The Inklings: Chapter 92

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Lately John had been waking in the middle of the night with a sense of dread. During the day John usually managed to feel hopeful about the future, or at least the short term future, but when he was alone in the dark John could only see disasters in the future. He worried that one day a detective would come to the door to arrest him for all the stealing he’d done. John also worried that one day Fanta would realise that she was too good for him. Then there were the worries that John had for everyone because, like D’arby had said, the people making the important decisions in the world didn’t seem to care about the future. John worried because the weather wasn’t right, he was worried because the world was being turned into a rubbish dump, and he was worried because hardly anyone seemed to care about what would happen beyond their next meal, shopping trip, drink or cheap holiday. John worried that he wouldn’t be able to cope with all the loss he could see ahead.

As well as his relatively rational worries John was worried because a familiar feeling had returned and was getting stronger. It was a feeling of incompleteness and longing – a feeling of needing something, but not knowing quite what. It was only when this feeling returned that John realised it had been missing ever since D’arby had given him his special pills. John suspected that it was this feeling that had been the source of all the trouble in his life but he was too frightened to tell anyone about it.

John was in the kitchen when the phone rang on Sunday morning. He was still feeling the dregs of his night time anxiety and so he rushed to answer the phone faster than was necessary.

It was Emily on the phone and she wanted to know when she and Tim could come to visit John. John’s anxiety began to rise. He didn’t want Fanta to ever meet Tim.

“What about tomorrow for lunch?” suggested John.

Fortunately Monday lunch suited Tim and Emily and John was congratulating himself on having picked a time when Fanta would be at work when he noticed that Fanta was looking at him.

“That was Emily. I’m having lunch with her and Tim tomorrow” said John, because he thought Fanta must have been waiting for him to tell her about his phone call.

“Why does your family make you so anxious?” asked Fanta.

John realised that his hands were shaking and started laughing nervously.

“It isn’t healthy, is it?” said John and he paused so he could decide how to answer. He definitely didn’t want to tell Fanta that he was scared that if she met his brother Tim she would think that John was the inferior brother, but John realised that there was another thing about his family that made him anxious and he decided to talk about that instead. “I have disappointed them so many times. I am desperate to have a good relationship with my family but I don’t know how to and I am terrified that I will let them down again. I know that their love is conditional and that I may not always meet the conditions.”

Fanta put her hand on John’s shoulder. She wanted to say something but was too busy trying not to cry. John didn’t need Fanta to say anything though because he really just wanted to feel understood, and he did.

After about a minute Fanta managed to say “I find what you say so sad. And I think it is because I have felt something similar”. Fanta was about to tell John about what had happened to her when she was younger, but the phone rang again. This time it was Syafika and she needed to tell Fanta about what had happened the day before.

John left the room so Fanta could talk to Syafika but even from the kitchen he felt like Fanta was next to him. John looked around the kitchen as he tried to remember what he’d been doing before the phone rang but he couldn’t remember because he was too busy noticing that the connection he was feeling to Fanta had reduced his craving for something more. John wondered if that was a clue to preventing a backward slide into addiction, but realizing that he needed Fanta made John even more scared that he would lose her.


The Inklings: Chapter 91

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When Syafika woke up on Saturday morning a shower of rain was just finishing and so she decided she’d have breakfast in the garden to enjoy the freshness in the air.

Syafika walked out into the garden carrying her breakfast on a tray. She had a towel across her shoulders that she was planning to use to dry the outdoor table and chairs with. Syafika sat down and was pouring herself a cup of tea when Rose came out into the garden and sat down at the table with Syafika. Syafika noticed Rose looking at her breakfast with a critical look on her face.

“What?” asked Syafika.

“Would you like me to poach you some eggs to go with that toast?” said Rose. “With all that running you’ve been doing you need to eat more protein”

“Lots of herbivores are really good runners” said Syafika.

Rose wanted to tell Syafika that she was being silly but decided to hold her tongue because she wanted Syafika to be in a good mood for her next question.

“You are coming to India’s birthday party this afternoon aren’t you?” said Rose.

Normally Syafika would have wanted to avoid a party at India’s house, but this time she was interested in going because she thought there might be suitable strangers there that she could test out Celine’s tricks on.

“Ok” said Syafika.

Rose smiled and watched Syafika drinking tea. Syafika was listening to water trickling through Mamadou’s garden.

“Has India asked Mamadou to build her a garden yet?” asked Syafika

“No” said Rose. “Why?”

“I bet that’s her plan. I bet that at the party she will corner Mamadou and organize everything. She’ll make sure he has just started working on her garden when Zikpi’s episode about our place airs on TV, so that whenever anyone talks about how great our garden is she can tell them that she’s getting one too”

“That won’t work” said Rose. “Mamadou’s doing Penny and Gina’s place next and our place is episode number 6 in Zikpi’s so when it airs in another 5 weeks Mamadou will still be working on Gina and Penny’s garden”

“Does India know that?” asked Syafika.

“Probably” said Rose. “She and Penny have afternoon tea together sometimes”.

Syafika thought for a while and then realized something. “Well if it isn’t the garden then India will be asking Dad to do a greywater system or something” said Syafika. “She can’t let an opportunity like this go.”

Rose smiled because it amused her to know what Syafika had been thinking about, then Rose smiled again when she imagined how annoyed Festus would be if India insisted he do some work for her. Then Rose got up and went to do some gardening. She was going to make India a portable herb garden in a basket as a birthday present.

After breakfast Syafika got a book and went back to the garden. This time she sat down near the pond. Before she opened the book she had a look for frogs because Ousman claimed he’d heard some croaking coming from the pond during the night. Syafika didn’t see any frogs but she did see a blue dragon fly.

Syafika had been in the garden long enough to have read a few chapters of her book when she saw Ousman come out into the garden carrying a cup of tea. He knocked on the door of Mamadou’s shed and waited. Mamadou came outside and squinted in the sunshine. Syafika realized that Mamadou mustn’t have had any breakfast yet. She knew he’d been working on a garden design for Penny and Gina and hoped he would either finish before India’s party started or take a break from his work so he could go to the party. Syafika knew that Ousman was looking forward to going to the party because he’d been talking excitedly about how India was hiring a chocolate fountain.

“Thankyou” said Mamadou to Ousman. “Come in and look at my drawings of Penny and Gina’s garden”

Syafika tried to get back into reading her book but she couldn’t concentrate because she was so curious about what Mamadou and Ousman were talking about inside the garden shed. Then Syafika realized that it was an opportunity for her to improve her spying skills, so she put down her book and crept over to the shed. Then she put her ear to the shed and listened.

“How will that work?” said Ousman.

“I will use the water pressure in the pipe to push the water through this coil of black pipe and then this tap will control the flow to the outdoor shower” said Mamadou.

“Did Penny really ask for an outdoor shower?” asked Ousman.

“It will have a modesty screen all the way around” said Mamadou. So it is perhaps not strictly outdoors, but more without a roof. Penny said that she wants the garden to be full of cheekiness and laughter”

“Where does the used shower water go?” asked Ousman.

“See here” said Mamadou. Syafika imagined he was pointing to his drawing. “This is where it gets funneled into a pipe that goes to water the garden”

Syafika jumped when she heard the back door open and quickly moved her ear away from the shed. Then she dashed over to get her book and was walking inside when she saw Binta coming outside. Aminata was sitting on Binta’s forearm.

“Have you seen Ousman?” Binta asked Syafika.

“He is in the shed” said Syafika.

Aminata flew off and landed on the roof of the shed. Her claws made an awful scratching sound on the roof so Syafika hurried inside, and on the way she noticed that Rose was in the greenhouse.


Syafika was getting changed to go to India’s party when she heard music start playing. Syafika put her head out of her window to try to determine where the music was coming from and wasn’t very surprised when she realized it was coming from the direction of India’s house.

Syafika put on her shoes and waited at the bottom of the stairs for her mum and dad to come down. Ousman and Binta came down first. Aminata was sitting on Ousman’s shoulder.

“Is Aminata invited to the party too?” asked Syafika.

“India put her name on the invitation” said Ousman.

Syafika looked at Binta for confirmation.

“India thinks Aminata is a good conversation starter” said Binta.

Syafika wondered what Aminata thought of India.

Festus, Rose and Mamadou were soon ready to leave and as everyone was walking out the gate they met Penny.

“Isn’t Gina coming to the party?” Rose asked Penny.

“She is, but she hasn’t finished making sweet potato chips. She promised India she’d bring some, but they take so long to make. I hope she gets to the party before it ends” said Penny, and then she gave a little laugh, as if she was trying to make sure that everyone knew she was half joking about how long Gina would take to make the chips.”

Penny couldn’t help noticing the basket Rose was carrying on her arm. She’d planted thyme, oregano and rosemary in it.

“India is going to love that!” commented Penny.

India’s house was five houses down, on the other side of the street. As everyone crossed the road Syafika noticed that there were cars parked along most of both sides of the street that day, and it made the street so narrow that there was only room for one lane of traffic.

There was a sign on the front door of India’s house instructing guests to take the path down the side of the house to the backyard.

Just as Ousman started walking down the side of the house Aminata changed her mind about going to the party and flew off in the direction of home.

“Do you think she will be ok?” asked Ousman

“I’ll just check she has gone home” said Binta. “You go and enjoy yourselves”

As Ousman watched his mum walk off towards home he looked like he wanted to follow her, but then he noticed everyone else was heading towards the backyard and he felt compelled to follow them instead.

India had positioned herself close to the entrance to the backyard so she could welcome everyone as they arrived. Syafika felt a bit intimidated when she saw how many guests were there, and realized that the extra cars parked in the street were probably all owned by people at India’s party.

As Penny predicted, India was delighted by the herb basket. “Thank you! So beautiful! So clever! So useful!” said India and she put the basket on her arm. As Rose watched India’s response she realised how much she appreciated a person who was able to be genuinely thrilled by being given a present. Rose realised that it was not really about what was being given (although the right present would make it easier!) but about being touched that a person had thought about you and wanted to make you feel happy.

India insisted everyone get themselves something to eat and drink and gestured towards one side of the yard where, presumably, tables of food and drink were what a crowd of people had huddled around. When Ousman asked Syafika to help him find the chocolate fountain she realized that the thought of a chocolate fountain excited her just as much as Ousman so they took off together, weaving their way through the crowd of guests.

When Syafika and Ousman saw people carrying skewers with chocolate coated strawberries on the ends of them they new they were close to the chocolate fountain and it was finally revealed when a couple of large men moved off in the direction of drinks table. The fountain had three tiers, with the size decreasing as they went up. The melted chocolate overflowed from the top layer and ran into the second, then over the edge of the second layer into the bottom layer, where it must have been pumped back up to the top again. A couple of small children were hanging around the fountain and both had chocolate smeared on their faces and clothes. Syafika noticed that Ousman seemed pretty grown-up in comparison. Ousman smiled as he skewered a strawberry and then let the waterfall of melted chocolate stream over the strawberry. He enjoyed the process so much that he gave his strawberry to Syafika so he could do another one for himself. Syafika was about to protest that she’d like to do her own, but changed her mind when she looked at Ousman’s expression because it reminded her of herself when she was a child.

Syafika and Ousman were enjoying their chocolate coated strawberries when Rose came over. Rose looked worried and insisted that Syafika and Ousman come with her immediately. They were soon rushing down the street in the direction of home and Syafika didn’t know what was going on but could see Festus and Mamadou infront of them, and Penny infront of them.

A car sped down the street and Syafika wondered whether it was rushing for the same reason that they were, but it wasn’t. Up ahead Penny was so distracted that she didn’t notice the car and it hit her as she crossed the street. Syafika sprinted towards the accident, hoping that Ousman hadn’t seen it. Festus stood in the middle of the road and put his hands up to stop traffic. The driver of the car got out and vomited in the gutter.

Syafika knelt down beside Penny and saw that she was breathing but she was bleeding from her forehead and arm. Suddenly Rose was there next to Syafika. She took Penny’s hand and told Syafika to call an ambulance and make sure the firebrigade was on its way.  Syafika stood up and saw Binta rushing towards her while talking on their cordless phone. Binta had already called 000 and was coming over to pass instructions on to Rose. Syafika was wondering why Rose had mentioned the firebrigade, but then she glanced towards Penny’s house and noticed a large plume of black smoke rising from the back of it.

Syafika stood up as tall as she could and watched the smoke. She guessed it was coming from the kitchen. Penny and Gina’s house was really half a house. When Rose and Festus chose their house they thought they’d enjoy living next to the grand house on the corner block, and for many years they did. But then a couple of years ago the corner house had sold to a developer who decided the quickest way to make some money from it was to divide it into two smaller homes and build a fence down the middle of the yard. Penny and Gina’s half of the yard contained much less than half the house – their section was single story but the part of the house on the corner had two stories and a lovely upstairs verandah.

Syafika looked around for Gina but couldn’t see her and was worried. She ran and knocked on the door of Penny and Gina’s house and yelled out to Gina but there was no response. Then Syafika realised she could access Gina’s backyard from their backyard so she ran home and was just opening the front door when she heard a loud smashing sound. Syafika turned and saw that there had been another accident in the street – a car had turned into the street and crashed into the back of the queue of cars that were stuck because the road was still blocked by the car that had hit Penny.

By now a crowd had started to gather so Syafika assumed someone else would check on the people who’d just been in a car crash and she ran through the house and out into the backyard to see if she could find Gina.

“Gina! Gina!” yelled Syafika.

“She’s here” replied Mamadou.

Gina was sitting on the grass in her backyard and Mamadou was hosing her down. Syafika could see a large burn on Gina’s leg.

“I was going to try to put out the fire and then I found Gina needed the water more” said Mamadou.

“Good” said Syafika. “Keep doing that until the ambulance arrives”

Syafika ran back to the front of the house and announced to Rose and Binta that Gina was in her backyard and that she had a bad burn and probably needed to go in the ambulance too. Syafika noticed that Festus was telling cars who’d come down the street from the direction of India’s house to reverse back-up the street and go another way. Then Syafika saw Ousman standing nearby looking terrified so she led him inside tried to get him to sit down, but Ousman didn’t want to sit down.

“There’s a fire that needs putting out” said Ousman and he ran out to the backyard. Syafika followed and they found another hose and started spraying water at the flames that were coming out of Gina’s kitchen window.

Syafika thought she could hear sirens in the distance and it comforted her to think that help was on its way.

A few minutes later two paramedics came into the backyard and assessed Gina. Then they took her to an ambulance on a stretcher. Syafika left Mamadou and Ousman to fight the fire and followed Gina’s stretcher. There were two ambulances and they’d been forced to park a little way down the street because there was still some traffic blocking their way. Festus looked very frustrated.

Fortunately nobody had been seriously injured in the second car accident but the drivers were having trouble manoeuvring their cars out of the way. Some quick-thinking neighbours had used outdoor furniture to barricade off the end of the street so no more cars would try to turn into it.

Syafika wondered where the fire engine was. She couldn’t hear one coming.

“Is the firebrigade on the way?” Syafika asked Binta.

“Yes” said Binta. “I checked and they are but they keep getting stuck in traffic”

Syafika looked up at Penny and Gina’s house and could see flames coming from the roof. She realized that the house would probably be ruined. The people who lived on the other side of Gina and Penny had come out of their house and were very distressed because they knew that their side of the house would probably also be damaged by the fire.

It was a relief when the ambulances turned on their sirens and drove off, but now Syafika was starting to worry that the fire was going to destroy two houses and possibly spread further.

“I’m going to the backyard to help Mamadou and Ousman with the hosing” Syafika told Binta.

Binta didn’t like the idea of Ousman firefighting and so she followed Syafika to the backyard and insisted that Ousman let Syafika take his hose.

“Is Penny going to be ok” Ousman asked Binta.

“I hope so” said Binta. “I think Rose and India are going to the hospital to comfort Penny and Gina”

Binta and Ousman watched as Rose and India walked up the street and got into India’s car. Festus was watching too.

Then Ousman heard a siren, so he ran up the street to tell India to stay where she was until the fire engine had made it into the street.

When Ousman saw a police car coming down the street he was very disappointed, until he realised that there was a fire engine behind it.

The Inklings: Chapter 90

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Fanta woke up before her alarm went off and wondered why. Then she noticed noises coming from the kitchen and realised that John or D’arby must be having breakfast.

On balance Fanta was happy that John and D’arby had moved in, but there were some things they did that annoyed her. Waking her up too early was one of them, and another was that they introduced a lot of unpredictability into the house. When it had been just Fanta and her sisters Fanta had been in control of what they were going to be doing or eating and what was cleaned and when and how it was done. Now there were three adults in the house Fanta was having trouble keeping track of what was going on. She might come home and find the washing had been done, or she might find that the bathroom had been cleaned instead. Sometimes D’arby would go shopping and buy ingredients to cook dinner and sometimes he wouldn’t. Sometimes John would make bread before he left for the restaurant and sometimes he wouldn’t. This week John hadn’t made any bread because he’d been busy at the library. What this meant for Fanta was that she couldn’t plan ahead, and that made her feel anxious.

There was a long list of things that Fanta did like about having John and D’arby around though. Some of her favourite things were that John would help get her sisters ready for school in the morning and that D’arby would wash the dishes after dinner.

Nancy had also been woken up by the noises coming from the kitchen. She got herself dressed in her school uniform and then went into Fanta’s room.

“It’s a school day! Get up!” Nancy told Fanta.

“Go and see who is making all that noise” said Fanta to Nancy.

Then Fanta got up and got dressed for work.

D’arby was opening the front door to leave for work when Fanta appeared.

“Why are you leaving so early?” asked Fanta.

“I like my work so much that I want to get there as soon as the office opens at 7:30am” said D’arby. “See you tonight”

After D’arby closed the front door behind him Fanta went to the kitchen to make some tea and found John and Nancy there making pancakes.

“Surprise!” said John. “You are up early. I thought I’d have everything ready before you got up”

“You and D’arby were being too noisy” said Fanta.

“Sorry. That’s not good at all. I’ll be quieter next time and I’ll tell D’arby too” said John. “Go and sit at the table and read the paper and I will bring you tea and pancakes in a minute”

Fanta smiled and did what John had suggested. Fanta smiled again when she saw that it was an old weekend paper that John had put out for her, but it made sense because they hardly bought papers. The news headlines on the front page of the paper made Fanta feel depressed so she turned to the colour magazine at the centre of the paper. It was about real estate. Fanta felt a bit nostalgic looking at it and realised that she hadn’t had to think about selling houses for months. Fanta opened the magazine and looked at some house ads and started laughing. Something funny had happened – either Fanta had forgotten how things were or they’d changed a lot in the last couple of months. The advertisments for houses all included prominent pictures of the agent responsible for selling the house, as if they deserved to take credit for the house. The pictures were amusing too, because the agents seemed to be trying to look like the stereotype architect – by wearing skivvies or glasses with ridiculous frames and being photographed in black and white in unnatural poses or creepy lighting.

Fanta started reading an article about an interior designer renovating a tiny flat and trying to make it good enough to replace the Australian Dream of a house and garden. It made Fanta feel very guilty and she was glad when Nancy and John interrupted her by serving breakfast.


The Inklings: Chapter 89

To read the story from the start go to:

Gina and Penny had meant it when they’d told Mamadou that he could do their garden next, but first they wanted him to replace the fence and were happy with his idea of including a wide gate with an archway over the top. The fence was going to double as a trellis and Mamadou planned to plant tasty things along the boundary because he liked the idea of Gina and Penny bumping into Rose and Festus when they all came out to pick some boundary berries or climbing beans.

When Gina and Penny saw Mamadou knocking down the old fence they came outside and walked over to him. Mamadou tried to not look annoyed when he saw them. He liked Penny and Gina but when he was in working mode he didn’t like being disturbed.

“Hello” said Gina. “I know you don’t want us to stop you when you are busy but I’m afraid I need to talk to you about money”

“I don’t want any money so no need to talk about it” said Mamadou. Mamadou didn’t want to have to put a price on his work or to have to do invoices or keep tax records. He’d rather not get paid.

“Don’t be silly” said Penny. “You have a family. We can’t make you work for us and not give anything back”.

Mamadou just wanted to design and build the garden and he’d rather do it for free than have to deal with the money side, but it was true that he should be helping Binta pay for things.

“I know you aren’t interested in doing the calculations for a quote so we want to pay you by the hour. And for materials, of course” said Gina. “I got some quotes from other people so I could get an idea of what a fair hourly rate is and I’ve written it all down and put it in this envelope. I’ll leave it here on this fence post and let you get back to your work. Please come and have a cup of tea with us when you finish for the day”

Mamadou nodded and pretended he was getting back to work but as soon as Penny and Gina had gone back inside their house Mamadou went inside to find Binta. She was looking at job ads on her computer and she didn’t look very happy. Mamadou wondered whether it was a good time to talk to Binta, but he decided to try anyway because he didn’t want to have taken a break from his work for nothing.

“Will you do the paperwork for my garden business?” Mamadou asked Binta.

Binta looked at Mamadou and it took a couple of seconds for her to absorb what he’d just said. It sounded like Mamadou had decided that he would be building many gardens. “Ok” said Binta. She was a bit worried about what it would be like to work with Mamadou but she did think it was a good idea for him to try to make money from his gardens and it made sense for her to help him now that she was out of work.

“Good” said Mamadou and he handed Binta the envelope saying “Gina gave me this. Please will you arrange everything to do with money and just let me do the gardens? And pay yourself, of course”

Binta was happy to be able to stop reading job ads. After she read what Gina had written, Binta’s first impulse was to follow Mamadou outside and ask him to answer all the questions that had just popped into her head, but then she realized that what he wanted was to not have to think about any of the things she wanted to ask him about. So instead Binta started making a list of all the things she’d need to sort out so Mamadou could charge money for his gardens. It was pretty long list because Mamadou didn’t even have a bank account.

The Inklings: chapter 88

To read the story from the start go to:

D’arby finally finished recording his voice just before lunchtime on Thursday. He couldn’t wait to start his real work. He was pleased to discover that a desk had been prepared for him in the same room that Carol and Valentine worked and hoped that meant he’d get to know what they were working on.

In the past couple of days D’arby had decided that he’d be happy working for RenewBank even if he was just a decoy, as long as he knew that the business was doing good things. D’arby was going to meet with Leopold after lunch and learn what his work was going to be.

Valentine invited D’arby to the rooftop garden for lunch with him and Carol. D’arby had eaten his lunch alone in the recording room the last couple of days and had been feeling very lonely so he was happy to accept the invitation. D’arby also had lots of questions he wanted to ask.

“How long have you both been working here?” said D’arby as soon as he and Carol and Valentine had sat down at the table in the rooftop garden.

“Two weeks” said Valentine and Carol added “Me too. We started on the same day. We don’t get to do such exciting stuff as you though – sneaking in and out of the official office must be fun.”

“It isn’t that exciting after the first couple of times” said D’arby. “I reckon it will eventually become a bit of a bore, like having to change from a train to a bus on the way to work. And it will eat into the time I have for my real work”

“It isn’t a waste of time though. It is valuable to be making the people who are spying on RenewBank think that we don’t know about it. It protects our work from their interference” said Carol.

“Yeah, I know” said D’arby. “What are you two working on?”

“Nothing much” said Valentine, with a chuckle. “Just building a model of the economy, financial system and energy supply”.

D’arby’s eyes must have started sparkling with excitement.

“Eventually we will use this model to fine-tune the business plan” said Carol. “Leopold keeps talking about how important it is to prevent perverse outcomes in the transition from the current system to a new, better one.”

“It all sounds so ambitious!” said D’arby. “And so exciting! Are you allowed to talk to anyone outside work about it?”

“No way!” said Carol and Valentine at the same time.

“We can’t let anyone know what’s coming because if the banks and energy businesses knew what we wanted to do they would try their best to stop us. Leopold and Rudnika have identified lots of places where we are at risk.”

“What is the plan for RenewBank anyway? What’s this ‘better system’?” asked D’arby.

“The exact plan will depend on the modelling results but roughly the plan is to create a new, stable alternative currency and a bank that uses this currency and that only renewable energy customers can use. RenewBank will also build and run renewable energy projects and everything will be customer-owned. What makes this so dangerous is that all the modelling so far indicates that doing such a thing will destabilize the big banks and the non-renewable energy generators. So we need to find a way that doesn’t crash the economy before RenewBank can get big enough to support it” said Carol.

“I can see the reason for renewable energy, but what’s the point of the alternative currency?” asked D’arby. He thought he knew the answer because the plan was close to what he’d been thinking about, but he wanted to be sure.

“Not to make money, for sure” said Leopold. “Everything will be customer owned. The point is to force the move to renewable energy and to create form of money that isn’t based on debt. Leopold and Rudknika want to do more than that, but that’s the main aim. I guess they also want to pull the rug out from underneath the people who’ve made themselves rich at the expense of everyone else and especially those who’ve been corrupting our democracy.”

D’arby smiled. He was happy that Rudnika and Leopold could be so confident in such a wild plan, but at the same time he wondered how they could pay everyone’s salary without the business having any income so he asked Carol and Valentine whether they knew how they were being funded.

“Rudnika sold a couple of properties she inherited to pay to get everything started” said Valentine.

D’arby smiled again. It was scarier to be part of something that was self-funded because there wasn’t that reassurance you get when someone is so convinced in your plans that they give you their money. D’arby had many more questions he wanted to ask but Leopold came up onto the roof because he was ready to show D’arby what he’d be working on.

Leopold showed D’arby some databases and spreadsheets he’d started that he wanted D’arby to continue working on and he explained how they fitted in with what Carol and Valentine were working on. All three were adding details to different parts of the model and in a month or so they’d run scenarios using the complete model. After that it would be an iterative process – using the model to discover weaknesses and then improving the model and looking at the effects of different assumptions.

D’arby was so impatient to start working on the model that his fingers started drumming on the desk. Leopold suggested he start by reading a document that explained the work done so far and then there was a spreadsheet to finish and lots of pieces of research were needed to fill in gaps in the model.

“Any questions?” asked Leopold.

“What work is the official D’arby at the official office doing?” asked D’arby.

“Something similar, but all wrong. We are leaking a model that shows that RenewBank must stay small in order to work and the currency aspect will just be Loyalty Points. Hopefully that keeps people off our backs” said Leopold.

D’arby felt like the afternoon disappeared. He was so engrossed in his work that Rudnika had to remind him to go home by pointing out that Sonia couldn’t go home until D’arby had left the official office.

“What’s the earliest I can arrive at the official office tomorrow?” asked D’arby

As Rudnika told D’arby that Sonia would be ready for him to arrive by 7:30am she made a mental note that finding another person to share Sonia’s job should be given high priority. Sonia had said that she didn’t mind the long hours but Rudnika knew that it was not sustainable and if Sonia got sick Rudnika would have to close the official office and D’arby would have to stay home.

As D’arby walked home that evening he felt happy and excited but also frustrated because he hadn’t been able to take any work home with him and he realized that he wouldn’t even be able to make notes at home.

When D’arby got home Syafika and Fanta were deep in conversation about someone calle Celine. D’arby realized he was really hungry and had a look in the kitchen so see if anything was cooking. It looked like Fanta had been interrupted while preparing dinner so D’arby washed his hands and then continued chopping ingredients while reading the recipe that Fanta had left on the kitchen bench.

The Inklings: Chapter 87

To read the story from the start go to:

As Syafika walked to work on Wednesday she kept thinking about her Mum. Syafika hadn’t mentioned to Rose that she’d seen her give money to the lady who lived in the park. Instead Syafika decided that next time her Mum said she was going to the beauty salon she would follow her. Syafika was impatient to find out what was going on but she was also excited to think that she might be able to find the answer without having to ask. Syafika suspected that her Mum never went to the beauty salon and that instead she walked around looking for someone to give the money away to. It made Syafika proud to think that her Mum had this extra dimension of kindness.

When Syafika arrived at her desk she noticed that Celine had beaten her to work so she checked the time. It was only 8am. Syafika wondered why Celine had arrived so early that day, because (just as Anthony had requested) Celine and Fanta were sharing the one role and so they each worked only 3.5 hours per day. Fanta would be there during school hours and Celine usually did the same. Christine had even been persuaded to move the team meeting back to 9:30am so that Fanta and Celine could attend.

A bit later Syafika was engrossed in some reading when Celine came over and asked if she’d like to go out for a coffee before the team meeting. Syafika felt uncomfortable around Celine and looked up to see if Fanta had arrived yet so she could suggest Fanta come too, but Fanta wasn’t there.

As Syafika agreed to coffee with Celine she tried to sound enthusiastic. Celine lead the way to the coffee shop where Syafika had seen her meeting with Anthony (Lawrence). As they walked, Celine kept asking Syafika questions. Celine asked what Syafika was working on, how long she’d been working there, what the other people in the team were like and then moved on to more personal topics. By the time they arrived at the café Celine was asking Syafika if she had a partner and as they ordered their coffees Celine volunteered that she was also on the lookout for a boyfriend.

“What’s your type?” asked Syafika. She was hoping to find out whether Celine had a romantic interest in Anthony.

Celine paused to think before she answered “Someone brave who thinks for themselves. And someone who is genuine. I hate it when people try to trick me”

Syafika wondered whether that was a good description of Anthony and decided that Anthony probably wasn’t very genuine – although he didn’t seem to directly try to deceive Syafika he had always been evasive and she realized she hardly knew anything about him.

Then Celine asked Syafika what her type was and Syafika struggled to find an answer. Eventually she managed to say “Someone who I can have good discussions with and who likes me the way I am”.

“That’s easy!” Celine exclaimed. “Good discussions are something you can initiate, and making someone like you the way you are is easy too”.

“What? How can that be? How can you make someone like you the way you are?” asked Syafika.

“It all comes down to making them feel good about themselves when they are with you. There’s almost a formula for that” answered Celine.

Syafika wanted to know the formula but she was a bit skeptical and so she said “How do you know people don’t just like you anyway because you are so good looking? I bet what works for you won’t work for me”

Celine laughed and rolled her eyes. Celine had noticed that the waiter had looked at Syafika a few times so she thought she’d use this to her advantage.

“I will teach you and then you will believe me” said Celine. “When the waiter brings our coffees over I want you to smile and then observe him. I need you to be able to tell me the colour of his eyes and any distinguishing features of them. You will need to keep him here a while so you get time, so ask him a question – an interesting question that he is likely to have something to say about. And when you pick up your coffee to take a sip make sure that you wobble the cup so a little bit spills into the saucer. Then laugh at yourself – don’t get annoyed. And smile.”

Syafika thought this was stupid but she decided that a good way to show Celine she was wrong was to do what Celine asked and have it fail. So Syafika decided to make it look like she was taking the instructions seriously.

At least Syafika didn’t have to pretend to smile – she was so happy to see the generous sprinkle of chocolate powder on top of her cappuccino that she couldn’t have stopped herself from smiling. But Syafika remembered she couldn’t take a sip yet. She looked the waiter in the eye and asked him what the best and worst things about working in the café were. The waiter looked surprised because he’d been expecting a question like what the cake of the day was. He was happy to answer though and Celine nodded because she thought Syafika had asked a good question.

“Customers are the best and the worst thing” said the waiter, and he started telling the story of the day a customer had fixed the coffee machine when it broke down in the middle of the morning rush.

Syafika noted that the waiter had blue eyes but knew that wouldn’t be a detailed enough description to satisfy Celine so she looked harder and saw that around the pupil his eyes were slightly golden and that there was a ring around each iris that was almost black but probably really a very dark green.

As Syafika went to pick up her coffee she did as Celine had instructed and spilt a little bit of coffee into the saucer.

“Oops” said Syafika, and she smiled to herself.

The waiter smiled and would have told Syafika about his worst customers but he was called over to the cash register because the queue of people wanting takeaway coffees was growing longer.

While Celine and Syafika drank their coffees Syafika impressed Celine with her description of the waiter’s eyes but Celine was disappointed that Syafika hadn’t noticed other things she thought were important, like which hand he’d used to serve the coffees, whether his top or bottom lip was larger, what he smelt like, the shape of his earlobes and how the length of his upper arm compared to the width of his shoulders.

“You didn’t tell me to look for all those things!” complained Syafika. “And what is all that information good for anyway?” Syafika was beginning to think that Celine might be playing a trick on her.

“If you do the observation well you will see the effect for yourself” said Celine.

It was time to leave the café and go to the team meeting. The waiter was still operating the cash register when Celine and Syafika went to pay, but he didn’t continue his stories because the man operating the coffee machine was the owner of the café and he would have heard. Instead the waiter looked at Syafika and asked if they’d enjoyed their coffees. To buy Syafika time to make the rest of her observations, Celine gave an exaggerated description of how nice her coffee had been and described the flavours she’d been able to pick out and asked where the coffee beans were grown. While this was going on Syafika was looking at the waiter’s mouth, ears, arms and shoulders. Then she leant forward slightly and took a deep inhale.

When Syafika and Celine had left the café Celine said “So?”

“Right handed, bottom lip was slightly bigger, he smelt like cinnamon, his ear lobes were triangular and his upper arms were about 75% as long as his shoulders were wide” said Syafika. “How did that make him like me?”

“What’s that note in your hand?” asked Celine.

Syafika looked down at what she had thought was a receipt but it was really a handwritten note on a scrap of paper. It said “I hope you come back soon”. Syafika looked at Celine carefully because she still felt like Celine might have been tricking her and suspected that the waiter might be in on the trick too, but there wasn’t time to interrogate Celine because they had to rush back for the team meeting.

The Inklings: Chapter 86

To read the story from the start go to:

Although Syafika had been expecting that she would feel cross after having to get up so early, she was actually enjoying how peaceful everything was at that time of day. She went out into the backyard and looked up at the sky to watch it change colour as the sun came up. Aminata seemed to like this time of day too. She flew out of the back door and sat in a tree. Ousman and Binta came outside soon after.

Then the door of the garden shed opened and Mamadou came outside. He had a big smile on his face and was carrying a cup of tea. This made Syafika smile too.

The peaceful start to the day ended as soon as Festus opened the door for Zikpi and the film crew. Zikpi had a clipboard with a list of things she wanted to film that day and as Zikpi started explaining the schedule Binta went and hid upstairs because she really didn’t want her moving in with Rose to become part of the story about the renovations.

It was interesting to see the look on Zikpi’s face when she walked out into the back garden. Of course she’d been there when the garden was being created but her focus had been on the house because her show was about houses, and Zikpi wasn’t experienced in looking at garden plans and predicting what a finished landscape would be like. When Zikpi first saw the backyard her normally serious expression softened into a look of wonder and her cheeks developed a rosy glow. It was as if time had reversed and Zikpi had gone back to being a child. Instead of barking orders to the film crew, Zikpi walked around slowly and quietly and the only noises that came from her mouth were surprised inhales each time she discovered a new feature of the garden. When Zikpi had taken everything in she turned around and, with a wobbly voice she said “I’ve never seen anything so amazing! So beautiful! Such a paradise!” and the clever film crew captured it all.

Zikpi seemed to really be enjoying herself for the rest of the day, and Mamadou took full advantage of Zikpi’s good mood. Everytime he had an opportunity to speak infront of the camera Mamadou said something mischievous. He made it clear what he thought of typical renovations and the materialistic lifestyle that shows like Zikpi’s usually promoted. But it wasn’t really Zikpi’s mood that made her let Mamadou speak his mind. It was because he was living his message.

Zikpi had filmed many people who talked about sustainable lifestyles or passion for art or nature but, possibly because it was so unlikely for someone to succeed in coming to Zikpi’s attention without them being an expert in self promotion, Zikpi had found that commendable sentiments and impeccable manners were often an insubstantial layer on the outside of a mean and competitive core – like a poisonous snake wrapped up in a piece of velvet. Because of the circles she mixed in, Zikpi also hadn’t come across many people who would have maintained their passions if they hadn’t made them comfortably well-off and so the novelty of a person who had a pure and open agenda meant that Zikpi couldn’t hear enough of what Mamadou had to say. Zikpi did not find Mamadou charming but she wanted her viewers to hear his message.

Festus and Rose also did well infront of the camera. Festus was surprised by how much he enjoyed showing Zikpi how all the plumbing worked – how rain water ran to the tank and then was used for washing people and clothes and then how the dirty water was cleaned and used again as it made its way through the garden. When Zikpi asked Rose how the whole renovation idea came about Rose told the truth and admitted that she didn’t even know what a greywater system was before India started talking about how important they were and that everything had flowed on from there because it had made Rose decide to try to make her home self-sufficient before India could.

Filming finished earlier than expected and Binta came out of hiding as soon as she’d heard that the cameras had been packed away. Then everyone had a nice late lunch together before Zikpi and the crew left.

After lunch Syafika went to have a siesta to catch up on the sleep she’d missed out on by getting up so early. Everyone else retreated into quiet corners to relax too. An hour or so later everyone was up and moving around again and Rose announced that she was going to the beauty salon, as a treat for having survived the renovations. As Syafika watched Rose leave she realized that her Mum hadn’t been to the beauty salon for months and guessed that it was because she hadn’t wanted to spend money while Festus was unable to earn any money.

A bit later in the afternoon Syafika decided she would go for a run. She hadn’t been for a run near home before and so it was exciting to plan about the route she would take. Syafika decided on a circuit that took in a couple of local parks. The first park was a quiet one and Syafika enjoyed being the only person there. She ran a couple of loops around the park, running on the grass rather than the path and passing under the shade of as many trees as possible. When she left the park Syafika noticed that a change of weather was blowing in and enjoyed the way the wind cooled her down.

The second park Syafika ran around was much busier because it was close to a train station. It was never empty because some people lived there. As Syafika ran along the path at the top of the park she thought she noticed Rose walking through the park and thought that was strange because her beauty salon was in a different direction. Syafika’s first impulse was to run over to her Mum and find out what she was doing there, but then Syafika remembered that she was unofficially a spy in training and decided to instead watch her Mum from a distance and see if she could work out what was going on.

Syafika followed Rose, making sure she stayed about 20 metres behind. There was a group of people walking just behind Rose who would provide Syafika with some cover if her Mum happened to turn around.

Then Rose stepped off the path and started walking over to the fence where there were a couple of tattered tents. A lady came out of one of the tents and Rose spoke to her briefly then handed her something before walking off towards home.

Syafika kept following Rose, but as she passed the lady outside the tent Syafika sneaked a look at her and saw that she was holding a small bundle of $50 notes. The lady was looking a very happy but also a bit shocked.

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