UNITED STATES—The midnight of the soul, and only 13 years old. Sam would marvel about the fire warnings of Montezuma’s revenge. The condition was associated with the isthmus and the tropical countries. But now that he was growing bananas in Playa del Carmen near Quintana Roo, in Montezuma’s land he knew that it wasn’t any more prevalent there than anywhere else. But when Sam and his mother left the crowded cold-water flat in New York, where the relatives got sick and tired of them, he and his mom set out by train and, embarrassing as it was, it was a blessing in disguise.

Sam hid in the gentlemen’s lavatory in the washroom whenever the conductor passed by. The curse struck twice in Selma first where his uncle lived, and he successfully hid the dysentery, going through a lot of Sears Roebuck catalog pages as he squirt his insides out and became wan and skinny, the skinniness that would stick with him until he reached 55, or thereabouts, and disposed of the paper in the outhouse behind his uncle’s dry goods store.

Simultaneously, at the same time of this embarrassing condition that endangered his swagger, in the town square somebody sold him a succulent glutinous wafer for a dime, a whole dime, wrapped in foil. Amidst the raptures of this sweet revelation, Sam was secretly afraid he was going to perish off the face of the Earth because of the chronic this secret disease that at frequent and unpredictable intervals squirted out from his lower intestine almost clear and he quickly ran out into the well behind his uncle’s place to restore the fresh water back down his gullet.

“Dear G*d,” he promised on aching knees, “you will spare me maybe and whatever happens it will be fine.” And the content, the life joy, but slowly and begrudgingly returned after the delirium, fever, aches receded at last and the sensation that muscles were to detach like the tendons pulled off of a chicken leg. “Dear G*d, I promise with all my termite-ridden heart to do something great on this good earth.”

And like a juggernaut it happened, with a behemoth force all its own, it happened. And whether he wanted to or not, after the depression and the shrinkage of stocks in Allied Fruit Co. and his ephemeral first retirement before the age of 50, he took the bull by the horns and designated himself as Manager of Operations. The war years were good years, except for the British blockade, and finally Sam acquiesced to the title President, it seemed to fit now, and he donned the tortoise shell frames that gave him a bookish mien, though Sam was about as bookish as Mickey Cohen, even though he bore an uncanny resemblance to John Dos Passos.

He ran it past Rebecca:

“What do you think about the title president?”

“Well, you’ve got your white House, haven’t you?”

It was supernatural white, like ivory tusk, the two-story palace turned heads this thing of beauty, but it was right there in the city, sharing its beauty, sleeves rolled up like Sam himself. Trolley cars and people passed and it gave Sam, the home’s master, easy access to his favorite bar and cafe in the Quarter.

“Mr. Dos Passos, could you sign this book for me.”

Because of this mature moment in life, between the hornrims and this thinning thatch of hair, now greying, he had been asked a couple times and the De in Delaney in his sloppy John Hancock provided the reasonable facsimile.

“That must be a good book,” Sam quipped, eyeing the title, “The Big Money.”

“Wow, you wrote the book.”

Sam saw no reason to argue otherwise. It was sometimes fun to be taken for who he was not, for who he was not all pretty. One of his cohorts in business and the people on the plantations said he would need to climb a ladder to get into hell after the imbroglio with the elected president of Guatemala.

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)