“And that finishes our equine tour for today,” Jen said. “Do you want to hang out here, or start back?”
“It’s getting foggy and chilly here. I’d rather be more inland,” Carrie decided.
Jen agreed, and they galloped back to the Montana De Oro trails.
“Here, let’s get away from the beach.” Jen turned inland. The trail led right into the overnight horse camp area, a few miles from where the day use trailers parked up on the bluff.
“Oh, it really smells like Australia here!” Carrie said excitedly. “It makes me miss home.”
“We have a lot of eucalypt stands in the area. They planted them in the last part of the nineteenth century. The Southern Pacific Railroad grew eucalyptus to make railroad ties, but the wood twisted and warped too much.”
"These trees are home to thousands of monarch butterflies who migrate from colder areas to overwinter on the branches.”
“That must be a beautiful site.”
“It is; it’s cool. And there are other places in California with groves that harbor Monarchs. In fact, if you were to follow the immediate coastline north from Los Angeles, you would find an unbroken line of eucalypt forests all the way to San Francisco."
Jen stopped a moment to think. “You know, it’s the same path the subtropical parrots from Australia and South America follow when they escape their owners.”
“Yeah, there are entire flocks of wild green conures, and Amazon parrots living in places like Telegraph Hill in San Francisco.”
“Do you know what that means, Jen? If your sugar gliders escaped, they would be all right on their own.”
“How do you know about the sugar gliders, Carrie?” Jen asked in surprise.
“You asked Billy’s friend to rig a smuggling cage, Jen. Billy told me of the scheme.”
“He probably told you I was a fucking idiot too.”
“Pretty much those same words, but he was ready to rescue you if you became entangled in the law.”
"Umm hmm, you made quite an impression on both of us,” Carrie chuckled.
“You’re a vet tech, Carrie. You’ve been on the front line with this Hendra thing. I need your honest answer. Are you sure the Hendra Virus has never been found in sugar gliders?”
“Yes, I’ve told you that already. Why, are you worried they have it and are spreading it?”
“Yes, I am. It seems so coincidental, me bringing them here and everyone getting sick.”
“Well, I've not heard anything about a connection to sugar gliders. Stop worrying. Besides, they have never been outside of their cages, right? Does anyone else know you have them?”
“Only Honey and Sandra.”
“Have they raised any worry?”
“Then relax, Jen. You’re a bereaved wife. Give yourself a break. I thought I was the only obsessive worrier around here”
“You, an obsessive worrier,” Jen remarked, I thought you were as cool as a cucumber.”
“Well you might think so,” replied Carrie. “I hide it well, it’s a lot to do with my being in the closet, but whatever the cause, I have anxiety issues, like you’d never believe, I’d say I have OCD.”
“Seriously,” said Jen. “I would never have guessed, like I know you’re fussy about the house and cleaning up, well organized and stuff, but not to that degree.”
“Survival m’dear. survival.” Carrie said in a serious tone that made Jen know she wasn’t kidding.
“C’mon,” said Carrie. “Let’s ride, I feel relaxed on a horse, not so anxious.”
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Butterfly Heaven: Death From Down Under, Chapter 35