By David Kingsbury

I ran into Julius Caesar at the bus stop the other day. Of course, I’d be nuts to think you’re gonna believe me. Nobody ever believes an old fart like me, even when I’m saying normal stuff. End up warehoused at the Breezy Elms Assisted Care Living Facility for seven years, get zero respect because you’re on Medicaid, and have a couple of grown kids who never visit, and what can you expect?
I didn’t know it was him right off the bat, but his attire and accoutrements made him stick out like a cockroach on fine china. Not many people ride the bus in Somerville in one of those shiny brassy breastplates (with matching sheathed sword) and heavy pleated skirts like the Catholic schoolgirls wear. And especially not in February. Even though he was a big cheese, I felt sorry for him. There he was with his knobby knees knocking, his bare arms turning purple, and no hat covering his wispy relic of a combover. I can almost understand a get-up like that in July (get it? July? That’s the month they named after him), but in February? Hell no!
So I sidle up to him and say, “How ya doin’ bud?”
He looks me up and down real hoidy-toidy-like as though I’m some sort of low-life plebian which I guess I am. He says, “Fine.” Then he gazes down Broadway like one of his legions is marchin’ down it or something. At least he speaks English. I don’t know no Latin. When I was back in school a hundred years ago, I couldn’t see no use learning a dead language.
Most of the time I mind my own business, but this guy’s got me curious. So I rummage around in my pocket and pull out some gum. “Juicy fruit?”
He turns back to me from reviewing his phantom army. “Excuse me?”
“Would you like a stick of gum? It’s Juicy Fruit. My favorite.”
“What do you do with it?” he asks.
I see I’m gonna have to explain a lot to this guy. But that’s OK: I’ve got time. Of course, I’m a real jerk forgettin’ they didn’t have stuff like that in ancient Rome.
“It’s called gum. You chew it. It’s like candy.”
He hesitates. I read that kings and pharaohs and other BC big shots always had food tasters back then because they were paranoid about getting poisoned. That’s a bear of a job to have on your resume. Anyhow, I can’t really blame him for not grabbing the gum right outta my hand and chompin’ away.
“Look,” I say. I put a stick in my mouth and chew. “See? It’s real good. It can’t hurt you. You’ll like it.”
He shrugs his shoulders a what-the-hell-might-as-well shrug and takes a stick. All that hardware he’s wearing clinks and clangs like a bunch of empty beer cans. It takes him a while to get the tinfoil off. Unwrapping tinfoil can be tricky if you’re outta practice. Probably the first time he’s ever encountered the stuff. He sticks the gum in his mouth. A big shit-eatin’ grin spreads across his face.
“Like it?” I ask.
“It is good. Sweet like nectar. Thank you, Honorable Tribune.”