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Gentle Things

Even in Los Angeles

 

            In brutish, crass, profanity-spitting L.A., in developer-ravaged $2500-a-month “elegant density” L.A., in have-and-have-not ethnically separated L.A., in get-out-of-my-way-asshole, hit-and-run texting-and-primping-while-driving L.A. . . .

            Gentle things still happen.

            She sat at the front table at Papa Cristo’s, the Greek place at Pico and Normandie in the so-called Byzantine-Latino Quarter. Across the street from St. Sofia’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral and St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, or, more appropriately considering that masses come with mariachis, Iglesia Santo Tomas Apostol.

            “This is excellent!” she said, and, really, it was amazing she could say anything at all, let alone in a clear, commanding voice. The withered and dry autumn leaves on the sycamore trees in the neighborhood were stronger. This was, to be indelicate, a corpse that hadn’t gotten around to officially dying. Stick limbs, prune skin, sunken cheeks. Talk about frailty, thy name is woman. . .

            “Okay, Babe,” said her companion, a young guy with brown curls pulled back in a pony tail. “I’ve got you.” And he steadied her as he removed her walker, and then helped her ease into a wooden chair at one of Papa Cristo’s wobbly tables. She didn’t seem comfortable.

            “Does your butt hurt?” said her companion.

            What butt, I wondered. Nothing there but bones.

Esther Cicconi, lifetime Communist and icon of LA's left fringe, says 'hello, not goodbye'Esther Cicconi, lifetime Communist and icon of LA's left fringe, says 'hello, not goodbye'

 

“Okay, we’ll get you another chair. One with a cushion on it. Is that what you want? Or do you just want to sit at a different table?”

            “I don’t want to be any trouble!” she said.

            “Whatever you want is absolutely fine,” said her companion, and they moved to the table by the window, the one next to me. The guy with the curls ran outside, came back with a pillow, slipped it under the talking skeleton.

            “Is this better?”

            “Excellent! Just excellent!”

            Curls got up to order food, and in a few minutes he was wolfing down a salad and they were splitting a big bowl of lentil soup. The woman repeated “Excellent” every couple of minutes. I thought this was a tremendous achievement, to speak the word, over and over, and with gusto.

            After a while, Curls---who addressed her as Grandma---got up to go to the bathroom or something. The old lady just sat there, putting the blank in blank stare.

            “How was your lunch?” I said.

            She looked at me. I was startled. There were lyrical blue eyes hiding in the ancient face. 

 

          “Excellent!”

 

           “Well, good. You have a good grandson, to bring you to lunch.”

            “He’s my buddy! He’s a wonderful grandson!”

            “Yes, that’s a blessing.”



story | by Dr. Radut