You Shall Know Our Velocity!
Midland."
                "Oh," I said. "Did you meet --"
                "I am so sorry," he said, not having the time to get into it. "I must finish this note." He pointed to the screen.
                In a few minutes he finished and apologized and I apologized and thanked him and he and his wives left, the last wife, in yellow, floating around the corner in an ethereal way like a priest in his soutane. I wanted to go with the man and his wives. Would he take us into his grand and heavily guarded pink stucco home and leave us free to roam the grounds, to lounge by the pool as his wives or servants brought us beverages and lotion? Together we'd play squash. Maybe he played paddle tennis --
                Hand came into the room with two liters of bottled water, so cold. I held the plastic bottle and it made throaty sounds of deep satisfaction.
                "The car, it is coming," Hand said.
                "You have to stop that."
                "What is it you want I stop?"
                "I'm losing my fucking mind. Use contractions, goddammit. You sound like an alien."
                Online we checked planes leaving from Dakar. Nothing, almost nothing, without Paris first. We couldn't get to Rwanda without Paris. We couldn't get to Yemen without Paris. We could get to Madagascar, but only through South Africa. To get anywhere would take a full day or more. And visas. We couldn't even cross into The Gambia, the country stuck inside Senegal like a tumor, without a visa. Just getting across the continent, to Cairo, could occupy our whole week. Could we just drive from Dakar to Cairo? We couldn't. Mauritania wanted a visa, same with Mali. Neither was recommended for drivers.
                "Fuck," I said.
                "We're fucked."
                "Yes!"
                There was now a man on a computer behind us, one that had been turned off when I walked in. It was the dressed-for-tennis American man from the rental desk. It was his Yes! He had the computer up and he wanted us to be curious about why he was excited.
                "My friend's in the Paris to Dakar rally," he said.
                "The big car race thing?" Hand said.
                "Yeah. He's in seventh place." His accent had something in it. He was looking at a page of results.
                "Wow. Motorcycle or truck?" Hand said. Hand was interested. Hand apparently knew what this guy was talking about.
                "Motorcycle," he said. "He's very good."
                Hand knew things like this, and knew how many guerrilla-killed gorillas there were each year in the Congo, and how many tons of cocaine were imported weekly from Colombia, how they did it and how pure it was, and how powerful, and who ran which cartel with the help of which U.S. agencies and for how long. And how Spinoza was actually autistic -- he'd read this recently but couldn't remember where -- but it was true! They'd studied DNA! -- and that Herbert Hoover liked little boys (this he was sure about, though it might have been McKinley, or J. Edgar), and that you could grow the bones of dwarfs by attaching external bone-growing devices that looked like Medieval torture instruments -- it worked! he would yell, he'd seen a documentary and one guy had grown almost a foot, though some dwarves objected, calling him some sort of Uncle Tom. . . On and on, for twenty years I'd heard this shit, from first grade, when he claimed you'd get worms if you touched your penis (I used plastic baggies, to pee, till I was eight) -- and always this mixture of the true, the almost-true and the apocryphal -- he'd veer within this emporium of anecdote like an angry drunk, but all of his stories he stood steadfastly behind, never with a twinge of doubt or even allowances for your own. If you didn't know these things, you were willfully

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