The Inklings: Chapter 67

On Sunday morning Fanta and her sisters were having a late breakfast when the doorbell rang. It was Syafika. She burst in talking about how she didn’t know what to do about Anthony because he’d told her to call him but wasn’t answering the phone. Fanta asked Syafika to sit down at the table and poured her some tea.

“Have a crumpet” suggested Fanta before asking Syafika whether she’d like a bowl of fruit salad.

Nancy and Ruby knew it was a good time for them to sneak out to the backyard to finish their tree house, leaving Syafika and Fanta alone to discuss the mysterious Anthony.

“Are you sure you have the right number?” asked Fanta.

“Yes, here it is, in his handwriting” answered Syafika, and she showed Fanta the note that Anthony had left her.

“Let’s try now” said Fanta. Fanta dialed Anthony’s number and put the phone to Syafika’s ear. It rang a couple of times then a robotic voice announced that the number had been disconnected and that they should check the number and dial again.

“I don’t understand!” said Syafika. “He told me call him when I got home from the conference yesterday, so I did but there was no answer. There was no answer any time I called yesterday afternoon or evening. And now the number is disconnected! How am I supposed to contact him now?”

“Don’t worry, he will probably call you” said Fanta

“No he won’t. When I don’t call him he will think I don’t want to talk to him and I’ll never hear from him again!” said Syafika.

“You will see him again” said Fanta. “You always manage to see him again”.

This calmed Syafika down a bit. It was true. Anthony had disappeared from her life a couple of times before and she always ended up bumping into him again.

“It’s like it’s fate” said Syafika.

Fanta felt she should respond but didn’t get a chance because the doorbell rang again. This time it was John and D’arby.

John and D’arby showed Fanta their rental application form and John told her about his flat hunting. Fanta was not surprised at what had happened.

“Should we keep looking or take this place while we still can?” asked D’arby.

Fanta thought for a few seconds. She already knew it was hard to be a renter but hadn’t really realized what it would feel like until now.

“I don’t think rents will go down very soon” said Fanta. “But at the same time it seems ridiculous to have to spend so much money. That’s more than I pay for my mortgage. Why don’t you rent my spare rooms instead. You can have them for the same rent you pay now.”

And so it was decided that John and D’arby would stop looking for flats and when they had to move, they’d move in with Fanta. Everyone felt happy with this decision, except Syafika. She felt left out, but she was still too absorbed with Anthony to sulk about it.

“Hey, can I ask you two your opinion on something?” said Syafika to John and D’arby.

Then Syafika told John and D’arby about how Anthony had asked her to call but then didn’t answer when she did call. But that wasn’t enough information and so Syafika had to tell the whole history of their strange relationship.

“I think you should watch out” said D’arby. “Anthony seems to be playing some kind of game”

“Yeah, love would be more straightforward, I think” said John.

This was not what Syafika wanted to hear.

“Can’t you think of a more romantic explanation” asked Syafika. “Like that Anthony has social anxiety or something”

“Maybe” said D’arby. “I don’t think I’m qualified to answer really”

D’arby soon regretted having drawn attention to himself while romantic relationships were being discussed.

“Why aren’t you qualified?” Syafika asked D’arby. “How many relationships have you had?”

“None” answered D’arby.

“Really?” asked John

“Really” said D’arby. He wanted to change the topic but couldn’t think how to.

“Why?” asked Syafika.

D’arby sighed and said “I don’t know why. Maybe I’ve just never met anyone I wanted to have a romantic relationship with”. D’arby didn’t like the incredulous looks he was getting and decided he wanted to leave. He looked at his watch then said “I need to go and work on my thesis now”.

John left with D’arby because he didn’t want Syafika to start asking him about his past relationships.

As Fanta closed the front door after John and D’arby she remembered something. She went and got the job application she’d written and took it to show Syafika.

Syafika was happy that Fanta had decided to apply for the job in her team at work – so happy she forgot about Anthony for a little while. Syafika read Fanta’s application and corrected the typos but otherwise thought it was very good.

“I hope you get the job! I think this application should get you the job. I think it is better than the one I did when I got my job” said Syafika.

“What’s the process? How do they decide who gets the job?” asked Fanta.

“I think someone from Human Resources goes through all the applications and removes any that aren’t complete. If there are still too many they probably have to pick out the ones they think best meet the selection criteria. Then they give the shortlisted ones to a panel and the panel interivews people and decides who is best.” said Syafika.

“Who do you think will be on the panel?” asked Fanta

“Not sure. Christine probably… and one other person from the team. They have to have someone from another team too – three people altogether, or at least there were three people on the panel when I applied.”

“Do you think Christine will like me?” asked Fanta.

“How could she not!” answered Syafika. She imagined how proud she would be to have her friend Fanta join the team.


The Inklings: Chapter 66

When D’arby got home he found a pile of papers sitting on the table. There were leaflets with descriptions of flats available in the area and some rental application forms. D’arby looked at the leaflets and became alarmed by how high the rents were. Then he noticed that one of the rental application forms had been partially filled in. John’s handwriting was quite child-like and some words had capital letters in the middle of them. But what struck D’arby the most was John’s birthdate – according to the form his birthday was 1st January, which would have been a week ago. D’arby felt bad that he had never thought to ask when John’s birthday was and now he’d missed celebrating it. Then he wondered why Fanta hadn’t done anything to celebrate John’s birthday either.

D’arby set his alarm for 1am because he wanted to discuss the effectiveness of his pills with John when John got home from work, but D’arby needn’t have set the alarm. There was no way D’arby was going to be able to sleep when there were important questions he needed answers to. D’arby had almost made up his mind that his pills didn’t actually do anything, but because that was such a disappointing conclusion to make he kept going over the evidence again and again, hoping that he’d missed something that would allow him to change the conclusion.

Most of D’arby’s thinking focused on when John and Andrew had taken the pills because both had changed behavior as soon as they took the pills. D’arby had taken this instant change to be evidence that his pills worked but now that he knew that Andrew knew D’arby had put pills in his coffee D’arby needed to consider that maybe John and Andrew had only changed because they knew they were taking pills and so expected to change. What also distinguished the cases of John and Andrew was that they were both in stressful situations at the same time (John thought he’d been poisoned and Andrew thought his wife had run off to live with hippies). D’arby realized that he wouldn’t have been accosted by John if John hadn’t been near rock-bottom and D’arby wouldn’t have spiked Andrew’s coffee if he hadn’t felt Andrew needed it. So maybe it was the situation that made John and Andrew change, and not the pills.

If he was able to temporarily accept that his pills didn’t work then D’arby still had other questions to answer. Like why they didn’t work – was his initial idea wrong or was it the execution that was wrong? Would the pills work if the production process was tweaked or had D’arby misunderstood how they would affect the brain? Was it worth doing more work on the pills, or was the risk of being caught too high, and the chance of success too low?

At 1am John was still walking home. D’arby got out of bed when his alarm went off and went to watch the street from the living room window. As D’arby waited for John he realized something that cheered him up – people can change without pills! It was one of those revelations that seem enormous if they are had in the middle of the night or when you are tired. In the morning D’arby would realise that his night-time realization was nothing new and that triggering change was probably just as hard as coming up with pills that make people change, but for now D’arby was happy because he thought he’d made real progress.

It was only when D’arby saw John coming down the street that D’arby realized what this new information meant for John. It meant that John hadn’t been magically cured by pills. It meant that there was no permanent change in John – nothing to stop him from going back to his old ways.

When John opened the door of the flat he was surprised to see D’arby staring out of the window.

“Why are you still up?” asked John. “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine” answered D’arby. “I just wanted to say how sorry I am that we missed your birthday last week. I saw your birthdate on that application form on the table.”

“So you stayed up to say sorry?” asked John.

“Yeah” answered D’arby, and then he turned to go back to bed, but John had too much to talk about to let D’arby go.

“Don’t worry about my birthday. I don’t like to celebrate getting older so I don’t tell anyone when my birthday is. Do you want to know about the flats I saw?” asked John.

“Oh, yeah” asked D’arby, wishing he’d remembered to ask.

“First I looked at a place that cost the same as this one, but there was such a long queue of people looking at it that I had to wait half an hour to get inside. While I was waiting one of the neighbours came out of their flat and told me not to move in to the building because the ceiling always leaks and everything goes mouldy. When I eventually got inside I looked up and saw that the living room ceiling was covered with black mould and there was water dripping in one corner. It didn’t seem to put other people off though and when everyone else took an application form I got scared and asked for one too.”

“I hope there’s some better news coming up” said D’arby

“Sort of” said John. “The second place I looked at cost 30% more than this one, and from the outside the block looked ok, but the Real Estate agent didn’t turn up. I know it wasn’t that I made a mistake about the time because there were about 10 other people waiting too. Afterwards I walked to the office to ask what had happened and they said the place had already been leased”

Before D’arby could complain that that wasn’t better news John continued.

“So I went to look at a third place, even though it was way more expensive” said John, and then he paused to see what D’arby’s reaction would be, but D’arby just looked tired so John continued.

“I was a nice place, but nothing special, really just similar to this one. One bedroom, quiet street, small block. And for double the rent we pay now.”

D’arby looked shocked when John told him the price.

“Can we even afford that?” asked D’arby

“I do make more money than that every week, but there wouldn’t be much left over. We’d go from ‘comfortable’ to ‘struggling’ I reckon” said John. “I took an application form though. The agent said to get it in by Monday lunchtime”.

“I think we should talk to Fanta tomorrow” said D’arby. “She might be able to tell us whether we should wait and look for something better or take what we can before rents go up even more. It will also give us an opportunity to joke about moving in with her”.

“Ok” said John. He was glad D’arby hadn’t given up on his idea of them moving in with Fanta because the other option was looking pretty dismal.


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.

 


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