ROBERTO CLEMENTE
By: Christina J. Johns

There ought to be some kind of natural law that prevents two adult human beings who share a house from being sick at the same time.

When one person's sick, the other can shop, cook, make tea, change bed linens, get books from the library, and generally pet and baby the other one.

When you're both sick, the bed linens start to get uky, nobody feels like shopping, nobody cooks, so tea is the only thing you have to eat. Nobody feels like babying anybody, you run out of books from the library and degenerate to the stunningly bad local cable system.

Over forty channels of sheer idiocy - home shopping channels, game shows, soap operas, movies obviously made for Bevis and Butthead (and I don't even want to start on that program), commercials for products you don't want to think about much less hear talked about. And, no Court TV. Court TV can easily keep my husband and I entertained for months. It, in fact, has, in other cities kept us happily entertained for months.

We were like junkies for the Malice Green trial (the trial of two giant white Detroit police officers who beat a 100-pound, black, so-called [and I hate the term] "crack head" to death in a car with a flashlight). My husband was so hooked on the Menendez brothers trial (he believed them, incidently) he wanted to stop every hour while we were on a cross country trip to see if there was a verdict.

But, over the New Year's Week, we found ourselves sick, trapped in the house, with a no-account cable company feeling what I call "mingy." Mingy is when no matter how many showers you take and no matter how many times you change your pajamas, the sheets, your pajamas, everything, starts to feel like set of clothes you've worn for six days, rubbed Vic's Vapor-rub all over, and sweated in. I don't like mingy.

Congestion has the effect of making me really dotty in the head. And, the only time my husband, Gayle, gets ill-tempered is when he's sick. So, we were not a great pair.

One afternoon, we were lying on the futon in the family room where we had set up camp, surrounded by pillows, Theraflu, cups, thermometers, and vitamins - reading the newspapers.

"You know that football player." I said.

Silence.

"Oh no, Not football player, baseball player?. You know that baseball player."

"Which one?" My husband said through tight lips.

"You know, that Latin American one." .

There was a pause. "There's more than one."

"Oh, you know, the one that died." I said.

Silence.

"How?" He asked.

"I don't know, he died in an airplane crash a long time ago."

"Clemente." My husband answered tiredly.

"Clemente, yes, that's the one. (Pause) "What was his first name?" "Fernando. Fernando Clemente." "No, um, ummmmmmm, Arnulfo Clemente." "Oh, what was the man's name....

More silence.

"Clemente, Clemente.

"Roberto Clemente." The voice behind the newspaper finally said.

"Yes," That's it. Roberto Clemente. It was on the tip of my tongue." I went happily back to my newspaper and we sat in silence for a few minutes.

My husband startled me by suddenly putting his newspaper down.

"Well?" He said.

"Well what?" I asked.

"What about Roberto Clemente?."

I burst into laughter, but somehow the humor of the conversation escaped my sore-throated companion entirely .

All I've got to say is that Gayle at his worst - sick and ill tempered - is sweeter than most men when they're having a good day.


Radio Stories Christina Johns Home Page