The Inklings: Chapter 70

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

On Monday it was Beth’s turn to spend the day at Ousman’s place. Her father left her at the front door on his way to work and when Beth nervously rang the doorbell Mamadou was the first to open it. Beth seemed shy. She struggled to explain to Mamadou who she was and what she was doing there. Fortunately Ousman was up and soon came to rescue Beth. He took her to the kitchen to make her a cup of peppermint tea.

Binta was sitting in the kitchen writing a list when the phone rang. Binta answered the phone and as she listened to the person on the other end Mamadou noticed that her expression become worried.

“I have to go to work afterall” announced Binta after she’d hung up the phone.

Binta had told Mamadou that she had a week of holiday and was going to be looking after Ousman while Mamadou started helping Rose and Festus with the renovations. When Mamadou was more settled into helping with the renovations Binta would go back to work and Mamadou would have to take Ousman with him for the rest of the school holidays. Binta thought this was only fair – it wasn’t as if Mamadou was being paid to help Rose and Festus. Besides, it was possible that Ousman might even be a bit helpful. But now the plan had changed and Binta couldn’t take a week off.

Mamadou was a bit annoyed but then he noticed that it looked like Binta was going to cry and realized how disappointed she was that she couldn’t have a break from work.

“No worries” said Mamadou, trying to sound like a local.

Beth looked frightened when she heard about the change of plan. She’d been imagining that she and Ousman would spend a lazy day doing puzzles and playing chess. She didn’t want to go to Rose’s place with Mamadou because she didn’t know Rose or Mamadou and had no idea what it would be like.

Beth watched as Mamadou took a handful of fruit and nut mix from a glass jar and put them into his pocket. It comforted Mamadou to take a snack with him like that because it reminded him of when he was a boy and his Mum had put peanuts into his pocket before she sent him out to go shopping. Then Mamadou filled three water bottles and put them into a bag.

“Let’s go” said Mamadou to Beth and Ousman and so Beth followed Ousman and Mamadou out the front door and up the street. The trio was about halfway to Rose’s house when a galah flew down and landed on the fence next to the footpath. Ousman stopped and looked at the galah, then smiled and said ‘hello’ to it. Beth thought this was a bit strange but the galah seemed to think it was perfectly normal and it hopped onto Ousman’s shoulder. Mamadou remembered the fruit and nuts mix in his pocket so he took out some sunflower seeds and put them in Ousman’s hand. Ousman held his hand out like a plate for the galah and the galah ate the seeds thoughfully.

While the galah was still eating, a man came out of his front gate. When he noticed the galah he walked over, told them his name was Stan, and said to the galah “Back again are you?”. Then Stan told Ousman, Beth and Mamadou how the galah had turned up in his backyard a week ago. “I thought she was a pet who’d escaped so I took her to the vet, but all the vet could tell me was that she was a female and because she has no microchip or leg-bands she could be wild. So I took her to the park and let her go.”

Mamadou looked at Ousman, who was looking lovingly at the galah as it sat on his forearm. Mamadou could tell that it was going to be hard to separate the two. Beth seemed to like the galah too, but was a bit scared. “Will it bite me if I try to pat it?” she asked Stan.

“She likes tickles on her neck better” said Stan.

The galah seemed to have understood what Stan was saying because she tilted her head to one side and fluffed up her neck feathers. Stan showed Beth how to tickle the galah and then Beth had a go.

“You should keep her” Stan said to Ousman and Beth.

Mamadou suspected that Stan just wanted someone else to take responsibility for the galah but was pleased when Ousman asked him “Can I keep her?”

“What will your Mum think about that?” Mamadou asked Ousman.

“If she won’t let Ousman keep the galah, I will take it” said Beth.

The galah looked at everyone like she found them amusing, but kept sitting on Ousman’s arm.

Stan wished them luck and they continued their journey to Rose’s place. As they walked they discussed names for the galah.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Zikpi had been at Rose’s place for half an hour. She’d been instructing Rose and Festus on how they had to try to ignore the film crew – to not look at the camera or microphone and to only acknowledge her when she had told them she was going to be in the shot. When Zikpi went out the front to help the film crew unpack the van she saw Mamadou and the kids (and the galah) approaching.

“Quick” said Zikpi “Get a shot of them arriving”

When Rose opened the door to Mamadou she was surprised to see he had an entourage with him. She assumed that the galah belonged to the shy girl and wondered who she was but thought it might be rude to ask and she could see she was being filmed so she just invited them all in.

Festus was sitting at the kitchen table with a teapot, milk jug and three cups in front of him. When everyone walked in he asked “Who have we got here?”

Mamadou explained that Beth was Ousman’s friend who was staying with them that day and that the galah had made friends with them on the way.

“I’m going to keep her and call her Aminata” said Ousman.

Rose tried to picture what Binta’s face would look like when she came home from work and saw a galah sitting on Ousman’s shoulder. “You will have to tidy up whenever Aminata makes a mess” she told Ousman.

Then Rose got two more cups out of the cupboard and Festus poured everyone a cup of tea while Rose explained the work plan for the day. They were going to start by demolishing the garage. It had corrugated iron walls and a tiled roof on a wooden frame. The iron and tiles were in pretty good condition but some of the wooden frame had started to rot. At Mamadou’s insistence they were to take care when they demolished it so as many materials as possible could be reused. By this time all the tea cups were empty so it was time to go outside and get started.

“Did you get all that?” Zikpi asked the film crew. She had started to think that this renovation would be the most interesting one she’d filmed.

“What are you two, sorry, three going to do? Do you want me to tell you how you can help or would you rather entertain yourselves?” said Rose to Ousman, Beth and Aminata.

“Help, if we can, don’t you think?” said Beth, looking at Ousman to see if he agreed.

“Yep” said Ousman.

“Ok. You kids can take these wrenches and start taking the sheets of metal off this wall – make sure you put gloves on first though” instructed Rose as she pointed to the garage wall that faced the house. Then Rose and Mamadou started moving the pieces of scaffolding that had been dropped off in the driveway by one of Festus’ friends. While this was happening Festus sat on a chair and watched. He thought it wasn’t really necessary to put up scaffolding just to remove the tiles from the garage roof, but Rose had insisted. She didn’t want any more injuries to happen during the renovation.

Ousman thought he and Beth looked funny in their giant gloves as they struggled clumsily with the wrenches. At first they didn’t even know which way to turn the screws to loosen them but Festus was able to give them instructions. Soon they were moving quite quickly and began to have races to see who could undo a row of screws the fastest. Aminata made herself useful by picking up any screws that were dropped on the ground and putting them in a pile under Festus’s chair


The Inklings: Chapter 69

After returning from Fanta’s house D’arby felt as if his brain capacity had grown, but he knew it was probably just that he no longer had to worry about where he was going to live. He suspected it would be more ‘normal’ for him to be worrying about whether he would like to live with Fanta and her sisters and whether the household would still be harmonious after he and John moved in, but instead D’arby was glad there was such a comfortable option. He wondered why anyone would choose to the cruel rental market if they had someone they could share with instead.

After John left to open the restaurant D’arby decided that instead of working on his thesis he’d indulge in an afternoon of thinking about other stuff. He cleared the table and got out some scrap paper, pens and a couple of textas he’d found lying around. D’arby was busy drawing complicated diagrams of money flows when the phone rang. It was Fanta, inviting D’arby and John to dinner the following night. D’arby wrote a note to John about dinner at Fanta’s and stuck it on the fridge. Then D’arby got back to thinking, and drawing, and more thinking. It was as if he’d connected his brain to an invisible network – thoughts kept pouring into his head and he had trouble getting them onto paper at the same pace as they arrived.

By the time it started to get dark D’arby had covered all his scrap paper in notes and diagrams, but more importantly he had changed his mind about lots of things. D’arby put down his pen and took a few deep breaths. He was feeling really tired suddenly but also scared that he’d lose his notes again, so he gathered up all the pieces of paper, put them into his backpack and set out to uni to scan and copy them.

When D’arby got to his building at uni he thought it seemed darker than normal. He opened the front door using his swipe card and when he got inside he realized that all the lights were out except for the emergency lighting. D’arby hoped that didn’t mean there had been a power cut because he really wanted to be able to use the photocopier. As D’arby walked upstairs to the photocopy room he thought he heard a door opening and closing, which comforted him. He didn’t want to be the only person in the building.

D’arby opened the door to the photocopy room and was pleased to see that the photocopier had power. He got out his pages of notes and spent a bit of time getting them into order and making them into a nice square pile. Then D’arby put the pile of notes into the automatic feeder, entered his pin number and instructed the photocopier to make a copy of them. The copier seemed to be taking much longer than usual to copy each page and D’arby became impatient. He also realized his bladder was full. D’arby didn’t want to leave his notes unprotected in the photocopy room while he went to the toilet, not just because he was scared someone might take his notes while he was away but because he didn’t want someone to wander in and see that he was using the photocopier for stuff that wasn’t directly related to his thesis, so D’arby stayed where he was and tried to relax by taking long and slow breaths as he waited. By the time the copier had spat out copies of all the pages D’arby was feeling much calmer, but still needed to go to the toilet.

D’arby gathered the pages together again, put them into the automatic feeder, instructed the photocopier to scan them and copy the file onto his USB drive then pressed ‘Start’. Scanning seemed to be taking a long time too. D’arby looked at the photocopier screen and saw that scanning was only 10% complete. D’arby felt a little bit more secure now he had a copy of his notes in his hands and so he decided he would go to the toilet while the photocopier finished scanning the originals – taking the photocopies with him as a precaution.

As D’arby walked along the corridor to the toilets he thought he heard the clicking sound of the swipe card mechanism unlocking the front door and then the sound of the front door opening. He walked faster, hoping nobody would go to the photocopy room before he got back.

When D’arby got back to the photocopy room the scanning had finished. D’arby gathered up the originals and put them into his bag, along with the photocopies. He was about to walk out of the photocopy room when he remembered his USB drive. He went to unplug it from the photocopier but found that it wasn’t there. He looked down at the floor to see if it had fallen out but couldn’t see it.

“I must have forgotten to plug the USB drive in” though D’arby. So he got his notes out of his bag, put them back into the automatic feeder of the photocopier and looked in the front pocket of his bag for a USB drive. The one he found was black with a green stripe. As D’arby plugged the USB drive into the photocopier he was thinking about the green stripe on the USB drive because he was fairly certain his USB drive had a red stripe. D’arby watched as every page of his notes was scanned onto the USB drive, then carefully packed his notes and USB drive into his backpack and walked downstairs.

As D’arby left the building he scanned the park on his left and noticed a figure standing under a lamp post in the middle of the park. D’arby knew his eyesight wasn’t good enough to make out much detail from that distance, especially when it was dark, but he couldn’t help thinking that it looked like Guitarman was standing there, smiling at him. D’arby thought about going over to see if his was right, but it would mean walking in the wrong direction and D’arby was scared of what it would mean if he was right. So instead D’arby gave a faint smile in the direction of to the person who could have been Guitarman and turned away towards home.

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


The Inklings: Chapter 68

On Sunday afternoon Mamadou carefully cleaned the tools he’d been using and put them back in the giant garden shed. The back door of the house was open and he could hear Binta and Rose talking in the kitchen. They were discussing details of the renovation plans. It was hard work to get things happening in the right order.

Before Mamadou went inside he had a look at the garden. He had made good progress. The wall was gone and the pond had been dug. The stream was taking shape too. During the week Mamadou would have to help Rose and Festus with the house renovations but next weekend he’d be able to get back to the garden and he’d probably be able to finish the stream and waterfall. Then the fun would really start because he’d be able to start planting.

Mamadou made a mental note to remember to work out how the water pump for the waterfall would work, and then he went inside. He was feeling pretty tired by now and hoped Binta was ready to go home. Rose and Binta were sitting at the kitchen table and had just poured cups of tea from a large pot.

“Where’s Ousman?” asked Mamadou.

“He’s playing chess at Beth’s place” said Binta. “Sit down and have some tea”

Mamadou was too tired to think much about who Beth was. He wouldn’t have minded some tea but he was scared to sit down. He thought if he sat down he might not feel like getting up again. He needed to get home and have a shower before he fell asleep.

“I might walk home. I need to have a shower” said Mamadou. Then he realized he was really hungry too and so he added “I’ll make something for dinner”.

As Mamadou walked home he was thinking about freshly cooked rice with spicy tomato stew on top.

After a shower Mamadou felt re-energised and got to work in the kitchen. Half an hour later dinner was ready. He looked at the time. It was a little bit too early for dinner so Mamadou washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen benches. He was so hungry by then that he didn’t care if it was rude to eat before Binta and Ousman got home. He decided to take advantage of their absence by eating dinner in front of the TV and sat down on the sofa with the remote control in one hand and his dinner in the other.

The usual channel Binta watched had lawn bowls on so Mamadou changed the channel. The next channel he looked at had a movie that looked interesting so he started watching, but pretty soon there was an ad break. Mamadou watched incredulously as a special cleaning substance that cleans dishwasher drain pipes was advertised. He shook his head and wondered who would be stupid enough to think they need the inside of drain pipes to be sparkling clean.

Next was an ad for a machine that sanded rough skin off feet. Then an ad for a box you stick on the wall that automatically dispenses poison to kill insects, with special emphasis on how lethal the poison was.

Mamadou was disappointed by the stupidity of what he was watching. He thought of all the people in the world who longed for what he was enjoying right now – good health, good food, a comfortable home and time to relax. How disappointing to think that when the people who were lucky enough to have what most people wanted spent their time relaxing their brains were assaulted by claims that they needed to fix an unending series of imaginary problems before they could really be successful (and happy).

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


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.


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