UNITED STATES—”Hello, Mary,” said the stranger with stubble on his face.

It was so jarring to be greeted by a perfect stranger with warm familiarity. As if they had a whole history together, a history which had fallen through a crack in the order of things.

Her mind leaped after this missing piece and down a dark hole in search of bring whole. But Mary knew better. She could say, “l don’t believe we’ve been introduced.”

She would not stand for the crass sedition of brain cells and allow her mentality to launch a goose chase after some vaporous comet tail on search of name and place. As the comet weaved through the asteroid belt of personality, there were stress erasures, Mary knew. And she might find a face without eyes.

Those strands of love, molten bliss held them in a warm embrace–Diogenes (dear dog), the little boy (Quint)–they tugged on her hand and heart in proportion to what she had given them and, moreso, what they had given her, which was so much. When she had nothing more to give, for them she would reach down deep and find something more to give.

Oh moo moo, oh boo hoo! Quint and Diogenes bound her do mightily to what was, she was half blind to the present.

I’m having a terrible day, thought Mary.

She knew better than to think it aloud. Nor did she allow the thought that all this was a terrible day that had run amok for 20 years. She remained keenly aware of the all-too-conscious effort to turn the page on the verb feel, and turn feel to felt.

Quint had been her pride and joy. Quint took up 15 years both arduous and light as the wind. Quint was Mary’s only son. Now, in a breach of overwhelming lucidity, like the days after the rain. The air is cleared and it aches the eyes to see all there is to see. Quint, offspring of Jude Lockhart. They were a happy family, happy in their own way. And she wasn’t raped. That was a concession to the filter of deluded memory and chemicals.

She was ravished by force one boozy New Year’s s Eve. She and Jude were already married. It had been so long trying that they’d given hope. And Jude had succumbed, not  unwillingly, to the wiles of the adulterous gaze.

Nine months later to the day, Quint was born. And though his father pretty much left his life, he grew to be everything Mary, or anybody else could want a child to be. Hard working without being too much of a book worm. When he got to be 13, he couldn’t think of much else if it wasn’t basketball and girls.

They got the better of him and brought out the best. Quint had a lot of solid friends, besides having a loving if shaky Mom. But it all changed in a heartbeat.

To be continued…

Graydon Miller 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)