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”.


The Inklings: Chapter 40

To read the story from the beginning go here.

Emily picked John up on Christmas morning and John was very grateful. John knew his place was out of Emily’s way, plus he had so many presents to carry that he didn’t know how he would have managed if he’d had to take the bus, and John was feeling so scared about seeing all his relatives again that he didn’t want to arrive alone.

John had presents for Emily’s kids on hand when he squeezed into the back of the car to sit between their special booster seats. He’d bought a recorder for the eldest and a drum for the youngest and soon wished they hadn’t opened them in the car. Emily took many deep breaths but managed to stay calm. Her husband Greg wasn’t as strong and after 5 minutes of tooting and banging he fiercely told his kids to stop unless they wanted to get out and walk.

John couldn’t help feeling pleased with himself when he arrived at the Christmas party not only with presents for all but able to recognize everyone, even children he’d never met. This was thanks to Emily having used her photo album to show him what everyone looked like.

But then John’s brother Tim arrived. That was a surprise for everyone because Tim had been living overseas and hadn’t told anyone he’d be back for Christmas.

As John watched his relatives give his brother Tim a warm welcome he couldn’t help feeling jealous. Tim had brought everyone electronic gadgets as gifts that were made in his factory – the factory he had started in order to make the electronics he invented.

“That could have been me if I hadn’t stuffed up” thought John because he knew he’d once been just as smart as Tim.

Tim looked so happy, healthy and young for his age, while John had aged prematurely. One Aunt unkindly remarked that anyone would think that John was Tim’s father.

John was very glad that Fanta hadn’t been able to come with him. He imagined that Fanta would prefer Tim to him. All Emily had said about Tim was that he was a workaholic and single. “At least Tim doesn’t have any kids” thought John. “That would make me really jealous”.

Eventually Tim noticed John and came over.

“Hey!” exclaimed Tim when he realized who John was. Tim gave John a hug and John wondered what his parents had told Tim about him. Did Tim know he’d turned over a new leaf?

Perhaps John was just imagining it, but he felt that Tim was treating him with pity and John resented that. They’d once been equals, and good friends.

“It’s so good to see you!” said Tim. “I didn’t expect it. You look really well. How have you been?”

John didn’t open up and talk to Tim the way he would have liked to. He just gave brief answers to Tim’s questions and didn’t ask any in return. It wasn’t long before the very popular Tim was dragged off by one of their uncles to talk about the latest technologies. John sat down on the stone fence of the backyard and watched his relatives enjoying their Christmas like he wasn’t one of them.

“As if I could just buy my way back into the family with clever Christmas presents” thought John and he wished Tim had invented a remote control that would let John fast-forward the rest of the day.


The Inklings: Chapter 36

The next afternoon John went for a long walk. He wasn’t going anywhere in particular, he just wanted to get out of the house and do something. John was sick of being on holiday already. He wasn’t used to relaxing – he didn’t know how to enjoy it, and without anything to distract him, his mind kept wandering back to his problem of how to avoid going to gaol.

After a couple of hours of walking John needed a rest so he sat down on a seat in a park and started watching the other people in the park. Some people were sitting on the grass in the sun, others were walking their dogs, some people were conscientiously running laps and there was a group of adults watching their children play on the swings. Amongst all of this, one person caught John’s eye. There was a woman who was walking slowly around in an unpredictable pattern. “Maybe she is walking around to kill the holiday time like me” thought John. “Or maybe she’s thinking about her problems like me.” She was too far away for John to be able to work out the expression on her face so he walked closer, averting his eyes until he was near so it wouldn’t look like he was spying on her. When John got close he looked at the woman and was surprised to find that it was Syafika. He hadn’t recognized her in her hat and sunglasses.

“How are you going?” John asked. Syafika looked a bit confused when she saw him. He decided she must have been deep in thought – probably wondering about what Vincent was thinking.

“I’m ok” said Syafika

“Sorry about last night” said John.

“Don’t worry” replied Syafika. “It wasn’t your fault.”

There was a pause, which Syafika felt uncomfortable with so she added “I had to get out of the house so I wasn’t sitting around waiting for Vincent to return my calls.”

“I had to get out of the house too.” said John. “Otherwise I might have been tempted to put up some Christmas decorations. D’arby warned me to not even think about buying any, so instead I was thinking about making my own, but I know that would still be dangerous.”

Syafika was glad to have a reason to laugh and when she had finished she took the opportunity to ask John about something she’d been meaning to ask for a long time. “Hey, I think I saw you in this park months ago” said Syafika, and she couldn’t help smirking as she remembered. “You rubbed dog pooh into its owner’s hair.”

John stared blankly ahead while sifting through his memory. Eventually he came across a blurry memory of a rainy morning when he’d been feeling particularly angry.

“That sounds like something I would have done” John eventually answered and he made a mental note to add that incident to his list of things he could go to gaol for.


The Inklings: Chapter 33

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: