Tag Archives: India

The Inklings: Chapter 141

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

As Mamadou walked through the house he was shocked by the mess that the burglars had left and wondered whether they’d been more interested in causing pain than stealing. Not much was broken but hardly anything had been left in its place. Most things had been dumped onto the floor, even the contents of the cutlery drawer. The intrusion made Mamadou feel anxious and he realised he was scared that they hadn’t found what they were looking for and would come back.

Mamadou hurried out the back door and over to his shed. When he opened the door and found everything as he’d left it he let out a sigh and realised he’d been holding his breath. Mamadou would have loved to stay hiding in his shed but he knew he’d have to return to the house to help clean up. As he walked back inside he noticed Rose coming out of her greenhouse.

“Everything ok there?” asked Mamadou.

“Yes, I don’t know why I was so worried, but I guess I just love my plants” said Rose. “Did they mess up your shed?”

“No” replied Mamadou.

When they got inside Rose and Mamadou discovered that India was busy tidying up.

“I know this might sound insensitive, but I really want the street meeting to go ahead tonight. So let’s get your place all tidy and then return to my place to finish preparing” said India.

Mamadou smiled. He was glad that India could be so unemotional about the mess because it made him feel calmer and safer. He was also looking forward to the meeting that night. They were going to vote on a plan for the street and elect a committee to make it happen. Although Mamadou wouldn’t admit it, he was really hoping he would be selected for the committee.

“Will you help me tidy upstairs?” asked Binta.

“Ok” said Mamadou and he followed Binta upstairs. As they reached the first floor landing Mamadou looked upstairs towards Amanda’s room.

“Where was Amanda when the burglars came?” asked Mamadou. ”I thought she never left her room or the house”

“Rose said Amanda went to visit a friend today. Everyone says Amanda never leaves her room or the house, but it is an exaggeration because she does sometimes come out of her room and a couple of times a year she goes out” said Binta.

“How did the burglars know that today was one of the rare days Amanda wouldn’t be home?” asked Mamadou.

“That’s a very good question” said Binta. “I did see someone hanging around this morning, though. I think he was watching the upstairs windows with binoculars”

“Did you tell the Police that?” asked Mamadou.

“Of course” said Binta. “But maybe I should have said something to Rose this morning. Maybe she wouldn’t have gone to India’s if she knew someone was watching the house”

“Don’t worry – India would never have let her stay home anyway” said Mamadou.

Mamadou folded up Ousman’s clothes and put them away while Rose put her things away. Mamadou noticed that Binta’s computer was on the floor and that the screen was cracked. As Mamadou watched Binta squat down and gently run her finger over the crack he felt like crying. He hated to see Binta suffering.

The house was still not quite tidy when it was time to go back to India’s for the street meeting, but it was good enough for everyone to feel that they could take the rest of the evening off.

Mamadou followed Binta out the front door and noticed that a storm was approaching.  He tried not to think about clouds and instead concentrated on imagining how nice it would be to hear rain falling on the roof.

India had ordered pizza for dinner, and it was delivered just as the guests were arriving. Mamadou didn’t like pizza but was too excited about the meeting for it to bother him as much as it usually would. Instead he took two slices and as he stood eating them he watched the faces of the other people who’d come for the meeting. It was almost the same group of people who’d come on Thursday and they all seemed to be looking forward to voting.

“Come and sit with Penny and I” said Gina and she guided Mamadou by the elbow over to towards Penny.

Mamadou dutifully sat down next to Penny and Gina sat down on his other side.

“What do you think of tiny houses” asked Gina.

“The ones that are super quick to build” said Penny.

“It isn’t that we don’t like your designs but we don’t want to be imposing on India for too much longer and were thinking that maybe a tiny house would be a good interim solution – while you build the rest of the house and garden” said Gina.

“Ah, I see” said Mamadou. “Yes, I think that would work”.

Mamadou pictured his latest design with a sweet little caravan in the middle and realised it would actually improve the design.

“We like this one” said Gina and she showed Mamadou a brochure of a house on a trailer that had its own rainwater tank and solar power system.

“If we order it we can be out of India’s by May” said Penny. “Should we do that?”

“Yes, do that” said Mamadou.

“Great! Don’t stop working on your design though. We want you to start building as soon as possible” said Gina.

Mamadou looked at India and wondered whether she had any idea how much Gina and Penny wanted to get out of her house. He hoped she didn’t know because he suspected that India meant well and would be hurt if she knew that most people found her difficult to be around.

When the pizza was all gone India wheeled the whiteboard into the meeting room. Everyone sat down quietly and watched as India listed the alternative plans on the white board. Then she asked the people who’d come up with the ideas to each briefly explain their plan.

Victoria and Graham’s idea was first on the list. Graham sounded nervous as he explained that one solution was to sell their land and let the developers build flats and that Penny and Gina could buy a flat.

Mamadou couldn’t help smiling when Victoria added “We actually don’t want to vote for our idea anymore though. Should we remove it from the list?”

“No” said India. “Someone else might want to vote for it”

Next it was Mamadou’s turn to explain his idea. He realised he felt nervous and had to clear his throat a couple of times. He had to fight the instinct to rub India’s list off the whiteboard and start doing drawings as he explained his idea for closing the street to cars and creating parking spaces underneath a new house for Victoria and Graham. He even added a couple of new details that he’d thought of since Thursday.

Mamadou tried to be a good audience member for the last three people who explained ideas. He looked at them and nodded every now and then, but really he wasn’t listening at all because he was too busy worrying that he hadn’t explained his idea well enough.

“How would you like to vote?” asked India. “By a show of hands, or by a secret ballot?”

“Show of hands” suggested Victoria and a few other people responded in agreement.

“Anyone disagree?” asked India, but nobody said anything.

“Ok, let’s get started then” said India. “Please raise your hand if you want to vote for the first idea.

Mamadou was relieved when nobody raised a hand.

“No votes for plan number 1” declared India.“Please raise your hand to vote for the second idea”

Mamadou quickly put his hand up then looked around and saw most people join him.

“25 votes for plan number 2” declared India.

Mamadou put his hand down and tried to stop smiling but couldn’t.

India guided the meeting through voting for the remaining three ideas but everyone already knew that Mamadou’s plan had won.

After India declared Mamadou’s idea to be the winner it was time to elect a committee to make it happen.

“I nominate India” said Graham.

“I gratefully accept the nomination” replied India.

“I nominate Mamadou” said Syafika.

Mamadou was surprised that Syafika would nominate him because she had the feeling that he resented him being around.

“Do you accept?” asked India.

“Yes” said Mamadou.

It was harder to find three other people willing to be nominated but in the end Victoria, Gina and India’s next door neighbour Donald were nominated and because there weren’t more nomination that spots on the committee there was no need to vote. Mamadou could see the value in Gina and Victoria being on the committee but suspected that Donald had only accepted nomination so he could spend more time with India.

As everyone got up to leave Syafika gave Mamadou a high five and said “How did this happen? Good things like this never happen!”

“Nothing much has happened yet” said Festus.

“Yeah, but at least people want it to. I’m not used to that” said Syafika.

When Mamadou got outside he noticed that it had been raining and realised he’d forgotten to listen out for it. After saying good night he went to his shed and got out his designs for Penny and Gina’s place.

As Mamadou looked at his drawing he hoped he hadn’t become too ambitious. The new ‘house’ didn’t looke like a house at all. On the back left corner of the block Mamadou had created what looked like a Spanish patio garden. Mamadou had drawn high walls on the left and back of the block that looked like building facades. They had windows, alcoves, planter boxes and balconies on the first floor and on the ground floor there were verandahs with arched supports. Vines grew up the walls and there were potted gardens on the balconies.  On the right of the block was a small forest that merged with the trees around Rose’s frog pond. In the middle the man-made garden transitioned to wilderness via a small structure that looked like it was half waterfall, half ruined temple.

Mamadou sharpened a pencil and had just started drawing Penny and Gina’s tiny home near the front of the block when someone knocked on the door of the shed.

Ousman pushed the door open and came in carrying a tray with a cup of tea and a slice of watermelon on it.

Ousman put the tray down on the table and started looking at Mamadou’s drawing. Mamadou took a sip of his tea and waited for the questions to start.

“That’s a nice garden. What is is for?” asked Ousman.

“That’s Gina and Penny’s new house” said Mamadou.

Ousman looked at the drawing again and frowned.

“But where is the house?” asked Ousman. “Is that the thing you’ve just started drawing in the middle?”

“No, that’s a new addition – they’ve asked for a tiny home to live in while the real house is built” said Mamadou. “Can you see the house yet?”

Ousman looked at the drawing again and Mamadou could tell he was thinking hard. Then Ousman smiled.

“Is the house inside these walls? A long narrow house?” asked Ousman.

“Yes, that’s part of it” said Mamadou. “There’s also a section here of building that will look invisible because it will be made of reflective double glass that is angled so it reflects other parts of the garden and walls” said Mamadou and he pointed to what looked like the middle of the back wall.

“And finally this mound is the roof of another section of the building” said Mamadou and he pointed at the waterfall.

“It will look like someone has parked a small caravan in an abandoned garden!” said Ousman.

“Yes! The little caravan home will accidentally become the centre of the design” said Mamadou.

“Can you add one more thing?” asked Ousman.

“What?” asked Mamadou.

“What about a little gate keeper’s cottage at the front corner of the block? Someone could live there too. Maybe someone who didn’t have a place to live” said Ousman.

Mamadou usually disliked it when people suggested changes to whatever he was working on, but he liked Ousman’s idea and he knew Penny and Gina would like it too. Mamadou drew the cottage while Ousman watched.


The Inklings: Chapter 139

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

It was almost lunchtime on Saturday by the time Syafika got out of bed. She’d decided to be kind to herself that day because she’d been through a lot during the week.

Syafika was wandering around the house in her pyjamas when India knocked on the door and sang out “Anyone home?”. Syafika froze and was considering how she could best avoid India when India opened the door and walked in.

“Did you just get up now?” asked India when she saw Syafika. “Where’s Rose, Festus and Mamadou? I need all hands on deck”

India didn’t wait for Syafika to respond. Instead she walked purposefully through the empty kitchen then out into the backyard.

Syafika chuckled to herself as she heard India rounding up Mamadou and her parents then quickly hid in her bedroom to avoid being added to India’s catch.

When Syafika came out of her room later the house was silent. Syafika realised she felt lonely and so she went upstairs to see if Amanda wanted to have lunch with her.

When Syafika knocked on Amanda’s door there was no answer. At first Syafika assumed it was because Amanda was sleeping and turned to go back downstairs, but something made her change her mind. Syafika turned back to Amanda’s bedroom door and turned the handle. When it opened Syafika couldn’t help letting out a squeal of surprise. She slowly opened the door and found the room empty.

Syafika walked in and had a good look around but didn’t find anything very interesting. The room was very tidy and there wasn’t much stuff in there. One wall had lots of photos on it but everything else was bare and characterless. It made Syafika wonder whether Amanda had run away so she opened the wardrobe and was relieved to discover that it was full of clothes. Syafika was cranky to find that some of her clothes were in there too. She angrily took one of her dresses off the coat hanger and was going to take it downstairs when she noticed that it smelt like Amanda. Syafika disgustedly threw the dress on the floor and stomped downstairs to have lunch.

As Syafika ate her lunch alone in the kitchen she wondered what Anthony was doing and realised she really wanted to see him again. Syafika wondered whether she’d ever get over Anthony. The highs and lows of uncertainty were exhausting and Syafika realised she was at risk of wasting the best years of her life waiting for Anthony to give her a sign.

“Maybe I should just tell him how I feel and get it over with” thought Syafika. She realised that she could call Anthony and tell him right away and the thought of that made her so terrified that she decided she’d wait until after lunch.

After lunch Syafika decided that she’d have a cup of tea before calling Anthony, then a couple of biscuits. Then she thought she better clean her teeth. Eventually she got her mobile phone out and stared at it for a while before calling Anthony’s number.

The phone rang and rang and Syafika was about to hang up when Anthony’s voicemail answered. As Syafika listened to his message she desperately tried to decide what to say. When she heard the beep her mind went blank.

“……… Hello Anthony, it’s Syafika and I need to tell you something. I need to tell you something, but, but not in a message” said Syafika and she quickly hung up and dropped the phone as if it was dangerous.

“Shit, shit, shit” said Syafika. For the next hour she kept looking at her phone, simultaneously hoping Anthony would call her back and being terrified that he would.

Syafika felt so much like running away that she decided she would go for a run. She put on some running clothes but when went to put on her running shoes she could only find one of them. Syafika looked under her bed, in the wardrobe, behind the door, in the laundry basket and anywhere else she thought it was possible for her shoe to be but couldn’t find it. Eventually she decided to treat it as a sign that she should go running without shoes. As Syafika set off down the street she laughed at the thought of Anthony catching her running barefoot again.

Syafika decided to run a few laps of the park near the train station so she headed there. When she arrived she discovered that all the tents had gone. Syafika ran around the park as close to the boundary as she could and when she got to the place where the tents had been she noticed that there were still dead patches in the grass where the tents had been.

Running barefoot made Syafika more tired than usual, probably because she had to be more careful about how and where she put her feet down. Before she returned home Syafika sat down on a seat in the park for a rest. Syafika watched the other people in the park. Most of them were couples. When Syafika noticed one couple walking arm in arm and looking at each other lovingly she couldn’t stop herself from crying.

After wiping her tears away Syafika started running home. When she arrived she noticed a police car parked outside and saw that Rose and Festus were standing in the front yard talking to a police officer.

“What happened?” asked Syafika.

“Someone broke into our house” said Rose.

“What did they steal?” asked Syafika.

“Just cash, as far as I know” said Rose. “But they did make a big mess”

There was something in the tone of Rose’s voice that made Syafika suspicious. “I want to see” said Syafika and she started running up the front steps but the police officer stopped her and told her she couldn’t go inside because they were still taking photos and looking for fingerprints.


The Inklings: Chapter 130

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

Penny refused to sit in the passenger seat of India’s car – she wanted to sit next to Gina in the back instead. Binta was usually skeptical about love – she thought that people who were in love behaved as stupidly as people who were on drugs, but there were some couples that made her wish she could find a companion, and Penny and Gina were one of those couples. As Binta got into the passenger seat of India’s car she thought about Mamadou and wondered whether they could ever be a couple again because it was tempting to think that it would solve a lot of their problems. She tried to remember what it had felt like when she’d been in love with Mamadou but couldn’t remember much, apart from a how it had been the only time she’d felt comfortable with who she was. Other feelings were easier to remember, like how embarrassed she’d felt when he’d left her and how scared she’d been at the prospect of having a baby all by herself. Binta realised that she and Mamadou had a lot to talk about and wondered whether they ever would. Maybe it was better to not talk about what had happened in case they began to hate each other.

When they arrived at India’s place Binta did as India had planned – she brought Penny’s suitcase inside while India and Gina helped Penny into her wheelchair. Then she walked home to see if Rose and Mamadou wanted to join them for morning tea.

When Binta opened the front door she could hear Rose, Syafika and Mamadou talking. They were in the kitchen drinking tea.

“Please come and have tea at India’s place instead. She instructed me to invite you to come and welcome Penny” said Binta.

Rose and Mamadou reluctantly put down their tea cups and followed Binta to India’s place, but Syafika refused, saying “She wouldn’t have invited me, would she – India wouldn’t know I was home sick”

When Rose, Binta and Mamadou arrived at India’s it was obvious that Mamadou was the one Penny most wanted to see.

“I have to tell you about the strange dream I keep having” said Penny.

“I’ll make the tea” said Rose quickly and she went to the kitchen, which didn’t surprise Binta because she knew how much Rose hated it when people recounted their dreams.

Binta and Mamadou sat down near Penny and listened as she told them how every night in hospital she’d dreamt that she’d been walking through a strange place that was part city, part forest and part temple. There was dappled light and a feeling of enclosure that you get when walking through a forest but the trees seemed to merge into the walls of buildings. In the spaces between branches and tree trunks there were windows, doors, shelves, artworks and cosy places to sit.

“I was as if a city had been grown from trees and plants” said Penny and she explained how there were small clearings with places to sit, and how there were creeks running between the tree-buildings that had little bridges over them.

“I’d like you to help me create a place like that on our block” said Penny. “I loved your house design, but I think that when you drew that you were trying to please the old me. The new me is much more adventurous because I can’t un-see what I saw in those dreams”

Binta wondered how anyone could turn Penny’s dream into a place that was practical enough to live in and looked at Mamadou to see what he was thinking.

Mamadou’s mouth was gently turned up, as if his expression had been frozen just before he smiled, and his eyes seemed to be staring into the distance despite there only being a blank wall in front of him. Binta realised that the only time she’d seen an expression like that was when she had watched The Wind in the Willows on TV as a child – it was the same expression that Toad had after he’d seen his first motor car and it indicated to Binta that Mamadou was going to become obsessed by Penny’s new idea.


The Inklings: Chapter 126

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

“Mum, where’s Aunty Rose?” asked Ousman. He looked really excited.

“She went for a walk” said Binta. Binta was a bit cross with Rose. When India had asked if they could help her today when she collected Penny from hospital and finished preparing for the street party Rose had firmly refused, with a vague excuse. The result was that Binta had felt she had no choice but to agree to help India, even though she didn’t feel comfortable in India’s company. India was a friendly person and generally kind, but she was a terrible listener – she dominated conversations and could be quite bossy, and Binta found this exhausting.

“Syafika didn’t come home last night because she was vomiting so she stayed at a friend’s place and is coming home now” said Ousman.

Binta heard what Ousman said but didn’t really take it in because she was looking at the time.

“Great. Time for you to go and get the bus now darling” said Binta. Binta walked Ousman to the bus stop and when she got home there was still half an hour before she’d promised to be at India’s place, so she went to see if she had any new emails.

As Binta sat down at her computer she felt anxious. She had a feeling that she ought to urgently be doing something but she didn’t know what she should be doing. Of course she knew that she urgently needed to start earning an income but she didn’t know how she should do that. Every day she looked at job ads but hadn’t yet found one she met all the criteria for. She’d hoped that she could help Mamadou create a business, but the fire and his visa conditions had made that seem unlikely to succeed. All these thoughts were swirling around Binta’s mind when she clicked on a new email from a familiar name – it was from Bert, who’d she’d been to uni with but hadn’t seen since.

Bert was wondering what Binta was up to these days and asking for help because his animation business had a new project that was really ambitious and he wanted someone to help him keep track of everything.

At first Binta couldn’t understand why Bert would think she could help him, but then she remembered that back at uni they’d worked well together. Whenever they were assigned to the same group for assignments they’d done well.

Binta started typing a reply to Bert and was going to say that she was definitely interested in helping him with his project, but then it occurred to her that she ought to see what she could find out about Bert’s business first. Binta did an internet search and soon found an impressive website with a photo of Bert and lots of impressive-looking staff. When Binta read about what they did she became even more impressed – it seemed that they were at the leading edge. Binta was curious to know how Bert had ended up with an animation company and that’s when she started comparing what she’d achieved with what he had. Binta realised she’d probably have to send Bert her CV, or at the very least she’d have to tell him what she’d been up to, and she became embarrassed because she felt like she hadn’t reached her potential. Binta decided she shouldn’t reply afterall so she deleted the reply then went to clean her teeth.

As Binta brushed her teeth she looked at herself in the mirror and realised she was self-sabotaging, so she returned to the computer and emailed Bert saying that she’d love to help. When Binta walked to India’s place she noticed that she was feeling happier and more energetic than usual.

Gina was waiting by the front door when Binta arrived at India’s place and before Binta could say good morning India came out of the front door and bustled them both into her car. As they drove to the hospital India explained in detail the plans for the day.


The Inklings: Chapter 100

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

It was raining when Syafika left Fanta’s place, but Syafika liked being outside in the rain. There was still a little bit of light in the sky when Syafika arrived home so she decided to have a look at how the runoff was flowing through the back garden. As Syafika walked out the back door she discovered that Festus had set up his tools under the back verandah and was making something from pieces of wood.

“What are you making?” Syafika asked.

“I’m making two wheelchair ramps for India so that Penny can get in the front and back doors of her house” said Festus.

“That’s nice of you. I hope Penny and Gina are able to feel comfortable at India’s house” said Syafika. Syafika couldn’t imagine how she would survive living with India and realised that Penny and Gina would have to put up with it for at least a year.

“India will be on her best behaviour. She feels responsible for the fire and car accidents because she’s the one who asked Gina to make sweet potato chips, and it was India’s friends who filled the street with parked cars” said Festus.

Syafika took off her shoes and paddled along the miniature river to the pond. She could hear frogs croaking but it was too dark to see them. Then Syafika heard Rose telling Festus to come inside and reminding him that it was the 15th of March. Syafika had forgotten it was the anniversary of her grandparent’s death. She rushed inside to have a quick shower before 9pm.

Every year at 9pm on 15th March Rose would select something from her parents’ music collection to play and everyone had to sit in silence and listen to it from start to finish. It was not something that Syafika looked forward too, but she endured it without complaint because she knew how important it was to Rose.

When Syafika came into the loungeroom Rose was carefully opening a box that held the CDs, cassettes and records. Ousman was next to Binta and trying to stick his head into the box to see what Rose would choose to play.

“Be careful Ousman. The records are very fragile and precious” said Syafika.

There was a rule about which music was chosen. Each year they would play what was at the front of the box and then put it at the back of the box and Rose would not let anyone change the order. If anyone wanted to play any of the music on any other day of the year Rose would have to supervise and make sure that the order was not changed.

At the front of the box there was a CD and Binta took it out. The cover had a picture of a man sitting at a piano on it. Ousman laughed at the man’s hair because it was parted down the middle and stuck out a bit at the sides.

“This is the pianist who got so carried away that he often played wrong notes” said Binta.

Syafika remembered how when she was a girl her piano teacher had often been cross at her for playing wrong notes and decided that she might enjoy this record.

Syafika looked at Mamadou to see what he thought of this ceremony because it was the first time he’d been there to take part. Mamadou looked happy and Syafika wondered whether all artists were obsessed with music.

Festus turned on the lamp near the CD player and turned off the overhead light. Syafika realised that she sitting in the darkest seat in the room and was glad because it meant she wouldn’t have to worry about her face giving away any of her thoughts.

The first piece of music was slightly familiar to Syafika but not something she’d ever tried to play so she wasn’t able to tell if the pianist made any mistakes. The left hand played the melody and the right hand ran up and down the keyboard making complicated patterns that Syafika suspected were beyond her ability. Syafika enojyed the piece and wondered whether her grandparents had hoped she would be able to play it one day.

The second piece was something Syafika had played, but never as beautifully. The pianist on the record was explaining something using music, as if he wasn’t able to talk but had something very important to say. When Syafika had played the piece she’d been so worried about keeping time and getting the notes right that she’d made it sound robotic.

Syafika looked at Ousman to see if he was getting bored. He had his eyes closed and was leaning against Binta. At first Syafika thought he’d fallen asleep but then he smiled and moved his head to the other side so Syafika realised he was just enjoying the music.

The third piece of music was a trio and something Syafika had heard her grandfather listening to many times. The violin’s cheerful start made tears come to Syafika’s eyes. She remembered her grandfather’s bushy eyebrows and couldn’t help crying. Then Syafika remembered a stream of other things, like the day she’d got stuck at the top of a pear tree and her grandmother had called out helpful instructions to guide her down, and the taste of the dark purple plums her grandparents had grown. Syafika wiped tears from her cheeks and tried not to sniffle too loudly.

The next piece was just for piano and not something Syafika remembered hearing before. It reminded her of running up a hill and her mind drifted to other things. Syafika realised she missed being a kid who had nothing much to worry about apart from music lessons and she realised that she missed her piano teacher too.  Next Syafika remembered the photo of Anthony that D’arby had shown her that evening and the plans they’d made for her to contact Anthony. She realised how much she enjoyed being part of a plan that involved team work. It had been fun to spy on Anthony by herself, but also a bit too scary for comfort. Now that D’arby, Fanta and John were involved Syafika thought she would be able to relax and enjoy the adventure more.

When Syafika realised that instead of listening to the music she’d been thinking about Anthony and she decided that she’d give her full attention to the music for the rest of the CD. So Syafika spent the next half hour thinking only about the music she was listening to and she enjoyed it so much that when it was over she was disappointed.

When Festus turned the light on Syafika realised that Amanda was sitting on the floor near the door and looking really sad. When Amanda noticed that Syafika was looking at her she dashed out of the room and up the stairs so fast that Syafika wasn’t sure she’d really seen her.

Nobody else in the room mentioned Amanda and Syafika wondered whether they’d even noticed her. Ousman asked whether they could listen to music like that more often but Syafika didn’t wait to hear what Rose and Binta would say because she didn’t want anyone to notice that her eyes were red from crying. She said “Goodnight” and went to her room without looking back.


The Inklings: Chapter 91

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

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 48

To read the story from the beginning go here.

The smell of Turkish delight tempted Syafika out of her room, where she’d been lying in bed reading. As Syafika wandered towards the living room she expected to find something nice to eat and hoped there would also be some interesting visitors, but she was disappointed with what she found. Rose was sitting cross-legged on the floor along with Ousman, Binta and India (from up the street). They all had their hands in a silly pose and eyes closed. On the coffee table was a tray with a pretty tea set. When Syafika walked over and lifted the lid of the teapot nobody acknowledged her. Syafika was disappointed that she’d only smelled tea, not cakes and she might have made a rude comment except that India being there made her think twice about it. Instead Syafika went to the kitchen to look for something sweet to eat.

While waiting for three mince pies to heat up, Syafika went and got her book and sat down at the kitchen table to read, while listening out for signs of life in the living room. She half expected to hear some chanting soon.

Syafika’s mince pies were long eaten by the time Ousman finally came into the kitchen. “That was so cool!” he said.

“What was so cool?” asked Syafika, putting her book down.

“We were meditating, where you try to think about nothing. I kept seeing colours and strange pictures and all these thoughts kept trying to sneak into my head like someone else was coming along to make trouble and I had to keep pushing the ideas away again, but it all made me feel so happy!” explained Ousman and Syafika could see the happiness in his face. She couldn’t help feeling she’d missed out on something, but would never admit it. Her first impulse was to roll her eyes and say “Boring!” but for some reason Syafika didn’t find Ousman so annoying anymore and didn’t want to deliberately hurt his feelings. Instead she asked “What has brought all this meditation on?”

“India just turned up with her pot of rose and apple tea and asked us if we wanted to help her end the year on a good note and sort out our thoughts so we are ready for the new year.” said Ousman. Syafika couldn’t say what she was thinking because she saw that India was coming into the kitchen, along with Rose and Binta. India was carrying the tray with the teaset on it. India said something about it being time to feed the chickens and asked Rose to open the front door for her.

“Does India have chickens” Syafika asked when India had gone.

“Does she ever!” replied Rose. “Next thing we know, she’ll have a goat”

“No, not a goat, an alpaca” said Binta and she and Rose started giggling. Syafika thought it might have made her laugh too, if she’d known what an aplaca was.

“Can we get a goat?” Ousman asked Binta.

“I don’t know” said Binta and she looked from Rose to Syafika as she asked “Would I be allowed to keep a goat?”

“Why would you want a goat?” asked Syafika. “Not for goats milk, surely”.

“Yes, and what about one of those fluffy goats for the wool? I could spin it and knit it into jumpers and beanies” said Binta and she and Rose started giggling again.

Syafika was getting annoyed now. “What was in that tea?” she asked. But that just made Rose and Binta giggle more.

“I think they are just making fun of India” said Ousman.

But when Festus came home a couple of hours later, Syafika saw the influence that India was having when Rose started asking Festus if he’d ever had to install a composting toilet and whether it would be a lot of work to put in a greywater system. Festus shrugged and asked whether you even needed a plumber to install a composting toilet if it wasn’t connected to water or the sewer. “Is this for India?” he asked.

“No, at least not yet” answered Rose. “I was hoping to beat her to it”

“Does she have a greywater system?” asked Festus.

“She’s looking into one” said Rose. “How quickly could you put one in?”

“You could tell India you’d forgotten you had a greywater system” commented Binta and she and Rose were about to start giggling again when Festus gave an annoyed sigh.

“Where do you want to collect the greywater from and what do you want to use it for?” he asked.

Rose shrugged and said “Whatever is easiest for you”.

Festus went out to his van to get a catalogue and then sat down at the kitchen table to draw a piping design and decide the pieces he needed to order.


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