UNITED STATES—It was a Monday of the New Year, the same foggy day that the sheriffs and also Jim Wylie’s muscle came (in case of trouble) to evict the diminutive postal carrier at Manhattan Place who had fallen under the spell of crack. Having the muscle there was overkill. The man, his eyes now dulled, still not without a shy grin—maybe a habit of the facial muscles—left docilely and I changed the locks.

Later that afternoon I had some errand back on Manhattan Place,. Wylie was strolling out. The scene was richly sunlit. Now was the moment to tell Jim I’d be leaving the job. If I waited another day, some snafu could occur, and I would be embroiled in that doghouse shame that would immobilize me. Once again. I opened my mouth and told Jim it was time to be leaving my job as manager for Wylie properties. Cheryl in the office, who had followed my many struggles in work and art, gave me courage to speak up. The moment I uttered the words to Jim, I was free. Wylie reluctantly accepted and said that he was sorry to see me go, but recognized my need to move on.

A lot of living went on while saying goodbye in the weeks that followed. Every day some fun came up. I spent time with my friends from Nadeau and went down to Long Beach to a dusty, spooky, abandoned Masonic hall—with hounds running loose inside certain closed chambers for security—from the heyday of cryptic social organizations, and decorated it along with friends, Eric Brown, poet of renown, Rita, the sister of Randy Horton’s girlfriend. Her arrival at the other house on Manhattan Place 1832, was heralded by the jingling of bracelets. David the actor and the screenwriter wrestler, now that they both owned cars, got into daily into fisticuffs when one had to move his wheels blocking the driveway. On the other side of the common door the screenwriter wrestler was practicing lines for an audition of the eve of his eviction.

Second Saturday of February we had a meeting of Bohemia, one of the most attended in months. Alicia Daniel, Joaquin Lopez, the poet from Colombia, Tere Mesescaldi, Rafael Pajuelo, Antonio Ayala and Jesus Santana, king of the sonnet all came. My detective Santana owes something to him, a big guy full of life, not scholarly but learned, a jest or picardia always on his lips. He saw a girl on the train platform before being sent to the seminary. That was the end of his calling. And he wrote a sonnet about it.

A rainy night, my friends David and Ahmet took me to get on the junky old bus in the shadow of the fashion district. Aboard the Los Angeles-El Paso express, I dragged a big awkward brown vinyl case, full of manuscripts, and the Brother word processor. I had left my Olivetti portable with Miguel Rodriguez who gave me confidence I would get a job teaching English in Mexico.

We had said our goodbyes. It was raining. After I got situated on the seat, David and Ahmet came back aboard and sang a manic rendition of “Hooray for Captain Spaulding.” I smiled and my eyes teared up with gratitude. People around me laughed. I was facing a big empty, leaving the people and world of the last two years for a new one in Mexico. I was seized by a feeling of giddiness and heaviness.

Under the rain, the bus got mired in a sluggish traffic jam in the way out of town. It seemed like we would never leave. In the seats across the aisle a couple cholas were talking to a man from Sinaloa were talking about their criminal feats. It was if the huge traffic jam was conspiring to hold me back. I was free at last of the management job.

I drowsed off and dreamed that Lorna Dunn’s baby was born and it had no mouth. There would be other strange dreams in days to come, and the bus continued to Arizona, New Mexico and finally El Paso.

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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)