The Inklings: Chapter 75

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As Fanta was preparing dinner she explained to Ruby and Nancy that she had to go to a job interview the next day and that they were going to stay with their friend Tony while she was at the interview. Tony lived in their street. He was older than Ruby but younger than Nancy. His parents were not really friends of Fanta’s but she did like them, and they often took turns walking the three kids to or from school. Tony’s Dad Malcolm would be taking them all to the park while Fanta went to the city for her interview. Ruby was happier with this arrangement than Nancy was. Nancy had been hoping to go to visit one of the girls in her class, but when Fanta reminded her that the flying fox in the park had been fixed Nancy stopped complaining. She loved playing on the flying fox.

“Why are we just having salads for dinner?” Ruby asked Fanta.

“Because it was a very hot day and on hot days a lot of people don’t like eating heavy food or hot food” answered Fanta. But as Fanta answered Ruby she started to doubt her decision to make three different salads for dinner, plus fruit salad for dessert. There was no time to change anything though, because the doorbell rang.

John and D’arby had arrived and it was as if they’d been able to anticipate Ruby’s uncertainty about salad for dinner because they’d brought some bread rolls and butter with them.

“The flat felt so much like an oven today that I decided I may as well make some bread” explained John as he showed Fanta the bread rolls.

The smell of the bread made Ruby and Nancy excited. Then the doorbell rang again and this time it was Syafika. While Syafika was getting settled and Fanta was getting everyone a cold drink Ruby and Nancy came up with a cunning plan. They requested that they be allowed to take their plates of dinner to the backyard. They said it was because they wanted to enjoy the cool change that had just arrived, but really it was so they would be able to flick any bits of salad that they didn’t like off their plates and into the garden.

Everyone was quiet until Ruby and Nancy had taken their dinner to the backyard. Then everyone started to talk at once. Fanta managed to be the first to get her story out, which was convenient because her story was the shortest.

“I have a job interview tomorrow – for a job in the same team as Syafika” said Fanta. She couldn’t help adding a big smile to the end of the sentence. She was very happy.

Even though Syafika was feeling exhausted by her distressful day this news made her smile too.

“I knew you could do it!” said Syafika “And they must like you a lot to have called you in before the closing date for applications”.

Syafika stopped talking just long enough for John and D’arby to be able congratulate Fanta then insisted that everyone listen to what had happened to her that day.


“Before you start – I’ve been wanting to know all day – what did Christine say about working part time?” Fanta asked Syafika.

“Oh no! I forgot to ask” admitted Syafika. “I’m sorry!” Syafika was sorry but she didn’t feel too bad about having forgotten. She thought that what had happened to her that day was more than enough of an excuse.

“That’s ok” said Fanta, pretending it didn’t matter. “It might be better if I don’t know anyway. If Christine had said she wouldn’t consider part timers then I’d have a hard time turning up to the interview.”

Fortunately Syafika’s story of Anthony and the disappearing haircut was so interesting that Fanta forgot about her job interview and D’arby and John forgot how urgently they wanted to share their own news.

“Really?” asked John. He had started to doubt that Syafika’s stories about Anthony were true.

“Why would Anthony disguise himself with a wig?” asked D’arby.

“I wish I’d been able to see you running after Anthony!” said Fanta.

The four were still discussing Anthony when Ruby and Nancy came inside with empty plates and asked if they could have some fruit salad.

When everyone had a bowl of fruit salad in front of them the discussion started again.

Fanta, John and D’arby thought that Syafika should keep away from Anthony because he could be a criminal but Syafika wanted to do some more spying on him. Syafika pretended she was taking their comments on board but secretly she had decided that she wouldn’t be satisfied until she knew what Anthony was up to.

John was chewing on a chunk of watermelon when he remembered that the meeting was meant to be for discussing activist stuff and so he mentioned that while he’d been waiting for the bread to rise he’d read D’arby’s notes about combining banking and renewable energy and thought that was something they should try to get started.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea for us” said D’arby. “Wait until you hear about my day and then you will understand.”

John was confused and a bit angry. He had put a lot of effort into understanding D’arby’s notes and was just beginning to feel confident that he knew what D’arby was talking about. He began to suspect that D’arby didn’t really want anyone else to be able to understand his ideas because he wanted to be the only one who was the expert. Luckily John took D’arby’s advice to wait before he said what he was thinking.

“At uni today I was asked to apply for a job working for a new bank that wants to do just what I was thinking about” said D’arby. “I don’t know if I should even be telling you this though. They want me to do some tests first and if I get the job then I won’t be able to tell anyone about the stuff I’m working on”

“Why not?” asked Fanta

“They say it is because it would upset a lot of powerful people… all the powerful people actually”

“Well what are we going to do then?” asked John. He was cross that everyone else’s lives seemed to be turning into spy novels and he wanted to be a part of the action. “And what happened to us developing your special pills D’arby?”

The tone of John’s voice made D’arby cross too – so cross that he forgot to think twice before he said anything.

“The pills don’t work” said D’arby.

“What? Yes they do. I’m living proof” said John.

“I used to think that too” said D’arby. “But then I looked at all the data and saw that the pills only have a placebo effect. You just thought they worked, but really you changed on your own.”

As John listened to D’arby the back of his neck tingled. If what D’arby was saying was true then it meant that John had achieved something really significant. But it didn’t make sense.

“Why didn’t I feel sick or crazy then?” asked John.

“I don’t know” said D’arby. “Maybe because you believed you had been cured instantly your brain was able to trick you into feeling fine. I don’t know. All I know is that the pills didn’t cure anyone else of anything. Have you seen them fix anyone else?”

John tried to think of another example but couldn’t and had to answer “No, but what if there was something different about me. What if they do work but only in certain circumstances?”

All John’s questions gave D’arby an idea.

“What if I hand over all my research to you, and you work out whether the pills work and if you find that they don’t work, you can work out why they don’t work and then maybe you will be able to fix them so they do work” suggested D’arby.

John was happy to accept D’arby’s offer. He was flattered that D’arby thought he would be able to continue the research and delighted to think that he might be able to help other addicts.

When dinner was over John and D’arby walked home in silence, but it was a happy silence.

As Syafika walked home she was looking forward a shower and sleep, but also to the next time she chased Anthony around the Botanic Gardens. She was disappointed that John and D’arby hadn’t wanted to be involved like they had been when she needed help with Vincent, but decided it didn’t matter because Syafika thought she’d prefer to do the spying herself.

When everyone had gone home Fanta encouraged her sisters to go to bed so that she could practice answering imaginary interview questions but in the back of her mind the question she was really worrying about was how to explain that she only wanted to work three days a week.

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