The Last Roman

Roman Soldier

You still shall tramp and tread on endless round
of thought, to justify your action to yourselves,
weaving a fiction which unravels as you weave,
pacing forever in the hell of make-believe
which never is belief.

T.S. Elliot – Murder in the Cathedral

Nano walked at night back from downtown Aurora, IL. He hoped to make it back to the homeless shelter where he lived in the primitive facility sometimes called The Warehouse. He hoped to make it before they gave away his poor bed to someone else leaving him an unsure place to lay for the night. It might be on a picnic table out in the cold wind, or to sit up all night on a wooden bench shivering. It was less important to him he managed to find a meal this late than a bed under a roof, even if amongst over two hundred other desperately sheltered people in Aurora, City of Lights. The City of Lights was mostly dark now at this hour and as for the ‘normal’ citizens, the light of charity for those poor souls in their midst was only acknowledge by a few and served by less. Still the volunteers who came to the shelter were well thought of by those whom they served.

Admiral Nano started across the North Street Bridge over the Fox River. As he neared the river, he heard a far cry. In a moment Nano was gone from where he’d stood. Now he watched a short distance away as two men assaulted another. It was Lord Aurelius being attacked by two men, ‘Podum’ Bubba Washington and ‘Two Lunches’ Leroy Johnson. They had Lord Aurelius at bay. Podum was a tall, black man with no particular skills, no verbal clarity and very bad character. So was Two Lunches, so named for regularly taking as many bagged lunch meals was he could con volunteers into giving him, regardless of limited supply and the need of the others. Both were abusive types, smug in their apparent invulnerability and self-centeredness.

Aurelius was bleeding badly from several wounds given by the knives of the two thugs. He swayed palely on his feet, gripping his wounded sides with one hand in pain. He held his other arm out and cried to them. “No, wait. I’ll pay you. I just need a day or two”, he gasped.

Ignoring his plea for life, Podum cursed him. “We’re going to kill you Marcus. Marcus was his real first name. You should have done what we told you motherfucker. Now you gonna die fucker.” They started for him again, Podum from front and Two Lunches from the back even as Aurelius fell to his knees in weakness. Then like statues the vicious assassins froze. They moved not at all, not an eye twitched, but past them came Nano to Aurelius. Aurelius barely recognized Nano as he toppled slowly to the wet ground in his dirty clothes. His breath smelled of vodka and his eyes were glazed with pain and and a distant unfocused look.

“Nano, look out, they’ll get you too”, warned Aurelius, but Nano shook his head. “You are safe now Lord Aurelius” Nano said quietly. “They have stopped and you are with me.”

Aurelius looked at Nano. He relaxed, feeling less pain and a peace came over him as Nano held him.

“Nano, are we going to have more conversations you and I? Am I hurt bad Nano?”

“Yes, we shall talk and see one another again and yes, you are hurt bad. You are dying Lord.”

“I am?”, he looked down at himself and saw the great flow of blood from his deep wounds. “I am undone”, Lord Aurelius said, hearkening back to ancient times. “Is this where I say, ‘Etu Brutus?'” He laughed, grimacing in pain as he quoted old Caesar.

“I tell you this Lord Aurelius” said Nano.

“Such is the fate of simple Bard,
On life’s rough ocean luckless starr’d.”

“Who wrote that?” ask Aurelius.

“Robert Burns” answered Nano.

“Ah, I like him. I used to …. read him when …. I was young”. Aurelius began to pass. “Nano, I …. I’m scared.”

“Be not afraid, for you go whence you came from good man. I shall visit you shortly there and we shall talk of many things.”

“Thank you Nano” and then Aurelius shivered and left this world.

Nano smiled at him for a few moments, then set him down gently. He rose and faced the still unmoving attackers. His demeanor was not obvious, but a strange light increased in his eyes. Intense blue light burned there in a moment, his body cast a feint blue glow, became slightly insubstantial. He touched lightly one attacker, then the other. They laid themselves on the ground near Aurelius and fell deep into sleep.

The next day was bright with sun and Nano sat inside the Warehouse eating cold cereal, a paltry, bare breakfast. In the distance the sound of police sirens was heard complementing those that had been heard for the last half hour now. A shelter ‘guest’ sat near Nano. He’d been telling all who strained to hear about the commotion in Aurora that he’d seen that morning first hand.

“Marcus Strong is dead. Bubba Washington and Leroy Johnson did it. They found them sleeping right next to Marcus. The killed him with knives and then they laid down next to him and fell asleep the police are saying.”

“Why would they go to sleep next to him” said another guest. That was the mystery, at least for a few days. Two days later Podum and Two Lunches were found in their respective jail cells, hanging from the bars.


About Admiral Nano

A man exploring homelessness in Aurora.
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