in his deep voice. I realised that I have a memory of being curled up on his lap under a soft light and him singing to me, while it rained outside. It was almost the end of the hymn when I, having been swept in the music, finally noticed that Uwak Andrew was gone. I excused myself. Eventually I found Uwak Andrew. His body was crumbled behind an oak table, shoulders shaking with sobs.
“Uwak, are you alright?” I asked.
“I’m sorry,” Uwak Andrew apologised, thumbing tears away from his eyes. “I should get back in there. We should get back in there. I don’t want you to have to miss out on taking Communion.”
I stood up. We walked back out of the room and into the sanctuary of the church, by which time the service had concluded.
“It’s alright, it’s alright,” I promised.
After church we decided to go for fish and chips on the beach. I was sitting in the back of the car, texting back and forth with Patrick.
That sounds nice 😊; he messaged, in response to our plans.
I felt like I should have invited him to come with us. It would have been nice, to have him along as part of the family, my boyfriend. Yet, I didn’t invite Patrick. We’d already had a big enough morning at Mass. Arriving at the beach, Dad parked. Uwak Andrew wandered off to buy the fish and chips, while Mum received a phone call. We started ambling down towards the beach while she answered.
“Hello, Catherine Fioray speaking.”
I kept my eyes on her.
“Yes,” Mum said. “Oh, hello, Carol.”
I could feel my heartbeat, unsure of what this call would mean.
“Yeah, of course, we’re just down at Bellerive. We’ll come as soon as we can.”
Mum ended the call.
“That was Carol. She has a wombat joey which she needs a foster family for. She’s asked us.”
“Alright, we’ve got to go, then.”
Uwak Andrew returned. He carried trays of fish and chips – my other cheat from vegetarianism, to ironically celebrate Easter as hedonistically as I knew.
“Sorry, we’ve got to go,” Mum apologised. “There’s a wombat we’ve been asked to care for.”
She looked at the food in his hands.
“We can bring that with us.”
My heartrate accelerated as we filed back into the car, without anything to take care of a wombat. As Mum drove us out to Carol’s place, I snuck chips out of the sweaty box Uwak Andrew had handed over to me. We parked out the front and approached the door.
“Come in,” Carol called out from the other side of the screen door.
I opened the door and let Mum and Dad through. Carol was sitting on the loungeroom floor, with a baby wombat in a carrier.
“Mum was hit by a car and killed. Someone stopped and found this little girl in the pouch.”
I could see the wombat in the carrier.
“She’ll need a feed every four hours. Give me a call if you need anything. All the equipment’s in this box.”
“Thank you, Carol.”
Nervously, we walked out to the car. All the way home, I noticed every bump. We brought the wombat home and placed down the carrier. I opened it so that she would be able to walk out if she wished. Dad laid down the square of turf.
“We’ll have to give her a name.”
I reached for my phone and started Googling.
“Here’s a suggestion – Lowanna.” I smiled. “It’s the palawa word for ‘woman’.”
I gently stroked the back of my finger down her fur.
“Lowanna. Well, it’s time for your feed.”
Dad came in with the bottle. I held her and, thankfully, she startled to drink.
“So this is what it’s like,” I remarked, “to care for animals, to have an animal.”
I listened to the sound of Lowanna’s sweet drinking noises as she suckled from the bottle. Once she was done, she swatted the bottle away.
“Right, then,” Dad remarked with a laugh, bending over to pick up the bottle.
We spent the rest of the afternoon with Lowanna, making sure she felt comfortable and familiar. Eventually, it was time to go to bed – for both humans and wombats. Lowanna walked gingerly into her bed and curled up there.
“She’s a wombat, she’s not a human,” I reminded myself. “She is a baby, but she’s not my baby.”
I breathed out audibly.
In order to work tomorrow, I needed to be able to get some sleep of my own, rather than just watching Lowanna. Somehow, I must have managed to fall asleep.
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.