UNITED STATES—Denise took a deep breath and faced her husband’s letter. The brief pause was quite enough for her daughter, Antoinette, to get her nose in her phone and check in on her media.

“You didn’t post anything about this. Heaven knows we aren’t supposed to be reading this. It’s marked only ‘in the event of my death.’ And Jerry certainly isn’t dead yet.”

“You are being so solemn about this,” Antoinette said, not taking her eyes off the screen in her palm.

“But it is solemn,” said Denise.

Then she cleared her throat, sniffled, and resumed reading aloud:

Just because I blame you for my death in a calamitous fender bender (the car will be totalled, I assure you) even though, yes, there ought to be factored in such distractions, like that bling you were asking me for, Denise, and Rusty, that call to the Coach to excuse you from practice, Antoinette’s tantrum about not raising the limit on her credit card. You are at fault, individually and personally, but I want you to feel okay and not on the existential hook as far as my death is concerned. Everything happens for a reason, they say. Rest assured, your Dad has been pleased to be your slave, slavery is both pain and joy. Be happy that I am in a better life, where there are no taxes and lawsuits or hangnails.

In a distant location, perhaps Antarctica, Jerry, very much alive, gazed at the expressions on his wife’s and children’s faces as they reacted to the letter—he was playing them like a Steinway. It took, as he had calculated, three days for Denise to go for the bait: the manila envelope marked by the edict To Be Read Only in the Event of My Death!!!

Now it was time to pull out all the stops. They went from chipper to grave as the reading advanced. Because each in their own way had had their agenda, and each had laid their fangs into him. Not to mention a co-worker who had asked for coverage of a screenplay.

So don’t feel burdened. That’s the truth. When I write this: the tragic thing I foresee has not yet happened, yet I miss you already. It aches. I leave you all my love which seems to be the redemptive glue of this life of savagery and technology… Bless you all.

In his secret location, Jerry looked at the monitor installed on the sly by the security guy, whose van Jerry had helped get totalled, when it barely had a scratch. Up to now, both the plan and the surveillance camera had all worked like a charm.

P.S. I just want to tell you that I have left the proceeds from my life, namely one life-insurance policy from Pacific Infidelity to that punk who cleans the pool with whom you were having a little wink-wink. I would have left it to our dog, if we had one.

Denise texted haughtily, “How did you know about the pool boy?”

Now Jerry made a call from his cell prepared to show 911 on the caller ID. He put on a gravelly voice, unrecognizable as his own:

“This is officer Dicksborough with the CHP. There’s been an accident involving a man whose ID we found. What is your relationship to Jerry Donahue?”

“This is his wife,” Denise replied stiffly.

“We report that Mr. Donahue, was T-boned by a cattle truck catapulted off the 110 Freeway, barely avoiding a group of 30 Spandex-clad cyclists. This accident occurred shortly after receiving a phone text, he was apparently looking at at the time if this tragic incident. We’d like you to come down and identity…”

From his secret undisclosed location, rather resembling a garage workshop in Diamond Bar, Jerry saw Denise receive the news. Try to cope on then, out of nowhere, she gasped and collapsed in a heap. It looked bad, real bad. Jerry rushed out of the garage into the bright swathe of smoggy sunlight. Rushed into the house. The children were kneeled, Rusty had his hand feeling for a pulse. Antoinette hurriedly finished a text: “Mom has collapsed. OMG.”

“Denise, please forgive me. I’m so sorry,” Jerry wailed. “Please don’t leave me.”

After a few moments, of milking it, Denise’s eyelids fluttered open and she burst out, “April fools”.

“You got me, you really got me,” Jerry said.

“I wondered how you were going to top last year’s involving the porpoise and a wood shredder,” said Denise. “You sure topped it.”

“With this, I think I’m going to retire at the top of my game,” Jerry said. “Say,” he turned to Denise, “Did you really have something going with the punk who cleans the pool?”

She winked.

Graydon Miller is the author of “Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood,” available on Amazon https://amzn.to/2HJKNPf.

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Hollywood humorist Grady Miller grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon). His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)