Long Pants Under a Hot Sun

A novel about Africa, drinking and the meaning of life

FESPACO (part 2)

FESPACO (part 2)

Dublin and the Norwegians retired to the hotel. David paid for everything, which amounted to thirty-seven quarts of beer in a little under five hours. The sun had gone from the sky without them noticing. They laughed so much that even Vegard couldn’t help but join in, and Dublin had not a fear in the world. He started believing he was taking another step on his journey, that he was close to finding meaning in existence.

Ah…beer.

“Where’s David?” he asked Vegard after returning from an especially pleasant daydream.

“Pissing in the street.” Vegard pointed. David was indeed in the very middle of the street in front of the hotel, shifting from foot to foot as he tried to steady his stream of urine. The Africans were not pleased. Urinating on the walls was prohibited in Ouagadougou. Pissing in the street was probably more so.

“Come help me,” Dublin ordered Vegard as he pushed his chair back. David had sunk to his knees by the time Dublin got to him, rubbing his eyes. “Come on, David. Let’s get back to the hotel.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re pissing people off.”

“Pissing. Off.” He giggled. Dublin tugged at him. “Good!” he exclaimed with a false and sudden sobriety. “I like to show people how the world works without rules!”

“I know you do, but they just don’t want to walk in your urine.”

“So?”

“And they don’t want their kids to walk in it, either.”

“I don’t like kids.”

“But their parents do. So now do you get it?”

“Hmm, yes. Very clear. I should stand up and walk away.”

“Yep.” He helped David to his feet and away from the hotel. Doors to homes closed. “How about we take you to bed?”

“No. We have to see this man.”

“What man?”

“The blues man.”

“I don’t know who that is.”

“He’s, OK, I’ll show you. He makes blues and he makes guitars. Or he plays guitars. He makes blues with guitars.”

“Who are you talking about?”

“Come on.”

They walked down the street, and Dublin started to lose his temper. Two blocks, three blocks, four blocks. Dublin found himself thinking about Dr. Seuss. Clocks. He wanted to vomit.

“Some barrio pleasant gin,” David said passionately. Dublin didn’t notice. He hummed. He’s a mean one, Mr. Grinch. I wouldn’t touch him with a ten and a half foot pole. La la la. “Mistake. On the rocks. Foo foo go hang gliding. Four. Forty.” Dublin was too far into his head to pay any attention. Hum, hum, hum. One fish two fish red fish blue fish.

David yanked his arm. “I told you! He makes blue!” On the corner across from them, an old, old, old man hunched over a wooden half barrel with a steel guitar perched on his lap. Words shook out of his mouth, wavering around the lower reaches of his range. His sadness was enormous; Dublin knew that much, even as far into the bottle as he’d fallen. The man had a harmonica stand curled around his neck, and every twelve bars or so he’d blow into it, asking it for the answers to the questions in his song. There weren’t any. It was good blues.

Somehow Vegard had caught up with them, and he stood quietly next to Dublin with his hands in his pockets. They listened to four or five songs, entranced. A taxi driver shouted at them from the sidewalk to get out of the middle of the street, but there weren’t any other cars around, and they wouldn’t have cared if there were.

Better than the movie. I wish I could be him, Dublin said silently, barely moving his lips. One of them turned on his heel, and the other two followed without a word. They waved at each other as they split into three ways at the top of the stairs leading to the second floor of the hotel. Dublin dropped off to sleep immediately and dreamt all night.

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