UNITED STATES—”Oh oh oh oh, it’s hurting,” cries the mother. “Ouch, oh god, is there something you can do?”

“It wasn’t till a friend from college took me aside and said you don’t have to answer every question. Some are rhetorical, some are facetious. What do we do now? Isn’t that right? It blew my mind. Nobody ever pointed it out.

“What did you do?”

“I moved the pillow back the way it was the first time.”

“Should I press the button,” the mother’s eyes gleam. She clutches with the red-button to set all hell’s bells going in the nurse’s station.

“Don’t,” says Davy. It’s too late. The chime starts ding dinging.

“What did you want Mrs. Johnson?” the nurse barges in, one from New York with all the ink on her arms.

“What did I want, Davy?”

“I don’t know. Only you know,” he says.

“Oh, I guess I’m fine,” she says, adding, “What are on your arms?”

“One is a tattoo of the Statue of Liberty, and one is the Golden Gate. Is that all, Mrs. Johnson?”

“I guess so…” The mother licks her dry lips.

Davy sits back down and enjoys the nurse’s exit.

“Davy, can you scoot me up in the bed?”

The son sighs, pries himself from the chair. Then he huffs and puffs and counts, “One, two, three,” then strains his muscles on the towel under his mom’s back.

“Can you raise me more?” she asks.

“That’s as far as it will go,” Davy lies. Sitting down again: “What’s this with Mrs. Johnson? Can’t they read your name on the doorway.”

“It’s your Dad. He kept the name of the drug store. They all thought he was Johnson. And then there was Harry Johnson at Steinhauser & Eaton. It was a real mess. Harry, he was a funny man, so nice and very funny.”

“I didn’t know you had a sense of humor, Ma.”

“Why of course. I you you as my son, didn’t I?”

Davy glares at her.

“Harry Johnson was a funny man, but he only told jokes. They were all from Readers’ Digest.”

“Laughter is the best medicine,” the mother says.

“So why didn’t Dad want to change the name of the pharmacy?”

“He did,” the mother says. “But Mr. Albright said not to change it, when he sold him the store. Mr. Albright said the people of Watsonville don’t like change.”

“Wow, it could have been Bird’s Drug! I never knew.”

“Is Karen coming?” says the mother.

“Yes.”

“When is she coming?”

“In two or three weeks.”

“How long will I stay at the hospital?”

“Oh, about. . . F***, there I go. Answering questions.”

“Is that Christmas tree ours.”

“No, it’s not. Egad! Another question!” says Davy, the rage spilling out despite his cool. “Acting is wonderful for the rage. That’s what I like about it. Admit it, you never did like movies.”

“I was cooking, while you, Karen and Dad were watching the TV.”

“Oh, admit it. Movies weren’t your cup of TV. You never had the attention span.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” the mother’s voice fails. “Who’s going to water that Christmas tree?”

“FYI, that little tree isn’t yours. It belongs to your neighbor, Doris. And it’s made out of wire and plastic. When Karen and I cleaned out the storage unit, too bad you weren’t there,” the son says. “You won’t ever know how many boxes and bins of Christmas stuff you had horded. Napkins, plates, coffee mugs, toys, lights, tinsel, napkin rings, you name it, Christmas tree holders, sweaters with Christmas tree and coasters and Uncle Jerry’s carved reindeer. All brand new and never used. Boxes and boxes of beautiful cards.”

“Nobody ever sends Christmas cards any more. I haven’t sent out any cards this year.”

To be continued…

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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)