Thursday, September 09, 2010

the gift (a story)

(The gift, Velvet Underground, White Light/White Heat, 1968) --- » +

"Waldo Jeffers had reached his limit. It was now Mid-August which meant 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 and turning

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. She needed him, and

he wasn't there (Awww...).

The idea came to him on the Thursday before the Mummers' Parade was scheduled

to appear. He'd just finished mowing and edging 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 but 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 mails. 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 build. 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 thoroughly 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 on the foam rubber

cushioning he'd thoughtfully included, he tried to picture the look of awe and

happiness on Marshas face as she opened her door, saw the package, tipped the

deliverer, and then opened it to see her Waldo finally there in person. She

would kiss him, and 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 borne

up. He landed with a thud in a truck and 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 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

Bill could teach Waldo - but that seemed many years ago.

Sheila Klein, her very, very best friend, walked in through the porch screen

door and into the kitchen. "Oh gawd, it's absolutely maudlin outside." "Ach, I

know what you mean, I feel all icky!" Marsha tightened the belt on her cotton

robe with the silk outer edge. Sheila ran her finger over some salt grains on

the kitchen table, licked her finger and made a face. "I'm supposed to be

taking 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. "God, 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 then 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 small table that supported the

telephone. "Maybe Bill'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 God, 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 I 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 felt the same way, and even after a while," here

she bent forward in a whisper, "I wanted to!" Now she was laughing very loudly.

It was at this point that Mr. Jameson of the Clarence Darrow Post Office rang

the doorbell of the large stucco colored frame house. When Marsha Bronson

opened the door, he helped her carry the package in. He had his yellow and his

green slips of paper signed and left with a fifteen cent tip that Marsha had

gotten out of her mother's small beige pocketbook 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 dunno."

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's 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. "Ah, god,

it's from Waldo!" "That schmuck!" said Sheila. Waldo trembled with expectation.

"Well, you might as well open it," said Sheila. Both of them tried to lift the

staple flap. "Ah sst," said Marsha, groaning, "he must have nailed it shut."

They tugged on the flap again. "My God, you need a power drill to get this

thing open!" They pulled again. "You can't get a grip." They both stood still,

breathing heavily.

"Why don't you get a scissor," said Sheila. Marsha ran into the kitchen, but

all she could find was a little sewing scissor. Then she remembered that her

father kept a collection of tools in the basement. She ran downstairs, and when

she came back up, she had a large sheet metal cutter

in her hand. "This is the best I could find." She was very out of breath.

"Here, you do it. I-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 flap, but the blade was too big and there wasn't enough

room. "God damn this thing!" she said feeling very exasperated. Then smiling,

"I got an idea." "What?" said Marsha. "Just watch," said Sheila, touching her

finger to her head.

Inside the package, Waldo was so transfixed with excitement that he could

barely breathe. His skin felt prickly from the heat, and he could feel his

heart beating in his throat. It would be soon. Sheila stood quite upright and

walked around to the other side of the package. Then she sank down to her

knees, grasped the cutter by both handles, took a deep breath, and plunged the

long blade through the middle of the package, through the masking tape, through

the cardboard, 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."