Tag Archives: John

The Inklings: Chapter 140

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

When John knocked on Emily’s door he thought he heard an echo.

“I can hear thunder!” shouted Nancy.

“Look – lightning!” shouted Ruby.

“I can smell the rain coming” said Nancy.

When Emily opened her front door John noticed a familiar smell. As he stepped inside the cool, dark house he heard more thunder and felt a gust of warm air follow him in.

John noticed a change in Ruby, Nancy and Fanta as they came inside. Their faces became serious and they moved carefully and silently.

As Emily greeted Fanta and her sisters John looked around nervously. The floor was tiled in what looked like polished marble but wasn’t. There were paintings on the walls with heavy-looking golden frames and the furniture all looked solid and heavy too. John remembered Emily telling him how she’d had it all custom made from Camphor Laurel because it grows like a weed. John realised that the suitcase had been left behind at the front door but decided he’d go and get it later.

As John followed Emily into the sitting room he tried to work out what the familiar smell was and before he knew what was happening he was standing facing his mother. She put out her arms and gave John a cuddle. John’s mum seemed to have become smaller and more fragile.

As John watched Emily introduce Fanta and her sisters to his mother he noticed that Fanta looked terrified. When they sat down and started talking John noticed that his mother kept asking Fanta questions and he remembered how judgmental his mother was. Fanta seemed to have been giving the right answers though, because John could tell that his mother liked Fanta.

After John’s mother had had a good look at Ruby and Nancy she suggested they go and play with Emily’s kids. John watched the four of them trot off to play in another room and wished he could go with them. John leant back in his chair and tried to relax as he waited for an opportunity to ask where his father was.

“John, you should go and help your father in the kitchen” said John’s mother. As John got up he wondered whether she had been reading his mind.

John stood awkwardly in the kitchen doorway for a few minutes and watched his father making pasta before summoning enough courage to interrupt.

“Hold this” said John’s father, and he draped a sheet of damp pasta over John’s forearms.

As John watched his father he wondered when he’d learnt to make pasta, but he was too shy to ask.

“I wonder what’s keeping Tim. He usually helps me make the pasta” said John’s Dad.

John wondered whether his father might be losing his memory.

“Tim’s minding my restaurant tonight so he can’t come for dinner” said John.

“Yes, he was going to do that but I insisted I send one of my managers over so he could join us” said John’s father.

John felt his whole body become hot with panic. He felt like taking Fanta by the hand and running away before Tim could arrive, but a voice inside him told him that there was no point running because Tim would have to meet Fanta one day. So John stayed where he was and turned his panic into anger.

“Why didn’t you consult me?” John asked his father.

“It was meant to be a surprise – a surprise family dinner, just like your mother and I being here was a surprise” said John’s father.

John realised that Emily must have planned what she thought would be a pleasant surprise and felt guilty for having behaved so passively. He decided to make an effort to enjoy himself, but was still terrified that Fanta would decide that Tim was better than he was.

When John heard a burst of laughter from the sitting room he knew that Tim had arrived. He started walking out of the kitchen but his father stopped him and took the pasta sheets off his arms first.

Emily and Tim were laughing at something. John managed to see Fanta’s expression before she realised he was in the room and was relieved that she didn’t seem to be admiring Tim.

“Tim, this is Fanta” said Emily.

Fanta stood up awkwardly and shook Tim’s hand. John wanted to sit down beside Fanta but Tim beat him to it so John sat down next to his mother and watched Tim try to coax Fanta into a conversation.


The Inklings: Chapter 131

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

The possibility of John being infected with D’arby’s vomit sickness had been enough for Tim to insist on looking after John’s restaurant for the rest of the week. John decided to start his unexpected break from work by going for a walk. As John walked along he picked up paperbark blossoms from the footpath and wondered which kind of parrot had dropped them. He’d seen rainbow lorikeets hanging upside down from the trees but there had also been cockatoos around. By the time he got home he’d collected a large bunch of blossoms and as he arranged them in a vase he realised that they smelt a lot like mashed potatoes.

John was looking forward to surprising Fanta by being home when she arrived home after picking her sisters up from school, but there was a lot of time before that so John got out a pile of papers on addiction and settled down on the sofa to read them. John was feeling quite proud of himself because he’d learnt enough to be able to make sense of most of the things researchers wrote in their papers, but he knew he had a long way to go.

At 3:30 pm Nancy and Ruby ran in through the front door and woke John up. John was embarrassed at them finding him asleep on the sofa and wondered how long he’d been asleep. When he got up he nearly slipped over on the book he’d been taking notes in.

“Surprise!” said John when Fanta saw him. “Tim’s taking care of the restaurant today, tomorrow and Sunday because I might be contaminated with vomit germs.”

Fanta had been moving towards John but stopped when John mentioned germs.

“Have you started vomiting?” asked Fanta.

“No. It’s just a precaution, and I’m hoping it will be a fun one – that I don’t get sick and can enjoy spending more time with you” said John.

Fanta smiled and John smiled back. He felt so lucky.

“What do you want to do on Sunday?” asked Fanta.

John hadn’t thought that far ahead.

“You decide” said John.

“I feel like going on an adventure” said Fanta. “D’arby and Syafika have been having adventures lately and I feel like I am missing out”


The Inklings: Chapter 112

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

When D’arby went to make his breakfast on Wednesday morning he discovered John in the kitchen making toast.

“How did it go yesterday?” asked John.

“Not as good as I expected. Syafika and I only really managed to confirm what we already suspected – Anthony is a spy and that some other people Syafika works with are somehow involved. Syafika’s going out for dinner and a movie with Anthony tonight”

“That’s a pretty big deal!” said John. “Today Tim is going to bring me another transmitter like the one we used for Vincent. Do you want to use it tonight?” asked John, conveniently forgetting to mention what Tim had said about it being illegal to listen to other people without their permission.

“Wow. Yeah!” said D’arby.

“Come and collect it on your way – we’ll both be at the restaurant again tonight” said John.

D’arby enjoyed the chilly early morning air as he walked to work. He was a bit disappointed that he hadn’t learnt more about Anthony the day before, but was excited to hear what the rest of the team had been up to on Tuesday.

When D’arby arrived at the ‘official’ office Rudnika was there so they rode to the real office together. Rudnika told D’arby that everyone was arriving at 8am for a special meeting to decide what to do about Anthony. D’arby was disappointed because it meant that anything he and Syafika learnt that evening would be too late to contribute to their decision, but realised that leaving such an important decision until tomorrow may not leave enough time to take action.

When everyone had gathered for the meeting Rudnika looked at D’arby and suggested he report back first. D’arby could see that Valentine and Carol were looking forward to hearing what D’arby had been up to. After D’arby told everyone about what he’d done the day before and how Syafika was going to meet Anthony for dinner that night, he added that Fanta had seen Anthony delivering the letter yesterday morning and had asked D’arby what he was up to.

“Having to keep everything secret is really difficult” said D’arby. “Is it always going to be necessary?”

“Leopold has been having similar thoughts” said Rudnika. “Let’s discuss secrecy later. First I want to know what you think Anthony is up to”

“I think Anthony is a private spy – I think people pay him to spy for them. I think he is doing two spying jobs at once – spying on the people where Syafika works and spying on RenewBank. I think someone must have asked him to find out about RenewBank and for some reason Anthony decided he’d rather not tell his client what we are up, coming to us for payment instead” said D’arby.

“Why would he decide not to tell his client about RenewBank?” asked Leopold. “Have you considered that maybe he spies on organisations, hoping to discover something juicy so he can blackmail them? Maybe there never are any clients.”

“That would make sense!” realised D’arby. “Maybe Anthony found out that people were already spying on RenewBank and knew that we knew we were being spied on so decided to find out what those other spies were looking for.”

D’arby was quiet for the rest of the meeting. Valentine and Carol reported on their investigation into Anthony’s background. Anthony really was from Perth and his Mum really did still live there. Anthony had gone straight from university to working for the government, where he’d worked until going to prison the year before. Anthony had been convicted for having equipment designed to make forged documents – he’d been caught when he tried to use a fake ID.

Leopold had been investigating who Anthony could have been working for but hadn’t been able to connect him with anyone. D’arby could see now why Leopold suspected that Anthony was just working for himself.

“What about Anthony’s flat?” asked D’arby.

“We looked up who owned every flat in the building but none were owned by Anthony – at least not under his real name or any of the fake names we know about. We checked out a flat owned by someone called Anthony Harris, but he isn’t the Anthony we know” said Leopold. “It would help if we knew which flat Anthony lived in.”

“It would be good to know more but our investigation time has run out. We need to decide what to do” said Rudnika.

“If Anthony isn’t working for anyone, why do we need to pay him?” said Valentine.

“He could tell people the official office is fake,” said Leopold. “then those other people watching us will try to find this one”.

“What if we talk to Anthony?” suggested D’arby. “If we tell him we know what he’s up to it might scare him off. He’s already been to prison. I bet he doesn’t want to go back.”

“I like that idea” said Rudnika. “But I think we should talk about Leopold’s idea too. Leopold, you explain please.”

“What if we stop all the secrecy and announce what we are up to and just let everyone know. There’d be no point spying on us if we were open. It puts us right in the firing line, but we’ll have to be there one day. Being open means our enemies will attack but it also means that the people who agree with our ideas will be able to defend us. I think we should approach some groups who we know will support our idea and ask them to help us get support for it. People could even register in advance to be customers” said Leopold.

After discussing the ideas the team decided on a plan. First, D’arby would follow Syafika as she had dinner with Anthony and they’d try to find out which flat Anthony lived in. Then tomorrow D’arby would call Anthony to arrange a meeting. At the meeting D’arby would tell Anthony that RenewBank knew what he was up to and weren’t going to pay him. On Friday they’d stop trying to evade spies and start being open about what they were planning – trying to gather as much support as possible.

After the team meeting everyone was visibly happier. D’arby realised he could get back to his modelling now and was looking forward to Friday because then he could tell Syafika, John and Fanta what had really been going on.


The Inklings: Chapter 105

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

As John approached his restaurant on Tuesday he noticed that Tim was already there. Tim was looking fidgety as he waited by the door and John realised that Tim must have been feeling anxious.

Before John unlocked the front door he stopped to show Tim which key to use. Then John showed Tim around the restaurant and tried to replicate the lessons his dad had given him six months ago, and as he did this John realised that he’d done quite well since then.

“I still do most things the way Dad did so you will probably find things working similar at the place Dad gives you” said John.

“Yeah, Dad is giving me another pizza place, but on the other side of the bridge” said Tim.

John had been fishing for information about the restaurant that Tim was going to get so Tim’s response was satisfying but it also unsettled John that Tim was going to be running the same kind of restaurant because it would make it easy to compare their success. John wondered whether the location of Tim’s restaurant would make it more valuable than his, but tried to not feel jealous.

“Let’s do the most fun part – make more pizza dough” said John and he started to open a large bucket of flour before adding “And maybe you can give me some advice. A friend of mine called Syafika is trying to find out about a guy she likes because he keeps doing strange things, like pretending to be other people and wearing disguises. His name is Anthony and he lives in a super expensive flat and he has secret meetings with people that Syafika works with. D’arby thinks Anthony might be spying for someone. Fanta reckons Anthony is a bit mad, but I think he’s up to something dodgy. Anyway, I reckon Syafika could be getting herself into trouble by trying to find out what Anthony’s up to. If he is a spy or a criminal he will probaly realise that she is checking up on him. What do you think?”

Tim let out a disappointed sigh. “I wish I was interesting enough for someone to want to spy on me” said Tim. “What’s Anthony got that I don’t?”

“He’s apparently very charming” said John. “And a fast runner. Syafika has been running everywhere, trying to get fast enough to catch him, I think”

“I want to meet Syafika” said Tim.

John didn’t like the sound of that at all. He could imagine what would happen if Tim met Syafika – it would be impossible for Syafika to know Tim without Tim eventually meeting Fanta.

“Syafika won’t want to meet anyone at the moment. She is too obsessed with Anthony. But maybe when she’s discovered that he is a cheating, lying criminal she’ll be ready to look elsewhere. Maybe you could help by giving her some gadgets to use to spy on him” said John.

“Didn’t I give you something like that for Christmas?” asked Tim.

John had anticipated this conversation and took out of his pocket what remained of the collection of tiny electronics that Tim had given him for Christmas.

“There’s a piece missing” said Tim.

“Yeah, I lost that piece last time I tried to help Syafika. She wanted to get back together with her boyfriend Vincent so D’arby and I hid it inside Vincent’s belt to make any radio he was near play music that reminded him of Syafika” said John.

“That was a clever plan!” said Tim. “But it mustn’t have worked, otherwise Syafika wouldn’t be chasing Anthony now”

“Yeah, that was a waste of time” said John. “Do you have another transmitter?”

“I have a whole box of them, but none in my pockets right now” said Tim. “What are you thinking of using it for this time? You do know it is illegal to use it to listen to people without their permission, don’t you?”

“I hadn’t thought about that” admitted John. “D’arby might have some ideas that aren’t illegal though”

“Ok, I’ll bring you another one tomorrow” said Tim. “But don’t do anything silly with it”


The Inklings: chapter 94

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

John had a hellish Sunday night. His body seemed restless and it ached if he tried to lie still. He moved about so much in bed that the bottom sheet came off and became twisted around him. John must have fallen asleep a couple of times because he managed to have some bad dreams. In his dreams John was trying to get away from something or someone and was feeling extremely guilty. Sometimes he was driving a car, sometimes riding a bicycle and sometimes walking, but always along a quiet country road with the sun setting on his left.

John desperately wanted to get outside and stretch his legs but waited until 5am because he thought that was about as early as you could go out without raising suspicion. John was careful not to make any noise as he got dressed, and he closed the front door very gently. It was still dark outside but there were a few people around, mostly runners. John remembered how much fun Syafika seemed to be having now that she’d become a runner and he decided he should run too so he dashed down the street. The pavements in the area were old and unpredictable and so John had to pay attention to where he was putting his feet. To add to the challenge, there were spaces between street lights were it was completely dark. John took short, quick steps and concentrated on how his feet were moving. John had so much fun that for a little while he wondered why he didn’t run everywhere, but then he became puffed and sweaty and had to stop running.

John wondered what to do next. He didn’t want to go home until it was time for Fanta to get up. John decided that the university grounds would be fun to explore at this time of day so he headed that way, but when he realised he was on the street of the flat he and D’arby used to live in John instead decided to go and see it first. D’arby had told John how a fence had been put up around the block of flats and that he expected it would be knocked down soon. When John arrived there he saw the fence but the building was still standing. Attached to the fence was a large, friendly-looking sign. The sign was just close enough to a street light for John to have a go at reading it. It said something about a housing cooperative and that the building was going to be renovated. There were contact details on the sign so John tried to memorise them. He couldn’ wait to tell D’arby that the block of flats wasn’t going to be knocked down, but it was still too early for anyone to be up at home so to kill some more time John ran into the university. John noticed that the paving of the university was much more predictable so he started running as fast as he could and then stopped to walk and catch his breath. He did this quite a few times before he noticed that the sky was starting to lighten. Then John started walking back home. As John walked along he realised that while he’d been out running he’d forgotten all his worries.

John was glad to turn into Fanta’s street because his legs had started to feel heavy, but he was startled to see a man coming out of the gate of Fanta’s house. In the half-light of early sunrise John thought it might be D’arby leaving early for work, but when he got closer he realised that it wasn’t. The man hurried across the road, got into a car and quickly drove away. John tried to memorise the numberplate but only got the first half of it.

When John got to the doorstep he found a small parcel on it addressed to D’arby so he picked it up and took it inside.

D’arby was putting on his shoes, which meant he was about to leave for work. Nobody else was up yet so John had to be quiet, even though he was very excited.

“A man left this parcel for you. I saw him leaving as I came up the street” whispered John. “Do you think it might be a bomb?”

It took D’arby two seconds to comprehend what John had just said, before he looked at the parcel and shrugged.

“What was it about the man who delivered the parcel that makes you suspicious?” asked D’arby.

“Well, it was so early and he drove a car not a van. He wasn’t wearing a uniform either” said John.

D’arby wondered what he should do. If he hadn’t been working for RenewBank he probably would have just opened the parcel, but because of the top secret work he’d been doing, and the deception he had to keep up everyday about what he was working on and where his office was, D’arby had become suspicious. He didn’t think it likely that the parcel was a bomb but he did think it likely that the parcel was meant to cause some kind of mischief. D’arby thought about the timing and wondered whether whoever left the parcel was hoping that he would take it with him to work so he considered leaving it at home and opening it that night. However, he didn’t want to risk leaving a parcel that might be dangerous at home in case it harmed someone there. D’arby was annoyed at being delayed by this conundrum and decided to compromise. He put the parcel in his backpack and set out. He planned to stop and open the parcel when he was halfway to work.


The Inklings: Chapter 92

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

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

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

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

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

“What about tomorrow for lunch?” suggested John.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Inklings: Chapter 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”.


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