The Inklings: Chapter 50

To read the story from the beginning go here.

Mamadou was crying as he walked around looking for things to put in the bag he’d just been given. He was incredibly happy and incredibly sad at the same time. He folded his clothes and put them in the bag, then added a pile of letters and papers. There was still plenty of room for his drawings.

Saidou and Howa tried to smile as Mamadou walked away with his mostly-empty bag. They were happy for him, despite his leaving making their own situation feel more desperate, and they were going to miss him. Mamadou didn’t think it was fair that only he was being given a new place to live. He imagined that Howa and her baby or Saidou would be much more valuable to Australia than he would be.

As he plodded towards the car waiting for him outside the gates, Mamadou tried to imagine what it was going to be like when Ousman met him at the airport.

…….

Fanta was feeling a bit guilty as she rushed into Syafika’s house with a suitcase and a sweaty face. Rose, Binta, Syafika, Ousman and Festus all looked up from the kitchen table in surprise.

Fanta knew that Binta and Ousman were going to be at Syafika’s place that morning because Syafika had rung her yesterday to complain about how they were all having a meeting to go through Rose’s renovation plans. Fanta had explained that she couldn’t come to the meeting because she was going away on a short holiday and made sure to mention she was going to need to go to the airport.

“Can someone please drive me to the airport” Puffed Fanta. “I ordered a taxi but it didn’t arrive.”

“I’ll take you” said Festus and he got up.

That was what Fanta had hoped wouldn’t happen, but fortunately India had unintentionally helped with Fanta’s plan by parking her car across Festus’ driveway.

In the end, it turned out just as Fanta had hoped and she, Binta, Ousman and Syafika were soon on their way to the airport in Binta’s car.

Fanta lead the others on a twisting and turning walking tour of the airport as she pretended to be working out where to go to check her bag in. Then she stopped near a roped-off area and took some folded-up papers out of her pocket and started looking at them.

“What are you doing?” asked Syafika. She noticed that a stream of people had started coming out of an arrivals gate and they were standing in their way.

Fanta held up a piece of paper facing towards the stream of people. Syafika realized it must have been a sign but couldn’t see what was on it. Then a man walked over to them from the arrivals gate, but he seemed more interested in Binta and Ousman than Fanta or her sign. That’s when Syafika realized she’d been tricked.

Binta thought she was going to faint when she saw Mamadou. Ousman took the longest to work out what was going on and when he did he gave his father a hug and tried to understand what his father was saying but didn’t say much back. Ousman was too worried about how his Mum was feeling to be able to come up with conversation.

The car trip back from the airport was very awkward. Fanta felt like she should have been explaining things, but at the same time she didn’t want to interrupt anyone’s thoughts so there was silence for most of the way until Binta realized she didn’t know where she was supposed to be going. Where was Mamadou going to be staying?

“I have room at my place”, said Fanta, “But…” Fanta was going to add that Mamadou probably wanted to stay with Ousman, but she couldn’t work out how to phrase it – she didn’t know what Binta was thinking and didn’t want her to feel pressured to make room for Mamadou at her place.

“Dad is staying at our place” said Ousman.

“Ok” said Binta.

“And Mum will be really angry if we don’t get back to inspecting her renovation plans” added Syafika.

So they all went back to Rose and Festus and after a bit of explaining they were soon all sitting around the kitchen table drinking tea and looking at Rose’s drawings. As Mamadou sipped his tea he was hit by a wave of tiredness and relief. The conversation around him was peacefully incomprehensible. After he swallowed the last sip of tea his head fell forward onto the table and he started to snore softly, like a purring cat.

If Syafika hadn’t been so concerned about the changes Rose wanted to make to their house she probably would have started laughing when Mamadou fell asleep on the table, but she was too distressed by the thought of having to use a composting toilet to have any sense of humour.

Ousman got a small cushion and put it under Mamadou’s forehead and put a blanket over his shoulders.

“Won’t the composting toilet stink and attract flies?” asked Syafika. “And what will our visitors think when they have to use it?”

Rose proudly opened a brochure on composting toilets and read out loud how the model she’d selected had features that prevented odour and insects.

“But why do we have to move the bathroom and laundry to the garage?” asked Syafika.

Festus explained that it would be easier to build the new bathroom and laundry where the garage was and then demolish the old ones because otherwise they’d be without a bathroom or laundry while the changes were made.

Then the doorbell rang. It was India, who had come to apologise to Festus for parking her car across the driveway that morning. Before India could launch into her excuses, Rose delightedly led her over to inspect the renovation plans. Soon Rose was busy pointing to various features and explaining how they were going to install a urine-separating composting toilet, plus a greywater treatment system, rainwater tank, solar panels and solar hot water system. But Rose saved the best bit for last. Where the old bathroom and laundry were, they were going to create a greenhouse with an aquaponics system.

When India left she was in a bit of a daze. Rose started telling Festus that if he did a good job, he’d probably get lots more work from other people in the street. Syafika tried again to convince Rose that the new bathroom was not a good idea.

“But Mum, how are you going to pay for all this?” asked Syafika.

“I’m going to sell the car” answered Rose. “We hardly use it anyway. Your Dad can use his van to do any shopping that we can’t carry home.” explained Rose.

“And we can put up a car port in the driveway and rent it out to India” suggested Festus. “Then I can park my van across the driveway”.

“Yes, but we have to put a green roof on the car port” said Rose.

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