Tag Archives: Fanta

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 34

Binta wondered why it was that after arguing with someone she always felt so much better, even when nothing had been resolved. Ever since she’d yelled at Fanta, Binta had felt much more positive about what had happened. She and Ousman had started talking again, and most importantly, Binta wasn’t angry with him or Fanta anymore. She wasn’t quite ready to admit that she was happy about what they’d been up to, but she was excited to think that Ousman might soon meet his father. She wondered what Mamadou would think of their son and before she could stop herself, Binta started wondering what Mamadou would think of her now.

Binta remembered when, earlier that year, Fanta had given Syafika a painting done by Mamadou. Now she realized that Fanta must have known who Mamadou was when she met him on holiday and bought that painting. Indeed, Fanta must have already known who Mamadou was before she visited him – Fanta must have tracked Mamadou down and just pretended she was a tourist. Binta blushed when she realized that Fanta must have known who Mamadou was talking about when he told her (thinking she was just a tourist) that he’d been planning to marry an Australian woman until he found out that she didn’t trust him. At the time Binta wished she could have told her side of the story, but now she realized that she may as well go along with Mamadou’s version because it was true that she hadn’t trusted Mamadou. When it happened Binta thought she had good reason not to trust Mamadou, but now she could see that she had added a large amount of imagination to small inconsistencies in some of the things Mamadou said. In her head she had turned minor things into major ones and instead of asking Mamadou to explain things that didn’t make sense she’d accused him of things he hadn’t done.

“I should have known!” said Binta to herself when she remembered how every time she’d gotten angry with Mamadou he’d been able to turn things around and make it her fault. Of course it made sense that their arguments would always be at least partly because of things Binta did, so it wasn’t fair for her to assign all the blame to Mamadou in the first place, but Binta hadn’t been able to see that when she was angry. Binta hoped she was wiser now. She didn’t think that Mamadou would have forgiven her though and hoped that Mamadou wouldn’t let his anger at her affect his relationship with Ousman.


The Inklings: Chapter 33

Syafika was furious to wake up and realise that it was Monday. She’d wasted the weekend waiting for Fanta to call and apologise (which Fanta hadn’t done) and now, not only was it time to go back to work again, but because Fanta hadn’t apologized Syafika had to decide whether to demonstrate her hurt by staying home that night and missing the meeting (which she had really been looking forward to) or to go to the meeting and risk looking like she wasn’t very upset with Fanta. Syafika picked up the phone and was about to call Vincent and ask him what she should do when she realized that she couldn’t do that either because she’d promised Vincent she wouldn’t go to any more of the meetings.

Since Wednesday Syafika had been stewing. She was incredibly hurt that Fanta had been keeping secrets from her and was even more hurt (and very jealous) that Fanta had been collaborating with her awful little cousin Ousman. Another element of Syafika’s hurt was that she was starting to realize that she needed Fanta more than Fanta needed her.

At last Syafika decided to give in and go to the meeting. Staying home would just make her even angrier. Besides, Fanta would have probably made a nice cake for dessert.

Poor John wasn’t in a good way either. The scare he’d got when Vincent turned up at Syafika’s place had made him start thinking about the precarious situation he was in. Since then John had spent every spare moment thinking about how he could avoid going to gaol. He was now feeling really depressed because he couldn’t think of a way of cutting off his past. And John wasn’t worried just for himself. He could see that whatever happened to him would also affect Fanta, his family and even D’arby. It would even affect their plans to “save the world”.

Syafika was right, Fanta did make a cake for the meeting. As Fanta took it out of the oven that afternoon she was wondering whether the meeting would go any better than their first. Fanta was hoping that if she made an extra special dinner it would help Syafika forgive her. Fanta was also worried about John, who had been distant that week. She could tell something was on his mind but when she asked him if anything was wrong he tried to pretend that nothing was.

D’arby was oblivious to all the dramas of his friends. He had been too engrossed in his latest draft of his plan to save the world to notice that John was depressed.

Fanta finished setting the table just at the time they’d agreed to meet. Then she looked out the window but couldn’t see any of her guests coming so she went to check that there was a fresh hand towel in the bathroom. Fanta then spent the next half an hour doing various unimportant household jobs, and checking out the window every five minutes or so. Finally she sat down and regretted having organized for her aunt and uncle to take her sisters out for the evening because it looked like nobody was going to turn up for the meeting. Who was going to eat all the food now?

Then there was a knock at the door and the next thing Fanta knew, John and D’arby were showering her with excuses for being so late. Just behind them was Syafika. She came in without saying much and soon all of them were sitting around the table.

Dinner was strangely silent. D’arby kept getting out his notes, looking at them, folding them up and putting them back in his pocket. The rustling sound was annoying Syafika. She hadn’t brought any notes this time. She’d been too angry to remember to bring her notes and was disappointed because she couldn’t remember her ideas without them.

Everyone was relieved when the dinner had all been eaten, even Syafika. As Fanta poured everyone cups of tea, D’arby skimmed through his notes once more and then stood up, cleared his throat and began.

“I’ve been trying to work out whether there is any root cause to the rot we were talking about last week. Is there any one thing that we can focus on that will make more difference than others? Anyway, this is what I’ve come up with so far:

It all started while I was watching the news. The usual finance reporter was showing graphs and talking about how consumers where still saving rather than spending so the retail outlook was grim and economic growth was threatened. I started to wonder whether all these “consumers” were really saving, or whether they’d made the same realization that I’d made and had decided they didn’t want to be consumers anymore. What if everyone stopped buying so much because they didn’t want to keep using resources unsustainably? What would that do to the economy? Would there be a recession? A depression? What are those things anyway? Can our economic system survive if we live more sustainably? I mean, even with increased efficiency, continual economic growth is impossible so either we stuff the planet or we stuff the economy, right? I know I’m not the only person who can see this problem so why are we so determined to stick to this path? Why aren’t we changing the economy?

I’d be surprised if it wasn’t those who benefit from the current system who are keeping things on the current path – so we may as well blame the richest people, but it isn’t just their fault because everyone else is letting them get away with it.

Anyway, if these rich people don’t care that they are destroying the planet and that they will be remembered as having been the biggest arseholes who ever lived, then why not? Are they psychopaths? Let’s assume that they are, even just for the fun of it.”

D’arby paused and looked at his audience. They seemed to be paying attention but he wasn’t sure they were following. He hadn’t been following his notes so he put them down on the table and just kept talking without them.

“I guess you’ve heard how corporations are inherently evil, and probably run by psychopaths and that corporations influence our governments so we can probably blame them for keeping us on a path to destruction – psychopaths via corporations, that is. And corporations probably turn normal people into virtual psychopaths too.

So what can we do about it? Can we make the normal people fight the system? Or can we fight the psychopaths directly? Or both?

I’ve been reading papers about psychopaths and I can’t say things are very clear. There isn’t total agreement on what one is, let alone on what to do about them. Some people reckon they might be able to come up with a treatment, but I can’t imagine psychos volunteering to take medication. I also worry that if we knew what makes a psycho someone would probably have a go at creating more of them – in some professions having empathy holds you back.

This gets me back to behaviour and the only thing I’ve ever been able to change. I think I know how to cure addiction, but can I cure a psychopath? Should I spend my time trying to work out how to do something I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to do or should I spend my time doing something I have already done before? Or can we do both?”

D’arby stopped again and looked at his audience, waiting for an answer but their faces were blank. This response made D’arby very annoyed. He sighed and sat down, shaking his head and was about to voice his disgust when John’s face lit up.

“I think he means he agrees with my idea and that we should keep putting the pills in the pizzas!” said John, with a triumphant smile on his face.

D’arby let out an exasperated laugh and then said “Yes, but only while we try to work out what else we can do.”

Fanta and Syafika just nodded and wondered what their roles in this plan were going to be.


The Inklings: Chapter 31

Fanta was anxious as she walked to Syafika’s place. Syafika had invited Fanta to dinner because Ousman and Binta were also coming for dinner and Syafika hoped that Fanta being there too would somehow make it more bearable. Fanta had a feeling that there would be arguments tonight though.

When Fanta arrived she found Rose in the front garden. Rose was busy digging up her gardenia bushes.

“What are you doing?” asked Fanta, with pain in her voice. The gardenias were flowering and smelt beautiful. Fanta couldn’t understand why Rose would be destroying them.

Rose stood up and pointed down the street. “Look!” she said. “See how many houses now have vegetables growing in their front yards? I used to grow vegetables and herbs and tomatoes in the front yard, but then all the rich people started moving into the street and they looked down their noses at me and complained that the fertilizer I was using stank, so I moved the veggie patch to the back yard and planted gardenias here instead.”

Rose paused so that Fanta had time to peer down the street. Then she continued.

“Well, then a few months ago it started to be trendy to grow your own vegetables and so now everyone has been pulling up their gardenias and planting vegetables! See number 32? They even have a worm farm!” said Rose.

“That black box on legs?” asked Fanta

“Yes! So now I’m going to plant basil and chives and chillies and rockmelons and sunflowers and zucchinis and whatever else I like! And then I’m going to put on the stinkiest fertilizer I can find. I might even try to get some chicken or cow pooh” said Rose and she chuckled.

As Fanta looked up the street she noticed that Rose had by far the biggest front yard. Fanta the real estate agent chuckled as she estimated the value of the land that would soon be covered in manure.

Fanta was going to ask Rose where Syafika was and whether Ousman and Binta were there yet, but Rose had returned her attention to digging, so Fanta went inside instead. Not surprisingly, Binta was in the kitchen preparing dinner. Ousman was there too. Binta had given him the job of washing the vegetables and while he wasn’t reluctant to do the job, he wasn’t giving it his full attention. When he heard Fanta say hello to his mother, Ousman turned around with a smile on his face. Binta wasn’t smiling though. She stopped what she was doing and looked sternly at Fanta.

“Where do I start!” said Binta. “How dare you interfere in my life in such a way! How dare you!”

Fanta realized that Binta had found out about her secret project. She hadn’t really expected such anger to be directed at her though. Fanta was certain she’d been doing a good thing.

When Fanta didn’t respond Binta continued “Why didn’t you talk to me about this? Didn’t you think I had the right to know what my own son was up to?”

“Ousman begged me to help him and not to tell anyone” explained Fanta, but she could see that perhaps she hadn’t done the wisest thing and that she should have consulted Binta.

“What are you doing here anyway? How can you think you know what is right for my son when you are always leaving your daughters at home and going out on your own?” said Binta angrily and then she turned her back on Fanta and pretended to be stirring the contents of a saucepan.

There were plenty of things Fanta could have said, but because she could feel tears forming in her eyes she turned and left instead. As she walked off down the street Fanta knew that she would regret not having stayed to explain things, but couldn’t bear to go back. Fanta was used to people she didn’t know assuming that her sisters were really her daughters, but she hadn’t expected it from someone she considered to be a friend. She imagined Syafika’s family discussing her – talking about her having been a teenage mother and how she tried to trick people into thinking her kids were her sisters. Fanta wondered what Syafika really believed. Fanta’s sisters were almost young enough to be her children and she was their guardian but Fanta was hurt that these people might not believe her when she said they were not her children.

Fanta was also hurt by Binta saying that she didn’t know what was good for Ousman. Maybe Syafika hadn’t told Binta how Fanta’s father had died just before Fanta’s youngest sister was born, or how Fanta’s mother had then abandoned them all and run off with a new man. After going through that, Fanta thought she did have some idea of what Ousman felt when his mother didn’t want him to know who his father was.

Fanta wondered whether Binta was right to think that Fanta shouldn’t go out and leave her sisters behind. Fanta had always considered that she should be able to have a separate social life, like she would have if her parents had been around. She never left her sisters on their own, they always had a babysitter, and tonight they were home with their aunt and uncle, who were practically their parents anyway.

Fanta wondered what would have happened if she had proposed to Binta that they try to find Ousman’s father. She knew Binta’s initial answer would have been “No!”, but would Binta have eventually changed her mind? Fanta decided that Binta probably would have eventually agreed with the plan to find Ousman’s father and Fanta began to regret not having discussed it with Binta first. She wished she had been able to say so.

After gathering her thoughts on the walk home, Fanta realized she needed to call Syafika, who would at least need to know why she hadn’t stayed for dinner. Festus answered the phone. He’d been instructed to tell Fanta that Syafika was too angry to talk to her. “Of course Syafika feels betrayed too” thought Fanta. She could imagine how angry Syafika would feel when she found out that she’d been left out of a secret.

After Fanta explained to her aunt and uncle why she’d come home so early her uncle told her his news. He’d had a phone call. The letter had been delivered successfully. Fanta smiled and hoped she’d eventually be forgiven.


The Inklings: Chapter 23

Monday night had finally come around. John, Fanta, D’arby and Syafika were all going to meet at Syafika’s place. All four of them had a lot on their minds.

John’s preparation for the meeting involved writing one sentence on a piece of paper, but this wasn’t a sign of indifference. John was full of enthusiasm to do something good, and knew what he wanted to do – that’s why he only needed to write one sentence. The only thing bothering him about the meeting was that he wondered how he could discuss his idea without making two dangerous confessions.

Fanta was a lot less certain of her ideas than John. She knew that there were some big things wrong in the world, but for some reason she couldn’t identify them, and so she had no chance of knowing what could be done about them. All she had written down were some (probably minor) things that regularly made her angry. She was looking forward to hearing what everyone else had come up with though.

Fanta was also a bit distracted by a couple of things. One was a pleasant distraction – her uncle and aunt were in town and would be staying until after Christmas. The other distraction was a secret project, and Fanta was feeling guilty that she had to keep it secret from John and Syafika.

D’arby had written pages of dot points, but they weren’t a list of problems and solutions. Instead they were points he wanted to discuss as he tried to describe what he had decided might be the biggest problem in the world. D’arby was also excited that his sister had given birth to a baby boy, and that she had done so in unexpected circumstances. D’arby was going to travel to see his sister and his new nephew the next day.

Syafika had written her list based on the things she found most awful about the world and although she’d decided on solutions, she hadn’t really thought them through. She had spent a lot more time thinking about more T-shirt slogans though. She’d even come up with a special one for D’arby.

Syafika was still busy tidying her room when John and D’arby arrived. John had brought some cold pizza. Syafika was keen to know how the T-shirt give away had gone the night before but John was more interested in heating up and serving his pizza than discussing that. Syafika decided she’d ask again when Fanta had arrived and everyone had settled down.

“Will we sit around the kitchen table?” asked John, as he started looking in the drawers and cupboards for cutlery and plates.

Syafika had been hoping to have the meeting in her room, so that her parents wouldn’t hear what they were talking about, but was now trying to decide whether it would be more embarrassing for her parents to listen to them or for her friends to see her messy room. Then Rose and Fanta arrived.

“Syafika, aren’t you going to introduce your friends?” asked Rose. After Rose was introduced to John and D’arby Rose went on to tell Syafika how Festus was bringing home takeaway and they were going to have dinner in front of the TV so Syafika could have her meeting in peace. Syafika sighed with relief and went to get some napkins from the linen cupboard.

“So, did people like the T-shirts?” asked Fanta as Syafika helped John set the table.

“There was a mixed response” answered John. “Only one person was enthusiastic, but a few people took them – probably just because they were free. Most people looked confused at being offered a T-shirt or were offended by the slogan, or by me asking what size T-shirt they wore. People are complicated!”

“Well, if I see someone wearing one one day I’ll be happy.” said Syafika. “You will keep trying to give them away, won’t you? I have some more ideas for slogans. Some might be more popular than others.”

“Of course, I haven’t given up yet” said John.

As the four friends ate their pizza D’arby told everyone how his sister had given birth at the side of the road after having run away from her husband. Then Fanta told how her uncle and aunt were going to be staying with her for the next month and apologized to John that this meant she couldn’t go to his family’s Christmas lunch with him. John didn’t seem very upset about this.

Finally there were no more excuses – it was time to get out their lists.

“Can I go first?” asked Fanta. “I don’t think my ideas are very good so I better read them out before hearing any of yours or I might not want to read them out at all anymore.”

“Don’t be silly! I’m sure you have great ideas” said John. “But you go first if you want.”

Syafika couldn’t help hoping that Fanta’s ideas were bad. She didn’t want to have the worst ones. She already felt that she was the stupidest person in the room.

“Ok” said Fanta. “I couldn’t work out what the really big problems in the world are so I came up with two things that often bother me. First, I don’t like cars and secondly I don’t like smokers. I guess what I mean is that I would like to see cities and towns that were designed for people not cars (I mean pedestrians mostly, I suppose, but bicycles are probably ok too – I might even ride one if I wasn’t scared of being hit by a car) and I’d like to be able to enjoy outdoor spaces without having to passive smoke. I mean, at cafes, in parks, at the bus stop, at the train station, while walking down the street….”

“I know! We could print T-shirts with the slogan “How much does your freedom cost others?” said Syafika.

D’arby raised an eyebrow at Syafika’s suggestion, which made her feel foolish. She realized she wasn’t really concentrating on the task at hand – she was still obsessed with T-shirts. But D’arby wasn’t thinking that Syafika was a fool. He was actually impressed because he thought Syafika had very quickly compressed what Fanta had been saying into a single sentence. He didn’t know that Syafika was just using what Fanta said as an excuse to talk about T-shirt slogans.

Then everyone turned back to Fanta and she realized that they were waiting for her solutions. “I don’t know how to fix these problems though” said Fanta. “I was hoping one of you would have some ideas”.

“Can I go next?” asked John. “I think my idea goes well with Fanta’s. I think the solution to my problem might also be part of the solution to hers.”

And so John explained how he thought that the worst problem in the world was addiction, but not just to drugs. He included extreme behaviour like eating too much, or starving yourself, or accumulating too much money or too many shoes or gambling all your money away. “There are some things people become addicted to that you can’t remove from your life (like food) so I think that to avoid suffering and disasters people need to look for balance rather than seeking extremes and I think D’arby may have already found part of the solution to this.”

Suddenly Fanta and Syafika were looking at D’arby, waiting for an explanation, but before D’arby could work out what he was supposed to say John said “I need to confess something – two things” and Fanta and Syafika turned their attention back to John.

“Fanta, I only gave up drugs because D’arby gave me some pills and they fixed me. I didn’t want to give up before that and I’d never tried. I should have told you this but I thought it would have made you think less of me” said John as he looked pleadingly at Fanta.

“What’s the other thing?” asked Fanta. She didn’t really care how John gave up his addiction but was worried that the second thing was worse.

John looked at D’arby this time and said “I’ve been putting the same pills into pizzas at the restaurant.”

“I thought I told you not to do that!” said D’arby angrily, and he wished he was at home so he could check the state of his stash of special pills. D’arby had been so distracted by his thesis lately that he’d almost forgotten that John had intended setting a lab up for him at the back of the restaurant. Suddenly he had lots of questions.

“Where did you get the pills you used? You haven’t been trying to make any of your own have you?” asked D’arby.

“Nope, I just took the big jar of them that you had in the laundry. I don’t know if putting them in the cupboard behind the washing detergent was meant to be your way of hiding them, but if it was it didn’t work” said John.

D’arby wanted to ask what had happened to the people who’d eaten the special pizzas, but didn’t think it was appropriate for him to show that much interest while he was still trying to be angry. Fortunately Fanta asked for him.

“Have you been curing your customers?” asked Fanta.

“I wish I knew!” said John. “People come in and eat the pizza, pay and leave and I can’t really see any change, but I don’t know what I should be looking for. I don’t know who is an addict and who isn’t. I don’t know if the pills will work instantly if they are taken as part of a large meal. Does drinking alcohol with them stop them from working? I don’t know anything really. I just hope I’m doing some good and I’d like to be able to do more.”

Syafika had just eaten a bite of her fourth slice of pizza when she froze. “Were there any of these pills in this pizza?” she asked, with wide eyes.

“No, I wouldn’t waste them on us” said John.

“Good” said Syafika and was about to take another bite of pizza when from the corner of her eye she noticed something move in the doorway of the kitchen. Vincent was standing there. He was looking very angry. Everyone at the kitchen table turned to look at him and all of them were thinking the same thing – how long had he been standing there?

Vincent wouldn’t have needed his experience as a police detective to know that he’d interrupted a discussion about something criminal. The four very guilty looking faces around the kitchen table told him that.

John, D’arby and Fanta left immediately, leaving Syafika and Vincent alone.

“Who were those men?” asked Vincent. Syafika explained that John was Fanta’s boyfriend and D’arby was John’s flatmate. Next Vincent wanted to know what they’d been talking about. Syafika felt like a small child as she explained that they were thinking of ways to make the world a better place, but at least Vincent seemed to believe her.

“I think you should stay away from John and D’arby” said Vincent and then changed the topic. Vincent had come over as a surprise to give Syafika a CD that he’d been enjoying. He didn’t stay long. Syafika could tell that he was disappointed with her. As she closed the door behind Vincent tears welled in her eyes. Syafika turned and ran to her bedroom, where she sat on her bed looking at her list of T-shirt slogans and ways to fix the world while she cried.


The Inklings: Chapter 19

It was a boring Sunday morning and Syafika and Fanta were not doing much, just sitting around at Syafika’s place and wishing that something would happen. They were both looking forward to their Monday night meeting with John and D’arby. Both of them had already done their homework for the meeting, which was to write a list of things that they thought were wrong in the world and things they could do to make everything better. It was hard to resist discussing these lists before the meeting, but so far they had both managed to avoid the topic.

Then the phone rang. It was John. He said he needed Fanta and Syafika’s help urgently and that it had something to do with T-shirts. Then he said where to meet him and hung up.

Fortunately Syafika and Fanta were in the type of mood where they would volunteer for anything rather than stay at home doing nothing and so they left to meet John immediately. After a bit of walking Fanta and Syafika found John and D’arby right where they said they’d be – in the alley behind an old warehouse. Someone had left an enormous box of T-shirts out on the street, with a cardboard sign saying “Free to a good home”. John was sure that his place was as good a home as any. As soon as he and D’arby had come across the T-shirts they had thought of a way to use them. D’arby had once been a fan of screen printing and still had all the equipment. He and John were going to print T-shirts and give them away at the restaurant. They just had to get them home first.

Fanta and Syafika were assigned the task of convincing a taxi driver to come up the back alley and let them fill the taxi full of T-shirts. It was easy enough to stop a taxi on the busy road nearby but when the taxi driver got to where John and D’arby were sorting through the T-shirts he had to be offered double the fare to let them stuff them in the taxi.

“See you back at our place!” said D’arby as he left in the taxi. Fanta and Syafika were beginning to wish they were still sitting around doing nothing as they began the walk back with John. All three of them were carrying large piles of T-shirts that hadn’t fitted in the taxi.

“At least this pile is so high that nobody passing can see my face” said Syafika. She was embarrassed. She didn’t want to be seen scavenging.

“Yeah, the disadvantage is that I can’t see where I’m going” said Fanta and then walked straight into a post. After that, John insisted on carrying all of Fanta’s T-shirts, as well as his own. Fanta walked in front and guided John and Syafika past any obstacles on the footpath.

“Dog pooh coming up” said Fanta “At the third step, take an extra large one.” She was enjoying herself. There seemed to be a lot more dog poohs on the walk back than John or Syafika had ever remembered.

——————————-

“So, what are you going to print on them?” asked Fanta when they were all back at John and D’arby’s place.

John and D’arby were arranging the T-shirts in piles on the floor of the lounge room.

“Something risqué” said D’arby. “The point is to see what ridiculous slogans we can make people wear by making them free.”

“Free to a good home?” asked Syafika

“I’m free, take me?” said Fanta

“Discarded” said John

“I was thinking about something to do with money” said D’arby. “Only I can’t think of a way to say what I want to say”

“Try” said Fanta

“Something distilling how I feel about the importance we give the economy not being justified – that it has become a beast that we are slaves to” said D’arby

“Why don’t you just say ‘Fuck the economy’” said John.

“Ha ha, won’t people get arrested for wearing something like that?” said Syafika

“I wonder” said Fanta. “Why don’t you ask Vincent?”

“Why don’t we just try it!” said John “Lets print some up now and I’ll give them away at the restaurant tonight.


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