To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/
As Mamadou walked through the house he was shocked by the mess that the burglars had left and wondered whether they’d been more interested in causing pain than stealing. Not much was broken but hardly anything had been left in its place. Most things had been dumped onto the floor, even the contents of the cutlery drawer. The intrusion made Mamadou feel anxious and he realised he was scared that they hadn’t found what they were looking for and would come back.
Mamadou hurried out the back door and over to his shed. When he opened the door and found everything as he’d left it he let out a sigh and realised he’d been holding his breath. Mamadou would have loved to stay hiding in his shed but he knew he’d have to return to the house to help clean up. As he walked back inside he noticed Rose coming out of her greenhouse.
“Everything ok there?” asked Mamadou.
“Yes, I don’t know why I was so worried, but I guess I just love my plants” said Rose. “Did they mess up your shed?”
“No” replied Mamadou.
When they got inside Rose and Mamadou discovered that India was busy tidying up.
“I know this might sound insensitive, but I really want the street meeting to go ahead tonight. So let’s get your place all tidy and then return to my place to finish preparing” said India.
Mamadou smiled. He was glad that India could be so unemotional about the mess because it made him feel calmer and safer. He was also looking forward to the meeting that night. They were going to vote on a plan for the street and elect a committee to make it happen. Although Mamadou wouldn’t admit it, he was really hoping he would be selected for the committee.
“Will you help me tidy upstairs?” asked Binta.
“Ok” said Mamadou and he followed Binta upstairs. As they reached the first floor landing Mamadou looked upstairs towards Amanda’s room.
“Where was Amanda when the burglars came?” asked Mamadou. ”I thought she never left her room or the house”
“Rose said Amanda went to visit a friend today. Everyone says Amanda never leaves her room or the house, but it is an exaggeration because she does sometimes come out of her room and a couple of times a year she goes out” said Binta.
“How did the burglars know that today was one of the rare days Amanda wouldn’t be home?” asked Mamadou.
“That’s a very good question” said Binta. “I did see someone hanging around this morning, though. I think he was watching the upstairs windows with binoculars”
“Did you tell the Police that?” asked Mamadou.
“Of course” said Binta. “But maybe I should have said something to Rose this morning. Maybe she wouldn’t have gone to India’s if she knew someone was watching the house”
“Don’t worry – India would never have let her stay home anyway” said Mamadou.
Mamadou folded up Ousman’s clothes and put them away while Rose put her things away. Mamadou noticed that Binta’s computer was on the floor and that the screen was cracked. As Mamadou watched Binta squat down and gently run her finger over the crack he felt like crying. He hated to see Binta suffering.
The house was still not quite tidy when it was time to go back to India’s for the street meeting, but it was good enough for everyone to feel that they could take the rest of the evening off.
Mamadou followed Binta out the front door and noticed that a storm was approaching. He tried not to think about clouds and instead concentrated on imagining how nice it would be to hear rain falling on the roof.
India had ordered pizza for dinner, and it was delivered just as the guests were arriving. Mamadou didn’t like pizza but was too excited about the meeting for it to bother him as much as it usually would. Instead he took two slices and as he stood eating them he watched the faces of the other people who’d come for the meeting. It was almost the same group of people who’d come on Thursday and they all seemed to be looking forward to voting.
“Come and sit with Penny and I” said Gina and she guided Mamadou by the elbow over to towards Penny.
Mamadou dutifully sat down next to Penny and Gina sat down on his other side.
“What do you think of tiny houses” asked Gina.
“The ones that are super quick to build” said Penny.
“It isn’t that we don’t like your designs but we don’t want to be imposing on India for too much longer and were thinking that maybe a tiny house would be a good interim solution – while you build the rest of the house and garden” said Gina.
“Ah, I see” said Mamadou. “Yes, I think that would work”.
Mamadou pictured his latest design with a sweet little caravan in the middle and realised it would actually improve the design.
“We like this one” said Gina and she showed Mamadou a brochure of a house on a trailer that had its own rainwater tank and solar power system.
“If we order it we can be out of India’s by May” said Penny. “Should we do that?”
“Yes, do that” said Mamadou.
“Great! Don’t stop working on your design though. We want you to start building as soon as possible” said Gina.
Mamadou looked at India and wondered whether she had any idea how much Gina and Penny wanted to get out of her house. He hoped she didn’t know because he suspected that India meant well and would be hurt if she knew that most people found her difficult to be around.
When the pizza was all gone India wheeled the whiteboard into the meeting room. Everyone sat down quietly and watched as India listed the alternative plans on the white board. Then she asked the people who’d come up with the ideas to each briefly explain their plan.
Victoria and Graham’s idea was first on the list. Graham sounded nervous as he explained that one solution was to sell their land and let the developers build flats and that Penny and Gina could buy a flat.
Mamadou couldn’t help smiling when Victoria added “We actually don’t want to vote for our idea anymore though. Should we remove it from the list?”
“No” said India. “Someone else might want to vote for it”
Next it was Mamadou’s turn to explain his idea. He realised he felt nervous and had to clear his throat a couple of times. He had to fight the instinct to rub India’s list off the whiteboard and start doing drawings as he explained his idea for closing the street to cars and creating parking spaces underneath a new house for Victoria and Graham. He even added a couple of new details that he’d thought of since Thursday.
Mamadou tried to be a good audience member for the last three people who explained ideas. He looked at them and nodded every now and then, but really he wasn’t listening at all because he was too busy worrying that he hadn’t explained his idea well enough.
“How would you like to vote?” asked India. “By a show of hands, or by a secret ballot?”
“Show of hands” suggested Victoria and a few other people responded in agreement.
“Anyone disagree?” asked India, but nobody said anything.
“Ok, let’s get started then” said India. “Please raise your hand if you want to vote for the first idea.
Mamadou was relieved when nobody raised a hand.
“No votes for plan number 1” declared India.“Please raise your hand to vote for the second idea”
Mamadou quickly put his hand up then looked around and saw most people join him.
“25 votes for plan number 2” declared India.
Mamadou put his hand down and tried to stop smiling but couldn’t.
India guided the meeting through voting for the remaining three ideas but everyone already knew that Mamadou’s plan had won.
After India declared Mamadou’s idea to be the winner it was time to elect a committee to make it happen.
“I nominate India” said Graham.
“I gratefully accept the nomination” replied India.
“I nominate Mamadou” said Syafika.
Mamadou was surprised that Syafika would nominate him because she had the feeling that he resented him being around.
“Do you accept?” asked India.
“Yes” said Mamadou.
It was harder to find three other people willing to be nominated but in the end Victoria, Gina and India’s next door neighbour Donald were nominated and because there weren’t more nomination that spots on the committee there was no need to vote. Mamadou could see the value in Gina and Victoria being on the committee but suspected that Donald had only accepted nomination so he could spend more time with India.
As everyone got up to leave Syafika gave Mamadou a high five and said “How did this happen? Good things like this never happen!”
“Nothing much has happened yet” said Festus.
“Yeah, but at least people want it to. I’m not used to that” said Syafika.
When Mamadou got outside he noticed that it had been raining and realised he’d forgotten to listen out for it. After saying good night he went to his shed and got out his designs for Penny and Gina’s place.
As Mamadou looked at his drawing he hoped he hadn’t become too ambitious. The new ‘house’ didn’t looke like a house at all. On the back left corner of the block Mamadou had created what looked like a Spanish patio garden. Mamadou had drawn high walls on the left and back of the block that looked like building facades. They had windows, alcoves, planter boxes and balconies on the first floor and on the ground floor there were verandahs with arched supports. Vines grew up the walls and there were potted gardens on the balconies. On the right of the block was a small forest that merged with the trees around Rose’s frog pond. In the middle the man-made garden transitioned to wilderness via a small structure that looked like it was half waterfall, half ruined temple.
Mamadou sharpened a pencil and had just started drawing Penny and Gina’s tiny home near the front of the block when someone knocked on the door of the shed.
Ousman pushed the door open and came in carrying a tray with a cup of tea and a slice of watermelon on it.
Ousman put the tray down on the table and started looking at Mamadou’s drawing. Mamadou took a sip of his tea and waited for the questions to start.
“That’s a nice garden. What is is for?” asked Ousman.
“That’s Gina and Penny’s new house” said Mamadou.
Ousman looked at the drawing again and frowned.
“But where is the house?” asked Ousman. “Is that the thing you’ve just started drawing in the middle?”
“No, that’s a new addition – they’ve asked for a tiny home to live in while the real house is built” said Mamadou. “Can you see the house yet?”
Ousman looked at the drawing again and Mamadou could tell he was thinking hard. Then Ousman smiled.
“Is the house inside these walls? A long narrow house?” asked Ousman.
“Yes, that’s part of it” said Mamadou. “There’s also a section here of building that will look invisible because it will be made of reflective double glass that is angled so it reflects other parts of the garden and walls” said Mamadou and he pointed to what looked like the middle of the back wall.
“And finally this mound is the roof of another section of the building” said Mamadou and he pointed at the waterfall.
“It will look like someone has parked a small caravan in an abandoned garden!” said Ousman.
“Yes! The little caravan home will accidentally become the centre of the design” said Mamadou.
“Can you add one more thing?” asked Ousman.
“What?” asked Mamadou.
“What about a little gate keeper’s cottage at the front corner of the block? Someone could live there too. Maybe someone who didn’t have a place to live” said Ousman.
Mamadou usually disliked it when people suggested changes to whatever he was working on, but he liked Ousman’s idea and he knew Penny and Gina would like it too. Mamadou drew the cottage while Ousman watched.