No matter how fast I got to my locker and got down to the lunchroom, Roman
was already through the line sitting at our table eating. Except this
Monday he wasnít. Our table was empty. Maybe he had to stay
after class to work on a project. Something didnít feel right though.
I went through the line and got my two slices of pizza, grabbed a Dew at the
pop machines, and went to our table to eat, hoping that Roman would show.
Half the lunch period had passed and still no Roman. Maybe he was just
sick. Maybe Iíd misunderstood and his reunion back in Iowa was more
than a weekend event. Thatís what I wanted to believe, but what I
really thought was maybe Johnny and his thugs had jumped Roman when he had
gotten back or even before school. Iíd played cards with Johnny on
Friday, won sixty-seven bucks as a matter of fact. Nothing was said.
Johnny had ample time to take care of the problem at the top of his shit
list over the rest of the weekend though. I looked over at their table
trying to get a read on their faces. Johnny was loud and obnoxious,
but that was normal. There were no fingers pointing or looks of
contentment. Still something didnít feel right.
After lunch I asked a couple of Sallyís friends if they had seen Roman.
Two of them had Roman in their British Literature class second hour.
Roman was not there either.
I decided before the last bell rang that I would drive over to Romanís place
after school, but when I got to my car Sally was waiting on me. She
looked hot let me tell you, wearing a short mini-skirt and a shirt that was
obviously a couple sizes to small.
"I thought you had cheerleading after school?"
The evil smile was back. "I do but I wanted to give you a surprise
"Okay?" I still had no idea where this was going.
"Iím ready," she said still with the grin of Satanís daughter.
"Ready?" I asked.
"My parents arenít home until five or six."
Now I got the idea.
"I was going to check on RomanÖ" I stopped in mid sentence as her smile
faded and those naughty eyes were replaced with anger, "Önever mind, heís
just down with the flu or something."
At her house, we never made it past the living room. She had me naked
in a couple of seconds and she was still throwing off her clothes. I
knocked over a plant on their coffee table on my way down to the floor.
"Donít you think we should go to your room at least?"
"No, right here," she said in between breaths and kisses.
God she was hot. Iíd seen her naked of course several times, but this
was different. This was the time. We went on with the fondling
and kissing for several minutes. I put the rubber on.
"Go ahead," she said.
I heard nothing more beautiful in my entire life.
"Oh shit," she screamed, pushing me off to the side. She started
gathering her clothes off the floor and couch.
"What the hellís wrong?" I said.
"My dadís home, didnít you hear him pull up the driveway? Weíve only
got a couple of seconds." With that Sally darted to the bathroom,
running with clothes in arms like she had just done a small load of laundry.
Where the hell am I supposed to go, I thought. No time. I
started to dress throwing on my boxers even though I still had the condom
on. I had one leg in my jeans and went for the other but lost my
balance and fell over the coffee table. I heard the back door open.
I jumped to my feet sliding my second leg in my jeans. I zipped up and
buckled my belt. The plant was still lying sideways on the floor next
to the table. Sallyís father was walking through the kitchen. I
set the plant back up. What else? My shoes were still by
the front door. I ran over and forced my feet in without tying them.
I scuffed as I walked trying to get the back of the shoe to go over my heel.
There, got it. Thatís it right? Your shirt dumb ass.
After I popped my head through the neck hole, I picked up one of the
magazines lying on the coffee table and pretended to be in deep thought.
Sallyís father walked into the living room.
"Hey there Tony," Sallyís dad said, happy to see me. "What are you doing
You mean who am I doing?
"Sallyís cheerleading practice got canceled so she asked if I wanted to go
to the mall with her. She had to come home and change I guess.
You know women," I said with a confident smile.
"What are you reading there?" he asked.
The truth was I didnít even know. I turned over the cover.
There was a confused look on her fatherís face. My confidence was
We continued to small talk. I was barely listening, just enough to
respond or nod. I just wanted out of there. I still had that
damn condom on and it was slimy and uncomfortable. He continued to
talk, telling me about his new golf clubs that he got for a heck of deal.
My eyes wandered from his eyes to around the room, to the way Sally ran off
for the bathroom. Did I forget something? The floor!
I looked down and there it was. The condom wrapper. An empty
condom wrapper at that. He noticed I wasnít paying close attention and
began to look around the room also. I took a step forward and covered
the wrapper with my foot. Sally came back into the room in a different
outfit thank God.
I did a pivot turn so I didnít step off the wrapper. I was sweating
now and my stomach hurt. My crotch itched badly. I donít know
which was worse, trying to stay on the wrapper or the discomfort of the
"So, you ready to go to the mall?" I said shooting a stern eyebrow-lifting
gesture at her.
That was stupid. I canít go anywhere until her father leaves the room
because of the fuckiní wrapper under my foot.
"Yeah letís go," she said.
"Uh, donít you want to show your father that thing you were talking
about?" I opened my eyes widely.
She just stood there. The wheels were turning but nothing was coming
out of her mouth. I knew she had gotten an "A" on a paper she wrote
for Brit. Lit. Hopefully she had brought it home with her.
Hopefully it was in her bag upstairs in the room.
"You know the paper you wrote," I said.
"Oh, yeah, come upstairs, daddy, I want to show you this."
Sallyís dad walked by me and patted me on the back. I did my pivot
turn once again so I could turn and face him.
"Man, Tony, youíre soaked and your cheeks are flushed. Are you feeling
Think quick, dumb ass.
"Iíve got PE last hour and we got timed in the mile today. Iím just a
little out of shape, I guess."
"You better get after it, baseballís coming sooner than you think," he said
The two of them walked up the stairs. Thank Christ. I
picked up the condom wrapper and stuck it in my pocket. I had to get
out of there and quick. The condom was driving me nuts. I heard
Sally and her father talking about the paper and what a good job she had
done. Home free. They came back down the stairs.
I opened the door and let Sally go before me. I started out the
doorway until her father saw the tag on the back of my shirt.
"You know you have your shirt on inside out, Tony?" This time there
was no smile. "Cheeks flushed, sweating, and nervous. I didnít
get off the boat yesterday son. I think itís better you go on without
I noddedóthe only thing I could do reallyóand walked to my car.
I drove off heading for home. I steered the Pinto with one hand and
pulled off the troublesome condom with the other. It was no easy task,
but well worth it. I rolled down my window and threw the semi-used
rubber out. My crotch was still uncomfortable. Not only was the
itching sensation getting worse, the condom felt like something cold and
dead. The worst part wasnít the condom though. It was the fact
that I had been waiting for this since the middle of the summer, thought
about at least three times a day, and when the moment finally arrived and I
didnít finish the deal, it almost hurt. Physically I mean. Iíve
heard people refer to it as blue balls. Once you get going and just
stop, it canít be healthy. I wasnít about to finish the job myself,
especially driving the Pinto. But I couldíve and probably shouldíve
for my physical well-being. I guessed I would just have to suffer
through it. Blue balls. Yeah blue balls was right.
Halfway home I turned the Pinto around back south, not to Sallyís, but to
Romanís. In the excitement and then let down, I had forgotten he
wasnít at school and I was still worried about him. Changing my focus
would also help my predicament down below, I supposed.
I pulled up in front of 25 Kingdom. This time I didnít hesitate to
walk up to the porch and the front door. I knocked hard. No
answer. Rang the doorbell several times. Nothing. No
footsteps or movement from the inside. The shades on the front window
were up so I looked in, cupping my eyes with my hands to fight the glare.
Inside it was dark, too dark to see anything. I knocked again on the
door this time saying it was me, Tony. I turned the doorknob but it
I heard a voice from across the street. "Over here."
The house directly across the street was 26, the one I mentioned earlier,
and on its front porch stood Roman, waving his left arm. He held his
right arm oddly, in a position like it was in a cast. I walked over.
It was dark inside the house. Very dark at first, but my eyes slowly
adjusted to the lighting. The floor was wood, an orange couch sat in
front of me, and the walls were wallpapered with some sort of green and
brown plant shapes. Going through the front door not only got me into
the house, it warped me back to the seventies. I looked around the
room for a lamp or even a light bulb on the ceiling, but there was neither.
To my left were a couple of lit candles and Roman sat behind them next to
somebody else. I could hear a radio, but the volume was turned way
down. A talk radio show came from the speakers. The room smelled
"Hey there fella, have a seat if it suits ya," said the person sitting next
That voice and choice of words was unmistakable. I had heard it a
thousand times at The Tavern.
"Carl?" I asked already knowing the answer. I sat down feeling more
comfortable about the situation.
"Carl ítis," he said back.
"Shit, I didnít know you lived here. I didnít even know you two knew
"Ah yes. Lived here for twenty ought years now I guess. But I
always know my neighbors, even the new ones or the ones that are just
passing by," Carl said.
A small bowl sat over a flameóalmost like some sort of Bunsen
burneródirectly in front of Roman and Carl. In the bowl boiled a thick
green liquid, and from it I could see the fumes rise as smoke. Roman
held his right arm over the smoke. I could see the cuts running from
his elbow to his forearm. Carl held onto Romanís right hand, both
holding Romanís arm up over the boiling green stuff and steadying it so he
could dab in some kind of lotion into its cuts. Carl used only his
fingertips over the cuts, smooth and soft. Roman still grimaced.
"Weíre just fixing up your friend here. I borrowed this remedy in
Thailand some years ago," Carl said.
"What the hell happened to you anyhow?" I asked.
Romanís teeth gritted tighter every time Carl applied the ointment. He
talked with his lips tight like a ventriloquist. "People back home
arenít as friendly as they are here Tony."
"You got jumped?" I asked again.
"You could say that."
"Christ, I thought you were haviní a tough time of it here with the lunch
thing and then the Jack and Brunno incident."
Roman just smiled.
"Five more minutesíll do ya fine there," Carl said continuing to put the
goop on Romanís injuries.
As I watched Carl a couple of things crossed my mind. The immediate
thing of course was the scene in front of me. I couldnít help but
reminded of a hog roast with Romanís arm being hung over a smoke pit, and
Carl every few minutes basting it like a concerned chef. The subtle
thing was that Carl seemed to know exactly what he was doing, like some
ancient medicine man at night using his fire in front of his teepee for
light. Except there was no campfire, only candles, and I was somewhat
sure that Carl was not a Native American. Not a hundred percent sure,
Carl put a lid on the Bunsen burner fire and immediately the green liquid
quit boiling. He moved the bowl aside and began to wrap Romanís arm
with gauze. After a few turns the deal was over.
"There," he said. "Good as new in less than a day.
"I appreciate it," Roman said.
"No worries my friend, you would have done the same for me," Carl said. "Say
Tony, you want a brew?"
"No thanks, Carl."
Roman stood up and exchanged goodbyes with Carl, thanking him again. I
followed Roman across the street to his house. We stopped at the
sidewalk just beside the Pinto.
"So you gonna be at school tomorrow?" I asked.
"Iíll be there for sure tomorrow," Roman responded. "Thanks for
worrying about me Tony."
"I wasnít really worried, I just knew there had to be a good reason for you
not being at school."
That was bullshit though. I was worried.
I opened my car door and got in. I turned the key but the Pinto made
an awful noise like bullets were ricocheting in the engine, and smoke began
to roll out from under the hood. I shook my head.
"Shut it down," Roman said walking over to my door. "Has it done this
"No, unfortunately this is a new one," I said.
"Help me push it up to the garage."
So me and Roman pushed the piece of shit up the driveway. The driveway
had a slight incline but it wasnít anything we couldnít handle even with
Roman having only one working arm. The garage was only about fifty
feet from the road. We stopped at the garage door.
"Letís leave it here. I have to move some things out of the way for it
to fit," Roman said.
Roman looked at me with that shit-eatiní grin of his. He was still
breathing heavy from pushing the car, but the wheels were turning in his
head, I could almost see them behind his eyes, turning a lot faster than
mine for sure and probably everyone elseís for that matter.
Turbo-charged wheels I imagined.
"Iím not going to work tonight. I think I can fix it," Roman said.
"You know how to work on cars?" I said.
Roman was still smiling. "Iíve never worked on them before but Iíve
read several books on the subject."
"Books huh? What the hell do I have to lose? The next stop for
this piece of shit is the junkyard anyway. Besides I gotta drive
somethiní and I sure as hell donít have the money for another car."
"Leave it here then. Iíll see what I can do later."
"You got a phone? Iíll see if Pick can swing by and give me a lift."
"Sure come on in."
We went back down the driveway to the porch and the front door. If I
live a thousand years Iíll never forget what was inside. The front
room was halfway like I imagined. Clean and organized, hardwood floor
polished to perfection, not a speck of dust anywhere. To my left was a
twin size bed neatly made, not a wrinkle to be found. A couple of
large stacks of books lay on the floor stacked as high as I was tall.
Although the books were of different sizes, not one edge stuck out further
than the rest. No TV. No stereo. Just books, hundreds of
"I havenít read those yet," Roman said as he gestured for me to come and see
the other room.
The bathroom was tiny. It was neat, but it was hard to believe
somebody got a toilet, tub, and sink to fit in a space that small.
Anyway, he opened a door to another room. It was dark until Roman
pulled on a thin chain hanging from the ceiling. This room was small
as well but not like the bathroom. There wasnít a lot of room because
of what filled it. Six bookcases lined the room, from wall to wall,
both length and width wise. They were as high as the ceiling and
leaving just enough space between them for one person to walk at a time.
Roman had his own personal library. It didnít take me long to notice
that the books were in alphabetical order by title. The bookcases were
stained a dark maroon-looking color, dusted and polished to the point of
being able to see my reflection. The last thing I noticed was the
wallpaper, which wasnít wallpaper at all. I went over to look at it
closer. It was baseball players side by side. No, it was
baseball cards. Each one laminated and stuck to the wall somehow,
covering every inch. For the first time in a long time, maybe my
entire life, I had nothing to say.
Roman turned out the light and we went back into the main room. The
walls were covered with more cards from top to bottom. I then
understood why I didnít notice them at first. The trim on the cards
was all the same in each room. The front room was black and blue trim;
the library was the same maroon as the bookcases.
"These are complete sets arenít they?í I asked in amazement.
"Sixty-six years worth. My grandfather starting putting complete sets
together in his twenties. By the time I was born you could buy the
complete set and thatís what my father did for me, just like his father for
him," Roman said.
"Itís amazing. Beautiful I mean. Itís like having the history of
baseball everywhere you look." I walked over to the wall. "These
cards are in mint condition arenít they?"
"I think the majority are."
I walked into the kitchen. It was done in red trim cards. The
bathroom was old-fashioned white edges. A story popped in my head, the
one every young boy hears from his dad or grandpa. The one about how
"I had Babe Ruthís rookie, but I put it in my bike spokes so they would make
noise when I rode" or " Your grandma used Babe Ruth as kindling for the fire
place." This was the complete opposite of that. Each card cared
for and passed down in perfect condition. Besides that, Mickey
Mantleís rookie card stood right in front of me, eye level, about three feet
from the bathroom door.
"Do you know that your walls are pretty much made of money Roman?"
"I never really think about it. I could never sell them. They
mean more than that to me."
I looked over at Romanís bed. "You live here by yourself?"
I saw a picture of two people on the nightstand beside his bed. "Where
are your parents?"
Roman gave a smile that took an enormous amount of effort it seemed.
"Theyíve passed on. I went back to Iowa to visit their graves last
"Iím sorry," I said and stopped the conversation. I could see Roman
didnít want to talk about it, and as bad as I wanted to know, I could wait
to hear it when he wanted to tell it. Roman changed the subject to how
he came to live in the house.
As it turns out, the cards and
books werenít the most amazing thing. The house was. It was
scheduled for demolition just a few days after Carl and Roman had met.
Carl owned the property and had renters from time to time but nobody ever
kept the place up, even though their landlord lived across the street.
Carl grew tired of chasing and begging people for their money, so he let the
place go empty. The only problem was that like many other houses in
the neighborhood, they were occupied, but not with paying tenants.
Bums and winos filled the rooms not to mention the crack whores that Carl
always spoke of. Needless to say they trashed the place. As time
wore on the wood began to rot and the ceiling leak. Carl thought the
house was beyond repair and had it scheduled for demolition. That was
before he met Roman, of course.
Roman apparently came upon Carl one night on his way home from The Tavern.
Carl was passed out on the side of the road, lying in his own
vomit, something I thought could never happen to the nightly Tavern patron.
Carl invited Roman to his house after the young janitor helped him home, and
the two oddly enough seemed to have a lot in common; how much in common I
would find out later. Roman talked Carl into letting him fix the place
up; fixing things was one of Romanís ever growing talents. Roman
worked for a solid month, first cleaning up the needle-infested house and
then getting it in livable order. He put on a new roof, gutted the
interior, replaced boards in the floor and sanded and stained them.
Carl could see his determination and decided to help. When it was
finished Carl basically gave the house to Roman. In Carlís view it was
cheaper to give it to Roman than to pay to have it torn down. Carl
liked Roman from the start I think, just like I did.
My Pops dropped me off at school the next morning. Before I could get
out of the car he tapped me on the shoulder and pointed at the parking lot.
There was the Pinto as baby blue as baby blue could be. Roman
obviously had fixed it and drove to school. By the looks of it he had
also washed and waxed it. The only time the Pinto usually got washed
was when it rained. I ran over to take a closer look.
I got in and noticed all the fast food wrappers that usually lined the
floorboard were missing as well as the dirt and pebbles. Although
Roman didnít do his janitorís gig last night, he still found a way to clean
At homeroom we had to vote for the Homecoming king and queen. Heather
and Johnny were on the ballot. I was too, but I never won.
Johnny and Heather had been in the Homecoming court every year; this year
would be no different. What was different however was that I didnít
vote for Johnny as I had the past three years. I voted for Sam
At lunch I thanked Roman, and asked if I could pay him for the work.
My father paying would have been more accurate, but I asked anyway.
Roman, of course, refused. He told me what the problem was. He
might has well have been speaking Chinese because I didnít understand a word
of it. It sounded complicated and long, but Roman said it wasnít that
bad. The bandages I expected to see on Romanís left arm were absent
and the scabs were already beginning to heal. Carlís boiling green
goop seemed to be working its magic. Heather sat at our table, as did
Pick Bryant. Johnny did his usual evil eye routine. Jack and
Brunno sat next to him like pit vipers ready to strike at any minute.
It was hard to get a word in with Roman anymore because he and Heather
talked the entire lunch period. He hung on her every word, even taking
time from his applesauce to look her in the eye. I donít think Heather
thought of him as more than a friend, but somewhere inside she was growing
closer than that. And who could blame her? The guy listened to
her talk about herself for as long as she could speak. Is there anything
women like more? Roman liked what was on the inside. That was my
take on the situation anyway, and whether it was right, one thing was for
sure: Roman and Heather were becoming good friends at the least.
That night Roman showed up for work twenty minutes early. Roll call
was at 6:45. Yes you heard me right, the janitors had roll call like
soldiers or policemen. Being a janitor at Collingston High was serious
business especially when Boss Chatterling was running the show.
Helen Chatterling was the head janitor and had been for at least thirty
years. She was a ginormous woman, six feet two and at least 250
pounds. She was in her mid sixties but looked fortyish.
The name "Boss" was partly hung on her because she was in charge of the
janitors. When people think of janitors, they think of skinny old men
with no teeth and a gray whiskered face hunched over a mop bucket and a
dingy rag hanging out of their back pocket. It might be like that at
some places, but at Collingston it was much more. Yes the janitors
were the cleaning crew and that took up a lot of their time. But they
were also maintenance. When light bulbs broke or the boiler went out
or the plumbing failed or a lock couldnít be opened, who do you think took
care of it? It sure as hell wasnít the prison guards. Those
kinds of things werenít in teaching contracts. Collingston had no
security staff, so when fights broke out, (and they did on a daily basis),
or when someone brought a weapon to school, the Bossís staff took care of
it. She herself broke up too many fights to count over the years, and
her reputation was passed down from one generation to the next. It was
known that when the Boss broke up a fight she was going to get her licks in
too. She came from a different time and seemed to be immune to the
ridiculous rules of education that govern us now. The Boss was the
boss because she had the power. More than the teachers and the
principal. Maybe even more than the school board. She was the
only person who had a key to every lock and door in the school. If you
crossed her, she would get even. Helen was on the front line, down in
At roll call she walked with a clipboard in hand and stopped to inspect each
of her janitors one by one, quick but thorough. Roman was first.
"Swivel, is that arm injury going to keep you from doing your duty tonight?
Because if it is, you need to let me know. I ran behind schedule all
night yesterday because you called in sick and that is not going to happen
again tonight. If you canít suck it up and work with a little pain
Iíve got a stack of applications sitting on my desk from students begging to
be put to work. You realize you are the only student janitor in this
work force and being the only student is a privilege that Iím not sure
youíve lived up to? Are we clear Swivel?"
Roman knew better than to smile. "Crystal, Boss." Roman also
knew that Boss Chatterling was quite sure that he had far exceeded her
expectations as a student janitor or just a janitor at all. He could
tell the way she talked to him. The way she never interrupted his
work. The way that after the first week she never checked up on him.
She gave him a list. He did what was on the list more quickly and more
meticulously than anyone else. The speech she had just ripped him with
was for show, not for her or him, but for the rest of the janitors at roll
Roman had the third floor in the main part of the building like most nights.
The other janitors were usually doubled up on parts of the school but Roman
was so fast Boss Chatterling assigned only him. Light bulb changing
was first because lights were on the ceiling and Roman always worked from
the top down. The bulbs were the long fluorescent ones, fragile and
awkward, but Roman still managed to fit them on his cart and had yet to hear
one shatter on the floor. There were six rooms that had lights either
burned out or flickering like strobes. Roman changed them one by one,
putting the old ones neatly on his cart. He climbed the stepladder, pushed
up the plastic rectangle in the ceiling and moved it on top of one of the
other cardboard-like rectangles that made up all the roomsí ceilings.
Dust fell out every time.
Midnight was break time for the other janitors on Romanís shift, but it was
quitting time for him. He had finished his assignment twice as fast as
the others and now it was time for him to go home.
Roman exited the front of the high school at the main part of the building
like he did every night. There were three people and a dogótoo dark to
see whoóin the parking lot across the street. Roman paid little
attention and turned left toward home. The nights were beginning to
cool and Roman had on a black flannel. He pulled out an apple from one
of the flannel pockets and began to eat his after-work snack while he
walked. The three figures in the parking lot began to follow behind
him, a good distance away, with their dog leashed in front of them.
They thought they were unnoticed. They were not.
Just before the railroad tracks on Stephenson Street they caught up. Jack
Rollings took a swing at Roman but Roman ducked, shifting to one knee with
apple still in mouth. He grabbed Jackís arm, which was now directly
over the janitorís right shoulder, flipping him completely over, smashing
Jackís back to the ground. Brunno charged with his head down and arms
outward, but Roman sidestepped him like a matador and clotheslined him at
the same time. Brunno did a one-eighty in the air and fell to his back
as well. The fight was like a well-choreographed dance routine with
Roman reacting to their moves like he knew what was coming. Thirty
yards away the dog began to bark. Holding its leash was Johnny the Killer.
Johnny seemed to be watching in enjoyment as his cronies fought with Roman,
even though it was futile.
Roman took the apple out of his mouth (still chewing the last bite), wrapped
the remainder in a handkerchief, and placed it in the pocket of his flannel.
Roman finished swallowing as both Jack and Brunno stumbled to their feet.
Jack shoved Brunno and made a circular gesture as if to tell him to surround
Roman. Brunno complied and was now in back of Roman. Jackís
gleamed with contentment at this abrupt plan or maybe to the fact that they
had a plan at all. Roman could almost see the drool slide down
Brunnoís chin in anticipation. Roman stood still with arms to the
side, relaxed and waiting. The dog continued to bark in the
Stephenson Street was deserted at this hour, being a one-way street running
north by the high school. The city buzzed in the streets and blocks
away from it, but the moon was the only witness to this event.
Brunno and Jack simultaneously swung, one in front of and one behind Roman.
Roman backed up then sidestepped Brunnoís arm, grabbing it and using its
momentum to carry Brunno to Jack; the two collided with a dull thud.
Roman bent down and swept one of Jackís legs from underneath him putting
Jack on the ground once again. Brunno threw another punch but Roman
blocked and grabbed Brunnoís thumb turning it over and bending his elbow the
wrong way. Roman continued to hold on as Brunno cursed in pain, and a
second later Roman had the brawlerís arm behind his back levering him
forward and then tripping his feet out from under him. Brunno fell
hard this time, cracking his chin against the sidewalk. Jack slapped
his hand against the sidewalk in disgust as he stood up and then looked at
Johnny who was shaking his head like a disappointed parent. Johnny
motioned for the two and they both walked back, watching Roman as they did.
Johnny bent down and petted his dog, which was snarling and growling.
"I want you to meet my pit bull Apollo, janitor. Heís used to bigger
meals than you but youíll do as an appetizer."
Johnny whispered something in Apolloís ear and released the latch on his
leash. Apollo charged, not barking but snarling. In a second the
dog was in a dead sprintóa seventy-five pound pure muscle locomotiveówith
teeth exposed and rounded powerful jaws protruding. Roman stood his
ground, lifting his arms like he was hung on a cross. The dog jumped
shoving its front paws into Romanís stomach, trying to knock him to the
ground, but Roman rolled with the dogís momentum and deflected it. The
dog jumped again but this time with less force. Roman again used the
dogís momentum against it. Apollo snarled, circling Roman like the
janitor was wounded prey. Roman stood motionless continuing to hold
his arms shoulder high. A few more circles and the snarls began to
fade. Soon Apollo was standing directly in front of Roman with head
tilted in dismay, trying to make eye contact. Finally Roman looked at
"Are you hungry, boy?" Roman said with arms still even with his shoulders.
Apollo began to whine as if he knew it was wrong to fraternize with the
"What the fuck!" Johnny screamed from thirty yards away.
Roman slowly removed the apple from his pocket and unwrapped it. He
took a big bite, cutting the apple with his teeth into two smaller pieces.
Roman knelt down with the two apple slices in hand and extended them to
"Get your ass over here, Apollo. Heel. Now. Heel!"
Apollo looked at Johnny, then at Roman, and then at the apple slices.
He ate the slices out of Romanís hand wagging his stub of a tail.
Roman petted him with the other hand.
"Mother fuck," Johnny began to himself and then got louder. "You donít even
like goddamn apples!"
After Apollo finished he licked Romanís hands clean of the sticky juice.
Roman stood up and gave Apollo one last pat. Roman turned and started
south for home but Apollo followed, sniffing the sidewalk behind Romanís
"What are you, a fuckiní dog thief too, janitor boy?" Johnny screamed,
patting his leg for Apollo to come.
Roman stopped walking and faced Johnny. Apollo turned around as well,
following what he thought was his new masterís lead. "Iím not the one
with the leash in my hand, am I?"
Roman picked up a decent size stick in a yard by the sidewalk, first swaying
it in front of Apollo who was jumping up and down, and then flipping it
through the air like a Frisbee toward Johnny and the boys. Apollo
chased the stick to Johnnyís feet and was now back in the control of his
leash and rightful master. Johnny glared at Roman.
Roman turned and walked home.