Updated: May 16, 2022
This morning I woke up and got some clothes ready to wear, then had a shower. I wanted to keep myself as calm as possible. Try as I might have, I kept looking for distractions. The bathroom, as it turns out, is full of them. I opened the cupboards and peered at all the paraphernalia we’ve managed to collect within them. Moisturiser is something which Mum uses, but I don’t, pretty much ever. Nonetheless I smoothed some from her tub over my face. The sensation of the pads of my fingers against my supple skin felt soothing, exactly what I needed. I thought that my heart must have been racing, but when I checked my heartrate, it was actually just about average. I was glad for Mum dropping me off for my psychologist appointment, gratefully kissing her on the cheek before I got out of the car. Just like usual, I walked into the medical centre and announced my name to the receptionist. She showed me to another waiting room, and before I knew it, I was walking through the door and sitting down in front of the psychologist.
“What brings you here today?”
“On Boxing Day, my grandfather was shot dead in front of me. I have experienced a few panic attacks, at loud noises.”
“That sounds like quite a traumatic event.”
“Something like that happens and then you, just, go back to work.”
“Where do you work, Jumilah?”
“At Woollies, at Sorell. I’ve worked there for, oh, it’s been almost three years now.”
“Do you like your job?”
I didn’t want to critique the psychologist, but I haven’t come to her to talk about work.
“Yeah, I guess so. It’s a job. I don’t expect I’ll do it for the rest of my life.”
To reorient myself in the moment, I focused on what was true. The psychologist’s name is Jenine, she did tell me that when I was on my way in, and the receptionist mentioned that as well.
“How often do you work?”
“I generally have five shifts a week.”
“Do you work weekends, or overnights?”
“Not really overnights. I work the close sometimes, but not that much since finishing school.”
“How do you get to work?”
“I ride my bike, mostly.”
Frustrated, I sat forward in my chair.
“Look, I’m sorry, but I’m not really here to talk about this.”
My head started to throb.
“There were three gunshots. I remember that quite clearly.”
Sitting back, I calmed down. I didn’t have the choice to leave. This wasn’t intended to be a combative encounter.
“What I didn’t realise about bullets is how the sound can echo.”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Or maybe I just remember it that way.”
“Was anything done to commemorate your grandfather’s death?”
“There was a funeral, over in Sumatra.”
“Were your parents there?”
“No, they didn’t come.”
“Was there a particular reason why they didn’t?”
After a moment, I looked Jenine in the eye.
“Look, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know. We went over there later, of course, when we were evacuating the animals and again, to take Nanek home.”
I reached for my glass of water and took a small sip.
“Does it do me good, to tell you what happened?”
“It can do. What you need to be able to do is move your trauma into your long-term memory.”
Jenine turned to her computer. I watched the screen, as she brought up her calendar, filled with coloured bars of appointments.
“I would like to book in again for another appointment in two weeks. Does Thursday morning work for you on a regular basis?”
“I work casually, I won’t get my roster for the week after next until Monday morning, although I can try my best to make Thursday work. Otherwise, I could do Monday mornings, I’m always off work then.”
“We could book in for Monday the twenty-eighth, I have an appointment at 9am.”
“That works for me.”
We made the appointment, then I left the surgery, paying on the way out. Returning to where I’d left my bike, I checked my phone. I’d missed a call from Tallulah. I stood outside the doctor’s surgery and phoned her back.
“Sorry, I was just in my therapist appointment.”
“Look across the road.”
I swivelled around and, sure enough, Tallulah was there.
“I’m off work today, I wondered if you would like to have some lunch together and hang out.”
“You know, that would be lovely,” I accepted.
We got into Tallulah’s car and she drove me in the direction of the city.
“How about Eastlands at Rosny Park?”
“I’m happy with that.”
Tallulah drove us over there. I enjoyed looking out the window during the journey, having chatted enough for the meanwhile. We arrived at the café and ordered coffees.
“How are things going with the zoo development?”
“Well, we have rezoning. Did I tell you that?”
“No, that’s fantastic. Do you have plans for what you’re going to build?”
“Not at the moment. It’s hard to know what we will be able to build.”
The waitress approached the table and placed down our coffees in front of us.
“Your mum’s at work, by the way. We spoke to each other after she dropped you off.”
“Oh, thanks for that. You’re both so organised. I wouldn’t have expected her to wait around and not go to work while I was in my appointment. She’s very good to me.”
“It’s lovely how close you are with your mum.”
“You know pretty much everything about what happened with Kakek, right?”
“I know that he was killed by poachers.”
Tallulah wiped her mouth with her serviette.
“Has anything happened in relation to catching them at the sanctuary?”
“No.” I shook my head with frustration. “I wish that we could do something.”
“Are you frustrated with yourself that you can’t identify them?”
“Of course, I am. All I can remember is that there were three shots.”
Tallulah dropped me home in the late afternoon. Just Uwak Andrew and Kem were around, so I could tell them that I’d had a good day so far, and I was heading out for a walk. That could provide me cover. It was a little colder than I anticipated outside. Therefore, I did a loop of the hill, then returned. I thought about what we could do in terms of constructing the zoo exhibits, particularly a building for the tarsiers. As it started to get dark, I headed out to the loungeroom. I could smell Mum cooking dinner in the kitchen, delicious, inviting and safe.
“My goodness I love you,” I gushed as I ambled through, spotting the phone.
“I love you too,” she affirmed.
“I’ve been thinking of calling Reuben again,” I admitted. “I know that I see him on Mondays at the primate TAG meetings, but I would like to check in with him, with where we’re up to with preparing for the zoo.”
On the stove was a pot of vegetables and stock.
“I don’t have any problem with that,” Mum responded. “Reuben, and Sam, are good advocates for us. It’ll be hard to make plans if we don’t know what animals we’re looking at.”
“Would you be happy with more than Nanek’s animals, even to begin with?”
“Yes,” Mum confirmed. “That would be great.”
“The question is whether that would be even possible. I don’t want to get my hopes up.”
Once dinner was ready, we carried it through and sat down at the kitchen table.
“Ibu is going to live with Djuni for a little bit. Hopefully that will be best for everyone.”
“Yeah, hopefully,” I agreed, then we ate in relative silence.
After dinner, we started to clear the table.
“Would you mind if I go and have a shower?” Mum asked.
“No, that’s fine,” I assured. “We’ve got this covered.”
Dad and I cleaned away from dinner, while Mum showered and changed into her pyjamas.
She later emerged, brushing her hair.
“Would you like to work on the zoo plans tonight?” Mum suggested.
“That would be great.”
“Here, you’d need to house tarsiers inside, and probably lorises as well,” Mum explained.
We sat back down at the kitchen table. Dad had fetched some butcher’s paper, a notepad, different coloured pens, and his laptop.
“So, we need a building.”
“Yes, I think so.”
Mum pulled across the paper and started sketching the building.
“We could have an outdoor, mesh exhibit as well, especially for the summer.”
She beamed as she drew, whipping up a plan for the zoo in a multitude of colours.
“Really, it’s about the plantings, not the buildings, and then we’d have dholes and macaques, here.”
Mum adjoined moated exhibits to the eastern wall of the main building.
“We’ll need a big macaque exhibit. It’s a large troop. The dholes, also, I think that we should breed them, there’s a young male and a young female at the moment.”
“Nanek and Kakek have bred dholes, haven’t they?”
“Ibu and Bapak only bred the dholes once. The young male is that pup.”
“Right,” I answered. “Have you spoken with Nanek lately?”
“Last I spoke to her, she’d arrived at Djuni’s place and she’s going to stay there for a little bit as the police plan another sting.”
“OK,” I responded. “Do you think that everything’s going to be alright?”
“I really hope so.”
Mum continued to sketch the exhibits, adding islands for gibbons and siamangs, using our property’s natural waterway.
“To breed the dholes, I think that we would need a recommendation from the carnivore group.”
“Darling, does it really work that way?”
“Yes, it does, at least I think it does,” I answered. “That’s how it seems to work for primates.”
“Alright, well, whatever we need to do, we’ll figure it out.”
I smiled, needing to trust and believe that she was right, that everything would fall into place. Mum gently stroked my hair.
“I love you.”
With a smile, I told her that I love her too. I found myself yawning.
“Are you tired, Jumilah?”
“Yeah, a little bit.”
“You’ve had a big day. You can go to bed if you’d like.”
“Thanks, I think I will.”
Mum kissed me on the cheek, then I got up from the table. I wandered into the bathroom and cleaned my teeth, then washed my face before exiting, flicking off the light on the way out. Once I’d called out goodnight to Dad, I entered my bedroom and changed into my pyjamas. When I lay down in bed, I could hear rain against the roof. While the sound was incredibly calming, it was taking me longer than usual to fall asleep. I wanted to just give up and scroll through my phone. Yet, when I opened my eyes and reached for it, a noise distracted me, before the pad of my thumb could get to the home button. I froze. Once I remembered to take a breath I burst from bed. I crept through the house and into the loungeroom, where a slither of moonlight leaked in through the window. Mum’s cowered shoulders rocked. I held her in my arms because I didn’t know what else to do. Mum tried to breathe, to acknowledge my presence.
“We used to fight, a lot. That’s why I left, I came to Australia to study, to be far away.”
I stroked my fingers tenderly through Mum’s hair.
“We’re never going to fight ever again. I feel so guilty.”
Mum sobbed through a fire of grief.
“All those times,” Mum uttered, and now she was holding me, “I can’t stop thinking about them.”
There I had my answer, of why my parents hadn’t travelled to Sumatra for the funeral. I didn’t know what to do with my face. My features contorted with shock and I tried to hide my expression, facing away from Mum. After that we weren’t really able to go to sleep. Mum kissed me on the head.
“Do you want to just put the TV on for a bit?”
We must have fallen asleep that way.
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.