Rico Romero

The Same As Everybody Else


Rico Romero was born and lives in New York City, where he earned a BA in English Literature. He is an artist, as well as writer, undertaking each with attentive detail and fussy labor. He is thoroughly elated to have his first work of fiction published by The Acentos Review. He has a cache of stories on paper and ought to complete them, come to think of it.

There wasn’t a room in the New Orleans hotel that had a working air-conditioner, including the hotel’s opulent ice cream bar, and, if the fan delivered by the bellhop offered any consolation to Room 40, it may have been with but the smallest of appreciation. Sandy tipped him his due gratuity and shut the door. He had had it up to here with the heat wave. Jazz band or no jazz band, he was ready to clear off. For the most part on that hot morning, he lay in bed prone. He faced the end of the bed, his chin resting high on two well-stuffed pillows, as his legs and feet were where his head should have dreamt. Before, unbearably overcome by Southern perspiration, which he swore was different from Northern, he stripped to the waist. All the while, however, a girl sat beside him. Her legs were curled up underneath her and she held his left hand in her lap, massaging it busily.

“We made a deal,” she said.

“Did we?”

“Can’t you remember it?” she asked.

“Hardly,” Sandy grunted, who made a face the girl couldn’t see.

“Listen,” she said, “I’m miffed.”

“About what?” he asked. He had already found the conversation more sugarplum than serious. To irk him, the girl purposely stuck her pointer finger into the side of his tan ribs. Automatically, Sandy jumped with a start.

“Don’t do that!” he said, wriggling his body back into comfort.

The girl persisted. “I’ll have you know,” she said, “when I say I’m miffed, I mean it. Quite steamed. What am I supposed to do, huh? Get on my hands and knees and pray?”

“You can’t,” Sandy said. “I hear it takes weeks to get an answer. And you might not even get that.”

“Oh, Sandy,” the girl said. “Past your notoriously agnostic beliefs or whatever it really is that makes you so intelligent -- ”

“I blame a detailed reading on the very sanguinary Inquisition,” Sandy said. “When I was ten years old. Yes, an impressionable and secular ten.”

“ -- you may try, for a moment, and think, for goodness sake, about the future of our children. The bunch we promised each other. Remember.”

“Bunch? Children aren’t lettuce, my wilted spinach leaf,” Sandy said. “Why the hell bring this up, now?”

The girl examined his hand. “I’m the Dauphine of France, darling,” she said, following his palm’s lines. “I have the command to profess what I like -- to whom I like -- when I like.”

“Oh, look who’s gonna tell me to eat cake, now!” Sandy said.

“It wouldn’t hurt, y’know,” she said, peering down at his rigidly stringbean body. “I eat one beignet with a scoop of the hotel’s bourbon ice cream and I gain a third hip like my unseemly friend, the Hydra.”

“I must be the wisest fool in Christendom,” Sandy said, shaking his head. “You pick today to play this damn charade. For the past seven nights, I’ve been blowing on a horn with the lung capacity of a deep-sea diver. I’m damn near hoarse. And all you do is talk about a make-believe kid.”

“But, it’s Fitzwilliam,” the girl demanded, zealously laboring at his dense hand. It was clammy and stubborn and overworked. She bent every finger to fine-tune the pins and needles, pushed his palm to reduce the numbness, squeezed his sides to relieve the tension.

“He’s ready to start boarding school. In London. You’ll probably die here still playing the damned trumpet, but what about the kid, huh?”

“I’m on my mortal coil, my journey’s end. Jesus, I feel like a goddamn mule.”

“All right,” the girl said. “You’re a beast of burden. You’re absolutely the most mellifluous beast of burden, Stokowski.”

“Of course,” he said. “I’ll die a right old ass.”

Sandy blew some sweat from his upper lip. Given his wide philtrum, perspiration was submerged in the deep indenture like a murky pond, and he licked his lips. He winced from the saline taste.

“Fine, sister,” he said. “You wanna play rough. You’re lucky I’m getting three hours’ worth of sleep. Ouch!” he choked. “You’re going too hard their. You know I wake up with the damn thing numb each morning. I swear to God. Fitzwilliam,” he repeated. Sandy snorted. “That can’t be his name.”

“It is whether you like it or not,” she said.


“Why all of a sudden magnificent?”

“If he had another back-breakin’ biblical name like, say, Matthew or Luke, or some all-average name, I might just scream.”

“Not again!” the girl sighed.

“Well, touché. I’m just thankful he isn’t some carbon copy Junior infecting the world--with another Oedipal complex.”

“You’re biting your nails,” she revealed, squeezing his thumb. “Whatever did you do with that ingenious clipper I got you from Bloomingdale’s? Did Little Boy Fauntleroy lose it?”

“No,” Sandy confessed. “I’ve used it, honestly.”

“Well, don’t just forget Fitzwilliam. He’s a fine boy,” the girl said. “He just thinks Pappa doesn’t love him and Pappa is a goddamn lunatic and Pappa is a common rot. Pappa spends too much time with music.”

“Pappa,” he mocked, “has to make a living.”

 “He called you these terrible names. It takes all I can to get him under control. Really. I’m a wonderful Mommy.”

Sandy moaned aloud and cleared his throat to bring his voice to his proper register. “Fitzwilliam,” he said,  sighing declaratively, “is humdrum.”

“No, he isn’t,” she said. “Why do you say such awful things about our boy?”

Sandy was all teeth and shrugged.

“Y’know, he looks like you. He has your nose, my terrible beau, and your skin.”

“He’s the same. I look like some mixed mutt and he’s a labrador. He has your blue eyes and blonde hair. The kid’s got life at his beck and call.”

“Oh, God! You’re still on his looks?”

“They’re important.”

“Stop, really.”

“I’m tired of people who are the same, honestly. He’s a red-truck boy. He asked for a red truck and we lost him, sweetheart. Infants have more singularity. He became a conventionally, nationally consumeristic ingrate. It’s dreadful.”

“It’s just a truck.”

“And a spade is a spade, honestly.”

Sandy blew a Bronx cheer. It consisted mainly of air and his gaunt cheeks inflated comprehensively, which gave him the bestial look of a chimpanzee. Instantly, he pulled his hand from her and vigorously shook it, beginning to clench it in sullied fists.

“I can’t believe I’m here,” he said, sat up, hunched over, and got off the bed. She scooted over to give him enough room to pass through. “Some poet--some academically retentive poet--will write the story of Northern elites who couldn’t tackle one lousy meridional heatwave in the inhospitable South.”

“Well, just think about Fitzwilliam,” the girl said.

“Why?” Sandy asked, yawning.

“You’ll catch flies that way.”

“I know,” he said, covering his mouth. “Well, he’ll grow up just like other children. God, I can’t help but think him a real John Smith.”

“What would you have him be?” she asked. “Hamlet? Young Werther? Ludwig of Bavaria?”

“I don’t know. I suppose different, that’s all. Not that prodigy different, either. I was different, but I had something. Maybe,” he thought, scraping the pit of his hollow chest with his fingertips, “it skips a generation. The vapid superhero sentiment has such influence de nos jours.”

He went over to the dry sink, grabbed the water pitcher and poured a glass of water. He gulped it thoroughly and put the cup down.

“It can’t be that,” the girl said. “You know Estelle actually has a son. Did I tell you that? He doesn’t even like that stuff.”

“What a character! Eventually,” Sandy said, unfurling a terry-cloth towel, “they all do.” He angled his neck down and wiped the moist muck of sweat.

“You should see yourself,” the girl said, smiling.

“I’m ugly.”

The girl jested. “I hope you didn’t notice,” she said.

In fact, through this all, he proceeded to spot clean his exposed flesh, in the great haste used to eliminate a legion of leeches stuck lecherously to the skin. He patted his stomach, his ribs, his shoulders, and under the pits of his arms. After which, he threw the towel over onto the bed.

“You know, it’s damn near ridiculous to have a different kid. I’m not saying he or she can’t do what they want, but it’s really up to them. Besides, half of them outgrow whatever it is they outgrow. You’re cafe au lait, darling, and if he sees his Pappa as a thorough mensch, what more? I feel the child is an utter saint. Not because he’s ours. Well, maybe. Oh, look how I’m getting about him.”

Sandy turned around and crossed over the carpet to pick up his undershirt and white shirt. He put on his undershirt, skipped fastening a button on his white shirt, and had to button it all over again. Furthermore, he tucked in his tails without unbuckling his belt. The pleats from his slacks hung loose and generously flabby.

“I’m going downstairs,” he said, slipping his feet into cordovan loafers. “I need some air.”

“Oh, you and you’re air,” the girl said. “But, do me a favor. Take a pen, darling.” she said. The girl hurried to the night table, picked up a ball-point pen, and pushed it into Sandy’s chest pocket. “Write to Fitzwilliam. There’s more in it than you think.”

She squeezed his upper arm affectionately. “You’re a lamb, Sandy!” Sandy was silent. He made a slow march toward the door.

“You know you’re as fair as a ghost,” Sandy said, finally. “I can see right through you, for Christ’s sake.”

“Well, your doctor said you need to unwind,” she said.

“That’s me. Wound and musical. Just a carousel acquiver. Sure,” Sandy said, crossing to the door, “I’ll write to him. I’ll sing to him, if that’s what you want. Anything for the kid.”

He left the room.


“Ba da da da da da dabba dum,” sang Abigail Griffin, who sat on the edge of the bench in the hotel lobby. Her feet dangled cheerily and didn’t reach the floor. She blared on a kazoo. “Ba da da da dabba dum!”

For a some time, Sandy sat there, where a receptionist told him to wait until she found some hotel stationary. Until then, he kept his hands in his tweed pockets. His legs were outstretched and crossed at the ankles.

“Abigail Griffin, if you don’t quit, I’m gonna get you!” said Mrs. Griffin. “You a lady and you best behave yourself. Fix your sleeve, sugar.” She waited a moment, but hardly a second passed until she pulled Abigail’s ribbony sleeve down violently. “You makin’ too much noise, chile. You can’t be like every other chile, can’ you? Can’ sit still, can you? How on God’s green earth am I gonna check you? Huh? Well, Momma’s gonna go to the desk. Just for a minute, alright?”

Abigail played the kazoo discordantly. Mrs. Griffin grabbed her chest. “Sweet Jesus, stop it with that thing! You gots me spinnin’.”

Sandy observed Mrs. Griffin march to the front desk and wave to gain the hotel manager’s attention. She hit the bell next to the ledger and resumed waiting. After a moment, or what was probably due to balmy licence, Mrs. Griffin tapped the bell so many times, Sandy lost count.

“Well, honey,” Sandy said, looking at Abigail and her kazoo, “you got quite a set of lungs their.”

“That’s because I’m a math musician!” Abigail cried.

Sandy looked at her importantly. “Oh, really, a math musician?” he asked.

“Yes,” the little girl said. “Y’know, why?” She didn’t wait. There was a quick build-up. “Listen. One, two, three,” she counted, and blew canorously on her kazoo. The noise which followed, a half hum, half drone, could only be reported as ear-splitting to the most socially priggish and pious, and would have threatened the girl’s good standing. She smiled widely. Her white teeth looked like they were a guttural constellation of bright nubby stars. Sandy stared at her, clapping exuberantly.

“That sounds like a concerto,” he said. “I hear a concerto, don’t you?”


“You can play the great halls, Missy,” Sandy said, and crossed his legs. “Carnegie, to start. You know, it’s really about practice.”

“Do y’know other people have the exact same name I do?” Abigail asked. “But y’know, they don’t look like me.” She pointed to the color of her skin.

“I think I understand, peanut.”

“Well, that Abigail has long blonde hair and I have black,” Abigail said.

“Just blonde! I think you have very special and very perfect hair,” Sandy said. “Don’t change it, my little peanut.”

“She don’t wear glasses, but I do. She got these feet that stick out and I don’t,” she said. “Everyone calls her Abby, but she’s Abigail Pinchley. She gets away with things. She’s very mean. She calls Juanita the Idiotic Immigrant. She calls me Ashy Abby. That ’cause my knees.” She raised her knobbly legs. “She says that her family came on the Mayflower. She has a long family tree. And Abigail has the stuff to prove it.”

“Ah, the Mayflower,” Sandy said. “Both a blessing and a curse.”

Abigail didn’t listen.

“Do you know what the oboo is?”


“Exactly, but she plays it,”she said, giving the kazoo a lackluster blow. “I can only play the kazoo.”

“Have you ever heard of Abigail Adams?”

Abigail blinked for a moment.

“No,” she said. “Who she?”

“I suppose she is one of the nicer Abigails.”

He smiled at the tiny girl, who hadn’t found her fractious.

“You know, they call my Daddy a nigger.” She shut her mouth. After, she looked furtively around and dropped her voice. “Momma said never say that. It’s a bad word. Daddy broke a vase in our room. That’s why they call him nigger. He was just puttin’ on his argyle socks,” Abigail said. “Now, they want him to pay for it with his big black hands. That’s what they said!”

Sandy grew quite chagrined.

“Well, I think that’s outrageous,” he said. “Why do people say that?”

Abigail stared at Sandy pointedly. She shrugged and looked at her mother.

“Momma says its cause people don’t like the kazoo. And that they think cause they all play the oboo they think they special.”

“I don’t know,” Sandy said. He considered for a moment. “Do you want to do what everyone does?”


“Well, I’m not sure you do,” Sandy said. “You can’t expect to be like that other Abigail, you know. We all can’t. That’s why we’re different.”


“It’s true, peanut.”

“What happens if we’re not?” Abigail asked curiously.

“Impossible,” said Sandy. “We all have to be.”

“Do you wear argyle socks?”

“No,” he said. “I wear striped.”

“Have you ever had bubblegum ice cream?”

“No,” Sandy said.

“What ’bout cinnamon?”

“Not really. I tried the hotel’s curry. You know, they have over a hundred flavours. I actually like the soufflé. But, I’m not picky.”

From across the hall, Mrs. Griffin ordered her daughter to come to her immediately. Abigail hopped off the bench, waved goodbye, but her hand hit her face and her glasses slanted. She ran all the way to her mother with crooked sight.

“Goodbye,” Sandy said.

At that moment, a receptionist walked up to Sandy with a sheet of paper and envelope. He thanked her and she stormed off with resolve.


Sandy stood up and crossed to an empty secretary desk in the lobby. He drew out the pen from his chest pocket and uncapped it. He hesitated above the paper, wiped his slimy, hot forehead and heard his name called. He got up warily and turned around. A young man, a year or two older than Sandy, wheedled his way through the thin passages of bystanders. This hadn’t been accomplished with great effect. More than once, moving rather athletically, he, lumberingly thick, nearly knocked over a lady and two men. The young man looked Sandy up and down and smirked. Cadogan was one of the most typical-looking men he had ever known. If taste had been compared to dessert, he looked like the motley remains of a multi-colored sherbert, for he wore a seersucker suit of unreasonably dubious color, terracotta brogues, a mint linen shirt, and a pastel-striped bowtie.

“Look who it is,” he said, cheerily. “Sandy, I heard you were here. I heard that you and the whole band got very nice reviews.”

“Life is sweet,” Sandy said.

“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” Cadogan said.

“And you, too, Argus,” he said, regarding Cadogan painfully.

“How is your stay going?”

“Swimmingly,” Sandy said, sharply. “I suppose it’s a regular Nile. And you?” He lifted up his arm and wielded the cuff of his shirt to pat his forehead.

“I’m here with Gloria. Right now, she’s having her palm read by some Latin Quarter kook. Sowing her oats, I bet. I’ll grow burnsides waiting for her.” He looked down at his ostentatious wristwatch. “Let’s kill time and get a drink.”

“Sure,” Sandy sighed, “we’ll obliterate it.”

They walked into the barroom, seated themselves at the counter and ordered quite productively. Cadogan didn’t particularly find the black barman friendly.

“When they told me that the Best and Distinguished Trumpet Player was in town, I couldn’t believe it,” he said, draining his drink. “Oh, man! Hey, bub. Encore, here!” He shook his empty glass high into the air. “Encore!” Cadogan repeated violently. “It’s like your talking to a wall with this fella. You know we’re playing at the Monteleone? For a month straight.” He paused, then he came out with it. “It’s absolutely great.”

“I’d rather play the ends of the earth. It’s just cozier.”

Cadogan slapped Sandy’s back. “Aw, you know you like it! We’re thinking about chucking in New York for this. More for your buck. Gloria wants something normal.”

“Leave New York?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Keep ’em coming, bub!” He hollered at the barman rudely. Cadogan licked his small lips. “Gloria’s tired of being in a chicken coop and not having the Most Expensive HandBag Every Girl Should Have. Or so I’m told. You gotta see us in our apartment building. It has all these spics and blacks. And they barely speak a lick of the Merriam Webster. A college-educated musician mixed in with dishwashers and roaches. There’s no one like me there. If you see me, I stick out. Like a sore thumb. And if you really want to know, it isn’t civilized one bit. Gloria can’t tolerate it much longer. Gloria wants what she wants. Everything nice and ordinary. No more spics. They’re low. You can’t have a nice conversation.”

“You want nice wait in line.”

Cadogan scowled.“In line?” He was on his third whiskey. “It’s all broken English with those heathons. You know Hugh Livingston? Sure, you do. He moved out here not too long ago. Best thing he ever did. His brother got a palatial palace in North Carolina for nothing, but Hugh Livingston’s out here. Hugh’s got about three cars. He’s in a neighborhood with cul-de-sacs where you can’t tell which home is whom’s. They all look alike.”

Prominently, he tapped Sandy’s sheet for trenchant effect. Sandy fixed his sheet of paper, put the envelope to the side, and pushed it far from Cadogan’s reach.

“You mean you want that?”

Cadogan burst out in the most elaborate laughter. “Away from the commoners? Hell, that’s more money in my bank.”

“Hugh Livingston’s life . . . hell, what honest perfection,” Sandy said, acerbically.


“The hell it is! There isn’t anyone who’s perfect. If anything, he was the worst sax player to cross my street. Damned imperfect.”

“C’mon,” Cadogan said, growing red. “You know . . . why.”

He covertly made a nod at the barman. Sandy took a deep breath. “I don’t. Listen, you wanna be perfect as a peach, I won’t stop you. But the moment you start looking down your ivory tower at those who aren’t, that’s another bildungsroman.”

“You’ll want the same thing for yourself,” Cadogan said, taking a breath. “God, it got hot, for Christ’s sake. Listen, I know you will.”

Cadogan loosened his tie, pulled it through the end of the collar and tried, with his spatulate hands, unsuccessfully to stow it in his pocket. It was a disaster. The tie dropped to the floor. He looked down, bent over the side and nearly fell off his seat. He laughed dissolutely. On his fifth attempt, which proved to be more stable than the other founderings, he rescued the tie. Cadogan laughed again. His eyes looked a little watery and pink, so that, given the soft color of his skin and how his mouth was gesticulating, he looked like a gullible goldfish won at the fair.

“The same thing, I tell you,” he said. “You see this?”

“Your tie?”

“I got it at Bergdorf’s,” Cadogan said, stashing it into his pocket. “You gotta live like a king.”


“Some have it, some don’t,” Cadogan said. “Frankly, if you wanna really know, I’ll chuck it all in to live like Hugh Livingston.”

“For Christ’s sake, can’t you be sincere just once?” Sandy said. “I’m dying to meet just one guy who might lighten the load, and be dreadfully sincere. The sad thing is that we’re all turning into the same knucklehead. You’ll have a nice brood of knuckleheads with Gloria. The ties, the cars, the homes -- it’s all the same. Follow suit! I loathe this desperate want to be high and the same. No matter who we are, we’re the same ordinary-looking, unread, weak-kneed knucklehead. It’s bushwa.”

Cadogan snorted and shielded his mouth, stifling some laughs. “How long did it take you to come up with that?”

“Oh,” Sandy said. “I guess I pulled rabbits out of the damn horn.”


Then, it had come to him. Sandy didn’t even have to think. Instantly, he set his pen down and scrawled in a most flourishing cursive. It was quick but instantly important. He covered the page:


Dear Abigail,

         You’re a pleasantly surprising kid. When you get a chance -- only when you do -- because I don’t want you to get upset, don’t stop and think about what everybody else is thinking about your Daddy. Or your Momma. That goes for you, too. It hurts. However I too have been treated like him. It always hurts and it’s just stinky. But, don’t pay attention to the high mob. It’s silly, but I’m worried you might just as well become conventional. You probably are the most sincere human I’ve ever met. I am sure that you will become a musical girl and further, far removed from the petty customs of the times. I find it unquestionable that some time, even presently, boys and girls like you -- even me -- will not be scorned to decadence.

P. S. Never be the goddamn same as everybody else. I repeat, Never Be the Goddamn Same as Everybody Else, or you’ll never live.



Santiago Moor

Room 40


He dropped the pen down, breathed a sigh of relief, and shook the writerly tightness out of his throbbing hand. “Hey!” Cadogan screamed.“Who you writing to?” He slurred. “L-l-l-look at y-you go. I’d think you loved that person more than me.”

“My kid.”

“You’re crazy!” Cadogan said, as though with exceptional Hippocratic assessment, he were judge and jury of would-be madmen. “You don’t have a kid! Wait a minute,” and he exuded an off-key belch, shut his eyes, caught his breath and opened them with a lurch forward.

 “Hold on a second. You remember when we were on that Midtown bus and you were hell-bent on helping that cat lady after she didn’t have enough change to get on the bus? You got off. Said if the driver didn’t let her on, you got off. Said we all should be different and report the unkind bastard. That was the craziest thing I had ever seen. Who the hell does that? What knucklehead does that for another person?”

Sandy grumbled. “I’m going.”

“How ’bout another drink?” Cadogan grabbed Sandy’s elbow arduously. “Whaddya say we drink to your health? Let’s go to the ice cream parlor next door!”

Sandy stood up, folded the letter three times, stuck it in the envelope, and sealed it. It was miraculously effortless. He reached into his pocket, drew a bill for the barman, and left.


At the main desk, Sandy saw Mrs. Griffin involved in a dispute with the hotel manager, and Abigail stood behind her, kazooing loudly. He stopped to approach her.

“For you,” he said.


“No, Abigail Adams.”

When he was in the elevator, he saw her open up the envelope. The doors shut and that was all. The car stopped at one floor, let in a half-dozen women with rattan fans, and stopped at the next floor. They stared at him. Sandy got out, whistled down the hall, and knocked on Room 40. The girl hollered to come right in.

Sandy walked in, shut the door, and caught his reflection in the mirror over the bureau. A six foot  two young man with dark eyes stared at him. His skin was like a caramel confection. It was the way that it shined, or rather looked, that was somewhat distractible. In the evening light, his skin smoldered, but not in the manner sunburned men are accustomed to by a respite in the sun. Where the sweat spots clung adherently, he might have been made of  a fine, clean, distinguishable copper, however, for the most part, his skin had the ethnic proviso to appear with a fallacious tint.

“I thought you evaporated,” the girl said.

“I can’t. I’m the same,” he said. “Same as everybody else, you know.”

“No, you’re not. That’s why I adore you.”

“Ain’t that perfect.”

He walked to the balcony and opened the doors.






© The Acentos Review 2019