This morning when we arrived at the vet clinic, Thomas had a field trip for Tallulah and I. We got into the car, taking Paul the platypus ready for release with us. I felt a little melancholy, even though this was for the best. While we were in the car, I tried to rest and relax as much as I could. Even though I’d recovered from coming off my bike, that doesn’t mean I’m no longer a little sore and tired. It still would have been lovely to have more time with Paul. I could have learned so much about platypus husbandry, without even having to go to the mainland.
“We could have a platypus, I suppose, in the building that we’re building for the tarsier.”
I mimed with my hands, picturing the building, while Tallulah looked over her shoulder at me.
“I said that out loud, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did,” Tallulah confirmed, “but that’s alright. Are you thinking of additions to the zoo?”
“Yeah, but it’s hypothetical. We haven’t even got the first development approved.”
Seemingly suddenly, Thomas pulled over to the side of the road.
“Is everything alright?”
“Yes,” Thomas confirmed. “This is as close as we can park to the release site. From here, we take Paul and we walk through the bush to the stream, and that’s where we release him.”
“There aren’t snakes here, are there?”
Thomas only smiled. I heard the running water, before I saw it. On the edge of the stream, he retrieved Paul.
“You have to be mindful of the spurs.”
Thomas let the squirming platypus back into the water.
“Thankfully, he’s made a full recovery.”
Paul swam away. We smiled to bid him farewell. Once we could see Paul any longer, Thomas, Tallulah and I trudged back to the van, then returned to the clinic. In the afternoon, a family was bringing their cats in to be put down.
“They came into the world together and they’re leaving this world together.”
Thomas injected one cat, then the other. Their family stayed with them until they breathed their lasts. It had been a sombre afternoon, but Thomas was right – those cats had gone out in the most peaceful way possible, surrounded by love. When we walked out of the vet clinic, Kyle was waiting.
“How is my favourite vet this evening?”
He wrapped Tallulah into his arms.
“I’m OK, I’m good,” she answered, then kissed him on the lips. “We released a platypus today.”
“Well, that sounds pretty cool.”
“Yeah, it really was. It’s good to feel like we’re making a difference.”
“How about we go out tonight to celebrate?”
“That would be great.”
Kyle was kissing Tallulah, almost preventing her from answering, and she giggled as he withdrew.
“I drove Jumilah here this morning, though, I don’t want to leave her in the lurch, I didn’t realise you were coming.”
“Well, I could drop Jumilah home. Then, we could keep on going to Frogmore Creek.”
They kissed again, then we got into the car. Tallulah told Kyle all about releasing Paul, while he drove me home.
“Thank you,” I said as I got out of the car in the driveway, before they drove away.
The phone was ringing when I walked back inside the house. I raced into the kitchen, plucked it from the cradle, pressed the green button to answer the call, then placed the phone against my ear.
“Hello, Jumilah Fioray speaking.”
“Hi, Jumilah,” Bruce responded. “I have good news for you.”
My heart thudded within my chest.
“Your planning permission has been approved.”
I staggered backwards, the fridge catching me.
“That’s wonderful,” I gushed with a gasp. “So, we’re all good to go.”
“Well, you’ll have to collect all of the paperwork,” Bruce mentioned. “Other than that, you’re all good to go. You can come over now, if you want.”
“Alright,” I agreed. “I’ll come over right now.”
“See you soon,” Bruce said.
Once he hung up, I placed the phone back in its cradle. I left the house in a particular hurry, heart thumping within my chest. The cycle trip to the council offices took only about fifteen minutes. It was primarily along the main road, not that different to riding to work. There was a chilly breeze when I arrived. I removed my helmet and chained up my bike. Walking inside the council building, I approached the front desk.
“Hello,” I greeted. “I’m here to see Bruce.”
The receptionist’s face lit up.
“Are you the one we’ve approved the zoo for?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” I confirmed. “That’s what I’m here for, to collect the papers.”
“That’s so exciting,” she mentioned with a grin. “You may go through.”
“Thank you,” I responded, then walked towards Bruce’s office.
He was sitting in his chair, leaning back. His hands were folded behind his head. Bruce’s feet rested on his desk, a pile of papers behind his crossed ankles. I recognised the plan on top as familiar – the exhibits we’d proposed, our zoo, Acarda Zoo, right here in Sorell, Tasmania.
“Nice of you to join us this evening,” Bruce greeted me.
“I really wanted to get my hands on those papers. This is the first step, getting the development approved, now we’ve got to build the thing.”
I sat down in the middle seat and touched the warm, smooth surface of the documents.
“Thank you for doing this for us.”
I glanced right into Bruce’s eyes.
“Well, it’s my job.”
He folded his arms.
“Because you’re an owner of the land, you’re able to sign the documents.”
I leaned forward. Bruce removed his feet from the desk, finally. He fetched me a pen, which he tossed to me, and I caught with two, cupped hands – a simple catch, but one which Kyle would have been proud of. Bruce pointed out the places to sign. I did just as I was told, making approval for the development official – an important step.
“Ah, I can’t wait to tell my parents.”
Bruce handed me over the documents. I gave him back his pen.
“I’m sure I’ll see you again sometime. Take care.”
“Thank you, take care.”
I stood up and departed the council building. The remaining staff weren’t far behind me. It was time for all of us to get home. I carefully slipped the papers into my bag, slipping the straps onto my shoulders. As I left the council building, I remembered the promise which I’d made to Patrick, that I would work his close shift. It was the last thing that I wanted to do, but nonetheless I cycled to the supermarket. After chaining up my bike, I scurried around to the back of the store and entered the staffroom.
“We got it!”
“We got the planning permission. We’re able to build the zoo.”
“Have you told Patrick?”
On cue, and to my surprise, he entered the staffroom.
“Have you told Patrick what?”
“We got planning permission. We’re building!”
Patrick beamed, then raced across the staffroom. I leapt into his arms. Patrick kissed me, intensely, on the lips.
“I’m so proud of you,” he insisted, when we finally parted for air.
I feel grateful for Patrick’s support, in this project which I have embarked upon. My heart thumped within my chest as he finally let my feet down to the ground.
“So, when are you going to start building?”
“Well, as soon as we can hopefully. The sooner we start building, the sooner we get finished. Then, the sooner we’re able to receive the animals and open the zoo.”
I felt incredibly tired, yet still buoyed by the happy and unexpected news.
“Wait, didn’t you ask me to take this shift? I should let you go.”
“Sorry, I didn’t let you know.” Patrick ran his hand down his face in frustration with himself. “Mary ended up taking Sloane to her appointment. I can work, you go home and celebrate with your family.”
Mum called just as I was about to leave.
“Hey, hey,” I greeted her, sounding dreamy. “Listen, I’ve got news for you.”
“I know, Bruce called us too.”
While I felt a little robbed, I mostly didn’t care.
“I actually went to work, because I thought I had to work. Turns out I don’t though, so--.”
“I’m on my way, I’ll come and collect you.”
“Thank you, that would be great.”
We ended the call, and I didn’t have to wait long. Mum was beaming when I got into the passenger seat of the car.
“We did it!”
Mum embraced me over the gearstick and kissed me on the cheek.
“Kakek would be so proud,” I murmured.
Mum started driving home.
“We should call Reuben.”
“Yes, we can do,” she agreed. “I’m sure he’ll have plenty to say.”
“Patrick was so proud of me.”
“I’m really pleased,” Mum replied. “We’ll have to start ordering the materials. For the aviaries, we’ll need mesh. I gather for the nocturnal house we’ll need glass for the internal walls.”
It crossed my mind to ask Patrick, Luke and the band guys if they could help with construction. We arrived home and walked inside, where Dad had cooked dinner and poured his glasses of wine.
“Serve yourself up,” he invited.
Dad carried through a bowl and his own glass to the table. I scooped casserole into a bowl, then handed one to Mum.
“Thank you,” she murmured. “Are you right to get yours?”
“Of course,” I agreed, already preparing myself a meal.
I followed Mum into the loungeroom, where we sat down at the kitchen table alongside Dad. Even before drinking any alcohol, I felt giddy.
“Here’s to a new chapter.”
We clinked glasses, then I took a sip.
We ate our dinner. Usually, Lowanna would have been running around our feet. Instead, she was snuggled up in her bed, looking so cute. One day, we would have to have wombats in the zoo. After dinner, Mum cleared away the table.
“You’ve had a big day,” she mentioned. “If you’re feeling tired, I don’t mind if you go to bed.”
“Thank you,” I said, giving Mum a hug, before departing down the hallway.
I brushed my hair, cleaned my teeth, flicked off the bathroom light, then walked into my bedroom and got into bed. Breathing out slowly, I said a prayer. Rolling onto my side, I reached for my phone, so that I could text Tallulah and let her know. Tomorrow, it begins. We need to start construction so that, after however long that might take, we can apply for a licence. The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment need to inspect enclosures before we can be granted one. There’s still no guarantee we would be able to obtain animals. Even with a licence, we would need permits to import animals into Tasmania. That thought reminded me that I needed to check the documentation, but that could wait for another day. Despite the joy, my body felt heavy, and I quickly drifted off to sleep.
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.