I woke up this morning and rolled over, reaching for my phone which was charging atop the bedside chest of drawers. Beside me, Lucy was still asleep. A little bored, I checked my emails. Cricket Australia informed me that I could watch all the highlights from Australia’s recent Test draw with Sri Lanka, not that I wanted to think about cricket. All I could think about was Tallulah. In another world, Kyle would have been playing. She might have even gone over there. Was Vanessa in Sri Lanka? I knew that Jye was in the Test team; he was in the feature image of sweat and toil for a lack of reward in wickets. For anyone else, I would have felt schadenfreude, but both Jye and Vanessa had been kind, good friends in Tallulah’s hour of need. When I heard Lucy stir, I placed down my phone, guiltily grateful for the respite, and rolled over.
“Good morning,” she murmured. “Did you sleep alright?”
Lucy sat up.
“Do you want to have a shower?”
“It’s alright, you can have one if you want one.”
Lucy got out of bed, gathering up her fresh clothes, before moving into the bathroom. I thought about having a shower after Lucy, but decided against it. Stepping over to my bag, I fetched my clothes. Just after I slipped my top on, and wriggled into my pants, I heard a quick knock at the door. Walking over there, I opened the door, revealing Patrick standing on the other side, already dressed for the day.
“Hey,” he greeted me. “Are you still good for today?”
“Yeah, of course,” I agreed with a smile, playing my role to make Patrick feel better about it.
Behind me, I heard the shower switched off. I positioned my body to fill the crack between the door and the frame.
“Chris said that Luke could go in his car, so that he can get back, you know, for your aunty’s birthday.”
“Oh, yeah, that would be great,” I accepted.
“Are you sure you’re alright to come today? You don’t have to.”
“Yeah, yeah, of course,” I agreed. “I think Mum and Dad are having dinner with that side of the family, but it’s OK. We’re seeing the macaque troop again today.”
I beamed, genuinely.
“And we’re seeing my brothers and sister,” Patrick mentioned.
“Yeah,” I responded. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Patrick assured, even though I wasn’t really sure if I believed him. “How long will you and Lucy be?”
“I just need to get my stuff together, then we can go.”
“Alright, thanks, great.”
Patrick stepped back and I closed the door again. Lucy and I made sure we were ready, to bid Launceston see-you-later. We checked out of the motel, then the others made haste for Hobart. Before Patrick and I could head home, I had one last important mission – to visit the Southern Pig-Tailed Macaques. I was grateful to be able to combine this with Patrick’s lovely family day with his newfound younger siblings. He drove, while I was co-pilot in the passenger seat, on our way to Tasmania Zoo. Thankfully, the drive wasn’t long. Once Patrick parked on the gravel, I rested my hand on his, on the gearstick.
“I’m here for you today, whatever happens,” I vowed. “Just be really, really gentle with yourself.”
Patrick nodded his head.
I kissed his cheek. Getting out of the car, I felt a little light-headed. Reg was parked in the next spot over in the gravel carpark. The wind seemed as if it were blowing straight through the sleeves of my jumper. Nonetheless, I smiled, and allowed myself to be excited. We would be seeing the macaque troop for the first time since they touched down on Tasmanian soil.
“Howdy, good morning,” Reg greeted us.
He closed the boot, then locked his car. I studied the faces of the tiny humans surrounding him. They looked just like their father, just like Patrick. Those Dacre genes, as it turns out, are mighty strong. I looked at Patrick, to offer my support.
“These are my three children,” Reg introduced. “Lincoln, Elliott and Mackenzie.”
With Patrick speechless, I smiled.
“It’s lovely to meet you,” I gushed. “I’m Jumilah, Patrick’s girlfriend, and this is Patrick, your brother.”
My enthusiasm dissipated as I spoke the words, running out of energy.
“Hey, kids,” Patrick greeted them with a smile, looking down at eyes so similar to his. “Where’s your mum today?”
“No, my wife’s stayed at home today,” Reg explained. “She runs her own business and it’s good for her to have some work time without the kids in her hair.”
“Let’s go into the zoo, shall we?” Reg urged.
He seemed to have the sort of cavalier charm which could diffuse any scenario. No wonder Patrick’s mother fell for him in the first place. I didn’t want to place all the pressure on Patrick. We approached the ticket counter, underneath that giant gorilla statute atop the entrance and the signage bearing the zoo’s name. I wondered whether Tasmania Zoo would ever acquire gorillas.
“Could we please have a family ticket for two adults and three kids, and an extra student ticket?”
In this scenario, I was the extra adult going with the family, and Patrick the solitary student.
“Oh, I recognise your face.” She titled her head to the side, thinking, trying to determine where she knew me from. “Don’t worry, it’ll come to me.”
I wanted to tell her, but I wasn’t sure if that was rude. We were sold our tickets, and able to enter through the gates. I roughly remembered the animals around the zoo, starting with plenty of birds in aviaries with green Colourbond rooves. A garden on the left prevented the three kids from roaming too far, until we had walked around it, encountering more mesh-fronted structures. I wondered if they’d come like a kit home and thought maybe we’d wasted our time with some of the more complex plans back home. The cockatoos, on the left, were bright and noisy enough to attract the kids’ attention. One of the birds flew up and perched on the mesh right in front of us, allowing a closer look at his beautiful white tail feathers. I could see some enrichment items hung up, but the kids proved a bigger attraction for the birds. They looked out through the mesh. Sure enough, the kids, also, had the shorter attention span, searching for something else to look at. Across the path was an exhibit for quolls, a green mesh cage not dissimilar to many of the others in the first section of the zoo. I wondered whether or not that was the original part, and the rest built later – which was probably largely correct. I stood in front of the exhibit, peering through the mesh. The kids lost interest pretty quickly, when they couldn’t easily sight a quoll. I lingered at the exhibit, checking my phone once I heard it toll, signifying a message coming through from Tallulah.
Tell me something happy xx
I thought about ringing her. A flash of fur distracted me, as one of the quolls leapt onto the mesh, right in front of me. Instinctively, I snapped an image, cute beady eyes looking down the barrel of my iPhone camera. I texted Tallulah the photo I’d just taken of the quoll. After that, we strode up through the zoo, keen to make our way towards the primates. I could hear the hum of a mower behind me. Turning around, I noticed a familiar face and moustache, just at the same time he spotted me. David switched off the mower. He wheeled it out of the way, storing it out of sight.
“Good morning, it’s great to see you.”
“It’s lovely to see you too.”
David approached me. I listened to the gentle hum of birdsong from elsewhere in the zoo, which made me feel more at ease even as the kids were running amok.
“I’m sure you’ll want to see the macaques.”
I followed him through the zoo. Finding myself transfixed with the troop, David departed for a moment. He eventually returned with food. Putting the macaques into their night dens for a moment, David and I put out a scatter feed, then let the macaques back into their exhibit. We moved onto the next exhibit, eventually – another open cage. The female mandrill was sitting on the ground.
“Have you only got the one mandrill here?” I checked.
“Yes, we do now,” David confirmed. “Our other two died at the end of last year.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“They were a good little team, but we take good care of Lara. She’s very elderly herself.”
“So, is she not getting replaced once she goes?”
“Well, we’ll see,” David answered. “We would love to import, but it’s difficult with the red tape.”
I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty.
“Nothing is just about the one zoo, especially with an endangered species,” David outlined.
I wondered whether or not that comment was pointed. Melbourne Zoo and Adelaide Zoo would have more resources and connections, albeit not to discount Tasmania Zoo.
“Do you own that land up there?”
I pointed, with my free hand, towards a large body of water.
“Yes, we do, as a matter of fact,” David confirmed. “We don’t quite know what to do with it yet.”
“Elephants, maybe?” Patrick suggested.
“That would be something spectacular.”
“I reckon you should do it,” Reg urged. “Tasmania’s only elephants. Imagine that.”
He looked at me, then back to David.
“Unless our Jumilah here doesn’t get in ahead of you, of course.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that.”
“The problem with elephants, you see, is the amount of space they need,” David explained. “We would rather hold many more, smaller animals.”
“Alright.” Reg seemed to accept that. “And, what about gorillas? You’ve got a gorilla at the entrance, but I haven’t seen any real ones yet.”
“Gorillas, you see, they have to live in family groups, a bit like elephants. You can’t just get one of them.”
“One of those family groups, that would be a hoot. The kiddies would love that.”
“I’m sure that they would.”
We looped back around, bypassing an exhibit for penguins. Over amongst the tree-line, I noticed two tall, spotted necks. All of us were allured by Tasmania’s only giraffes. I’d seen them on my previous visit, and they even seemed to have further grown. We arrived at the giraffe exhibit, two brothers from Queensland, mixed with ostrich. Mackenzie looked up at the animals with awe, even though she gripped her father’s hand a little tighter.
“What would you think about getting to feed them?” David suggested with a smile.
Mackenzie turned around to face him, eyes wide.
“I’ll go and fetch the feed.”
She nodded, while David left. He returned shortly after, acacia in hand, giving a handful to Mackenzie.
“Now, just feed them one piece at a time. If you let them at the whole bunch, they’ll take it right out of your hand.”
Mackenzie held up one stalk of acacia. Tallbert extended his tongue to wrap it around the food. Mackenzie then withdrew her hand hastily and looked straight at her father with a nervous smile.
“Did you know that giraffes and humans have the same number of bones in their necks?” David divulged.
“Really?” Mackenzie demanded.
“Yeah. They just have bigger ones.”
Her eyes bulged, at this new information and these new experiences. I recall being an innocent child like that.
“I’d love to create a bit of a bigger savannah,” David mused, “with rhino and antelope and the like mixed in with the giraffes.”
I nodded my head in response, the plans sounding majestic.
“We wouldn’t want to clear too many of these trees, though.”
I found myself studying the boys. They were just that bit older. No doubt starting to enter their ‘too cool for school’ phase, they reminded me so much of Patrick. Those two boys had that same wavy brown hair spilling from their heads. Once we’d finished feeding the giraffes, we continued down the path. This side of the zoo seemed roomier than the other, older side.
“Do you currently coordinate any breeding programs?”
David shook his head.
“Not individually,” he elaborated. “We’re involved with the devil program, though, which is managed collaboratively within the ZAA.”
“Would you like to?”
We arrived at the Sumatran Tiger exhibit, shaded over with trees.
“Of course, mate, I like to help out wherever I can.”
The brother and sister were together in their exhibit, with plenty of climbing opportunities.
“They’re always together these two,” David explained with a fond smile. “She missed him, which is quite unusual for a solitary species.”
He took a step closer to the mesh.
“When he was gone, she would wail and scream, I’d never heard anything like it from a tiger before. That was just her only way of expressing herself.”
“Yeah, right,” I responded, looking from David, back to the tigers, snuggled up in their wooden box together.
I swallowed, relating to the way that Cinta had felt. Standing in the shade, I couldn’t help but feel a little cold. Thankfully, Patrick placed his arm around my shoulders. With his thumb, he gently stroked strands of hair back from my ear. The kids seemed fascinated enough by the tigers, even though the brother-sister pair didn’t really move much. Given that the public holiday isn’t nationwide, the TAG meeting still went ahead. Patrick, Reg and the kids headed off to find chips for lunch, while I followed David into his office.
“Sorry, I don’t normally fit two people in here.”
He shifted folders, to uncover a second chair. We sat down and David logged into the meeting.
“This meeting will be a discussion and learning session about mitigating disease outbreaks,” Christine outlined. “Working together in this important field is vital. I understand that Blessing was willing to speak to us about the recent RSV outbreak at Monarto.”
“Yes, thank you.” He brought up slides. “Our chimpanzees experienced cold and flu symptoms, similar to humans – coughs and runny noses. None of them developed serious illness.”
“Yes, it was. We were particularly concerned about our older male, as well as our younger animals.”
“Do you know how your animals contracted the virus?”
“Our working theory is that they caught it from a member of the public,” Blessing explained. “We found a tissue in the exhibit around that time. Maybe it was dropped in, maybe it blew in. We’re not quite sure.”
“Are you going to modify your exhibit?”
“Respectfully, I don’t think that’s necessary. Adding fine mesh to prevent this sort of thing would alter the exhibit significantly.”
“Alright, fair enough.”
“I’ll email through our slides again about our experience with TB,” Sam offered.
“That would be great, thank you,” Christine replied. “There is certainly a lot to learn.”
“Yes, currently there isn’t a requirement for TB testing for domestic transfers, but perhaps there should be, and overseas there have been reports of spuma virus in great apes, in particular.”
I noticed Reuben sit up a little straighter.
“Do you know if our orangs have ever been tested for spuma virus?”
“I would have to do more research on that, I’m sorry,” Reuben admitted, seeming a little sheepish. “I’ve not heard of it happening at Melbourne Zoo, we haven’t had the need. I’ll look into it.”
“The risk of viral transmission is why we phased out macaques,” Don pointed out. “I know there are still some macaques held within the region.”
He seemed to shuffle around some papers on his desk, like their location was upsetting him. I wanted to speak, but couldn’t find the words myself.”
“That said, we can prevent transmission to humans,” Raffa assured. “We’ve managed it successfully over many years, and we’ve even bred the species.”
“Are you still planning on breeding your macaques into the future?”
“No, not at the moment, our breeding pair are post-reproductive now. We would have to import.”
“Do you have any process of screening your staff for diseases, Raffa?” Don enquired.
“No, we don’t, but they haven’t been dropping dead. Personally, I consider that a pretty good indication that they’re fine, that none of them have contracted a lethal disease from one of our animals.”
“Well, I wouldn’t consider it the only indication, but that’s just me.”
The viciousness within Bill’s tone left me breathless for a moment.
“We have bred our Rhesus Macaques in the past and maintained a successful troop, for both animals and their keepers. This species is the most recent to breed within the region and, look, I understand they’re not a high-priority species.”
“And Southern Pig-Tailed Macaques,” I added. “The group was breeding over in Sumatra.”
I looked between David and the tiny faces on the screen.
“Not that I can speak for Tasmania Zoo, where I am at the moment, but I would hope that the troop could keep breeding.”
“I’m not opposed to breeding,” David assured, “but it might be best to wait until the troop moves south. Then, they’ll be able to have more stability.”
“I’ll speak with my grandmother,” I noted. “The founders were wild-born, obviously, and then the younger animals were born within the troop.”
“Do we have any questions for our studbook keepers?” Christine asked, then glanced away for a moment.
“Ah, this isn’t a studbook keeper question, but just something to raise as a studbook keeper,” Reuben spoke up. “I’d like to discuss the Hamadryas Baboon program when we get the chance to.”
Christine nodded and typed at her computer.
“Well, let’s pencil that in for next week. If we can’t fit it in, then we’ll make sure that we talk about it at some stage. I know that there’s a fair bit to discuss.”
“We could expand to other baboon species as well, potentially,” Angelique suggested with a shrug.
“We should plan for lemurs at some stage,” Gerard suggested. “I feel like there’s been a lot of discussion but not a lot of coordination.”
Reuben parted his lips to speak; Gerard briefly raised his hands.
“I’m not having a go, I promise. I know there’s a lot to discuss.”
“There’s also a discussion about langurs to be had.”
“Yes, we can include that as well, at some stage,” Christine permitted. “Do you have particular agenda items?”
“I’d like to talk about expanding the Francois Langur program,” Sam mentioned.
“As far as I’m aware, there wouldn’t be placements for our Duskys overseas,” Don assured, “but, if you insist, I can make phone calls.”
He didn’t seem particularly impressed by the idea, his poker face slipping a little.
“I feel like that would be a good idea, no point having them waste away without further breeding.”
“I did just want to follow up on one of our previous conversations,” Don noted. “In my view, I would like to plan for a meeting to discuss primates in research facilities.”
“I’m sure that we can organise that,” Christine agreed. “Just let me look at the schedule for the next few meetings.”
“I’ve got to head off now, sorry,” Gerard spoke up to apologise. “I’m going to collect our new orang females from the airport.”
A chorus of cheery farewells followed, buzzing with the excitement of the day. Gerard left the Zoom meeting.
“We have decided that we will include two exhibits within our Congo Forest precinct,” Sam announced. “Generally, that’s a bachelor exhibit and an exhibit for a breeding troop. We’re planning on continuing to breed gorillas long-term, but if it ends up that the second exhibit is for a small, retired troop, we’re happy to fit within whatever the region needs.”
“And you’re still after okapi?”
“Yes. It’s a little challenging to find suitable animals for import.”
“There really aren’t that many okapi overseas, particularly viable breeding females,” Reuben pointed out. “No wonder you’re having so much trouble with seeking to acquire them.”
“We’re doing our best,” Sam assured.
“And, I’m so sorry, but this isn’t the ungulate TAG meeting,” Christine reminded, “so I would love for us to move onto the member reports now, please.”
“Of course, I’m sorry.”
“We’re planning some minor refurbishments to our orang-utan exhibit next week,” Don explained, “and we’re welcoming a visit from Jumilah Fioray from the weekend.”
“Well, you must really get around,” Bill quipped.
“I’m very much looking forward to visiting Adelaide,” I said with a smile.
“Luna isn’t well, one of our hybrid orangutans. We’re going to monitor her for now and make sure she has plenty of fluids.”
“Why bother?” Bill remarked.
I felt a little taken aback. David and I were on mute at the time, so I didn’t say anything.
“We bother,” Reuben explained patiently, “because we have an ethical duty to every animal in our care.”
“Monarto Safari Park?”
“We’ve prepared our plans for a baboon exhibit, to allow us to receive the troop from Adelaide.”
“If you don’t mind, Blessing, I wanted to ask you about gorillas,” Sam requested.
“Yes, of course. Don might also have to be part of this conversation, regarding Adelaide’s plans.”
“Yes, Sam, we have firm plans for gorillas. We’re planning on breaking ground on the exhibit within the next six months.”
“Yeah, right, that’s good. This is a broad question – how would Monarto fit into those plans? Can Monarto make a commitment to gorillas?”
“Yes, we would be willing to hold a bachelor group,” Blessing vowed. “That’s what Werribee has done, at least to start off with. Then, we could breed down the track.”
“More holders would be very helpful,” Reuben insisted. “If both Taronga and Monarto could have two exhibits, then that would help the region greatly. We’re going to have to hold our bachelors long-term.”
The TAG meeting came to an end. David and I departed the office.
“Which species would you like next?”
“Well, we’d love pygmy hippos one day. I reckon we’d need imports for that, though. There aren’t enough to go around at the moment.”
“Considering the size of your dam, you could have river hippos.”
“There aren’t enough of them, either.”
We walked around the zoo in the opposite direction to usual, so that we could track down Patrick, Reg and the kids again.
“Can I ask, do you live here on the property?”
“Yes, I do,” David confirmed. “My kids are grownup now. I’ve got two granddaughters, twins, I take them to swimming lessons once a week.”
“Oh, that’s lovely.”
“It is really nice.”
“The reason I asked, was because I want to know more about what that’s like.”
David grinned, placing his hands in his pockets.
“It’ll be different for you. You’re much, much younger than me.”
Ahead of us, a peacock strutted across the path. I figured that he must have been a free-ranging, wild one.
“You need to make sure that you don’t put your whole life on hold,” David mused, “no matter how passionate you feel for your animals.”
“Well, I do have a boyfriend.”
I realised that I’d never met David’s wife.
“Don’t neglect him for your zoo.”
Maybe there was a reason I’d never heard more of his wife. I nodded my head, not sure what to say in response. Patrick sent me a quick text message to let me know that they were at the lion exhibit. Therefore, I allowed David to lead me in that direction. My mind wandered at the thought of the carnivores. Currently, we’re planning for nothing larger than a siamang, or more carnivorous than a dhole. The lion exhibit was easily one of the largest at the zoo, maybe save for the giraffe paddock. It was overlooked by a large deck, which seemed relatively new. I climbed the stairs up to it, following David. We came across Patrick, Reg and the kids up there, marvelling at the animals. This seemed flasher than the tiger exhibit, although maybe just because it was open-topped, with glass panels as the barrier.
“Have you ever had cubs here?”
“No, we haven’t. These four boys are the only lions we’ve ever had.”
“Do they get along well?” Reg wanted to know. “You know, is there ever any argy-bargy?”
“No, not generally,” David answered. “We would love to breed lions here one day?”
“What’s stopping you?”
“Well, we would have to move some of the boys on first,” David noted, “so that would be a step we’d need to organise.”
“Right,” I agreed, with a nod of my head.
David sidled closer to me.
“Would you like to come with me to feed our emperor tamarins?” he offered.
“I thought you’d never ask.”
“Can I come?” Patrick called out.
“Of course,” David permitted.
Reg stayed with the kids, while Patrick and I followed David through the zoo. Tasmania Zoo had developed rapidly to become the premier zoo within the state within a short space of time. Our early focus on primates would be unique, and hopefully a crowd-puller.
“Oh, I’ve been meaning to ask you this. What do you do in terms of vet care for your animals? I mean, when we’re just starting off--.”
“Make sure that the vets like you,” he remarked.
“Well, Tallulah, who was here last time, she’s studying to be a vet.”
A gust of wind picked up, and I listened to the rustling of the leaves. The sound startled me for a moment. I was concerned I would have a full-blown panic attack. Before I knew it, we’d arrived at our destination. David led us through into the tamarin cage, ensuring to lock the door again. Being in with the animals made me feel more at home than I had for a while, smelling dirt and fur. I kept my eyes on Patrick, indful that he would be unfamiliar with this environment. All of a sudden, two tamarins jumped forth, deciding to land on his shoulders. Patrick screamed, and I giggled. One of the tamarins jumped back off him, obviously perturbed. David, meanwhile, approached one of the animals, sitting on a little wooden ledge.
“I’m a little concerned about this one. She hasn’t been eating much.”
He placed out some food, straight into her waiting hands. The tamarin accepted the piece of fruit, nibbling at it slowly. After a moment, she dropped it, instead resting against the mesh.
“Yeah, we’ll have to get the vets in at some stage,” David decided, sounding a little concerned. “That’s alright, they’ll do the best they can.”
We exited the cage, David ensuring that the door was locked behind us. I smiled at Patrick as I took his hand again, thinking about last time we visited.
“What’s making you happy?” he asked me.
“You,” I replied. “Remember how coy we were being. You know, last time we were here.”
Patrick smiled too.
“That seems like a million years ago.”
“Oh, it was.”
David caught back up with us. Somewhere along the path, Patrick and I must have dropped hands.
“Jumilah tells me that you’re a musician,” David mentioned to him.
“Well, yes, I gather I am,” Patrick replied.
I noticed a pinkness creeping into his cheeks, as I listened to the late afternoon birdsong around the zoo.
“So, when’s your next show?” David wanted to know.
“Well, we’re not sure at this stage,” Patrick answered, “but we’ll let you know.”
“Thank you,” David replied, then bid us farewell, so that we could walk back to our cars.
Reg and Patrick walked out the front with the boys, and Mackenzie and I followed them.
“Surely there are opportunities for young musicians like yourselves in Hobart,” Reg remarked. “You know, the big smoke.”
“Well, yeah, there are,” Patrick replied. “We’ve done a few shows.”
“That’s good,” Reg praised. “You really should pursue your music.”
Patrick seemed quiet, which wasn’t wholly unusual for him. I kept my eye on the gaggle of guys ahead, even though Mackenzie was with me.
“When are you and Patrick going to get married?” she wanted to know.
That wasn’t a question I could answer, or wanted to answer.
“Mum said I’m not allowed to get married until I’m old,” Mackenzie recounted. “Like, not until I’m twenty-four.”
“Well, I’m not twenty-four, you see,” I explained, grateful for the easy out. “I don’t think my Mum would want me to get married until then, either.”
She seemed to accept that explanation. As the shadows grew longer, Mackenzie and I caught up with the boys again, and the six of us all turned to face each other.
“Thank you for having us here today. We’ll have to do this again.” Reg reached out and rested a hand on Patrick’s shoulder. “You know, we’re not that far away.”
We departed Tasmania Zoo, and I looked at that giant gorilla statue above the entrance in the side mirror until it was completely out of sight. No matter what, I was grateful for the day, and the opportunity to see the macaques. The sun was going down as we escorted Reg and the kids home. We bid farewell under swirls of vivid pink. Patrick and I got back into his car.
“The hide of the man,” he grunted as he fastened his seatbelt across his chest. “He’s the one who moved away. I’ve always been exactly where I’ve been.”
I didn’t know what to say. On the way home, we stopped off in Ross to stretch our legs and grab a coffee. We walked down the main street.
“This time next week I’ll be in Adelaide,” I mused, then looked sideways at Patrick. “I’m going to get to see Medan and Georgia’s baby.”
I felt like he wasn’t listening. We happened upon a bookshop with a cute bike parked out the front, with books in the basket on the back. I would have liked to go inside, but the shop was already closed for the day. Once we completed the loop, we returned to the car. Shortly after we got underway, Mum called and I answered the phone.
“Yeah, we’re on our way home,” I confirmed. “We’ve just left Ross. Sorry, it’s a bit later than we intended.”
“Would you like us to leave you some dinner?”
I lowered the phone from my ear.
“Do you reckon that we’ll get dinner on the way?”
“I’m not sure, if we feel hungry.”
I placed the phone back on my ear.
“Yeah, we’re not really sure what we’re going to do.”
I ended the call, stashing my phone back into my bag.
“I think Mum’s a bit cross with me.”
I breathed out, deep in thought.
“It’s alright, though, everything will be fine. We’ll both get over ourselves.”
In the end, we didn’t stop for dinner. We powered through, back to Sorell. I wondered whether they’d had classic pomodoro sauce with pasta.
“If you don’t mind, I’d rather that you didn’t come in.”
Patrick made a right turn and pulled up in the driveway.
“Thanks for driving.”
I pecked him on the lips, then got out of the car, throwing my bag over my shoulder. Once I carefully closed the door behind me, Patrick waved goodbye. He backed out of the driveway as I scurried up the front steps. With my own key, I unlocked the front door. I walked through into the house, closing the door again behind me. Mum and Dad greeted me, and I them, as I reached the loungeroom and sat down, finally able to place down my bag and take a breath.
“I’m sorry that I missed out on Aunty Paula’s birthday.”
“That’s alright,” Mum assured me. “Give her a ring when you can. I take it that you haven’t had any dinner.”
“No, I haven’t,” I confirmed.
Mum stood up. She went to find me some dinner, then returned.
“Oh my goodness, I love you,” I gushed, as Mum handed over a bowl. “I’ve been thinking about the zoo name.”
I took my first bite of dinner, tasting tomato and pasta, full of fond, bittersweet memories of childhood.
“You know, I reckon we go with Acarda Zoo.”
“Are you sure?” Mum retorted.
“Tasmania Zoo is respected and that’s what they’re called. We’re hundreds of kilometres away, we don’t need to differentiate.”
“Who knows what people will think of zoos in ten years?”
“It’s just branding,” I pointed out.
“Branding matters, though,” Mum ensured, “but I see what you mean, too. What we call ourselves is important, but it’s not everything.”
“Maybe we need to ask a bit wider?” Dad suggested. “You know, focus groups, things like that.”
Mum and I looked at Dad, then looked at each other, then back to Dad. I could see where he was coming from.
“Look, I don’t think we need a focus group.”
“Let’s sit on it for a couple of weeks,” Mum proposed. “When we come back from Adelaide, we made the final decision.”
All three of us could agree to that. Dad took our glasses and walked through with them into the kitchen. After all of that, we turned out just fine.
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.