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"How to get safely home from Taronga Zoo" by Elisa Dominique Rivera



First, don’t even be at the zoo during a forecasted storm even though your mum guilted you into taking your Tita, her not-so-favourite sister, there. 


Second, don’t catch the ferry swaying about like a drunk at a King’s Cross bar. Don’t listen to your Tita when she says, “They won’t ferry us back if it wasn’t safe enough.” She always assumed every non-Filipino person knew what they were doing.


Third, don’t let your Tita convince you that upstairs on the ferry would be better than being downstairs. Remember, she also said it’d be a good idea to hide in a coffin and surprise people… when you were 10 years old. 


Fourth, don’t sit close to her when the waves throw the ferry about like the rag doll you pined for back in Manila, which your Tita kept kidnapping, so she could get you to do chores for ransom. 


Fifth, do not under any circumstances giggle when she prays. Never shout you’re an atheist when she forces you to kneel on the dirty ferry floor. 


Sixth, don’t tell her about the life jackets because she would panic and pluck them from under her seat, while you contain your nervous laughter. 


When the ferry is tilting at a 45-degree angle towards the sky, you’ll feel you’re flying to the heavens, and have escaped the blighted day with your auntie, until the ferry’s bow smacks into the angry water. The dry chips from the zoo cafe, escaping your system. 


Seventh, when your Tita whisper-cries and you hear her promising not to gamble ever again, sit way out of earshot because she’ll be in confession mode preparing to die. Keep your distance before she says things like, “Mae, you know you’re adopted right?” 


Eighth, don’t scream at her, accusing her of lying. 


Lastly, when the ferry docks at Circular Quay, both you and your Tita would have jelly legs. Don’t leave while she wobbles an apology, it was all a joke.But you’ll be far gone, wiping your tears, safely retreating into yourself. 




Elisa is a proud Filipina living in Wurundjeri Country, Australia. She studied fiction-writing during strict Melbourne lockdowns in 2021; and won a prize for the second Writers' Playground Competition for her speculative fiction, "Free range". Her poems have been published in FromOneLine Anthology, and Musing Publication's "The nuances of new-age feminism". Her micro fiction stories have been included in NFFD's UK Write In 2023, 101words.org, and ParagraphPlanet.com. Someday she would like to write a book her daughters would love to read.

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