Steamroller by John C. Mannone

Coming home from school, I was afraid to cross the street when a steamroller was parked
by the curb. Even though there was no one in the driver’s seat, just an empty plastic
container with a bunch of levers sticking up. I feared the steel monster would roar to life
as I crossed the street—my smooth loafers slipping during my hurried run, that it would
pave me into the asphalt (maybe like I saw on Saturday morning cartoons—Brutus
behind the wheel, Popeye managing a can of spinach under the coaltar, or Wiley Coyote
getting done-in by the Roadrunner, on gooey asphalt in the hot southwestern desert). Yes,
I’d run, not walk across the street, my pride be damned, I’d rather clutch the
embarrasment just to survive. I’d stoop to whatever it took to make it on the Baltimore
streets with its managerie of monsters: a Mac truck at the light—its grillwork, shiny
teeth; headlamps, eyes set to glare; beneath its hood, a throaty roar; or that dinosaur crane
with its claw-bucket ready to shovel me into the corner, scoop me up. Would I worry if a
kid from my third grade class saw me cower? Okay, I would and I’d be wearing a mask
to school the very next day, if I didn’t skip instead (and play hookie at the local Benjamin
Franklin Five & Dime, where I’d drink sodas and read Dell’s Science Fiction and
Superman comic books). It would be my agony of defeat. I couldn’t tell my father, or my
mother either, but I probably should have. A couple of years later, when I was ten and
should’ve known better, I let a tall creaking oak tree (in my own back yard) one winter
night scare the shit out of me. I swear it was worse than that giant mantis I saw at the
Ambassador Theater in Gynn Oak Junction. This oak had an evil sense about it. I could
feel it. Moonlight exposed its splinter-teeth and the wind carried its taunts to me. I
confessed my fear to my mother. She was kind, and understanding, she didn’t berate me,
but did try to use a little bit logic to convince me that I was okay. She could’ve said I was
imagining it, or worse, that I was beeing stared down by an exotic unicorn from
Transylvania, or some other crap like that, but thank God she didn’t. Joking around with
me in those impressionable years would not have been very good for my psychological
development. Anyway, these days I’m a grown-ass man; nowadays whenever I cross the
street and one of those steamroller things tries to scare me, I just raise my bat, a Brooklyn
Basher, which I shake at it, cuss it out real good, and tell it to leave me the f-alone.

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The Linnet's Wings, Portnashanagan, Corkaree, Mullingar, Co., Westmeath, ROI