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Robert

Roman

Empire

RED BRICK ALLEY STORIES

The Killards Are Coming

Every damn day in Religion Class, Sister Anna Banana yapped about the Soviets revving up to start a nuclear war with the new president, Ronald Reagan. She said after the cities burned to Holy Hell, there’d be something called “nuclear winter” that would kill all... 

Double-Strength Demon Dogs

Fantastic Freddie was the only altar boy from the Red Brick Alley. He was always consecrating Ritz Crackers and trying to make us eat them like communion wafers. He light-fingered incense from the sacristy, and he blessed water from Old Lady Tully’s spigot...

Laser Loop

I couldn’t see over the tall green school bus seat except when we hit a pothole and I bounced up in the air like a Pop-Tart jumping out of a toaster. Nobody at Saint Augie’s could believe I was allowed to go. My first school picnic ever. I was good from the day I handed in my pink...

The Boy Wonder

How the Hell did Jaggerbush get himself up there? He was clawing his way up into the open window above the Science class door like a real-life gargoyle. The blockhead of a wooden mallet stuck out of the back of his Toughskins where his butt crack was. He wore three...

About The Author

Rob.jpg

Robert Roman grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, where he sold newspapers to cars from a concrete island. Read more→

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  • Robert Roman

My Own Private Ulysses: Lunacy in the Line Numbers


The following is a salvaged transcript of an iMessage exchange between Doctor Reality and me.

I was neither driving nor drinking at the time, I swear.

The first salvo is the Doctor’s.


“This edition of Ulysses you strong-armed me into buying is rife with depth charges and dirty bombs.”

“The Hans Gabler Edition? Published in the Year of Our Orwell, 1984?”

“The line numbers are fakakta.”

I held the steering wheel in place with my knee and fished my copy out of the gym bag in the back seat.

“What’s the offending page?”

“406.”

I flipped the brittle pages past decades of multicolored marginalia. Bold red squares surrounded line numbers 1913 and 1918.

“My copy has the same irregularity. So, we can rule out a satanic Ninth Gate situation.”

“I can’t overcome this. I’ve double-checked all 644 pages. Every single line number is divisible by 10 except these two.”

“Maybe it’s a typo.”

“Don’t be daft. This has rousted me from the narrative dream of the Nighttown episode. Krauts ruin everything!”

“Doc, please, it’s the Circe episode. Let’s stay true to our Homeric roots.”

“Save your anti-Nabokovian agitprop for the barstool.”

“I’ll have you know, I once recommended adding Lolita to the HowWeird County Public School’s Official Summer Reading List.”

“And that was the death-rattle of your so-called teaching career. Back to the line numbers!”

“The lines reference Rueben J. Dodd, an actual real-life Dublin solicitor and moneylender. He’s the target of some ugly anti-Semitic gossip by Bloom’s fellow funeral-goers in the Hades episode. A story is told about Dodd’s son being hoisted out of the Liffey after a possible suicidal belly-smacker. Rueben paid his son’s rescuer a florin, roughly 30 whole dollars. Simon Dedalus says he overpaid. In so-called real life, a feud simmered between the Dodds and Joyces across generations. The Liffey-plunging son even filed a libel suit against the BBC over a radio reading of Ulysses. Meanwhile, Reuben J. Dodd, to borrow a coinage from a New York congressperson, was, like Bloom, merely ‘Jew-ish.’”

“The lines are not the issue! The line NUMBERS are the issue!”

“What are you suggesting, Doc? Easter Eggs? Numerology? Three Days of the Condor secret codes?”

“1913 doesn’t mean anything to you?”

“If you say 19 plus 1 plus 3 equals 23 and go on a Robert Anton Wilson riff, I’m unmatching you.”

“1913 the year!”

“I may have to go. A squad car’s tailing me.”

“1913! Woodrow Wilson! Hello?”

“No, no, no, not the birth of the Federal Reserve kicking off a trip down the rocky road to serfdom?”

“This is far more insidious: Daylight Savings Time. Another German invention. Coincidence?”

“So, Herr Gabler is a card-carrying member of the Bavarian Illuminati?”

“Your words, not mine.”

“Hell, now the cop’s riding my bumper.”

“What about 1918?”

“The Spanish Flu?”

“That’s not the acceptable nomenclature, Dude.”

“WWI ended?”

“Close. Howard Cosell was born.”

“He hit the siren. I hope you’re happy now.”

“We have to solve this line number mystery.”

“I’m signing off. I have to dig up some proof of insurance. Track down Gabler on TikTok and ask him yourself.”

“On it. In the interim, we should invent our own literary conspiracy theory and release it on the unwitting world.”

“I think you just did, Doc.”

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