The Inklings: Chapter 74

You can read the story from the start here:

At lunchtime it was very hot, but that didn’t stop Mamadou from doing a bit of work in the garden while everyone else lingered over their cups of tea. While Mamadou was at the back of the yard he noticed that the western boundary fence was leaning to one side. He walked over to the fence and gave it a shake. It wobbled. Mamadou could tell that the supporting posts were rotten.

“Hello, who’s that?” said a voice from the other side of the fence.

Mamadou looked over the fence and saw a short lady who reminded him of a tortoise. When she saw Mamadou she got a bit of a fright.

“What are you doing in Rose’s garden?” asked the Tortoise lady.

“I’m Mamadou. I’m helping with the renovations” said Mamadou. “Who are you?”

“I’m Gina” said the lady. “I live here with Penny” said Gina, gesturing behind her to Pennny, who was sitting at a little table under an umbrella. Penny was taller than Gina and had long, silky silver hair.

“This fence is rotten” said Mamadou.

“Yes” said Gina. “I need to talk to Rose about getting a new one. But first I want to know what you are building behind the fence. Is it something I will want to see, or should I make sure the next fence is much taller?

“I am making the most beautiful garden you will ever see” said Mamadou. “So beautiful you won’t want a fence at all”

By the time Rose and Festus were ready to get back to work Mamadou had made friends with Gina and Penny and they’d decided that the next fence would be easy to see-through – probably just steel posts linked with wire.

During the afternoon Mamadou kept asking Rose questions about Gina and Penny. He was excited because they’d told him that if they liked the garden he did for Rose he could do their garden next. He was already imagining an archway linking the two gardens.

At the end of the working day the garage had been dismantled and sorted into different piles of materials. Most of the garage was going to be reused and even the concrete slab was going to stay. Festus was very glad at the good start they’d made but he was nervous because they were still waiting for Council Approval to build the new bathroom. Festus decided to take a gamble and put in the new plumbing while they waited. Zikpi was glad because this risk taking would add drama to the story.

As Mamadou, Ousman and Beth walked back to Ousman’s house they were all feeling very satisfied with the day they’d had. Aminata seemed satisfied too. She was riding on Ousman’s shoulder and making various noises that were similar to the sound of a garage being dismantled.

Binta’s day at work had been terrible. She’d discovered that she was most likely going to lose her job and that she’d find out for sure in the next week. Binta was scared about what would happen if she did lose her job and couldn’t find another soon. She couldn’t wait for Ousman to come home so she could give him a cuddle.

Binta was drinking a glass of water when she heard the front door open. Ousman was the first to get to the kitchen and he still had Aminata sitting on his shoulder. Aminata was thirsty and when she saw Binta’s glass of water she became excited and started bobbing her head up and down.

Ousman quickly got a bowl of water for Aminata because he didn’t want her to try to drink some of his mother’s glass of water. Binta watched and didn’t say anything. She liked how Ousman was taking care of the galah and she predicted that Ousman was about to ask her if he could keep it. Then Binta looked at Mamadou and could tell that he wanted Ousman to keep the bird.

While Aminata was drinking water from a bowl Binta gave Ousman a cuddle and asked him what the bird’s name was. Ousman was excited to be able to tell Binta the whole story.

Beth smiled as she watched Ousman telling his Mum about Aminata. She couldn’t wait to tell her parents about her day. Beth’s Dad was late picking her up and it upset her. Everytime her Dad neglected her for work she felt abandoned and being with a family that spent time together made her even sadder because she could see the lovely things her family was missing out on.

When Beth’s Dad finally did arrive Beth gave Ousman a big smile and thanked Mamadou and Binta with a cheerful voice, but as she walked out the door a couple of tears escaped.

As soon as the front door closed Binta gave Ousman another cuddle and told him that he was a lovely kid.

“Will we have leftover stew for dinner?” asked Mamadou hopefully. He was really hungry.

“Yes. If you cook some rice, Ousman and I will prepare some greens and we can eat dinner in 15 minutes” said Binta.

“Why are you sad?” Ousman asked Binta as they washed broccoli. He could tell his Mum was close to crying and hoped it wasn’t because she didn’t like Aminata.

“I think I’m going to lose my job” said Binta.

“You will find another one, won’t you?” said Ousman.

“One day” said Binta. What she didn’t say was that she was worried that before she found another job they would run out of savings and not be able to pay the rent anymore.

Mamadou had overheard Binta’s news. “Don’t worry. You must own this house by now. You don’t need much money if you own your house.”

Binta felt embarrassed as she explained to Mamadou that she was renting the house and didn’t own anything. When she was younger she had been keen to buy a house as soon as possible and had saved a large deposit. But then she’d become a single mum, and when she decided that she wanted to cut back on work so she could spend some of the week with baby Ousman, Binta had discovered that there was a stupid idea ingrained almost everywhere that you only deserve a ‘serious’ job if you are willing to commit at least 40 hours per week to it. For Binta this meant she had to be happy with a series of precarious and not well paid jobs, often with gaps in between. During each gap Binta’s house deposit had been eroded a bit more until the idea of buying a house became just a daydream.

“What about your inheritance money?” asked Mamadou. He was only really asking because he was feeling guilty – he realized how much Binta had given up so she could have Ousman. Binta’s parents had died in a car accident not long before Mamadou had left Australia. They’d left Rose and Binta their house but not much money.

“We didn’t sell the house” said Binta. “We have rented it out to the same family ever since.”

Mamadou didn’t suggest to Binta that she move into her parent’s house because it was far away and he didn’t want to live there. “Maybe it is time to sell that house and buy your own” said Mamadou. Then rather stupidly had added “Before you get too old.”

“I don’t want to sell the house!” said Binta. “Half that house wouldn’t be enough for a house deposit around here anyway, not now.” Binta was cross with Mamadou now. She thought that instead of making suggestions he should be asking more questions – there was so much he needed to catch up on.

Binta was quiet during dinner. Aminata ate some of Ousman’s food and then climbed to the top of the bookshelf and fell asleep, with her head tucked under her wing.

Mamadou went to bed as soon as he had finished eating. He was feeling depressed because he couldn’t help Binta.

Ousman washed the dishes without having to be asked because he knew his Mum was feeling sad and angry, and because he still wasn’t sure whether she would let him keep Aminata.

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