Tag Archives: Jinabu

The Inklings: Chapter 49

To read the story from the beginning go here.

John and D’arby were on bikes and trying to beat the storm to Jinabu’s place when the chain came off D’arby’s bike and he crashed into a shrub.

The brakes on John’s bike squeaked as he stopped. He dismounted inelegantly, nearly tripping over the back wheel as he tried to get to D’arby as quickly as possible.

D’arby was bleeding from some scratches on his arms but otherwise ok.

“Sorry” said John. He felt he was to blame because he’d bought the bikes. They were secondhand and had been ‘reconditioned’, but perhaps not very well.

“Don’t worry” said D’arby. He started to laugh. “I don’t think it is fair to blame a bike for my lack of coordination. I should have practiced riding before we decided to take a trip this far.”

John bent down and was looking at D’arby’s bike. The chain went back on easily but seemed a bit loose.

“Maybe we can tighten the chain at Jinabu’s place so it is safe for the ride home.” suggested John. “Is it far? Can we walk the bikes?”

D’arby pulled a map out of his back pocket and unfolded it. “It’s only about one kilometre more so we may as well walk” he said. “That would be safer. I don’t think we should ride home tonight though.” said D’arby as he looked up. “See – there are hardly any street lights around here so it will be pretty dark and we don’t have lights on our bikes.”

“So much for the carefree life I was imagining when I bought the bikes!” said John. “How are we going to get home instead then? We can’t take the bikes on a bus and there’s no train station near here.”

“I’ll see if we can stay at Jinabu’s instead.” answered D’arby.

John didn’t like the sound of that. He hadn’t brought a change of clothes or his deodorant, but before he could say anything it started to rain. The rain was so heavy that it took John’s breath away.

When John and D’arby arrived at Jinabu’s house a little while later they were soaking wet but feeling exhilarated.

Jinabu answered the door, which D’arby thought was just as well. They were so un-presentable that D’arby expected Andrew would want to shoo them away. Jinabu just laughed when she saw them though. They left the bikes on the front verandah and came inside, leaving wet footprints as they went.

Andrew then appeared. He had the baby asleep in a carrier on his front and a drink in each hand. He hurriedly handed John and D’arby a glass each before hurrying off.

“That’s iced tea” explained Jinabu and she hurried after Andrew. Jinabu and Andrew soon came back with towels and some of Andrew’s clothes.

“I’ve made two beds in the spare room” announced Andrew. “You can go and get changed there.” And he pointed down the hallway.

“Are we staying the night?” John whispered to D’arby but D’arby didn’t answer because he’d just noticed that one of his scratches was bleeding and blood had dripped onto the carpet. Unfortunately Andrew had also seen the blood.

“Quick Jinabu” said Andrew. D’arby needs a bandage. I’ll clean the carpet.

So John went to the spare room and got changed. He contemplated climbing out the window, sneaking around the front and escaping on his bike, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to find his way home so instead John dried his hair and put on Andrew’s old tracksuit. At least it was comfortable, thought John.

The rest of the evening went more smoothly. D’arby and John were on their best behavior. The baby cried for about an hour just as they were about to sit down for dinner but otherwise it was pleasant. D’arby thought it was suspiciously pleasant.

Andrew was a different person – almost. He was still Andrew but seemed to have more confidence, as if he’d finally stopped worrying what other people think. Jinabu seemed happy and that made D’arby happy.

Still, D’arby was happy when it was finally bedtime.

“There are towels in the bathroom. Will you be ok?” asked Jinabu as she headed to bed. Andrew had gone ahead to check on the baby.

“Yeah, don’t worry about me!” said D’arby.

The house was so quiet that when John and D’arby got to the spare room they were almost too scared to say anything in case Jinabu or Andrew could hear them.

“I thought you said Andrew was awful” whispered John, cautiously.

“He used to be” answered D’arby and then he couldn’t’ help adding “But then I gave him some of my special pills.” John smiled thoughtfully for a couple of minutes then said “I wish I could clean my teeth.”

“That’s what I was thinking” said D’arby. “Let’s see what Jinabu has in the garden” said D’arby and he opened the window and climbed out. John followed, but he wasn’t hopeful of finding a toothbrush plant in the garden.

“What are we looking for?” whispered John

“Not sure” replied D’arby. “A veggie patch with celery hopefully. Or a eucalypt.”

The neighbours still had their lights on so the garden wasn’t very dark. There were snails about though and John trod on one. The crunch under his bare foot made shivers run down his spine but he stayed quiet. He wiped his foot on the lawn while D’arby bent over the veggie patch. After a bit of rustling around D’arby straightened up with two celery sticks in his hand. Then D’arby snapped two twigs off a small tree and they headed back to the spare room on tip toe. As they passed the window to Jinabu and Andrew’s room they could hear snoring.

When they got back inside John sighed with relief, but he was still unsure how he was going to clean his teeth so D’arby demonstrated by rubbing the celery all over his teeth as he ate it and then chewing on the twig to make the end brush-like before rubbing it all over his teeth. John wasn’t impressed but gave it a try and was pleasantly surprised because afterwards his mouth felt quite clean. “Now all I need is a shower and some deodorant and I’ll be able to sleep” said John.

While John was having a shower, D’arby went to the kitchen and tried to quietly look through the kitchen cupboards. When John emerged from the bathroom in some of Andrew’s old pyjamas D’arby handed him a bowl of white powder.

“What’s that?” asked John, sounding a bit worried. “I made you some deodorant” answered D’arby.

The first thing John did in the morning was sniff his armpits and then he smiled. As he and D’arby cycled home John discreetly sniffed his armpits every time he wiped sweat from his forehead. D’arby noticed but didn’t say anything.

As they rode through the park near home, John and D’arby noticed a crowd of people so they rode over to have a look. In the centre of the crowd was Guitar Man. He was standing on a milk crate and preaching to the crowd. John looked around and saw that although a few people were giggling quietly, most people were listening eagerly and nodding occasionally.

“Who really needs the most money? Is it the most charming person who can get people to do whatever they want without paying anyone? Is it the most competent person who can do things for themselves? Is it the person who enjoys hard work? Or is it the lazy incompetent who nobody wants to do favours for?”

A few people cheered. Guitar Man paused for a moment before continuing.

“Think about who most feels the need to drive an expensive car or have a flashy house. Who worries the most about what they look like? Is it the person who knows that deep down they are a good and worthwhile person? Or is it the person who is forever insecure and no matter how much they manage to accumulate, still worries that someone will one day expose them as a fraud?”

The crowd was quiet this time. The people who’d had their teeth whitened deliberately kept their mouths closed. A few people looked down at their shoes uncomfortably.

“Have another look at the world with fresh eyes. That CEO earning millions of dollars a year – if they aren’t happy unless they earn more than everyone else, what does that say about them and their inner strength? If you can choose your own salary and you choose to make it higher and higher what does it really mean? That you are worth more and more? Or that you need more and more in order to feel as adequate as the person who manages to get by on below average wages? Who is more genuine?”

“The brain plays a funny trick on you when you get more than other people – you start to think you deserve it because you are somehow better. That’s what needy people really crave – this feeling – to make up for the way they naturally feel inferior.

“But I’m not here to make you hate these needy people. I want to help them, and I want to help you so you never become them.”

“Yes, people will judge you by what you’ve done in the past but in reality we live our life one day at a time. It is what we do right now that matters right now. You could build up the perfect life being the perfect person and then ruin it all by doing something really dreadful. We can’t guarantee anything. If we think we can build up something now and then enjoy taking it easy later we are wrong. Our bodies and minds need to be used or they fade. To really feel pleasure we need to sometimes feel pain. Starving yourself when you are young doesn’t mean you can be a glutton in middle age and not get fat. Of course we need to do what is going to be best in the future, but we also need to do what is best today. No, it isn’t easy to do both. It requires thinking and effort and not doing the first thing that jumps into your mind. Easy things don’t make you happy!”

“What you can build up are memories. You remember when you do something awful. You remember when you made someone happy. If you lift yourself up by bringing others down that becomes part of you. You remember how much effort went into your achievements. And in your subconscious you keep a running total of good minus bad, of effort minus luck, of treating people well minus using them to get what you want, of giving minus taking. It is when things go really wrong in your life that you become aware of this running total. Imagine how the greedy, needy billionaire who, by living a life of luxury has not only deprived millions of a dignified life but has set the consumption bar so high that billions of other people who have all they need are left feeling like they’ve missed out – imagine how you’d feel to be hit by that negative running total as you lay on your death bed. To realize that you’d had the power to really change the world and you’d squandered it and to know that there was no time left to do anything about it.”

“Because NOT becoming a billionaire is how you become something genuinely great. If you give more than you get you can’t end up with lots of money. You’ll never know whether you could have been a billionaire, just like you’ll never know so many things, but not needing to know is where you show your strength.”

John was so mesmerized that D’arby had to jab him in the ribs to get him to notice that he was whispering “I’ve had enough. Let’s go home”.

The Inklings: Chapter 30

When D’arby got to the workshop after breakfast Ark was the only person still waiting there. Everyone else had already gone to start the garlic harvest. Ark handed D’arby a small shovel and a dented stainless steel drink bottle and they headed off to join the others.

On the way Ark remarked that he didn’t mind Jinabu staying in his house, but that having Andrew there too was pushing the boundaries of his generosity.

“You don’t know when Andrew is planning to leave, do you? He must have a job to go back to, surely?” Ark asked D’arby.

Unfortunately D’arby couldn’t provide an answer, but did promise to try to find out.

D’arby and Ark soon arrived at the garlic crop, where about a dozen adults were busy digging up garlic bulbs and several grubby children were running around. After the garlic bulbs were dug up they were placed gently on the back of Ark’s truck.

By mid afternoon D’arby was as much an expert at removing leaches as he was at digging up garlic. Fortunately though, only a few garlic bulbs remained in the ground and the spirits of the pickers were rising. They’d gone without a lunch break in order to finish the job earlier. As the last garlic bulbs were placed on the truck there were cheers. Then Ark got into his truck and drove slowly and carefully off towards the drying shed. By now most minds were on the home brew fridge at the workshop.

Meanwhile, Andrew and Jinabu were preparing dinner together silently, while each of them reflected on what had been a strange day.

The baby had slept most of the day and hadn’t cried at all. This meant that Jinabu had been able to gather her thoughts.

Andrew had also been able to gather his thoughts, but he put that down to the excellent cup of coffee that D’arby had made for him.

When Jinabu got up that morning she was already in a better mood than she’d been for a while. She’d had quite a bit of sleep during the night and could smell that there was a nice breakfast waiting for her.

As Jinabu ate her eggs Andrew watched and wondered whether it was a good time to talk about going home. Andrew had never before wished he could read Jinabu’s mind. “I’ve always assumed I knew what she was thinking” realized Andrew.

Without meaning to, Andrew began to think out loud. “I’m sorry” he said to Jinabu. Jinabu stopped chewing and stared at Andrew. She wanted to talk but her mouth was full. As she swallowed her eggs Jinabu imagined what Andrew would have said if she’d spat out her half-chewed eggs so she could reply faster.

Finally Jinabu was able to reply with “Which thing are you saying sorry for?”

Andrew felt hurt by that comment. He wondered how many thing Jinabu had on her list, but he decided to stay on track and answer Jinabu’s question. “For saying you weren’t respectable and insisting that you change, and all the other things I said on Sunday.”

“And for calling my family ‘useless?’” Jinabu asked

Andrew wanted to say no, but realized that he could say something that might make them both satisfied “I’m sorry for calling your family useless hippies” said Andrew, while thinking “Now that I’ve seen the people here I wouldn’t call your family hippies anymore.”

Andrew really was feeling sorry for what he’d said to Jinabu, but it was more for practical than emotional reasons. He and Jinabu had a child now, which would tie them together forever, whether they liked it or not. When Andrew weighed up the embarrassment that Jinabu would sometimes cause him against the upset and inconvenience that would be caused by her refusing to come back to him, it became clear that he’d be better off letting Jinabu be herself if it meant that the three of them could live together in some kind of harmony.

Jinabu was also thinking practically. She realized that it would probably be harder for her to be a single mother than to put up with the stuff Andrew sometimes said.

After breakfast Jinabu and Andrew went for a walk. Andrew carried the baby and Jinabu carried the camera. As they explored the farm they tried to agree on a baby name. Jinabu pretended she wanted him to be called Carob, just to see how far she could push Andrew that day, but Andrew could tell that she was joking. They still didn’t agree on a name but at least they weren’t being rude to each other.

Then Andrew changed the topic and started to talk about his plans for when he got back home. At first he used “I need to” and “I want to” and then he sneakily replaced the beginning of his sentences with “We should”. This was his indirect way of asking Jinabu whether she would come back with him. Jinabu listened and nodded and eventually started adding things to the list, saying “We also need to”. When Jinabu did this Andrew became almost giddy with happiness – he was so relieved that they would soon be back to their regular, respectable life. Eventually Andrew and Jinabu calculated that they needed to leave for home the next day in order to have enough time to get all their jobs done before Andrew’s paternity leave was over.

The Inklings: Chapter 28

Despite being woken a couple times during the night – first by a slightly drunk Ark returning home for dinner and then later by the baby crying – D’arby woke up feeling refreshed.

The air was humid and smelt of a mixture of some unfamiliar kind of plant plus a little bit of mould, but D’arby still found it fresh.

When D’arby got out of bed he was shocked to find that he’d been attacked during the night. He was covered in blood, and so were the bed sheets. He didn’t feel any pain though. Then he found a swollen leech amongst the sheets and realized what had happened. He must have picked up the leech on the walk back from the workshop. He gathered up the sheets and went to look for a bucket to soak them in.

Andrew was up and about but Jinabu and the baby were asleep. Andrew had also been attacked. He was sitting in the sun with a pair of tweezers, bending over and looking at his stomach. “I have a tick” said Andrew as soon as he saw D’arby.

“I had a leech” replied D’arby, and showed Andrew the sheets and a bite on his ankle.

“I really don’t like this place!” complained Andrew. His voice sounded whiney. D’arby hoped that Andrew wouldn’t start crying.

When Andrew and D’arby had both dealt with their parasites they started making breakfast. D’arby offered to make the coffee but Andrew, who had heard about D’arby’s coffee from Jinabu, insisted on doing that himself and asked D’arby if he would make some scrambled eggs.

D’arby agreed, and rummaged around looking for a frying pan, oil, eggs and powdered milk while keeping one eye on Andrew so he could see how he was going to make the coffee.

Andrew looked hopefully through Ark’s kitchen equipment for the coffee plunger, but it had gone. “Maybe Ark has got his plunger” commented Andrew. “How am I going to make the coffee without one? I should have bought a tin of instant coffee!” said Andrew.

“I’ll do it then” said D’arby, “You make the eggs, and, can you make up a bit of extra milk up for the coffee too?”

And so D’arby took the coffee and a saucepan and got to work, leaving Andrew to read the instructions on the tin of milk powder. Andrew’s hopes for a nice breakfast were not high. He had hoped that D’arby would make some nice fluffy eggs. Andrew loved scrambled eggs but wasn’t any good at making them. At least I have my chocolate for later, thought Andrew. And then he realized that he hadn’t seen the chocolate that morning. “Where’s my chocolate gone?” moaned Andrew as he looked around. “Do you think Ark took that as well as the plunger?”

Ark chose that moment to appear. He was carrying his coffee plunger, which he put down loudly on the kitchen bench. “I think it should be alright for a man to use his own friggin coffee plunger without being accused of stealing chocolate. The bush rats probably took it.”

D’arby couldn’t help laughing. He thought Ark must have been joking about the bush rats.

“No, I’m serious!” said Ark. “The bush rats do like chocolate.”

Andrew wanted to start moaning about hating the place again, but instead he managed to squeeze out a “Sorry.” to Ark. Then he went back to mixing up some milk.

Ark obviously couldn’t wait for Andrew to leave his house. Andrew couldn’t wait to leave either, but he wasn’t going to go until Jinabu came with him. Ark invited D’arby down to the workshop after breakfast, then took a towel and left.

In the end, D’arby made the coffee and the eggs and some toast, while Andrew went looking around the house for his chocolate. Andrew returned about ten minutes later carrying an unwrapped misshapen piece of chocolate. He showed D’arby the tooth marks around the edges with a mixture of disgust and wonder. “Do you think it would be safe to eat the middle if I trim all the chewed bits off?” asked Andrew.

As Andrew carefully removed the contaminated portion of his chocolate bar, D’arby served the breakfast and coffee. D’arby made sure that Andrew wasn’t looking and then dropped two little pills into Andrew’s coffee and gave it a good stir.

The Inklings: Chapter 26

It was only when D’arby got off the bus that he realized that the town he was supposed to meet Ark in was quite large and that he should have organized a specific place to meet him at. D’arby decided to wait at the bus stop for a while, in case Ark was on his way there, but when an hour had passed D’arby couldn’t wait anymore. His bladder was about to burst and he was tired, hungry and a bit itchy.

D’arby walked along the main street, looking for a place that might have either a toilet or be somewhere where Ark might hang out while waiting for a bus. As he passed a small supermarket D’arby noticed a familiar face – Jinabu’s husband Andrew was buying groceries. If D’arby hadn’t been in need of help he might have hidden from Andrew, but instead he just stood there and waited for Andrew to notice him.

“There you are!” said Andrew. He seemed happy to see D’arby and so D’arby couldn’t help giving him a smile even though he was disappointed that Andrew had found Jinabu so quickly. Andrew explained to D’arby that he was supposed to be picking him up instead of Ark, but that he didn’t know where the bus stop was or when the bus was going to arrive and so had decided to do some shopping and hope that D’arby would recognize his car. D’arby didn’t really want to hear explanations, he just wanted to know where the public toilets were, and fortunately Andrew knew.

The car trip from the town to “the farm” was a bit uncomfortable. Andrew tried a few times to start a conversation but D’arby didn’t make enough effort for it to develop into anything. D’arby thought that Andrew looked a bit strange, as if he couldn’t decide whether he should be delighted at having a healthy baby boy or whether he should be wallowing in self pity over the way that Jinabu ran off and had the baby by the side of the road.

When D’arby and Andrew arrived Jinabu seemed happier to see the groceries than either of them. She was tired and very hungry and it was dinner time. D’arby held the baby for a little while, but the baby soon started to cry and Jinabu had to take him back. The baby still hadn’t been named because Andrew and Jinabu couldn’t agree on a name.

Andrew and D’arby worked together to cook some dinner by candlelight. Andrew struggled a bit with Ark’s limited kitchen facilities, but D’arby was pleasantly surprised. There was running water at the sink and the two-burner gas camping stove was just as effective as what he was used to using at home. There were even two sharp knives and two cutting boards, which meant that he and Andrew could both chop veggies at the same time.

Andrew held the baby while Jinabu and D’arby had dinner. Ark was still down at “the workshop”, which, as well as really being a workshop, was the farm meeting place. The workshop had electricity connected and so it was where the community home brew fridge was kept. It was also the only place you could have a hot shower.

After dinner Andrew kindly took D’arby on a torch-lit walk to the workshop. It was not an easy walk in the dark and D’arby wouldn’t have bothered having a shower if he hadn’t felt so grimy and itchy.

At the workshop Ark and three other men were sitting around chatting, drinking beer and pretending to be carving some wooden lettering into signs. Andrew waited for D’arby to have a shower, but didn’t join the other people in the workshop. Instead he sat outside getting bitten by mosquitoes. Andrew knew nobody there liked him, and he didn’t like anyone else there very much either. He planned to stick as close as possible to D’arby while D’arby was there. Andrew hoped that D’arby might help him convince Jinabu to come home, and soon!

D’arby felt much better after his shower. The itchiness went away and he began to feel quite comfortable. Andrew had made up a bed for D’arby, and had placed brand new toothbrush on the pillow (in his haste to find a toilet D’arby had forgotten to buy one when they were in town and he wondered how Andrew had anticipated that he would need a toothbrush). D’arby had his own room and the bed had a mosquito net. Jinabu, Andrew and the baby were sleeping in the other bedroom and Ark had moved into the caravan near the house. D’arby listened to the sound of frogs croaking as he fell asleep.

The Inklings: Chapter 24

On Tuesday morning D’arby was in a rush to catch his train but John was taking ages in the bathroom. “Hurry up!” yelled D’arby and he banged on the bathroom door. There was no answer and ten minutes later John was still in the shower so D’arby decided he’d have to leave without having a shower or cleaning his teeth. It also meant that he couldn’t pack his toothbrush. D’arby left an angry goodbye note on the table for John and walked to the station. He was going to go and stay with his sister for a few days. She was staying with Ark, who happened to live in what sounded like a hippie commune – it was a community owned farm next to a river. Jinabu said it was a beautiful place, but had also mentioned that only two of the houses there had electricity (and Ark’s house wasn’t one of them). To get there D’arby had to take an eight hour train trip and then catch a bus to the closest town, where Ark would pick him up.

D’arby had only just found his seat on the train when the guard announced that the train was about to depart and that only “intending passengers” should remain on the train. D’arby took a red pen and some reading material out of his backpack (a draft of a thesis chapter, some scientific papers on psychopaths and the notes he hadn’t been able to read out at the meeting the night before) then put his back-pack on the luggage rack above his head and started thinking about what had happened the night before.

As soon as John had seen Vincent he’d wanted to leave Syafika’s place. John walked home at such a pace that D’arby couldn’t keep up. Not long after John and D’arby got home Fanta rang John to tell him what Syafika had just called to tell her – that Vincent had seemed more jealous than suspicious. Fanta didn’t pass on that Vincent had also ordered Syafika to keep away from John and D’arby though. John was relieved by this news, but had still had trouble sleeping, which was why he’d needed to have an incredibly long “wake-up shower” in the morning.

Although D’arby resented Vincent for having broken up their meeting he wasn’t upset that he hadn’t been able to talk about his ideas for saving the world because he thought they needed more polishing. He hoped that on the long train trip he’d be able to write something for the next meeting that he’d be proud of.

At the first stop D’arby’s plans for a productive journey were destroyed when the person who’d booked the seat next to him got on the train. At first things didn’t look too bad – the young man smiled and then sat down next to D’arby and got out a book. The book turned out to be just a prop though. The man pretended to be reading it, but was really trying to read over D’arby’s shoulder. This made D’arby uncomfortable. He put his plans for saving the world away and tried to read through his thesis chapter instead, but his neighbour seemed just as interested in his thesis – he didn’t speak though.

When the buffet car opened D’arby decided to go and see whether they sold toothbrushes or anything else that might take away his bad breath. When he came back with chewing gum, toast (John would be proud) and a very strange tasting coffee D’arby noticed that his neighbour was now wearing headphones and had a sheepish look on his face.

D’arby ate his breakfast and enjoyed looking out the window. He decided it might be better to spend the trip thinking rather than reading and writing, but his neighbour had other plans. He walked off somewhere and when he came back he had a guitar with him. D’arby and anyone else in the carriage who had seen this hoped in vain that this didn’t mean they were about to be treated to some music.

D’arby’s neighbour folded up the arm rest that separated their seats to make room for the guitar and began to play. First it was just some quiet strumming. D’arby would have been able to find this amusing if he wasn’t embarrassed that everyone in the carriage was looking at him as well as his neighbour. D’arby wished he was wearing a T-shirt that had an arrow pointing towards the seat next to him with the writing “I’m not with him” and thought about making a sign. Then the guitar man began to sing, quietly at first, but as he became more and more entranced by the music his singing got louder and louder. People started muttering – telling him to shut up. Some even complained to D’arby that he should ask his neighbour to shut up. Then a woman walked off in a huff towards the buffet car and not long after one of the train conductors came along and asked the guitar man to be quiet. This worked for about five minutes, but then the man started gently strumming his guitar again, and the music eventually escalated as it had done before.

The next time the conductor came back he brought with him the largest member of the train staff (the man who had made D’arby’s strange coffee). The guitar man was made to put his guitar back on the luggage rack at the end of the carriage. He tried to sit still and be good but it seemed to be making him itchy. He began to scratch his scalp, then his face, shoulders, arms and hands. The itchiness must have spread to his back because he spent a while writhing around trying to reach the middle of his back. Then his feet became itchy and he had to take off his shoes and socks. Watching the guitar man scratch himself made D’arby feel itchy too, and he wasn’t the only one. He noticed that other passengers were beginning to scratch itches too. The couple sitting behind D’arby started to discuss whether someone might have let loose some fleas. The guitar man must have had enough. He let out a scream “Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!” and got up, then came back with his guitar and the music soon started again. At the next stop two police officers forced guitar man off the train.

As the train pulled away from the station where the guitar man was arguing with the police, D’arby assembled his pile of reading material again and found that one of his papers on psychopaths and his plans for saving the world were missing.

The Inklings: Chapter 22

An hour later Ark and Jinabu still hadn’t reached a town and Jinabu wasn’t in a good way. She was pale, covered with sweat and couldn’t help bracing herself and gritting her teeth with every contraction.

“What’s wrong?” asked Ark, but Jinabu couldn’t answer. She just glared at him and tried to breathe deeply.

“Oh no!” said Ark and he stopped the truck in a shady spot on the side of the road, got out of the truck and opened the door on Jinabu’s side. Jinabu lay down across the seats and concentrated on her breathing. Ark felt like fainting and so he lay down on the ground saying “I’ll just be a minute”.

Ark woke up sometime later. He sat up. It took him a couple of seconds to remember what he had been doing. Then he noticed the silence and jumped up in fright. Jinabu was sitting up in the truck holding a sleeping baby and smiling. Jinabu and the baby were both covered in blood and Ark could smell vomit. The umbilical cord, still joined to the baby, disappeared over the edge of the seat. Ark imagined that the placenta was lurking somewhere on the truck floor and averted his eyes before he could confirm his suspicion. He went round to the driver’s side and saw that there was a pool of blood on the floor right next to the pedals, and that a line of ants was marching in.

“Are you both ok?” asked Ark. “Yeah” answered Jinabu. She looked tired but seemed happy and healthy. The baby stirred and made a few squawking sounds.

They had to get to a hospital so Ark took a deep breath and climbed into the truck. He tried not to think about what he was putting his feet in and started the truck. Jinabu couldn’t help laughing when she saw Ark’s face.

“Sorry about making a mess” she said, between giggles.

“Yeah, you really sound sorry” said Ark. He was annoyed, but that just made Jinabu laugh even more.

The Inklings: Chapter 20

Jinabu didn’t ask Ark where he was going and Ark didn’t ask Jinabu where she wanted to go. They were just both happy to be sitting next to each other. Jinabu felt safe and was glad to not have to think about where she was going or what she was going to do. Ark was grinning because he’d found someone stranger than him. They sat in silence until they got out of the city because Jinabu didn’t feel like talking and Ark needed to concentrate on the city traffic.

It was going to be a long drive, especially in the slow old truck. That was the first thing that Ark told Jinabu when the traffic had thinned enough for him to be able to talk. Jinabu said she didn’t mind, but that she would need lots of toilet breaks. What she didn’t tell Ark was that she already needed a toilet break and that she was getting a headache because she was so hungry, or that she didn’t have any money to buy food. When Ark noticed Jinabu’s change in mood he began to feel less happy. He thought she must have been bored with him already.

So they both sat in silence, staring ahead with grey faces, until Jinabu’s stomach began to growl. It was so loud and persistent that Ark couldn’t help himself, and he had to laugh.

“You wouldn’t be hungry, would you?” he managed to ask between chuckles. Jinabu didn’t answer, she just looked daggers at Ark. She always became grumpy when she was hungry. Ark parked outside the first place that looked like it might sell food and have a toilet and Jinabu sighed with relief. While Jinabu went to the toilet, Ark bought some food. Jinabu then went back to the truck to wait for Ark because she was feeling too weak to explain that she didn’t have any money to contribute to the food.

Ark had a few minutes of panic in the shop because he wanted to buy exactly what Jinabu needed, but didn’t know what that was. He couldn’t buy lots of things either, because he didn’t have a lot of money and they still had a long way to go. For some reason he thought that pregnant women liked icecream and so he bought a small container of that. Then he saw some fruit juice with added folate, which he’d heard that pregnant women needed. Finally he bought a fruitcake, because he liked them.

Jinabu’s eyes lit up when she saw what Ark had bought and her headache disappeared after a bit of orange juice. The next bit of the trip was much more fun. Jinabu did all the talking and she fed Ark fruitcake and ice cream as he drove. Ark ate more than he had room for because he didn’t want to upset Jinabu by telling her to stop feeding him.

As the day progressed, Jinabu and Ark got closer to Arks place, but it was a long way in a slow truck and in the afternoon they still had three hours of driving left. Jinabu had begun to feel really uncomfortable. Ark had been generous with toilet and food stops, but something else was bothering Jinabu now. At first she thought it was the truck seat that was giving her a sore back, but she began to recognize a pattern in the pain. Jinabu felt angry with herself. She’d been told so many times by friends and relatives that the baby would probably be overdue that she’d never considered that two weeks early was also possible. Jinabu began to think about the birth centre she’d booked back in Sydney, with the candles and relaxing music. The truck wasn’t much like that. Jinabu considered telling Ark what was happening, but decided to wait until they were approaching a town, as she didn’t want to make him panic and there wasn’t anything he could really do to help (they had no phone, the truck couldn’t go any faster and there was scarcely any traffic on this stretch of road). Anyway, thought Jinabu, there’s probably hours and hours of this to go.

The Inklings: Chapter 18

It was early on Sunday morning. D’arby’s sister Jinabu woke up and made herself a cup of peppermint tea. She sat on the sofa, enjoying the warmth of the cup in her hands and the smell of peppermint. She stared out the window and started thinking about what she would do that day. It looked like it was going to be a sunny day, and probably not too hot to be outside. Jinabu decided that she would put a load of washing on and then go for a walk in the park. Then she’d make a nice lunch and read baby books all afternoon. Then her husband Andrew appeared. He was dressed for a day out shopping. He wanted to buy all the baby stuff in one go.

“Aren’t you even dressed yet?” complained Andrew when he saw that Jinabu was still wearing her nightie and hadn’t brushed her hair. “Have you got that shopping list I asked you to write? Why have you become so lazy?”

Jinabu didn’t really feel like answering. She hadn’t made a shopping list and didn’t want to go shopping. “Do we need to buy anything?” asked Jinabu. “I’m not even sure of what we will need. I’ve got some second hand stuff from my friends anyway. Can’t we just wait and see if we need anything else when the baby is here?”

Andrew shook his head and frowned. “I don’t want my child to be a bludger before it is even born. How do we know that the stuff your friends gave us is any good? You might not care about using other people’s cast-offs but I do. Why don’t you care what people think of you?”

Andrew turned his back to Jinabu and looked out the window, watching the neighbours put their kids into their big, shiny car. He decided it was time to put his foot down.

“I know you can’t help having been born into a family of useless hippies, but as the mother of my child you will have to make more of an effort to be a normal person. I don’t have to stay married to you, you know. There are plenty of other women who would happily take your place. I don’t want to have to make up excuses for you for the rest of my life. See how the neighbours are? I want us to be like them. They know how to be respectable.” said Andrew.

Jinabu felt that she should have been more shocked than she was. She stared into space and wondered how she had got here. How had she married this man? How had she moved into this big house? How had she ever considered that a relationship with someone who hated everything she believed in could ever work? She didn’t understand anything. Her thoughts were cloudy.

Jinabu didn’t pack a bag. She just told Andrew that she needed to go away and think about things and then she wandered out of the house and down the street in her bare feet, still wearing her floral cotton nightie.

Jinabu was out the door before Andrew could respond. He really didn’t want Jinabu going out of the house dressed like that, especially not without shoes on. There was a strong chance that some of the neighbours would see her, especially as he expected that she would go and sit in the nearby park to do her thinking. Andrew started to follow Jinabu, but then stopped, deciding it would probably be less embarrassing for her to go alone than for anyone to see him trying to get her back inside – they’d probably argue.

So, Andrew let Jinabu go outside to be embarrassing on her own. He stewed for a while and then picked up one of Jinabu’s baby books. In the back of the book there was a list of essential baby equipment. “How easy is that?” thought Andrew and he set off to buy everything on the list.

Jinabu’s messy hair was hanging down her back and around her shoulders. All she could bear to think about was how nice and warm the sun was and how cold and hard the footpath was. Jinabu didn’t care where she was going or what she was going to do. She just followed her feet down the street, and that was how Ark’s eyes first found Jinabu. When Ark saw Jinabu he couldn’t believe that she was real. Then when she turned and looked at him he lost control of his limbs and stalled his truck.

Jinabu was focusing on enjoying the way the sun fell through the leaves of the trees that lined the street when she thought she could smell popcorn. The smell became stronger so she looked around to see what it could be, but the only sign of life was an old, open truck full of furniture coming along the street. As the truck passed her it stalled.

Jinabu looked at the driver of the truck, and at the same time she noticed her own reflection in the passenger side window. It amused her how similar they looked. His hair was long, wild and wispy and he too looked like he was just drifting along without thinking much. Ark was always like that though. He did what he thought was the right thing at the time but hardly ever made plans for his future. He was usually too busy helping someone or fighting for some cause to think about himself much. At that moment, he was moving a friend’s furniture. His friend Ian had been sent to gaol for becoming violent at a protest. Today Ark was moving Ian’s furniture from the flat Ian had been renting and was going to keep Ian’s stuff at his place in the country until he could come and get it.

Jinabu walked over to the truck and Ark leant over and opened the passenger side door.

“Can you smell popcorn?” Jinabu asked

That was when Ark noticed Jinabu’s huge stomach. She looked like she could give birth at any moment.”Not another one.” thought Ark. He was always meeting lovely women who wanted to have kids, but he didn’t want any more kids, or to have to look after them. He’d been a teenage Dad and was content with the one son he had. “It’s probably the truck” said Ark, trying not to look disappointed, and when Jinabu looked confused he got out and showed her a drum in the back of the truck. “Smell this” he said as he opened the drum. “The truck runs on biodiesel that is made from old cooking oil”. Jinabu smelt it and remarked that the exhaust smelt better, then she asked Ark if he had made it himself and if it wasn’t bad for the engine. Ark was always ready to defend biodiesel and began a spiel about how it is actually good for diesel engines when he realized that he was blocking the traffic so he got back into the truck. Jinabu got in too and they drove off together.


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