UNITED STATES—Alice and Robbie walked another block. Before you knew it, Robbie was in front of the money machine, on the corner of a busy boulevard.

“I’ll hold onto your dog,” Alice offered.

Robbie appreciated the show of consideration on Alice’s part. If only she knew what was coming, just around the corner. Robbie dreaded the consequences, and yet there was an inevitability to the events and to do anything than less would be to shirk his responsibility…But Robbie shut out what was coming next. There was no next it was all now. Alice was holding Rolf and her dog, who by now had made peace with Alice who, at bottom, was an OK person, if not a fine one. What a shame, Robbie thought briefly.

Being able to grab the wad of cash the machine spit out, using both hands gave him a degree of ease.

Robbie turned around, and instead of putting the wad of cash in his back pocket, he pivoted and handed it to Alice.

“Here, this is for you. I know you don’t make this much as a city health inspector. This is the sincere thanks of a citizen grateful for being defended from bacteria that may lurk in cafes and diners.

He handed it to her. How readily Alice’s smooth hands cupped the green bills surprised him

“That’s too kind of you,” she said.

Then suddenly, she pushed it away gently and forced it back to Robbie.

“I insist…” His hands asserted pressure. Alice ceded to the pressure.

She pushed back with all her might. Robbie read her face in that moment: in half a second, it went through a revolution. The struggle climaxed; a decision was reached. In seconds she conveyed, openness, sourness, dread, then lightness. She took the money. The struggle was over…

Taking the lump of bills, a flush came over Alice’s sharp features. Robbie felt malaise: he’d corrupted somebody who’d not wanted to be corrupted. It brought to Robbie’s mind the legend carved at the top of the city hall:

He that violates his oath profanes the divinity of faith.


It pained Robbie to be the bearer of this evil, to corrupt the incorruptible. He comforted himself with the palliative notion that he was simply the servant of forces greater than himself; was no more in control then the planets locked into their elliptical orbits. And he now had the gravest obligation: to seal the transaction with his words. He’d rehearsed it a hundred times, to guarantee this dislocation of his peace and creativity, usurped by health inspector #43, who’d disturbed both peace and creativity by causing his dog to be banished from the coffee shop, albeit indirectly, to be restored

“Alice,” he said and glared at her. “I’ll appreciate if you look the other way from now on if you see me and my dog in the cafe.”

Just then a firetruck, siren blazing, chugged by and nobody would hear a darn thing. Alice was something, and when Robbie’s hearing came back he understood:

“Oh, how did you know,” he heard Alice say brightly. “I no longer work as a city health inspector. I turned in my badge number 43. I can really use this. I’m about to get kicked out of my apartment.”

Then Robbie grabbed the comet by the tail, slave to his emotions and wanting to be the good guy and cleanse himself of all taint of graft…

“I am horrible,” Robbie confessed. “I am ever anti-emulating the father and his hurried double-sip to the coffee.”

“I’m in the mood for love,” Alice said.

“They say making love is a great way to get exerted so you can fall asleep easier.”

“I can never sleep after. It’s the only time I can truly concentrate on reading.”

“I’m ugly you know.”

It is not certain if Alice or Robbie said that. The fact is that two separate people had joined and become one, at oneness with the universe, and as such a crest for all humankind.

“So what? Ugliness goes away when you reach the apex of sex.”

“So it is…” agreed Robbie or Alice, as they strolled into the sunset, two dogs in tow.


Graydon Miller, the Wizard of Fiction, is the author of “The Havana Brotherhood: Stories from South of the Border.”

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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)