UNITED STATES—”Uh hrm,” clearing throat diffidently. “I think it’s time to talk about a r-r-raise again.” “A raise?”

“Yes, again.”

“We just talked about that a month ago.”

“I was checking the calendar and it was eight years ago.”

“Surely you must be mistaken. In fact it was two weeks ago and I told you to wait until the Fall.”

“I’m astounded…”

“Well I would be too, Alonso. To come back to me so soon after the matter was resolved.”

“I was saying astounded that your memory is so faulty,” said Walter, who would take up the matter of being called Alonso at an appropriate time.

“It was NOT eight years ago. You’re lying!!!”

“Watch those exclamation marks, Mr. Phinster. These are trying times. People are on edge.”
“I’m not Phinster, I’m Mooney.”

“And I’m not Alonso. . .”

“Don’t change the subject with me . Do you want to quit? Is that it? Are you saying you have something better to do instead of working here for free.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Mooney, I’ll fire you, but I promise to give you a good recommendation.”
“I represent that.”

“I’m sure you do. Listen. That last time I asked for a raise eight years ago you promised that by doubling my hours I would be entitled to pay.”

“You don’t think I’ve been kind to you and lenient and given you lots of cigarettes. I want you to know that this may look pretty good when you don’t have this any more. And you’ll come back begging, and the door will be closed. These are difficult times. All that will be waiting for you is an empty envelope.”

“Like the Christmas bonus. What’s going on. At my old job every year we’d have a Christmas party and a raffle. What the devil is this?”

“Progress.”

“An awful lot of boys have gone off to war, Alonso. Workers are scarce. You out to be proud that there’s a job for you. These are hard times.”

“Bear with me, prosperity is just around the corner.”

“I could use a good drink, I could. You know the price of a Manhattan has gone through the roof.”

“I thought they got it for clamshells.”

“There you go changing the subject. I’m talking about a different kind of Manhattan. You can’t get a decent drink under ten dollars.”

“It’s gonna get better, Walter. I promise.”

“Give me a raise, I’m desperate. And you need me. I’m the only one who knows the safe combination around here.”

“I could give you a 500% raise. When I’m I’m giving you nothing, that five cents is actually a raise to infinity.”

“This whole thing is killing me. I don’t know who’s sicker, Me or you. Pay me something. Anything. Pay me in paper clips, in yellow legal pads and envelopes. I used to get paid well, in compliments. But that’s gone by the wayside in the last eight years when I doubled my hours. It’s been so long now I can’t even remember the name of the owner. It was a day of the week name, like Friday or Tuesday Montague. I’d like to get Tuesday on the line and chew her out all the way to Friday.”

“She already sold the business a long time ago. I’m just staying to give you a hard time.”
“I think I’m going genuinely insane.”

“Kid, don’t worry/It’s not that bad. Don’t go looking for a ledge to jump off of. This darn Prohibition thing will all blow over in three months. You just see.”

Grady Miller is the Wizard of Fiction, his collection, “Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood,” is available on Amazon.com.

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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)