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ThePatch

TheaugustsunburnshotoverAlgiers,paintingRenandhiscompanioninshadesofredand puce.Thepairofthemarecoveredinperspiration,andtheyveretiredtositintheshadeofthetrain station,waitingbetweenthetwinlinesofrailthatrunoffintosandyeternityoneithersideofthem. Doyoueverwonder,though? JayPChopra,acitizenoftheDiznyCompany,shakeshishead.Notforalongtime. ItsjustIdontknowsometimes,ifIreallyknowornot.Youknow? Notreally.NotsinceIgotaHeadband. Themerementionofthenamecausesbothmentogentlytouchtheirtemplesastheyreceivea newpatch.Choprapausesamoment,thencontinues. WhatwouldIwonderabout?Thisverymoment,Iknowwhenthetrainswillarrive.Iknowthe unfoldingoftheirtracks,andeachtampingthumpthatlaiddowntheirconcreteties.Iknowthe passengers,andthecontentsoftheirluggage. Renshrugs.Iguessso.Butwhatifsomethinghappens?Whatiftheresauhterrorist? Hesearchesfumblinglyfortheword. Wedknow. Butwhatifitwasjustsomethinghedecidedatthelastsecond? Whatdoyoumean,thelastsecond?Thatsnothowpeoplemakedecisions. Sureitis.Hesthinkingaboutit,beingaterrorist,andhedecideshedoesntwanttodoit,but thenhechangeshismindrightattheendandboomthatsit.Renmimesanexplosionbetweenhis fingers,aninvisiblebigbangonacomparativelyinfinitesimalscale. Butholdonnooneonthetrainisthinkingaboutanythinglikethat. Rencockshishead.Weare,arentwe? Choprasresponseisdrownedoutbythearrivalofagreatwindingmetaltrain,amassive segmentedwormastridetwolongmetaltracks,kickingupsandanddustasitcomestoascreeching halt.Fromthewindowoftheclosestcar,ayoungboywavesatRen.Hesmilesandwavesback, recognizingtheboyashedownloadsanewpatch,hisHeadbandflashing.Thetwomenarecoveredin sweat,andtheyboardthetrainwiththesortofwearyenthusiasmengenderedbythedesertsun.Theair

insideisairconditioned,smellingoflilac,andtheirheadbandsflashastheybothremembertheirtripto theClimatrongardensofMissouri. Aftersometimespentlollingintheheatofthedesertsun,thetrainhowls,andbeginsagainits endlessjourney.Algiersgrowssmallerandsmallerbehindit,untilfinallythereisnothingleftonthe horizon,andthetinydesertstationexistsonlyasafaintlydwindlingmemoryfortwowearypassengers.