T H E G I F T
by Lou Reed
. . .
Waldo Jeffers had reached his limit. It was now Mid-August
which meant that he had been separated from Marsha for more
than two months. Two months, and all he had to show was
three dog-eared letters and two very expensive long-distance
phone calls. True, when school had ended and she'd returned
to Wisconsin, and he to Locust, Pennsylvania. She had sworn
to maintain a certain fidelity, she would date occasionally,
but merely as amusement. She would remain faithful.
But lately Waldo had begun to worry. He had trouble sleeping
at night and when he did, he had horrible dreams. He lay awake
at night, tossing andturning underneath his pleated quilt
protector, tears welling in his eyes. As he pictured Marsha,
her sworn vows overcome by liquor and the smooth soothing of
some neanderthal, finally submitting to the final caresses of
sexual oblivion. It was more than the human mind could bear.
Visions of Marsha's faithlessness haunted him. Daytime
fantasies of sexual abandon permeated his thoughts. And the
thing was they wouldn't understand how she really was. He, Waldo,
alone, understood this. He had intuitively grasped every nook and
cranny of her psyche. He had made her smile, and she needed him,
and he wasn't there (Aaahh..). The idea came to him on the
Thursday before the Mummers Parade was scheduled to appear.
He had just finished mowing and etching the Edelsons lawn for a
dollar fifty and had checked the mailbox to see if there was at
least a word from Marsha.There was nothing more than a circular
from the Amalgamated Aluminum Company of America inquiring into
his awing needs. At least they cared enough to write.
It was a New York company. You could go anywhere in the mail. Then
it struck him, he didn't have enough money to go to Wisconsin in
the accepted fashion, true, but why not mail himself? It was
absurdly simple. He would ship himself parcel post special delivery.
The next day Waldo went to the supermarket to purchase the necessary
equipment. He bought masking tape, a staple gun and a medium
sized cardboard box, just right for a person of his built. He
judged that with a minimum of jostling he could ride quite
comfortably. A few airholes, some water, perhaps some midnight
snacks and it would probably be as good as going tourist.
By Friday afternoon, Waldo was set. He was packed and the post
office had agreed to pick him up at three o'clock. He'd marked the
package "Fragile", and as he sat curled up inside, resting the
foam rubber cushioning he'd thoughtfully included, he tried to
picture the look of awe and happiness on Marshas face as she
opened the door, saw the package, tipped the deliverer, and
then opened it to see her Waldo finally there in person. She
would kiss him, then, maybe they could see a movie. If he'd
only thought of this before. Suddenly rough hands gripped his
package and he felt himself barne up. He landed with a thud
in a truck and then he was off.
Marsha Bronson had just finished setting her hair. It had been
a very rough weekend. She had to remember not to drink like that.
Bill had been nice about it though. After it was over he'd said
that he still respected her and, after all, it was certainly the
way of nature, and even though, no he didn't love her, he did feel
an affection for her. And, after all, they were grown adults. Oh,
what Billy could teach Waldo - but that seemed like years ago.
Sheila Klein, her very, very best friend walked in through the
porch screen door and into the kitchen. "Oh, it's absolutely
maudlin outside." "Ach, I know what you mean, I feel all icky!"
Marsha tightened her cotton robe with the silk outer edge. Sheila
ran her finger over some salt grains on the kitchen table, licked
her fingers and made a face. "I'm supposed to take these salt
pills," but she wrinkled her nose, "They make me feel like
throwing up." Marsha started to pat herself under the chin,
an exercise she'd seen on television. "G-d, don't even talk
about that." She got up from the table and went to the sink
where she picked up a bottle of pink and blue vitamins. "Want
one? Supposed to be better than steak." And attempted to touch
her knees. "I don't think I'll ever touch a daiquiri again."
She gave up and sat down, this time nearer the table that
supported the telephone. "Maybe he'll call." she said to
Sheila's glance. Sheila nibbled on a cuticle. "After last night,
I thought maybe you'd be through with him." "I know what you
mean, my G-d, he was like an octopus. Hands all over the place."
She gestured, raising her arms upwards in defense. "The thing is
after a while, you get tired of fighting with him, you know, and
after all he didn't really do anything Friday and Saturday so I
kind of owed it to him, you know what I mean."She started to
scratch. Sheila was giggling with her hand over her mouth."I'll
tell you, I feel the same way, and even after a while," here
she bend forward in a whisper, "wanted to," and now she was
laughing very loudly.
It was at this point that Mr. Jameison of the Clarence Darrow Post
Office rang the door bell of the large colored stucco frame house.
When Marsha Bronson opened the door, he helped her carry the package
in. He had his yellow and green slips of paper signed and left with
a fifteen cent tip that Marsha had gotten out of her mothers small
beige pocket book in the den. "What do you think it is?" Sheila
asked. Marsha stood with her arms folded behind her back. She
stared at the brown cardboard carton that sat in the middle of
the living room: "I don't know."
Inside the package Waldo quivered with excitement as he listened
to the muffled voices. Sheila ran her fingernail over the masking
tape that ran down the center of the carton. "Why don't you look
at the return address and see who it is from?" Waldo felt his
heart beating. He could feel the vibrating footsteps.
It would be soon.
Marsha walked around the carton and read the ink-scratched label.
"It's from Waldo." "That schmuck!" said Sheila. Waldo trembled with expectation."You might as well open it," said Sheila. Both of them
tried to flip the stable flap. "Ah," said Marsha groaning. "He must
have nailed it shut." They tagged at the flap again. "My God, you
need a power drill to get this thing opened." They pulled again.
"You can't get a grip!" They both stood still, breathing heavily.
"Why don't you get the scissors," said Sheila. Marsha ran into the
kitchen, but all she could find was a little sewing scissors.
Then she remembered that her father kept a collection of tools
in the basement. She ran downstairs and when she came back, she
had a large metal cutter in her hand. "This is the best I could
find." She was out of breath. "Here, you do it.I'm gonna die."
She sank into a large fluffy couch and exhaled noisily. Sheila
tried to make a slit between the masking tape and the end of
the cardboard, but the blade was too big and there was not enough
room. "G-ddamn this thing!" she said feeling very exaspe- rated.
Then smiling "I got an idea." "What?" said Marsha. "Just watch,"
said Sheila touching her finger to her head.
Inside the package, Waldo was transfixed with excitement that he
could hardly breathe. His skin felt prickly from the heat and he
could feel his heart beating in his throat. It would be soon.
Sheila stood upright and walked around to the other side of the
package. Then she sank down to her knees, grasped the cutter
by both hands, took a deep breath and plunged the long blade
through the middle of the package, through the middle of the
masking tape, through the card- board through the cushioning
and (thud) right through the center of Waldo Jeffers head,
which split slightly and caused little rhythmic arcs of red to
pulsate gently in the morning sun...