UNITED STATES—”What about my leg,” says the haggard skull-like face floating just over the edge of the blanket. “You can’t do anything about my leg?”

“Yes. I can cut it off.”

The withered but rosy mom smiles from the hospital bed. “I don’t really want that. Excuse me for sneezing. Do you have a kleenex.”

“I’ll have to ask the nurse.”

“Should I press the button?”

“She’s coming. You already pressed it twenty times. It’s funny. We got a lifetime supply of kleenex when we cleaned out the storage.”

“How much did you get?”

“One case.”

“That’s not a lifetime supply.”

“It is when you’re 90.”

“You’re trying to be funny.”

“I’m sorry for not being so serious.”

“What did you say?”

“You had that medic alert alarm and kept pressing it. The first time I was terrified, Samantha was buying cosmetics and here I was waiting to find out you might be dead.”

“Oh I don’t know. I’m still here. Mostly.”

“After so many false alarms, you stopped wearing the thing. And now you’re here…”

“What more could happen?”
“You could die…” (snickers)
“Are we out of that storage?”
“Yes.”

“I’m so glad, I’m relieved.”
“How’d we get that all that kleenex?”
“We found cases of them when Karen and I were clearing the storage. They came from the drug store, right after the earthquake. When you moved Brennan Street and had to get rid of everything after you moved into that small space.”

“Oh my that was something. We were lucky to get that space. We were filling prescriptions in the house, and the state shut us down.”

“Karen told me. She said there was a big hole where the fireplace was and the wind and the rain blew in freezing.”

“Can you do anything about that leg.”

The son stands up, reaches under the blanket and moves her knee up. The mother squeals.

“You’re hurting me.”

“Pain is good. Did you get out of bed today.”

“I don’t remember.”

“Did you stand up and try to use a walker?”

“I think they tried to put me on bicycle and move my legs around.”
“You’ve gotta do what they tell you to do.”
“I like lying here and being waited on.”

“You keep lying here, you’re gonna be lying in your grave, Mom. You want to get home and see your garden.”

“I don’t understand. But we’re out of that storage unit?”
“When they saw it was empty, two guys drove by and said…”
“What’s that ringing? Why won’t it stop.”

“I’m trying to tell a story.”

“Are we bothering the neighbor?”
“She’s out cold.”

“What do you mean by that? Why are you whispering.”

“It’s the first lady in the first bed. The one we thought was a man. She’s muttering “oh god, Jesus.”

“She wishes I would shut up and stop asking all the dumb questions.”
“Don’t worry, Mom, you always asked dumb questions. You’re close to the same as you ever were, only the nurses don’t know it.”

She looks eagerly, her cheekbones jutting out, eyes winking lasix prisms. Then mom starts snoring.

“God, you’re asleep. I’ll finish these guys drive up after I finish cleaning the storage unit. They drive up and see how deep it is. ‘Our space is 10 X 10.’ How big is yours. I said ours was 10 feet by thirty years.”

To be continued…

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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)