Giant Rat

There was a giant rat that lived in our basement floor apartment in Boston that year. I lived with two guys that I didn’t know very well—and we were all very different personality types. One guy, Tom, worshipped David Bowie. He was a skinny, angular blond guy—with David Bowie hair and clothes. He called himself “Major Tom.” The other guy was Irish Mike. Irish Mike liked the Pogues and the Dropkick Murphies, and all things Irish.


The three of us didn’t have a lot of common interests to talk about. Therefore, we got stoned a lot, and we’d sit around in the living room—which was also where Irish Mike slept—and zone out, watching TV. And the giant rat would lumber across the living room floor, waddling like an armadillo. And we’d be dazed and numbed out, but we appreciated having the rat to focus on. “Holy crap,” someone would say, “that rat is huge!” “It’s more like a dog.”


The rat would squeeze into a hole behind the radiator in Irish Mike’s room and disappear. But then one day the giant rat got stuck. We could hear it—wedged in between the wall and a stud or a pipe in the corner of the living room. It would emit a low squeak and wiggle and push.


We told our landlord about it, but he just sent over an exterminator who left a lot of trays full of poison lying around the apartment. That was the end of the giant rat.


It was sad, like losing a pet. And we didn’t talk to each other about it. We just went about our lives, sharing the painful, tragic glances of parents who silently mourn their lost children.


Johnny Fist

A muscle-bound young blond man strode up to the bar and slapped both of his palms down hard on the wooden counter to get Sherry’s attention. She looked at him, expressionless. He held up six fingers.

“Six beers for Johnny Fist.” He was wearing a tight t-shirt that read: Johnny Fist will Kick some Ass tonight.

“The limit is two,” Sherry answered flatly, putting down two bottles.


Johnny Fist threw some bills onto the bar and smiled, picking up the beers.

“I’ll be back,” he announced.


I’d only been working at the bar for a couple weeks. I’d never seen this guy before. “What’s the deal with the inflatable man?” I asked Sherry.

“Johnny Fist? He’s here quite a bit. He’s a small time professional wrestler—you know, like in that movie with Mickey Rourke. He wrestles down at the armory—I guess he almost always loses. Somebody told me his tights have a black circle on the crotch, with a bright red fist in the center.”

“Figures,” I said, watching Johnny as he worked his way over to a table of girl-women near the bar.


“Who’s got a cigarette for Johnny Fist?” he barked out.

A girl in leather jacket, with a Nascar t-shirt gave him one. Johnny Fist nodded.

“Johnny Fist likes action,” he said with a smile.


“Oh Jesus,” I said, shaking my head.

“He’s all talk,” Sherry said. We watched him pose for the girl-women, flexing his muscle. “I carded him the first time he came in.” Sherry smiled. “His real name is Wendell.”

by Paul Rogalus

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