UNITED STATES—“Honey, I’m home,” said Max as he pushed open the door of their Park Avenue apartment, both opulent and sterile. That pleasant whoosh, it was the butter cush of his John Cobb shoes on the velvety carpet. He had his black overcoat, but really navyblue if you saw it in the entryway of the Pan-Am Building and reflected the golden elevator panels. Blue…blue…blue…The salesman pulled a fast one, Max told himself, knew I was a sucker for black. Between him and Rega there was no winning at that Ivy League clothier.


“Rega…Rega,” he called out. Max caught his breath. He had breath. It might have been bad, but it was still breath. Amazing. He caught his reflection on the smoky solarized glass. It was the most beautiful painting, starkly lit under the recessed lamps in the ultra-modern office. The most beautiful painting, the starry lights of office towers and the lines of reflections on the dark waters of the east river.

“Take off your overcoat, you must be hot on it,” said a voice inside like that of my faithful secretary. No, it was coming from outside: it was Rega. There were only a few paintings on the walls of the Park Ave. Apt by the Degas and there was a Chagall.

Max just realized there is the word pain in painting.

Go ahead suffer some more. To suffer is joy. All this morning he had gone to pieces–it was a Monday, of course–never trust a Monday–Max E. White had gone from pieces to ashes, indeed, and now miraculously risen like a wounded Phoenix.

“What is wrong with you, Max?” Rega said, hugging him. He had an ashen cast. The transformation was complete, he vowed to tell the truth as much as possible, and the mere act of opening his mouth took him again over that step into the void.

Rega gave Max a push.

“You’ve been quiet lately.’

Now he spoke, his fate was sealed: another brick over the grave.

“I’ve been under pressure. Where I tear up over nothing, and my whole body tingles, like it’s about to split into a million separate atoms. To see a reflection of me is unbelievable. I can’t believe all my cells and follicles are still holding together.”

“Maybe you need a drink? Maybe you need a shrink…”

“Now, Rega…”

“It’s a little couplet from Sondheim.”

“You don’t say.” He went over by the small refrigerator and took out some ice. Held it in his palm, wet, cold, chastening.

“It’s bad when you got a good reputation for being a good guy, and then you gotta hide something.”

“What on earth were you carrying around all those heavy books for in your attache,” Rega asked.

“I’m finally getting around to those books that we were supposed to read in Lit Him, the core requirements at Yeshiva.”

“War and Peace,” Rega said mesmerized.

“Yeah, you open the first volume. Out comes smoke and artillery. You open the second, out flies a dove.”

“Max, you need some help.”

“I think we’ve got plenty of help here between Alicia and Kristin.”

“Professional help, you know like you sit down and talk it over…”

“I’m alive, that’s it. I’ve been blind to it till today. Let me hug you and kiss you.”

Their dog came out, not wagging its tail. The Borzoi dog. He wanted to kiss it, Max did. “I’ve turned over a new leaf. That’s it—I’m going to take up tenor sax and be a jazzman like I’ve always  wanted to be. Remember, Rega, when I took you to those clubs that your mom worried about so much. I mean business. I’m a new man.”

“Something’s wrong,” Rega said, “You’re nuts. Somebody put LSD into the water system of the Pan Am building.”

To be continued…

Grady is the Wizard of Fiction.

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Hollywood humorist Grady 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) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)