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The Gift

On the redeye back to the City I wept profusely in the first class bathroom. The stewardess was knocking on the door, begging me to return to my seat. People were complaining.


When I staggered back to coach, I found something tucked into my briefcase under the seat.

It came in a brown paper bag, twisted at the top and tied with a blue ribbon, like it was meant for a special someone. A small envelope stuck out of the bag with my name written on it. I opened the envelope. The card inside read, You forgot this. I opened the bag and found a black DVD case with a blank disk inside. I looked up and down the dark aisle. Nobody was awake. Maybe the gift was meant for somebody else.

I asked the stewardess if she had seen anyone stop by my seat. She didn’t know. Nobody was supposed to be walking around while the fasten seatbelt sign was illuminated. The captain came on the PA system and said we would be going around the storm. There would be a slight delay.

I looked at the disk in my hand. I thought about making an announcement on the PA system. I could wave the disk around like a throwing star to get people’s attention. I might break it in half, wield the sharp edge as a weapon and threaten to take everyone in first class hostage.

A week ago, Laurie had rented a cabin on the lake. We spent the whole week without any trouble. It was the first time we were alone together since leaving the City. But after a week, I thought I would be better off without her, and she would be better without me. She cried for a while. When she couldn’t cry anymore, she let me go. I drove straight to the airport and got on the redeye back to the City.

Here I was with this gift. Maybe it was a trap. Maybe Laurie wanted to get back at me. Maybe it was a tape of her having revenge sex with Roy. I wouldn’t have put it past her. I would never put a mysterious blank disk into my own laptop, but I was willing to risk losing my life’s work to find out what it was. I’d insert the disk and press play. Laurie’s face would fill the screen. Laurie would explain how it was she who had planted the gift in my bag. She would explain how she had gotten on the next flight to the City without my knowing. She had put the gift in my briefcase to make sure I didn’t find it before I took off. She had followed me home to save our relationship. She understood me and wanted to be with me. She would wait at my doorstep. She would wait and wait and wait. She would talk me into falling back in love with her. She would beg for forgiveness. She would promise to never see Roy again. She would ask to move in with me. Then she would beckon to me through the screen and stretch her big lips into a smile and say, come hither. It would be so sweet. Then I would eject the disk and laugh and wipe my eyes. In the airport, I would forget about my checked bags, hail a cab and tell the driver, take me home and step on it. I would hang my head out the window like a dog, sniff at the fresh City air and think, It’s finally happening!

I pulled out my laptop. Before I could insert the disk, the stewardess told me to stow my computer. We would be landing soon. When I got off the plane, I found a seat at the arrival gate, hoping to find out what flight she would be on, to stay one step ahead of her, ready for anything. I inserted the disk into my laptop. The disk was scratched.



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I unlocked the front door and called through the dark, I’m here! The voice that answered belonged to someone I did not expect to be home. I threw my keys on the floor next to my bag and ran up the stairs. In the distance I heard the neighbor’s dog barking himself to sleep. She lay in bed, smiling, looking over the bridge of her glasses.

I thought you were someone else.

Was that George outside? I asked.

She knew nothing and had heard nothing. I grabbed a tuft of her soft hair and pulled her to my lips.

How did you get here so fast?

I don’t know, I said. I’m here, I’m here. I’m here, nowhere else, the only place I could be.

That’s why you’re here?

Yes, I replied, I just told you. Here—right where I should be.

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Home for the Holidays Checklist


• Arrive between 12-5pm

• Do not expect to be picked up at airport / train station / harbor

• Do not surprise parents (Dad’s heart condition)

• Bring arrival gifts

• Prepare to cook (daily)

• Prepare to clean (daily)

• Prepare conversations, no awkward silences

• If failing classes: talk about job

• If unemployed: lie about job

• No books: conversation killers

• Do not bring unexpected guest

obama arrival


• No friends at home without adult present

• No visit to friend’s without parental supervision

• If parents don’t know friend, they need name, address, phone number (A/S/L)

• If parents feel excluded from social life, parents will demand compensation

• Parents are allowed in bedroom at any time. It’s parents’ exercise room now.

hippie parents


• Keep all personal items in bedroom and keep neat

• Pick up after self: school supplies, clothes, chargers

• No food in bedroom

• Bed must be made by 9 am.

• Do homework in bedroom

• Do homework before any TV



• Ten minutes allowed in bathroom in morning

• If need more time, wake up earlier

• Put toilet seat back down (Dad pees sitting down)

• If finish toilet paper, buy more

• Make sure toilet flushes

• If toilet clogged, deal with it and don’t tell Mom

• If plunger missing, lock self in bathroom, go out bathroom window, buy new plunger

• If can’t unclog, lock self in bathroom until figure it out

• Bring own bath towel

• Use own bath towel

• Keep towel on hook in bedroom



• Breakfast before leaving house

• Do own laundry

• Laundry: Whites (Mon/Wed/Fri) Darks (Tues/Thurs/Sat)

• Do laundry between 9am – 5pm.

• Vacuum (Mon/Tues/Fri)

• Mop (Tues/Thurs/Sat)

• Vac + Mop (Sunday)

• Refresh George’s litter box (twice daily)

• Dishwasher load (daily)

• Dishwasher unload (daily)

• Take out trash and recycling (daily)

• Trash and recycling (Friday mornings)




• Plow driveway

• Shovel sidewalk

• If heavy snow, buy snow blower


• Mow, trim, weed lawn (daily)

• Vacuum Pool (twice daily)


• Rake leaves

• Carve (2+) pumpkins

• Buy Candy for trick-or-treaters



• If need ride, pay for gas

• If use car, fill gas after drive

• Wash car (carwash on 3rd street)

• If going somewhere, bring parents

• If need to leave and not come back, just go

• Don’t come back


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