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Neighbours

I dropped into the meeting room. Margie looked up from her computer screen, tapping the keyboard once and slipping her headphones down from her ears.


“Hi, Jumilah. How are you?”


“Good, thanks, yourself.”


“Yeah, never better.”


She ensured that I would also be able to hear the audio feed from the computer. Cathy commenced the meeting by acknowledging Country. She spoke from the heart, making me feel at ease before we jumped into the proceedings of the meeting.


“Sorry, I’ve got to slip out,” Margie mentioned. “There’s nothing in particular for me to add for this meeting.”


The others bid her farewell. Margie placed us on mute for a moment.


“Everything’s alright,” she promised me. “I just need to go and collect a package.”


As I nodded, Margie departed. Surely this would have been a task someone other than the CEO could have completed. However, I wasn’t going to argue with Margie, especially not in the middle of a meeting. Therefore, I tried to refocus on the screen.


“Jumilah, I do have a question for you,” Cathy spoke up.


I sat forward in my chair.


“You would be in contact with other wildlife parks in Tasmania, wouldn’t you?”


“Yes, I have been,” I confirmed, even though I was mostly referring to Steve’s park.


I could hear the chirp of an owl.


“We have Tasmanian Pademelon here. We’d be happy to collaborate with you.”


“That would be great, thank you,” I accepted, even though I knew we wouldn’t be adding them to the collection until after we passed the inspection, secured our licenses and had opened to the public.


Perhaps I should have placed a greater focus on Tasmanian fauna to begin with. However, I justified my decisions in the knowledge that it was ideal to start small. There were always risks, but plenty had already paid off to get to this stage. I tried to secretly check my watch. Margie would have spotted me, but I was pretty sure that my wrist was out of the view of the camera and, theoretically, I could have been looking at anything off-screen. I returned my attention to the meeting. Finally, we moved onto the opportunity for members to give reports. I got a little distracted. There always seemed to be a new email popping up to catch my eye, even if I really didn’t need to respond. At least I could delete a few of the marketing emails, razing my inbox down to the correspondence which really mattered.


“Monarto Safari Park?”


“We’ve had a setback with the malleefowl breeding program. Two of our breeding males have died.”


“I’m really sorry to hear that, Blessing.”


His announcement placed a subdued mood over the gathering.


“Do you know the cause of death?”


“We think that there might have been some sort of contaminant, so we’ve moved the rest of the birds and we’re keeping a close eye on them.”


I breathed out. The call ended. The news during the meeting had been mixed. Closing the lid of the laptop, I thought that I would bring it with me to make sure that it was returned to Margie, who hadn’t come back. I located her in her office.


“Thank you.” Margie smiled. “There is something you could help out with, if Nikki can spare you.”


“I’m sure that would be fine.”


She led me outside to explain to me the task.


“You know, we got very lucky over the weekend.”


My primary memories had been of rain, but I knew that wasn’t the experience for everyone.


“So, we need to make sure that we clean out the gutters. Make sure you wear gloves, just in case there are spiders, but you should be alright. The leaf litter is good for the gardens, just as long as there isn’t any debris in the gutters. Is that alright with you?”


It was an unsexy, but necessary, part of managing a property.


“Yes, sure,” I agreed.


Margie showed me where I could find the ladder.


“Thanks for that.”


“No worries, you’re doing us a favour, really.”


Margie departed. I carefully set the ladder against the side of the building, then climbed so that I could begin removing leaf litter from the gutters, dropping it into the garden below. Looking around from the top of the ladder, I could get a bit of a better view of the surrounding sanctuary. I smiled. The ladder bowed. As I lost my footing, I let out a yelp and gripped the ladder. One hand remained on, the other slipping and breaking my fall on the edge of the garden. I rolled onto my back, glancing up and noticing a man towering over me.


“Oh, sorry.”


In hindsight, I didn’t know why I was apologising. I scampered to my feet, but found myself recognising the man’s face.


“Oh, hello, Bill, I didn’t realise you were coming here today.”


Perhaps he was part of an animal transfer which I wasn’t aware of. Bill helped me through into the wildlife hospital.


“Hop up on the table, I’ll take a look at it.”


“You know, I should have been more careful.”


I felt a little light-headed from the pain, which made me ramble.


“I was right and you were wrong, now that’s right, isn’t it, Fioray?” Bill stood over me, so I nodded my head.


“I’m sorry.”


Nikki burst into the room.


“Is everything alright in here?”


“Yes,” I insisted, as Bill took a slight step back.


He departed the room, having not examined my injured wrist. I explained to Nikki that I’d fallen off the ladder while helping out Margie. I waited until I was confident that Bill was gone.


“Does he ever creep you out, that bloke?”


Nikki only had to touch my wrist and I grimaced.


“Yeah, I think you need to get that checked out,” she decided. “Do you mind if I take you to a doctor?”


“Yeah, alright,” I agreed, “but I still need to be able to go to Werribee.”


“You’ll be fine.”


Nikki, kindly enough, drove me to the local medical centre. It was nice to be able to see a little bit more of Healesville. After checking in at the front desk, we found seats next to each other in the waiting room. I knew if the doctor took my blood pressure, that it would probably be a little high. I tried not to ponder that too much, as, ironically, worrying would only make my health worse, further compromising my ability to go to Werribee.


“They’ve just had a giraffe calf born at Mogo.” Nikki looked up from her phone, then showed me the picture. “It’s just come through from Julie.”


“That’s lovely,” I praised with a smile.


The doctor called my name. She examined me, then took me through for a X-ray, just like we’d do for the animals.


“Well, it’s not broken, that’s the good news.”


“I sense that there’s bad news too,” I responded.


“It’s badly bruised, so your hand will be out of action for a little while.”


 

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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