by Anita Goveas
fennel and lemon zest tea
She doesn’t notice anything different at first, she doesn’t garden unless the weather forecast shows no clouds. That’s becoming more and more difficult to guarantee, and she’s resorted to leaving her Laura Ashley daisy-patterned wellies by the back door and they clash with the Windsor print wallpaper. Then she trips over a pile of rectangular black panels that don’t fit with the upright purple tulips and soft-petaled camelia shrubs.
A shallow furry face with deepset black eyes surrounded by brown patches stares at her from the shed window.
“Eh, missus, I bought you some solar panels, you should get on with those. It’s six months until the next Climate Action Conference.”
When she comes round from her faint, the face has vanished but she stays away from the shed anyway. She doesn’t need it and she has her Facebook account to update and Range Rovers to research.
Three days later something orange and fluffy appears in her monkey puzzle tree. She smells it before anything else, it seems to have brought its own supply of pungent durian. The garden stinks like blocked drains.
“You’re not an orangutan, I’ve been to Borneo.” The ape-like creature carelessly sticks a fleshy probing nose into the tender fruit, juice dribbling haphazardly down its chin.
“Still taking those long-haul flights, madam? Maybe you should try a staycation. We need to cut emissions in half by 2030.”
“Where did you come from then? Teleportation? And stop damaging my tree.”
Mrs Rebello shakes a branch, the leaves are sharper than she expects. The almost-orangutan looks down at her with liquid eyes, and she steps back. She doesn’t want to get too close, she’s heard things like this have fleas.
“I’m a symbol, madam, of adaption for survival. My father is an orangutan, my mother is a proboscis monkey. And someone cut down all my trees.”
It twines itself into the branches, and Mrs Rebello can’t see it anymore. But the garden keeps smelling like a cross between turpentine and sweaty socks and she knows it’s still there.
Two days later, after she’s started washing in the downstairs sink to avoid the hard-shelled four-finned sea-turtle-dolphins in the bath and the toothy long-legged cheetah-zebra in the attic, there’s a knock at her front door.
Ms Krykos from across the street at 4 Last Chance Lane came back from her monthly trip to Lille to eat at Au Moule to find her walk-in freezer teeming with penguin-seals. A flock follow her now, whiskery-faced and flippers flapping. Some peck at the undisturbed pile of solar panels, which is starting to grow moss.
“Hello Mrs Rebello, I thought you might like to sign the petition I’ve started to get supermarkets to reduce their plastic packaging? It’s on Change.org.”
Mrs Rebello looks down at the flock, and back up at Ms Krykos’s make-up free hopeful face and penguin printed top. The label sticking out says ‘sustainable cotton, £15’.
“I’m not one for petitions, never really seen the point of them. Do they ever make a difference?”
“Felcy, can I call you Felcy? Somewhere in Dakota a woman our age is part of a human shield to stop a pipeline destroying her homeland. Maybe we should start thinking about the ones that can’t make themselves heard? We need to be net zero emissions by 2050.”
A penguin-hybrid opens its beak and Mrs Rebello can see right down its gullet. Her view is fringed by a set of very sharp, very pointed teeth. Ms Krykos leans closer, and this time Mrs Rebello doesn’t step back. These creatures have dared to come onto her property, she’s going to show them they can’t encroach on her boundaries.
“Everyone on the street has heard the growling Felcy, and the smell made the local paper”, Ms Krykos voice is stronger, layered with the thump of falling trees and roar of rising oceans, “how much more can you possibly ignore?”
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