UNITED STATES—When Eliza got back to Rhett’s house on one of the curvaceous pinnacle of Mount Olympus, she parked and was surprised by two figures in the front of the house. One was a rabbi and one was a priest. “She already knew father Daniel; as a now and then visitor to bring back a strayed member of his flock. Rabbi Goldwyn was somebody new here.

She had left her plump Egyptian cat, newly manicured, in the back carseat, in preemptive avoidance of one of her employer’s diatribes about cats carrying heartworm, or some other scourge that could bring down the fall of mankind.

As she reached for the housekey, Eliza tried to compensate for the inequality in reaction to the known Daniel to the unknown Rabbi Goldwyn. It became false and hollow. People in different groups probably saw that and they would tag Eliza as a non-ethnic person trying to compensate for historic errors with glib salutations. The truth is Rabbi Goldwyn was thinking about the long-term effects of not visiting his dentist: we are fleas, ourselves and brought down so low by fleas. The belief that he was a good man was a serious subset of his overall thoughts of himself.

“So nice of you to come, Rabbi Goldin.”

“Goldwyn,” he corrected. Eliza wondered if he was part of the Goldwyn movie dynasty.
Am I becoming schizophrenic? Rhett was sitting there in the armchair. He was getting all steaming about the percussion of a garage band and about to stomp on the neighbor kids’ ass, when Margaritte, emerged from the clatter of kitchen utensils to answer the doorbell.
Her sunny face filled the doorway, come right in said the talented cook and housekeeper who was wearing her facemask. As I say, Rhett Thornton zealously kept the place in hypoallergenic perfection.

“Good afternoon,” stepped down toward the living room of the house whose floor slopes in abeyance to the hillside to which it perilously clung in full glory of mid-1980s architecture. Rhett could say with true pride: “That’s the house that was moronic movies brought.”
Movies, they were a family. Father Daniel had been a gaffer for several years before heeding the call to enter the priesthood.

“I’m sorry,” Margaritte said, “I will have to ask you to go into the front bedroom. There is that room all filled by Rhett Thornton memorabilia, that was kind of a creepy altar. It impressed visitors who had grown up in the ‘80s. In reality, it didn’t mean a damn thing to Rhett. In the wardrobe were hazmat suits of varying sizes. Of you had never been here before it would all have appeared strange.

It all started with Dr. Silk to whom Rhett turned to get the tummy-tuck. Silk was one of the best plastic men in B.H.; he got women prepared for their new beaus and sagging actors for their comebacks. Like all doctors, and particularly specialists, he developed a degree of self-protective ruthlessness. Thus he took advantage of Rhetts inclination to listen.

He subjected all his patients to the talk about the non-casual nature of the procedure (“This is surgery. It involves cutting the body open”) and need to dress the bandages, sterilize the area of the incision and keep every conceivable surface sterile. Nine times out of ten, Dr. Silk’s patients woke up with a start and said, “Gotta go.”

Gotta go to yoga class. Gotta go to parent-teacher night. Gotta big date and dry cleaning to pick up. They invariably left him with most of the spiel in his mouth. They didn’t give a hoot. But Rhett Thornton listened to every bit of it, he absorbed it. Of the need to use sanitizer and discard latex gloves after one wearing, and launder the clothese every day, and the water must be 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Rhett didn’t stop the profit-driven doctor s single time.

And he thereafter was brainwashed, lived in this matrix of germs and microbes. He had acquired just enough knowledge from the doctor to dwell thereafter in this belligerent, biological, microscopic matrix, and the border crossing for these unseen germs could be anybody and anywhere. He adopted it hook, line and sinker. Rhett Thornton at 57 made Howard Hughes look like Paul Bunyon.

To be continued…

Grady Miller lives in Hollywood. His next humor collection “Personal Effects” coming up.