UNITED STATES—Pete Mohr was a suit at one of the legacy studios which are kind of elite hotels for nebulous folks, subdivisions that shuffle in and out of offices that have suffered more coats of paint than a New York brownstone. And then there were the likes of Pete Mohr, a hot indie producer, a slick dresser with seven tattoos and heart, who in his fashion exploited the studio’s historic luster and, in turn, added to it.

He had a lot on his plate, Pete did. There was no way he could keep flying back and forth between Los Angeles and the hinterland to the north, King City, the most hyperbolically named city of all time. Even growing up there, every time she returned there was the moment of expecting something bigger. Never failed. The little letdown  always signaled that he was back in King City.

He kept coming back because mom let it known that she wanted to stay in her house to the end of her days. She was stubborn. Now it got to be unfeasible; she couldn’t remember where she parked the car.

“I feel a terrible tug in my heart,” said Pete. “A good son would go back and live, but Los Angeles is a place you have to be 24/7. So what am I going to do?”

The years passed and mom’s world got smaller. She used to pick up the mail every day. And now it fell through the slot onto the floor and lay there. Every few days she’d refill the hummingbird feeder with fresh nectar. She used to go to bridge club, and then after she stopped driving the members who still drove could pick here up. Then the last driver died.

Her world was becoming a small, deeply shaded room. So deeply shaded because Pete had been so terrified of twig shadows on the blind, Mom had convinced the shade man to make an especially opaque blind. Now the world outside diverged largely from the world she held in her head.

In her mind there were neighborhoods blighted by crime, where suburbia’s blossom had lately bloomed. There were places, even in King City, where gourmet coffees could be had. There were new buildings and stores, whole streets fixed up and painted brightly. Mom’s fixity in an imaginary King City made Pete appreciate that maybe after all, it was more kingly.

“Eureka,” Pete said to Sam.

With all the studio’s technical wizardry mom had been brought here to live out her last days, and Pete could be near her. The sun rose, the garlic winds blew from over the hill. There was a glow that curled around the thick blinds to say that it was daytime. When mom lifted the corner of the blind, there was the yard outside and the hummingbird feeder she used to fill with sweet nectar. There were sounds of traffic passing and children on their way to school. The rain was tapping on the roof when she drew her last breath, a smile on her face.

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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)