Tag Archives: John

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.

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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.


The Inklings: Chapter 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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