UNITED STATES—Mary Reno stopped and stared at the fig bush. It looked more like a tree now that it had been severely hacked since Mary first saw it a few days ago and was filled by anticipation for ripened figs.

She was crestfallen. All the bulbs from the fig branches about to turn purple-black had  been pruned away, and all those figs she planned on gobbling up and wolfing down like nature’s popcorn had disappeared. The few that remained were still raw green. Mary felt a pang and she screamed and sobbed.

Mary felt silly about her meltdown, which was well deserved. She only wanted a few lousy figs. At the same time you could get addicted to the anger. If she ever got to be old, Mary wished not to get old on that fashion. She’d rather die and lose a few years that get old in that fashion, hooked on anger.

It reminded her of a poem that had been recommended by a therapist. The comforting shadows of that high office in the sky where her secrets were shared trickled around the corners of memory.

Yes, she had had a therapist once. She had had a different life. Mary Reno wasn’t her real name. It wasn’t the name she had been born with, but it was the only one she remembered. In effect, she now was Mary Reno.

“What were you?” asked a thin man.

“I was a dancer.”

“You don’t remember me, do you?”

Mary gave a quizzical look.

“I’m the one who told you about the food,” he said.

Then the man with the gaps where teeth had been, passed and gazed at Mary warily. A scowl from him reached her and added to the pang. She doubled over.

Kindness, you could choke on people’s kindness. They were all so well meaning. Mary pulled herself back up. All she had wanted were some figs, and that simple desire had been crossed by a conscientious gardener. The deliciousness of a sweet meaty fig bursting on her tongue and seeping juice on her palate. “What are you staring at?” She shouted at no one. Only the flies were there to listen.

Life is so very, very simple, the thin man, spitting out as he grieved over Mary’s snub. It is directed by our thoughts. So we best be careful about what we think. And even more about what we say.

The thin man wondered why he hadn’t made his fortune by now. He always had a lot of ideas, such as the novelty box of matches. They would go out just as soon as they were struck. That was a pretty funny idea, and they were to be called “Stop Smoking Matches.”

Well, it made him laugh even if no one else did. He reached down to take out a lottery ticket from his pocket. The results would be in the store today.

As the man withdrew his hand from his pocket, some green spilled out and lay on the sidewalk. Mary sat in a triangle of growing shade as the sun completed the westward arc of it’s journey.

She sat talking to the flies and smoking an invisible cigarette. A siren could he heard far off. Then the sirens shrieked in her ears. Red trucks raced by Mary’s nose.

“Damn your sirens. Let it all burn. See if I care! What did you care when my tent was torched!?”

To be continued…

Graydon Miller is the Wizard of Fiction and author of the Hollywood humor collection, “Later Bloomer,” (https://amzn.to/2Ljky3v available on Amazon).

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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)