Long Pants Under a Hot Sun

A novel about Africa, drinking and the meaning of life

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Landlord (part 1)

 

In this chapter, the Norwegians show up unexpectedly at Dublin’s house in Togo and ask if they can stay for a couple weeks. They give him money for 4 bottles of vodka to get them through the night.

Vegard sitting up; David in the Ramones shirt

Landlord

The two doors of Dublin’s metal gate gonged together in pain. They had been struck, and Dublin scurried to the edge of his rooftop patio to get a glimpse of what could only be attackers. His eyes took a moment to focus on the gate, moving first through his neighbors walking up and down the street, then to the leaves of his fruit tree, through shadows of hanging clothes and broken bottle wall tops, until they finally rested upon the front bumper of a Peugeot 504 snuggling up to the gate. It strained against itself, futilely trying to convince the tires to move the car and the car to move the gate. Dublin figured they had hoped to open it with the car without having to get out and do it themselves. A broken gate leads to a broken friendship, so Dublin hurried down to let them in before they pissed him off.

David leaned out the window. “God damn, college boy! If you knew we were coming, you think you would have been ready! Now I have a dent in my lovely French piece of shit car!”

Dublin smiled. “I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Of course you did. I sent you mental signals through a rum haze two nights ago from Ghana. You should have received them yesterday.”

“The alcohol slows them down,” Vegard explained.

“I’m sure it’s my fault. I’ll let you in.” They backed up and Dublin swung open the gates and moved aside. David pulled the car in and bumped up against the fruit tree.

“Damn! This beast won’t respond. What kind of vodka do you have?”

“French. It’s in the freezer.”

“That’ll never do. Here’s a million francs. Go find some things to stock us up. We’re here for at least two weeks. Two at the most. We have things to do before Norway cruelly calls us back to what everybody else does.” He handed Dublin money.

“What are you going to do until I get back?”

“Shower, of course. I suspect you have facilities befitting a white man here. Then I’ll wait on the sofa for you to bring me drinks.” Dublin stood there for a second before walking through the gate to run his errand. “Hurry back now!” David called out to him.

 

—–

 

The sun fell slowly, melting below rooftop clotheslines as the three men talked over glasses of vodka. Dublin had brought back four bottles, one of which sat between the two Norwegians anxiously, its entire life flashing before its eyes. The end was near.

The conversation had gotten sloshy. Vegard was trying to convince Dublin and David that he’d been attacked by a lion in South Africa and survived by kissing it on the nose.

“Was this a boy lion or a woman lion?” David asked him.

“It was a girl. Big mane. Big mane.”

“Hah! Boy lions don’t have girls!”

“What?”

“Girl boys have names…boy lions…girl lions don’t have manes!”

“Of course not! Why would you think such a thing?”

“I don’t know. I don’t remember. Let’s have a drink.” Dublin shook his head. “Drink, Landlord, feel better!” David raised his glass and belched.

“Landlord?”

“We call you Landlord now because we stay with you,” Vegard explained.

“As a sign of dignity and respect befitting a white man in these parts,” David continued.

“Does that mean you’re going to pay rent?”

The two Norwegians looked at each other. “Well, no, not cash. But you will drink on the credit card. And hookers.”

Dublin filled his glass. “I don’t think hookers are necessary.”

“Why? Hookers are good for you!”

“I disagree.”

David looked to Vegard in mock surprise. “He disagrees! I honestly don’t know how you could have anything against prostitution.”

“What about its effect on women?” Dublin asked.

“What do you mean? Women don’t go to hookers.” David leaned forward for a bottle and shook his head, mumbling to himself and then chuckling. The other two just watched. Finally he looked up. “What?”

 

Continued in Part 2

 

Read an Interview about Long Pants Under a Hot Sun by S.C. Barrus

Fellow writer S.C. Barrus has posted an interview of me discussing my novel Long Pants Under a Hot Sun. Read the interview at www.awayandaway.com/the-story-from-africa/ and check out his writing and interests on the rest of his site.

Death by Flying Truck

In this chapter, Dublin and the Norwegians witness a terrible accident in Ouagadougou.

Death by Flying Truck

On their last day in Ouagadougou, Dublin, David and Vegard decided to go for a walk downtown. FESPACO had ended in the morning with a ceremony celebrating the filmmakers, and the streets were crowded by tens of thousands of tourists buying trinkets and T-shirts before leaving the city. The three travelers pushed their way through threads of human beings that weaved a basket of enormous clamor. They all felt a strand of euphoria whenever the lines moved a few good feet. Dublin’s legs felt very far away from him.

“Fuck this,” David muttered. He put his bald, sweaty head down and pushed harder against the people in front of him. They made their way past astonished whites and begrudgingly passive blacks and found themselves at last on a street with a greatly diminished population. Vegard spit on his hands and rubbed them together. Dublin looked down and noticed that he now had new palm prints of dust and saliva. They swirled in the currents of world travel. Good for passports, perhaps.

“I could eat all the food in Africa!” David screamed at the sky.

“What would that amount to? A half a plate of rice and a dead rat?” Vegard joked. Dublin shook his head. He wanted to be at a football game, cold under a blanket, maybe a freezing mist coming down from the Midwestern sky, fans of one team staring at fans of the other team across the field. Shaking bleachers and cheerleader splits and coming back to consciousness when a big play erupts with people shouting–

“Holy shit!” David screamed at the same time the sound of catastrophic tires reflected off the downtown store fronts. Dublin whipped his head around just in time to see a light blue Dodge pickup spinning like a Detroit football over the crossroads they had just passed. Time was so surprised that three seconds took twice as long to pass as usual. The pickup came down at last on top of people walking through a display of bicycles and slid several feet through the plate glass window in the storefront. It was a strange and exciting moment, to realize they had just seen many people die at once, perhaps squeezing a bike tire or pressing a hand brake as the shroud fell over them. Time tried to get all the noises of the accident to stop at once but had a hard time handling them. Within moments, two hundred people had constricted the accident scene.

“Are they helping, or looting, or what?” Dublin asked without really listening for an answer. None was given. It was the same reaction from all Africans when an important event happened. If someone was accused of pick pocketing, if there was an accident, if someone was hurt, if there was shouting or humiliation or celebration, the hordes descended. Dublin saw it time and time again over the next few months, but this was the first time.

“Well, about thirty people just walked off a cliff,” David said flatly.

“They didn’t walk. They were pushed,” Vegard responded. Dublin looked from one to the other to the crowd and back. He could still hear metal against concrete and bone. His ears felt uneasy. Dublin lost his hearing for a moment as they got themselves together again.

“Do we really need to stay and watch this?” Dublin asked.

“Of course. We must see this so we can learn what there is in the world. There is death, Dublin, and you mustn’t ever forget it.”

“But he doesn’t need to obsess about it like you do,” Vegard reprimanded his friend.

“Obsess? Obsess? I am anything but obsessive, brother! Obsess, he says!” He turned to Dublin. “In our short time together, little boy, would you admit to finding me obsessive?”

“Certainly not.”

“There you have it!” He faced the intersection of hundreds, now a crossroads of living people keenly interested in dead people. “I, do you hear me all? I am anything but obsessive!”

“It is plain to see,” Vegard mumbled. David harrumphed. They stared a little bit longer.

“Well, shall we get back to the hotel?” Dublin asked. They nodded. From their spot on the sidewalk, the crowd was one mass of dusty interlopers into the contract of death, like two hundred lawyers swarming around a celebrity annulment. It had just happened, and the families of the victims had no clue anything had changed in their lives. They went about their business preparing dinner and going on walks and sleeping with the peace of “Everything’s OK”, the dreadful stretch of hours between death and knowing about death. Only God could truly observe, and it’s hard to imagine what emotions were his companions. A sad but old story of life at its end.

The heels of Dublin’s sneakers marked the sidewalk as they finally turned away from the accident that scuffed his consciousness. He didn’t forget it for days, and out of everything that happened that week in Burkina Faso, it’s the one moment he took away and preserved. It was a short video he liked to play in the theater of his memory whenever he felt tempted to take life at its best for granted.

Morbid, perhaps, but probably another step closer to making an effort at humility.

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