UNITED STATES—”Good afternoon,” says a very tall man dressed in blue, a bit too cheerily.

“You’re the occupational therapist,” says the son, remembering him from the day before. “Are you still trying to give my mom a new job?”

The man in blue gives a forced smile. He’s heard the joke before.

“I train the patient to turn on a faucet, to open a lock. These are things they will have to do when they get back to their home life.” He looks at the Mom. “Where do you want to go?”

“I want to go home. Isn’t that right Davy?”

“That’s right,” says the son. “You want to go to your house. You want to go to Samantha’s graduation.”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Let’s get you moving and on your feet.”

“How can you stop me from peeing in my pants?”

“This is what this about,” says the occupational therapist.

Davy says with a bit too much emphasis, “If you are going to be at home you’ll need to stand up and get yourself to the bathroom.”

“Let’s move your leg to the side of the bed.”

“I can’t, I can’t,” the mom implores. The therapist reaches the leg and lifts it up. “It hurts. You’re hurting me.”

Her words are squeals of pain, only a heart of stone could by unmoved by her plaint. Unmoved, the therapist, turns her toward the wheelchair on the side of the hospital bed. She flails her withered, age-spotted arms.

“On a scale of one to ten how much pain are you in.”

“A fifteen.”

“OK,” the therapist ponders. “I think you could be getting a pain pill before we do therapy.”

“I think she got some,” says Davy.

A nurse walks in. A second nurse pulls a curtain on one of the beds and she approaches the mom.

“How are we this afternoon?”

“Shouldn’t I be getting a pain pill.”

“I gave you two Tylenol. You’re in heavy pain still. You fractured a femur, so pain is radiating down here.”

“Do I need the pill?”

“I think you do. It may make you feel a little drowsy.”

“What does that mean?”

“You’ll get sleepy. What for it to kick in and then the therapist will come back.”

Both of the nurses exit. The occupational therapist goes to work on the woman in the first bed, leaving Davy and his mom alone.

“I don’t know what’s going on. Who brought the plant? Tatiana, I guess. She’s always so jolly.”

“She laughs a lot, she’s a comedian’s dream,” says Davy.

“Where’s your dog, Saville?”

“On your legs.”

“Is the lady next-door asleep?”

“Yes, dammit,” the son replies. “I feel like such a chump answering your questions.”

There’s a chorus of shrieks, moans and terrible sobs from a woman behind the curtain. There can be no doubt that she is being subjected to unspeakable tortures forbidden by the Geneva Convention.

“That’s how I feel,” says the mom, hearing the wails.

The woman in the first bed, despite the cries, still gets pushed out in a wheelchair and to rehab. The therapist turns back to the mom:

“I’d like you to go and get a bicycle today.”

“I bicycle is for children. What business do I have on a bicycle? This is for the birds.”

“Listen, Mom,” says Davy. “You have to do what the man says.”

“Take me to my bed,” the mom demands. “I’m very uncomfortable.”

“You are in your bed,” the therapist answers with a smile.

“Here, nurse,” says the man in blue. “Can we turn her around. You get on the other side.”

“I want to lie here. It’s my right. I’m ninety years old and what you’re making me do is mean.”

“Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. Didn’t you ever tell your children that?”

She smiles.

“Before we got you sitting on the edge of the bed yesterday. And you said you couldn’t do that. And then you did it.”

The son remembers how confident the man had been then. He assured Davy that he had dealt with worse cases before. “This isn’t my first rodeo,” he’d said. With the help of the nurse they push her to one side.

“My knee!” the mom shrieked. “I’m going to cry. This is cruelty.”

And she cries. Davy is astonished how the crying sounds and looks like laughter. This might shed light on the true nature of comedy. He is unsure, but one thing he knows for sure is that his mom has benefited enormously from the histrionics of the lady in bed one. The occupational therapist mopes away in defeat.

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)