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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

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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: I’m a Little Teapot


“He turned from the tray, lifted the kettle off the hob and set it sideways on the fire. It sat there, dull and squat, its spout stuck out.”

– Ulysses, James Joyce


Bloom is our kettle.

Black-clad and dressed for death, yet within his cast-iron skin, he remains, in the immortal words of Bruce Lee, “like water.”

I have the musicality of a mudpuppy, but Joyce’s second sentence looks like something-pentameter to me. Is there a more simple, straightforward line in the Ulysses? But still sentences run deep. Joyce swells phrases and single words with crosscurrents.

The forward adjective is a Modernist matchup of opposites: exterior versus interior. While Mr. Leopold Bloom may appear “dull,” in public, once his private thoughts splash onto the shores of the page his dullness dies.

The aft adjective, “squat,” pits two other opposites: subjective versus objective. This bout takes place within the meaning of the word. American Heritage Dictionary’s clever editors wink their definition, “Short and thick; low and broad,” in single-syllable solidarity. At 11 stone and 4 pounds, (158 1bs in Yankee lingo) Paunchy Poldy is thicker than many of his thin fellow Dubliners. Professor Kenner reports that Leo’s 5 feet 9 ½ inches met the height prerequisite to be a policeman, who “looked like ‘giants’ to the general public.” This doesn’t stop the Dublin dingbats from belittling Bloom’s stature at every turn. Thick and broad? Yes. Short and low? Nope.

Now, the Plumetree’s Potted Meat of the subject. “Spout stuck out” completes the ten monosyllables leaving a small wake of rhyme behind its alliterative whitecap.

Bloom’s boom juts out through the long June day, deep into Nighttown, and beyond. He is at full mast when first setting sail from home in the eight o’clock hour of the Calypso episode. He eyes the nextdoor girl’s “vigorous hips” and telepathically hurries Dlugacz the butcher to “Hurry up, damn it,” so he can continue to ogle her “moving hams” outside. Later, he silently curses the annoying M’Coy for blocking his view of a “silk flash of rich stockings white.” He stoops to checking museum statues from the rear for anatomical accuracy. After sinking his eight ball playing pocket pool to girly Gerty MacDowell’s seaside peep show, he still remains unsated. He canoodles his way through Bella Cohen’s brothel while his fantasies comingle with reality in the wet nightmare that is the Circe episode. His last act before slumber is smooching the “plump mellow yellow smellow melons” of Molly’s rump.

The boy can’t help it. Say what you will about old Bloom, he needs no performance enhancing little blue pill. Kettle-like, he's reliable, functional, durable, hard.

Every morning, in the Calypso section of my Romansdays, I lift my electric kettle off the stand and set it sideways on the charger. It sits there, cracked and wrecked, its wire worn out.

Not sure what that says about me.


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