The Roman at the Dumpster

T he praetorian sentry stood behind the Coliseum museum loosening his breastplate. That final gaggle of school kids had waddled by his post and instantly he had skulked around an ornamental swag and out the back door. He grunted. One hundred percent Tuscan marble he stood, five foot tall and over two thousand years old. And still he had his nose. But statues, too, once in awhile need a smoke.

The sentry leaned his wood and iron spear against a drain pipe. He unstrapped his brass helmet. Heavily then he sagged against the museum's dumpster and lit up a Marlboro.

The sentry inhaled. He thought, "I swear to God. When I get out of this gig I'm going back to the L'ouvre."

The sentry puffed. "Half the people...Heck, almost no one notices me here anyway."

The sentry shook his head. He dragged deeply. "They got me situated by that tapestry near the fire extinguisher and everyone just walks by. They're always looking at the mummified finger with the gold ring. And the pike. And the chamber pot. I might as well not even be in this joint at all."

The sentry exhaled. "A couple years," he reflected. And then he counted up the exact number of months left of his term: Twenty. "Seems like a long time; but it'll go fast."

The late afternoon sun swept through the columns of the arena, across the museum's tile rooftop and onto the creamy gray musculature of the pensive marble statue. He sighed away a plume of smoke. Absently he gazed on the dangling leather straps of his soldier's belt. The straps gave his tunic a certain drama, the curator assured. Then he heard a young woman's voice:

"See there children? And those are the kinds of things you'll be able to buy when you get older and become accountants and make lots of euros."

The sentry glanced toward the unexpected voice as he sucked in a lungful of smoke. A cluster of school kids ogled him, each peering through the chainlink fence inquiringly. The signorina still faced away.

"Oh shit," the statue thought. He cinched his helmet for flight and was fumbling with his spear when he heard her gasp. The signorina! She had seen him! And the cigarette still hung from his lips! Children squealed now in alarm. "Look," one kid cried, voicing the principal terror of all. "Look! He's smoking!"

The statue dodged around a corner. The straps of his soldier's belt slapped against his massive marble thighs as he fled. But, "Shit," he remembered suddenly. He halted. He flicked the Marlboro onto the sidewalk and ground it out with his sandal-boot. Then, after looking both ways for witnesses, he kicked the stub into the bushes.

"Caught!" he railed at himself. "They saw me smoking! Shit! What a bitch! That'll be another year for me here! I'm never getting out of this hole!"

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John Dishwasher

The Roman at the Dumpster