UNITED STATES—Newton was in the mist of a siesta, recovering from a rigorous morning of sun and much traffic, dropping off a screenplay with his agent and doing a couple errands. He was just pleasantly drifting off. Max came and shook him by the shoulders. In one hand, he held the feeding bowl he had dug out, still specked by dirt.

“Where’s Cutie? I can’t find her anywhere, and what are his bowl and leash doing in a hole in the ground.”

“Well,” Newton stammered. His prepared story, where he said Cutie had to go away: Cutie leaped out of an open window and into the path of Homes-of-the-Stars tourbus–that story was swallowed by the earth. Newton remained mute and sweating on the tasseled divan where he usually working on a laptop while lying on his back.

“I know what you did,” Max said. “I know what you did. You took it to the pound.”

Newton was surprised to feel moisture around the rims of his own eyes.

“I always said I would take it to the pound. If it didn’t work out.”

Max angrily wiped a tear from his eye.

“What didn’t you understand about that? I asked you if you understood, and you said that you did.”

“I never believed you would do it,” Max said. He wanted to hit his father, to wake him up.

“Well, it wasn’t working out. The finances and then caring for it: look it was supposed to be your dog. And every day you were calling in orders,” Newton said, sitting up on his elbows. “It became my dog. Sleeping on my couch, rubbing its nose on my hand. Licking my hand when I was trying to read a book.”

“We’ve got to go to the pound now,” Max said. “We’ve got to call them right away. They’re going to put him to sleep, Dad.”

Newton sat half up and fingered for a brochure, “There’s the number circled in red.”

Newton at least had the decency to contain his suspicion that the dog had already been “put to sleep.”

The put him on hold, made him listen to old-people music.

“The dog did something to me,” he said, pouring himself a drink. “I made a terrible discovery. They say Hitler or Stalin, one of those bad guys absolutely adored his dog. And I realized I did not adore Cutie. After it pooped on the carpet. After it kept surprising me with little things that unhinged me, like biting the leash and running away. I almost had a heart attack bringing her back.. I’m amazed that I was ever able to be a dad to three children. Anyway, I realized that there was something lacking in me that even Stalin had. It’s terrible to discover that about yourself.”

Max said, glaring, “You suck Dad. You think I was too young to remember you walked out of Cedars Sinai because of the so-pay on an X-ray.”

“You remember that from Cesars Sinai?”

“I remember. And it’s Cedars Sinai. I think you’ve been smoking something, Dad. If my leg had been broken I’d have been crippled for the rest of my life.”

“Make a good TV movie.”

“Is that all you think about. Movies?”

“No, I think about money too. And I’m trying to teach you a few things my parents never taught me.”

“Hello,” Max said to the dog pound on the line. “Is Cutie still there? My dad brought him in. Newton Grimes.” The woman on the line said something, Max took it in, then his face turned into a graven mask. Newton couldn’t hold back any more.

“Max, Max, what is it?” he grabbed his son’s wrist so hard he might have to take him to Cedars for an X-ray.

“Somebody already adopted him,” Max said. Son and father looked at each other. There was just the thread of hope between them.

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Hollywood humorist Grady Miller 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). His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)