"Mother? Johnny-Boy."

Casey was hiding behind the store's large Christmas tree, keeping his voice low and looking around himself warily to ensure that nobody got close enough to hear him.

"Yeah, ma, I'm all right. Oh, no reason. Just wanted to say hi before Christmas."

He shifted the phone to the other hand and took a quick look over his shoulder as he listened.

"Yeah, I saw that on the TV too. Pretty scary police chase. It must be terrible. I think they said nobody was hurt when the car crashed into the store, though."


"Yeah, ma, don't worry, I promise I'll never move to a big city like Los Angeles. You know I don't like those big cities anyway."

"I got your letter. Thanks for the pictures. Little Mandy sure has grown up. How old is she now, six? Tell her her Uncle Johnny is thinking about her and give sis a big hug for me."

"Uh-huh, uh-huh. Has Leonard got a job yet? You know, ma, you've gotta be tougher with him, make him go out every day and look. His big brother can't always be there to kick his ass, you know."


"Sorry for swearin', ma, but he just makes me mad sometimes. Yeah, yeah, I know he's a good kid deep down. He just needs to be pushed a bit more."

Casey raised his free hand to his face and rubbed his cheek.

"How are you, ma? Did you get the money I sent? What did the doctor say this time?"

There was a long pause while Casey shifted his feet and frowned at the floor, listening intently.

"Well, listen, ma, if the pain gets any worse, you go right to the emergency room and don't worry about how much it's going to cost, you hear? I'm tellin' ya, ma, just do it."

Casey chuckled.

"Yeah, ma, I know I'm not too old to put over your knee. I just worry that you're trying to do too much and you're not looking after yourself, that's all."

"Look, ma, I'll try to visit soon. You know how work is. Yeah, the boss has me flying all over for meetings. Energy consultancy is big business these days, you know. Keeps me busy."

Rolling his eyes and sighing, Casey looked at the ceiling.

"Yeah, ma, too busy to look for a wife. When are you going to lay off of that one? Yeah, yeah, I know you worry about me too."

When Casey heard a bit of a commotion starting up in another part of the store, he quickly peeked around the tree for a moment, his hand held over the phone's mouthpiece so his mother couldn't hear.

He resumed speaking.

"Listen, ma, I gotta go. I'll call you at New Year's, I promise. Yeah, Merry Christmas to you too, and make sure to take pictures when Mandy opens up her presents."

Casey paused again for a moment, his face taking on an almost angelic look.

"And I love you too, ma. Goodbye."