The Inklings: Chapter 65

On Saturday morning Mamadou woke when the birds did. Then he had to wait hours until it was a suitable hour to disturb Rose – now that Zikpi had filmed the ‘before’shots Mamadou was allowed to start working on the garden. He filled in the time it took for the sun to rise above the roof of the neighbouring house by drinking tea and drawing pictures of a waterfall and plants.

Ousman and Binta weren’t going to come with Mamadou to help this time. They were busy doing mathematics. Mamadou was happy that Ousman was so clever and that Binta worked so hard to help him, but he also felt uneasy. How was he going to fit into their lives?

When Mamadou arrived at Rose’s house she and Festus were busy discussing the house plans. When Mamadou remarked that Rose looked much happier than she had the day before Rose explained that it was due to the magic of having a nice long sleep and waking up to find the house sparkling clean and tidy. Festus was struggling to move around the house on crutches, but he also seemed much happier.

Rose took Mamadou out to the garden shed to show him the tools. Festus followed slowly and carefully.

When Rose opened the door of the garden shed Mamadou was amazed to find that it was larger and better equipped than some of the houses he’d lived in. There was a window, a sink and power points, a small fridge and an assortment of garden machinery and tools, bottles of fuel and oil, bags of different kinds of manure and potting mix. There was even a small table and chair.

“Wow! It’s good enough to live in – can I?” said Mamadou. Rose and Festus laughed but Mamadou had only half been joking. He could see where you could hang a hammock from the ceiling and thought it would be great to be able to spend all night and day in the garden.

“Now is there anything else you need? We should go to the garden centre to buy some plants” said Rose.

Mamadou definitely didn’t want to spend the rest of the morning at a garden centre. He wanted to get stuck in.

“I don’t need plants yet. I need to do some digging and shaping of the ground first” said Mamadou. He unrolled the garden plan and showed Rose where the stream that took water from the house to the pond was going to go. He also showed her the water feature in the middle of the pond.

Rose and Festus looked at the plan and then at the garden and then back at the plan again.

“You will need tonnes of rocks for the water feature, won’t you? I can organize a delivery. They can put them on pallets and unload them from the truck using a forklift” said Rose.

“You’ll also need to hire an excavator to dig the pond and to knock down that wall” said Festus and he pointed at the heavy wall made of sandstone and bricks with a doorway that lead from the manicured part of the garden near the house from the wilder part at the back of the yard.

Mamadou felt alarmed. He didn’t want all those machines.

“Not necessary” said Mamadou. “I’ll use a shovel and big hammer and I’ll reuse the bricks and stones from the wall to build the waterfall in the middle of the pond”

Rose and Festus looked at each other. They thought Mamadou was being silly but didn’t know how to say that nicely so they accepted a temporary defeat and anticipated that Mamadou would change his mind once he started working.

“Well what can we do to help?” asked Rose.

“Go inside” said Mamadou. He was trying not to sound rude but he really just wanted them to leave him alone to work.

The conference officially ended after lunch on Saturday but Syafika left at morning tea time. She was anxious to get home to see how her Mum and Dad were going. When she arrived at home she was relieved to hear laughing from inside the house. Rose and Festus were trying to make a nice lunch because they thought it was important that Mamadou had something nice to eat after all the digging he’d been doing, but then Rose had burnt the curry and Festus had dropped the salad on the floor.

“What would Binta think?” Rose had asked Festus. And that’s why they were laughing.

Syafika was happy that her parents seemed happy, and now that she had one less thing to worry about she remembered that she was supposed to call Anthony. So after greeting her parents she took her bags to her room and picked up the phone. She realized that she was breathing too fast and took some long slow breaths to try to calm down. Then she carefully dialed Anthony’s number. It rang, and rang and rang. Nobody answered and there was no option to leave a message. Syafika was disappointed but then realized that perhaps Anthony hadn’t been expecting her to call that early. She decided to try again after lunch and went to the kitchen to see if she could help her parents rescue some of the food.


The Inklings: Chapter 64

D’arby felt tired when he woke up on Saturday morning. His mind had been rushing all day Friday, but not getting anywhere. His thoughts had been been stuck in a loop. He’d think about having to move, then about how things would be so much better if he could just finish his thesis because he’d be free to look for work and have money to rent somewhere. Then he’d think about what Guitarman had said about not going back to work until you’ve worked out what you should really be doing. Then he’d start wondering whether he should keep going with his thesis at all and he’d start worrying that he was just wasting more precious time. Then he’d try to think what he should be doing instead and he’d return to the start of the loop after he concluded that he had to find somewhere new to live before he could do anything different.

D’arby had promised Jinabu he’d come and visit on Saturday and had been going to ride his bike there, but now he just didn’t feel like it. What he really felt like doing was getting back in bed and crying. It was probably something he needed to do, but not just yet.

As D’arby put his shoes on he wished the restaurant didn’t have to open today because if John could come with him to visit Jinabu it wouldn’t be such an ordeal. Now that the restaurant was open again D’arby didn’t see John much. D’arby usually left for uni before John got up and, apart from Mondays, John was at work before D’arby came home. D’arby was worried that John would move in with Fanta when their flat sold. They hadn’t been able to discuss the impending sale yet. D’arby decided he’d wait for John to wake up so he could talk to him about the flat and then he’d decide whether he still went to Jinabu’s or not. He could always get the bus if he didn’t feel like riding.

D’arby went to the kitchen, planning to make breakfast but when he heard John snoring he changed his mind. D’arby looked at John, who was sound asleep on the sofa bed. He didn’t want to risk waking John and making him cross just before they talked about what would happen when their flat sold, so, as quietly as he could, D’arby put on his backpack, took two coffee mugs from the dish rack and went to the café to buy egg rolls and coffees.

John was in the shower when D’arby got home. D’arby put the egg rolls on plates on the table and wondered whether they’d need cutlery. He put out knives and forks, just in case, then poured two glasses of water. D’arby heard the shower turn off so he called out to John “Breakfast’s ready!”

“Won’t be long” answered John.

D’arby sat down at the table and tried to be patient.

A few minutes later, John and D’arby were tucking into breakfast.

“Did you see the sign out the front?” asked John. “Fanta says the block will be knocked down for sure.”

“Yeah, I guessed as much” answered D’arby.

“Maybe we should look for somewhere new straight away so we aren’t competing with the rest of the people in the block” suggested John.

“We’d have to take a lease in your name” answered D’arby. “I don’t have any income”

“Ok” said John. “Why don’t we go and look for somewhere this morning?”. John thought it might be fun to go flat hunting. He’d never done it before.

“Phew” said D’arby. “I was worried you’d have decided to move in with Fanta”

John stopped chewing. He felt a bit stupid for not having thought of that.

“That would make sense, but I hadn’t thought of it. Fanta lost her job so could do with me paying her some rent. I hope she wasn’t hoping I’d suggest it” said John.

“What do you mean ‘Fanta lost her job’?” asked D’arby.

“Lenny ran away. Hiding from the police, Fanta thinks. Fanta can’t just carry on without him and assumes things won’t be ok even if he does reappear” explained John.

“How’s she going to cope then?” asked D’arby

“Waiting at my restaurant” said John, smiling. He felt good that he could help.

“That won’t be enough for her to live on, I’m sure” said D’arby.

John felt a bit offended, but was worried it was true.

“You should move in with her then” said D’arby.

John felt there was something wrong with that though.

“I don’t want to move in with Fanta because it is practical” said John. “If we decide to live together I’d want it to be because we wanted to, not because we needed to. And now that I think about it, she probably wouldn’t want me moving in with her. We’ve only known each other a few months and she’s a pretty cautious person.”

“Ok” said D’arby. He knew he should stop talking but couldn’t help it. He was curious and having a new idea. “How many rooms does Fanta’s house have?”

“Four” said John.

“So she does have a spare room then?” asked D’arby

“Two” answered John. “Her sisters prefer to share a room”

“We could both move in with Fanta then” suggested D’arby. “Then you wouldn’t have to worry about it being all romantic and serious. It would just be practical – her taking on boarders to help pay the bills. And you’d finally get your own room!”

John drank some coffee and thought about it.

“Maybe” said John. “If the topic arises I might mention you joking about the idea and see how Fanta reacts. But I’m still going to look at places to rent this morning. Are you coming?”

………………………………………………………………

A thick cover of clouds was rolling over when D’arby got on his bike to ride to Jinabu’s place. He waved goodbye to John and peddled carefully off down the street. John walked off in the direction of a flat that was open for inspection that morning. He wished D’arby was coming with him, but didn’t want to stop D’arby seeing his sister.

D’arby was feeling energetic after talking to John and he was happy to see the cloudy sky because it meant the ride wouldn’t be stinking hot.

When D’arby arrived at Jinabu’s house he was feeling good, apart from being really thirsty. Andrew opened the door. Jinabu and the baby were asleep, and Andrew was watching TV. He got D’arby a bit glass of tap water with ice in it. Then Andrew sat down and, without taking his eyes off the TV, asked D’arby how his thesis was going.

D’arby thought Andrew was being rude and that he should turn the TV off so they could talk properly. D’arby also didn’t like talking about his thesis. He’d been asked the same question by almost everyone he bumped into for the last few years and was sick of answering it.

“What can I say this time?” D’arby thought to himself. He thought about how he’d been going and realized that his thesis had actually been going well. There wasn’t much more to write. He felt a bit silly that he hadn’t realized it before. He’d been too busy writing to think about timelines.

Andrew was beginning to give up on getting an answer from D’arby when D’arby said “I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will submit by the end of this semester.” As D’arby said this he calculated that there were eleven weeks left until then. To avoid talking about his thesis more D’arby asked Andrew how he and Jinabu were going.

“Pretty good” answered Andrew, “But sometimes I feel a bit down. I think it it’s because I’m too tired. I know that if I asked, I’d be able to work one less day a week, but I calculated that we wouldn’t be able to afford that without Jinabu going back to work and she doesn’t want to yet. I think I’ll be ok as long as I can find something to perk me up a bit. You don’t have any more of those pills do you?”

D’arby was confused. How did Andrew know about the pills? He wondered whether he’d forgotten about telling Jinabu about them, but he was pretty sure he’d never told her. He’d never told his parents either so it couldn’t be that they’d told Jinabu and she’d told Andrew.

“What pills?” asked D’arby – to see what he could find out.

“The ones you put in my coffee when we were staying at the farm” said Andrew. “You probably thought I didn’t see but I secretly watched you to see how you were making the coffee.”

D’arby looked at Andrew and smiled. He wondered what other things Andrew secretly knew and realized that he’d probably underestimated Andrew.D’arby opened his backpack and took out a plastic container out of the small inside pocket. He looked inside the container and saw that it had about 20 pills in it. For a second or two he agonized over how many he should give Andrew. D’arby was confused because the way the pills were supposed to work was permanent. Andrew shouldn’t have needed a second dose. D’arby wondered whether he should just tell Andrew that but he’d begun to wonder whether he’d been wrong all along. In his head, D’arby looked back at the data he’d collected so far – all the times people had taken the pills and what had happened. D’arby himself had felt no side-effects nor had he felt any effect at all. He’d assumed that was just because he hadn’t been addicted to anything. John’s result was instant and lasting and there were no side-effects that D’arby knew of. D’arby thought he saw instant results when Andrew took the pills but he wasn’t sure whether the effects were lasting. Did Andrew just think he needed some or had the effect worn off? He’d need to talk to Jinabu to know. John said he hadn’t noticed any changes in people eating pizza with pills at the restaurant but there wasn’t really a way of knowing if they didn’t know what people had been like before and couldn’t track what they were like after. When Syafika and Vincent took the pills there had been an instant result, perhaps – they’d agreed amicably that they would be happier apart than together, but it wasn’t very significant. D’arby wondered whether there had been any result at all.

D’arby handed Andrew the whole container and instructed “Don’t take more than four a week or more than two at a time”.

Andrew nodded. He put the container in his pocket and turned the TV off. “Want a coffee?” asked Andrew as he got up and walked to the kitchen.

D’arby said “Yes” without really noticing. He was too busy thinking about the pills in a new way – he had questions to answer.

Andrew kept telling D’arby about how he was going while they drank their coffees but D’arby wasn’t paying attention. He was trying to calculate probabilities in his head, and was impatient to talk to Jinabu. Fortunately for D’arby, the baby woke up and so Jinabu had to get up too.

Jinabu came in smiling and asked D’arby if he’d like to hold little Amadi. D’arby was happy to. He liked the name. But Amadi didn’t like D’arby holding him and started to cry.

“Why don’t you take him for a walk” Jinabu suggested to Andrew.

When Andrew and Amadi had gone, D’arby asked Jinabu how she’d been but didn’t pay much attention to the answer. He was impatient to move on to his next question.

“How’s Andrew been?” asked D’arby.

Jinabu stopped and thought for a little while. She was a bit offended when D’arby asked questions like that because she could tell he didn’t like Andrew, but she did have something interesting to say on the topic so she forgave him for asking.

“Actually, he seems to have changed. He has become quite reasonable – good at communicating. I think the main change is that he tells me what he is feeling as it happens, so we can discuss things. Before he’d stay quiet until things mounted up then explode and say awful things. He used to tell me how I should behave and what I should do. Now he tells me what he is feeling and about what he wants and so we can usually find a way to make us both happy, or at least neither feeling hurt.”

D’arby wondered how Andrew was able to communicate his feelings. D’arby didn’t usually know what he was feeling himself, or at least it was hard to know at the time – he could usually work it out a bit later.

D’arby nearly crashed his bike a couple of times on the ride home. He wasn’t concentrating on riding because he was too busy worrying about whether his pills actually worked. By the time he arrived home he’d decided that it was likely that his pills only had a placebo effect and he was impatient to discuss this with John.


The Inklings: Chapter 63

To read the serial from the beginning go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

There was only 30 minutes between the end of the talks for the day and the start of the conference dinner so Syafika rushed back to her room. She wanted to have a bath, or at least a shower, before the dinner and make sure she looked her best. When Syafika opened the door to her room she saw a folded piece of paper on the floor – someone had slid a note under the door. As soon as she saw the handwriting on the note she knew it was from Anthony.

“Have to go home early so no drinks tonight. Sorry. Call me when you get home.

A”

Underneath the writing was a phone number.

Syafika was disappointed but also a bit relieved. She carefully copied Anthony’s phone number into her address book before folding the note up and putting it in her wallet. Then she went and had a bath and worried about having to call Anthony when she got home. Thinking of home made her remember about Zikpi. She quickly finished her bath so she could call Rose before dinner.

Binta answered the phone and told Syafika that Rose had gone to have a sleep because she’d been exhausted by the day. Then Binta had to get back to cooking so she put Ousman on the phone.

“Syaf! Your house looks so beautiful today. There are bunches of flowers in every room and the floor boards are shining” said Ousman

“What did Zikpi think?” asked Syafika

“Zikpi kept saying how interesting everything was and how hard it was going to be to finish on time and under budget. She made your Mum cry a bit”

Syafika felt sad when she heard that and almost started to cry herself. How dare stupid Zikpi barge in and make Rose cry! And how awful of India for making it all happen in the first place. But Syafika didn’t have time to say those things. It was time for her to go to the conference dinner. She asked Ousman to let Rose know she’d called and that she’d be home tomorrow afternoon, then said goodbye and walked to the conference hall.

The hall had been set up nicely for dinner. There were long rows of tables set with white table cloths, cutlery, plates and sparkling glasses. There were candles burning and the overhead lights had been turned down low. Syafika was happy with the lighting. She knew that candle-light was flattering. Then she remembered that Anthony wasn’t going to be there and felt disappointed. All she could hope was that there was something nice to eat and that she didn’t have to sit next to someone annoying.


The Inklings: Chapter 62

To read the serial from the start go to https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

Rose had been up since 4am and was feeling exhausted, but at least the house was finally tidy. Mamadou and Ousman arrived as Rose made herself a cup of tea. Zikpi was due in ten minutes so they all had tea and discussed how nervous they were feeling. Festus was on the sofa, pretending to be asleep. He preferred Rose to think that he was sleeping than lying there watching her clean. He wished he’d been able to help.

There was a knock on the door five minutes before Zikpi was due. Rose opened it and there was India and standing next to her was a lady that must have been Zikpi. Rose invited them in and made them cups of tea. Zikpi had been visiting India while waiting for the film crew to arrive.

Zikpi wasn’t very interested in drinking tea. She started looking around the house, making comments and asking questions. Twice Rose had to ask her not to go upstairs because nothing was being renovated up there and Amanda was sleeping.

Ousman looked out the front window and saw a blue van pull into the driveway. Two ladies got out and started unpacking equipment from the back of the van.

Ousman opened the front door for the crew and as soon as Zikpi saw them she was instructing them on what to film.

After filming parts of the house and garden for about an hour, the film crew set up in the lounge room and filmed Zikpi interviewing Mamadou, Festus and finally Rose. Rose was feeling so tired by the time she was asked a question that she started crying and had to take a break to regain her composure.

Zikpi and the film crew left three hours after they’d arrived. Rose ran upstairs for a sleep straight away. Ousman and Mamadou wondered whether Rose was going to be ok. Festus told them not to worry and that they should just relax until Binta got there. Binta was coming over to make dinner and hear about the day.


The Inklings: Chapter 61

To read the serial from the start go to https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

Syafika slept well on Thursday night but had to get up earlier than usual so she could catch the 7am train to the Central Coast. She had to get a taxi from the train station to the conference venue and arrived at 8:30am – just in time for registration.

Syafika collected her badge and room key from reception then took her suitcase to her room. Syafika was pleased to find that the room had a bath, and that there was a good view of the beach from the balcony. She wished she was there for a holiday instead of a conference. Still, she was hopeful that she’d learn a lot at this conference and be able to feel more confident about what she was supposed to be doing at work.

Syafika was walking back to the foyer when the door of a room she was passing opened and Anthony came out. He smiled when he saw Syafika but then looked a bit scared. Syafika looked down at his name tag and noticed that it said “Lawrence Tucker”. Anthony must have noticed because he quickly explained that he was attending in the place of a colleague who wasn’t going to be able to arrive until tomorrow and that it had been easier to just take Lawrence’s name tag than to explain to the people at reception what was really going on.

“Lucky your colleague isn’t female then” said Syafika, imagining Anthony having to wear a dress. Anthony seemed relieved and smiled. Then a bell rang and over the intercom a voice called all conference attendees to take their seats in the hall. As Syafika and Anthony walked to the hall, Anthony asked Syafika if she’d like to go for a drink after the conference dinner. Syafika agreed, even though the thought of it terrified her.

Nelson was already sitting down in the hall when Syafika and Anthony walked in. Syafika thought she better take the seat next to Nelson. Anthony went and sat on the other side of the room.

The first couple of talks of the morning bored Syafika, despite her best efforts at concentrating. There was just too much jargon for her to be able to understand what the speakers were going on about. She began to wonder whether she had wasted her time by coming. Syafika looked through the conference program for any mention of Anthony before remembering that he was attending in place of Lawrence Tucker but Lawrence Tucker wasn’t presenting any talks either. Syafika looked at Anthony and saw that he was busy taking notes. Then she realized that she should probably be taking notes too, but she didn’t want to disturb people by rummaging through her bag to find a pen and so she sat there awkwardly until the end of the talk.

The third speaker was much more interesting to Syafika because she used some of the words that Syafika had been hearing in work meetings. Syafika was glad she’d been able to get out a pen in time. The speaker was explaining how criteria could be used to decide whether a project should go ahead or not. Syafika was interested because she’d always been confused about how the executives at work decided which projects would go ahead and which wouldn’t. From what the speaker was saying, the decision could all be boiled down to the numbers in a table. Syafika wondered how many executive jobs those tables could replace and smiled.

Nelson was the next speaker and his presentation followed-on suitably from the previous one. He explained how the government was going to use this ‘decision making matrix’ to make decisions consistently and how they were going to do even more – that to make the modelling behind the numbers consistent, all modelling used in decision making would be done by the same team – Christine’s team. Finally, Nelson explained how they were going to modify the criteria by multiplying them by an additional matrix of factors to make sure only really worthy projects could proceed. Syafika thought this was a great idea, until question time. The lady who’d been the third speaker asked Nelson to clarify how the additional matrix of factors was going to be used and asked whether, if it was possible to use it to make the criteria tougher, wasn’t it also possible to use it to make the criteria weaker and if they realized that they were really creating a loophole that allowed the Minister to use discretion in determining decisions when the whole purpose of the criteria was to avoid that. Finally, she suggested that if they wanted a way to allow the Minister to make the criteria even tougher, they should add additional criteria instead.

Nelson explained that the approach he had presented was only a suggestion, that they would be taking comments on board and that of course they only wanted to make the process stronger and more consistent and less open to political manipulation but that at the same time they needed to leave room for Ministerial input for the times when issues arose that the matrix hadn’t been able to forsee. He called it ‘future-proofing’.

Syafika thought again about what Nelson had told her about Christine on Tuesday and wondered whether all government decision making power had just been handed over to her new team. She thought it was a dangerous thing to let the same team that was in charge of the decision making matrix also be in charge of all government modelling.

Many hands in the audience were still raised when it was time to stop asking Nelson questions and have morning tea.

Syafika stood up and looked around to see where Anthony was, but she couldn’t see him. She wanted to tell Nelson how much she’d enjoyed his talk, but he was surrounded by people who still had questions. Everyone wanted to know more about how government was going to be using and modifying their decision making criteria – some because they wanted to know the implications for good decision making and others because they wanted to know how to get their developments approved.

Syafika went and made herself a cup of tea but when she took a sip all she could smell was coffee. Then she noticed that Anthony was at her side, holding a cup of coffee.

“Did you enjoy the talks?” asked Anthony.

Syafika told him how the first two had been beyond her comprehension but that she’d enjoyed the next two.

“I saw you with Nelson at the café the other day” said Anthony. “Are you working with him now, or friends?”

“I moved to the same team” said Syafika, choosing her words carefully. She wasn’t ready to explain how she’d had to move there because she was in disgrace.

Syafika didn’t pay much attention to the talks between morning tea and lunchtime. She was busy thinking about Anthony and what their after dinner drinks were going to be like. She started to feel nervous and almost wished she could go home.

By lunchtime Syafika was feeling really hungry. Plates of sandwiches were brought in and put on tables around the edge of the hall. Syafika wondered how many she could eat without looking greedy and she was just about to select her first sandwich when Anthony walked over and let out a disappointed sigh as he looked at the sandwiches.

“Sandwiches aren’t a real meal” said Anthony. “Let’s sneak off to the restaurant for lunch”.

Syafika didn’t really want to, but then she noticed Glenda selecting sandwiches from a nearby table and so she agreed.

As Anthony and Syafika walked upstairs to the restaurant Anthony said “Did you see Glenda? I’m glad to avoid her. Do you remember how I had to work with her before I left? She is very nosy and loves to gossip”

Syafika couldn’t help replying “I’m glad to avoid her too” which lead Anthony to ask why and before she knew it, Syafika was explaining what had happened to her at work that week. Anthony listened sympathetically, nodding a lot. He seemed interested to know all the details and so Syafika told him as much as she knew.

When Syafika finished her lunch she realized that she and Anthony had been talking for along time and looked at her watch. It was already time for the next lot of talks to start. The waiter must have known because when she came to clear the plates, instead of asking whether they would like any coffee or dessert she just asked whether everything was ok. Anthony smiled mischievously and said to Syafika “Let’s miss the first talk” and he asked the waiter for the dessert menu.

It was almost time for afternoon tea to start when Syafika and Anthony finally left the restaurant. As they walked back to the hall Anthony looked at the program and then said “I’m not really interested in the speakers this afternoon. I think I’ll go and have a siesta. I’ll see you later” and he walked off in the direction of his room.

Syafika wouldn’t have minded a siesta either, but was feeling guilty for already having missed three speakers so she walked quietly back to the conference hall. As she walked, she remembered that by now Zikpi would be at home filming the ‘before’ shots for the renovation program.

 


The Inklings: Chapter 60

D’arby arrived home at dusk. As he approached the block of flats he could see something big out the front. He had to tell himself that it wasn’t reasonable to be scared because it couldn’t be a monster, but when he got close he realized that it was something monstrous. It wasn’t too dark for D’arby to be able to make out the writing on the “Expressions of Interest” sign, but even if it had been too dark to read it, he’d have known, by the shape of it, that it had something to do with the owner wanting to sell the building. D’arby wondered what John would think about it. D’arby was a bit scared that John would decide to go and live with Fanta and leave him to fend for himself. Without John’s income D’arby wouldn’t be able to find anywhere new to rent. D’arby hated feeling so helpless. “At least I can always go and stay with Jinabu for a while if things get really bad” thought D’arby and as he opened the flat door he began to imagine what it would be like to have to travel from Jinabu’s place to uni and back everyday.

D’arby didn’t often feel lonely when John wasn’t there but tonight he did, so he turned on the TV as he ate dinner. The only channel without ads was screening a live debate between politicians. D’arby couldn’t decide which was more moronic – ads or politicians, and he got up to turn the TV off, but then he saw something that made him change his mind. As the TV camera panned over the audience D’arby thought he saw Guitarman sitting in the front row. D’arby smiled, anticipating that something unusual may be about to happen.

And so D’arby left the TV on and watched the treasurer and then the shadow treasurer give long talks about what they were going to do for the country if their party won the upcoming election.D’arby wondered who they were talking to – none of the things they promised to do were particulary appealing to him and many were abhorrent.  When D’arby heard “More roads” he pictured more fat people and more hazy days. “When he heard “growth” he pictured more forests being chopped down, more land being dug up, more high rise flats packed with suicidal people and higher mountains of rubbish. Even “more jobs” made D’arby feel uneasy because he didn’t see how there could be more jobs without more work being needed and why was that good when most people longed to be able to have more time for recreation?

To be fair, the shadow treasurer did utter a couple of sentences that D’arby could agree with, like how we needed to reduce the gap between rich and poor, but when he explained how his party would do those things he lost D’arby’s favour again.

When the shadow treasurer had finished speaking, the journalist who was running the evening came to the centre of the stage. D’arby wondered why she was wearing a headset and guessed it was because live transmissions need someone behind the scenes to be able to give instructions if something goes wrong.

“I’d like to thank both our speakers for being so passionate and also so concise – we are running ahead of schedule” said the journalist. “There is plenty of time for questions so….. wait…. I’m just being told that we will give the remaining time to a third speaker – a wildcard. Please welcome Dr Kaye.” And she started clapping enthusiastically.

The camera panned the audience again. People were clapping but didn’t seem comfortable with what was going on. D’arby wondered whether the major parties had stacked the audience. Then the camera stopped on Guitarman. He stood up and walked up the side stairs onto the stage.Instead of his usual white robe he was wearing an outfit that looked a bit like pyjamas because his shirt and pants were made of the same fabric. As Guitarman arrived at the microphone stand D’arby’s skin began to tingle.

Guitarman took a deep breath and scanned the audience. He smiled. Then he took another deep breath and began.

“First I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land – the Ngunnawal people – and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.

I hope I don’t sound insincere. I must admit my ignorance made me so scared I’d say something wrong that I copied what I’ve heard people say before.”

Guitarman paused. He seemed to be trying to decide something. Then he continued.

“Even though I’m scared of saying something wrong I’d like to add that I believe I have felt love for country and so I can imagine what it would feel like to have the place you love taken from you. I think it would strike me down forever and that I would never be able to forgive or be generous again. And yet the original custodians are able to share their land with us. Even when we stand here and outline plans for destroying it” said Guitarman and he turned to look at the treasurer and shadow treasurer.

It was the audience’s turn to take a deep breath. The journalist began walking towards Guitarman as if she was going to stop him talking but then she must have been given instructions through her earpiece to leave him alone and she walked back to her seat at the side of the stage. Guitarman noticed and smiled. Then he continued.

“We are part of this land. All of us. We cannot exist without it. That’s something we all have in common, rich and poor, right and left, crazy and sane.”

“Home is not just our house and family. Home extends down through the earth beneath these things and up into the sky above but also to the places around us and the things in them. It includes the clouds, the birds, the trees, the worms and caterpillars. And it includes us. This land would not be the same without us. Whatever we touch, we change. Wherever we walk we leave traces, no matter how lightly we try to tread. If nothing else, we leave a trail of exhaled air.”

“If I were Treasurer I would start by acknowledging this: That we are part of nature, that we depend on nature and that our very existence has an impact on nature. It can’t be otherwise.”

“And so if we are wondering what will be good for our economy, we need to consider what will be good for nature, and what will be good for us – for human society, because it seems we’ve somehow been tricked into serving an economy that is no good for us or our land.”

“Because somehow we’ve been conned into believing that we can generate wealth from nothing – that our wealth does not depend on the wealth of nature. That what happens in the economy has nothing to do with our land – that there need be no interaction. That we can have more and more stuff without hurting nature and that even if we hurt nature it won’t have a bad impact on our lives.”

“But lies only work for so long, because eventually the truth becomes evident.”

“Nature needs to feel some love from us. We have an impact on nature, we can’t help it. But that doesn’t mean that what we do must be bad for nature. There are people who manage to regrow forests, clean up creeks, repair erosion, build soil, bring back birds and bees to their farms. Where is the support in the budget for more of them? Why do they have to do all the heavy lifting while lazy money worshippers flick cash back and forth between themselves? I’d like to see fewer money worshippers and more tree worshippers.”

“Have you even looked at a tree lately” asked Guitarman, as he looked at the treasurer and shadow treasurer.

“They rise up out of the soil (the stuff lots of people call ‘dirt’ and try to avoid) and stand there in all weather, churning out the oxygen we can’t live without and turning sunshine into leaves, branches, fruit and seeds. Food for us and other creatures. Mulch for the soil. Wood for houses, paper for books.”

“They cool us in hot weather, protect us from the full force of the wind, and provide us with a place to climb up and survey the landscape from.”

The camera moved to the treasurer and shadow treasurer as Guitarman said the bit about climbing trees and the audience at home couldn’t help thinking that they didn’t look like they’d been climbing any trees lately.

The camera returned to Guitarman. He smiled then continued.

“We have incredible brains – perhaps far too powerful for the things we usually use them for – so let’s use them for something that’s never been done collectively before. Let’s stop worrying about a budget surplus and go for a nature surplus – the budget surplus will work itself out because money and budgets are all man made. We control them. We may think we can control nature, because we’ve seen that we can affect it. But it has nothing to do with control. We need nature.”

Guitarman paused for a while. People weren’t sure if he had finished or not. Someone started clapping. Guitarman gave the thumb’s up and continued.

“Don’t sit back thinking your say on the economy happens when you vote in the election. Everything you do has an effect. What do you spend your time doing? Is it good for nature without being bad for people? Or is it good for people without being bad for nature? If you can’t answer “yes” to one of those questions, don’t go back to work tomorrow. Quit. Sit home and work out what you can do that IS good for nature AND people, and then do THAT. And if you are one of those lucky people who already earn their living doing things that are good for nature and people, then your job is to support those people who are transitioning from the old economy to the new one. If your friend has quit their job and has no money, let them stay with you while they find a way that they can support themselves without undermining our future. Listen to their plans enthusiastically then give well thought through advice.”

Then the warning bell rang and Guitarman knew he only had one minute left to finish his speech. He took another deep breath, but didn’t seem as calm as before. He started speaking a little bit faster and his tone became more urgent.

“Don’t turn your nose up and people for looking poor. Wealthier people take more from nature than poor ones, even if they try to spend their money on eco-friendly stuff. Flashy office buildings and smooth roads don’t grow themselves up from the dirt. Nor do overseas holidays, posh schools or even high-tech hospitals. And how do you know whether that person in the street with scruffy shoes, a stained shirt and dirt on their face hasn’t started farming their backyard so they can give the money they normally spent buying food away to organizations that are working towards a nature surplus?”

The bell rang again to tell Guitarman he only had 30 seconds to finish.

“It is time to change our personal and collective aims. Instead of aiming to die rich, aim to give back more than you take – from nature as well as other people.”

Guitarman paused before his final two sentences but didn’t smile this time.

“Don’t be scared of taking that step into the unknown. We are all more adaptable than we think. Be scared of being too scared to do anything good.”

Guitarman bowed his head and the audience knew he’d finished. Then he turned to the treasurer and shadow treasurer and bowed his head again. Even though the things Guitarman had said had conflicted directly with the policies and collective wisdom of both major parties, the audience applauded loudly and enthusiastically. The camera scanned the audience and paused on the people who were showing the most emotion. Some people were even crying.

The treasurer’s staffers had already started playing back the video of Guitarman’s talk so they could transcribe it and would spend most of the night analyzing it before concluding that it was not just the words that made people respond so emotionally, but his sincerity.


The Inklings: Chapters 58 and 59

Chapter 58.

When there was a knock at the door John jumped. He wasn’t expecting anyone and so couldn’t help thinking that maybe the police had finally come to arrest him. He crept over to the door and looked through the peep hole. Phew! It was Fanta.

Fanta hadn’t slept much all night and when John saw her he could tell. He immediately started to worry that she might be about to break up with him and felt a bit like crying.

“Sit down, poor thing. I’ll make some tea” said John, and then he winced at how much he’d sounded like his grandmother.

As John stirred milk into the cups of tea he tinkled the teaspoons against the inside of the cups extra loudly, to cover the silence. Then he picked up the cups and turned to face Fanta. She was smiling.

“Phew!” thought John.

“Lenny has disappeared so I don’t have a job” said Fanta.

John took a little sip of tea and coughed. It was too hot.

“What do you mean ‘Lenny has disappeared’?” asked John.

“He ran away from the Police, I think.” said Fanta.

“Why?” asked John, but Fanta didn’t know. Neither of them would have been surprised if Lenny had broken the law though. He didn’t seem to care about being a good person.

“Do you want to work at the restaurant?” asked John.

Fanta laughed. She’d expected that John would say that. What worried her was that she knew waitresses didn’t earn enough to pay her mortgage.

“How could I say ‘no’ to that” answered Fanta. “But you know I would be looking for another job at the same time. I guess this might be what it takes for me to get a job related to my degree.”

“Fine” answered John. What he really wanted to ask was whether he could pay Fanta’s bills for her. But how could he word that offer without sounding condescending.

“My money is your money, you know” said John, finally.

“All of it?” asked Fanta, trying to look annoyed, but she was feeling happy.

And so John and Fanta agreed that Fanta would work at the restaurant for the weekday lunchtime shift when her sisters were back at school. Then it was time for John to set out for the restaurant. As they left the block of flats they noticed someone was putting up a giant sign out the front. It said “Expressions of Interest” and had a picture of the block of flats with the land dimensions marked.

“Looks like you might have to move” said Fanta. “Developers would love this site.”

John looked worried. He wondered how D’arby would cope with having to move while trying to finish his thesis. John would be sad to leave their little old flat.

Chapter 59.

When Syafika arrived at work at 9:05am there was a note on her desk to let her know everyone was in the meeting room. Perhaps someone had told her that every day started with a team meeting at 8:30am and she’d forgotten. Syafika could hardly remember anything that she’d been told the day before. She hadn’t slept well, probably because she’d been feeling hungry. Then when she tried to eat some toast for breakfast it had made her feel sick. Even a cup of tea hurt her stomach.

Syafika opened the meeting room door as gently as she could. All the chairs at the table were occupied so she stood at the back of the room and listened to Christine give a presentation, but she had no idea what Christine was going on about so she tried to work it out from the slides she was showing, but they were just as incomprehensible. Christine seemed to be giving them a maths lesson and Syafika couldn’t work out why. Syafika began daydreaming about Anthony coming to rescue her.

Then after the meeting Nelson rescued Syafika instead. He suggested they go for a coffee at the café in the Botanic Gardens. Syafika looked at her watch – it was only 10am – and couldn’t believe her luck.

On the way to the café Nelson asked Syafika how she was finding the job and whether she was enjoying it. Syafika admitted that Christine’s team was much more intense than her old one and that she was having trouble keeping up.

“I have an idea” said Nelson. “I am speaking at a conference on the Central Coast tomorrow. It starts in the morning and finishes on Saturday afternoon. Everyone is staying at the conference venue, which is a nice hotel near the beach. You should come too. It would give you a very good overview of our work and how it fits in with what other people are doing.”

Syafika nodded. She thought that going to a conference would be more fun than spending Friday at work but was a bit worried she’d fall even further behind if she missed out on what happened at work tomorrow. Nelson could see the indecision in her face and suggested she sit down and have a think about it while he ordered their coffees. This time they were going to be able to drink their coffees at the café – another luxury that Syafika had been missing.

When Nelson returned he was carrying a tray with two coffees (in real cups!) and two pieces of cake. Syafika decided at that moment that she would go to the conference tomorrow.

Perhaps it was because Syafika had a full tummy for the first time in days, but that afternoon at work went well for Syafika. She was able to pay attention to everything that went on. Christine even had some good news. They had been given a bigger budget and could afford to have two more people in their team. Christine emailed around the job descriptions and Syafika was excited to see that one of the positions was for a graduate and would suit Fanta perfectly.

………………….

When Syafika left work she went straight to Fanta’s place (making sure she called Rose to tell her first). Syafika had a printout of the job advertisement in her bag and was feeling excited. She imagined how nice it would be to have Fanta working with her.

As Fanta waited for Syafika to arrive she was also feeling excited. She was looking forward to working at the pizza restaurant for a while and was feeling more secure now that she knew that John would be there to help her if she needed it.

When Syafika knocked on the door of Fanta’s house she could smell something delicious cooking, probably pasta.

As Syafika and Fanta and Fanta’s sisters sat at the table enjoying a dinner of pasta, salad and a cold fruity tea they told each other about their days.

Syafika gave Fanta the job description. As Fanta read it she felt happy that Syafika and John were both looking out for her.

“You better stop telling me how hard Christine makes you work if you want me to apply for this job” said Fanta. Fanta read the job description and saw that it was something she was qualified to do, but then she read that it was full-time and realized she didn’t want a full-time job.

Syafika noticed that Fanta had started to frown.

“What’s wrong?” asked Syafika.

“Do you think I’d be able to do it part time?” asked Fanta.

“I don’t know” said Syafika. “I’ll ask Christine on Monday. But I think you should apply anyway.”

Fanta was feeling a bit slack for not wanting to work full-time. She wondered if it was lazy of her to want to be able to keep some of her time for herself and her sisters.


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