“You need to hurry up,” I said,” I haven’t got all day.”
“Avoir de la patience.” I heard a soft buzzing. “Haben Sie bitte etwas mehr Geduld.” The buzzing again. “Be patient, please.”
“I’m patient. And please adjust your translator. People are staring.”
“Leave my GUT out of this. What’s your hurry?”
“I’ve things to do.”
“Things more important than helping me find a present for your wife?”
It’s true. I had taken C.W. to the largest shopping mall in our vicinity so he could do his holiday shopping. So far, we had been there an hour with nothing to show for our time. He had at least shaped himself well for the occasion. It was his classic teenage nerd shape, Timmie Joe, the math major. Remember those pocket protectors the engineering students used to wear in college? Well, he had even found one of those somewhere. Anyway …
“But you go out of your way to aggravate her. Now you’re buying her a present?”
“She forgives me,” he said. “Why can’t you?”
“Because I remember where you got the money to buy her a gift.”
“You weren’t using that guitar.”
“That’s not the point. It was an American-made Stratocaster.” But there was no use arguing. "She likes books,” I said.
“Oh fiddley dee,” he said, then stopped. “Look. There’s a pet store. I know she is fond of puppies.” He started toward it.
I grabbed his arm. “Best not,” I said. “She thinks breeding animals for sale is obscene when so many wander the highways, abandoned.”
“So maybe,” he said, his eyes widening, “we could drive around and look.”
“She has enough puppies,” I said.
“And besides,” I said, returning to the topic of gift-buying. I thought you were afraid of her.”
“She’s a softie when you get to know her,” he said. “She even taught me to do embroidery.”
“That will describe our culture to a fine point back on Falloonia.”
He turned and looked at me. “Are you making a joke?”
“Shop,” I said.
He thought. “What’s the best present you ever bought her? Pearls, I’ll bet.”
“I give up. What then?”
“Remember when you studied our technical history?”
“Oh yes.” He was growing excited now.
“Remember the part about when they came out with battery-powered hand tools?”
A look of confusion spread over his face like the shadow of a storm cloud covering the ground. “You bought her one?”
“A battery-powered hand drill.”
“Really? Did she like it?”
“She loved it. Named it “Hole Honey’ and used it until recently.”
“Did it wear out?”
“It was one of the things you sold in order to buy your bicycle, remember?”
He thought. “No, I don't,” he said. “But look,” he said running to a window display of scanty, sexy, minimal, ladies’ intimate-wear. “She’ll like this for sure.” He stared, then turned to me and yelled, “Do they really grow that big?”
“Come on,” I said. “People are watching.”
“You can see right through that one,” he said, pointing. He must have overloaded his Galactic Universal Translator again. “Choi Oi,” he said.
I lingered for a moment to look, just for curiosity’s sake, mind you. Then I began pulling him away.
He pulled his arm back and stared. “But look,” he said, pointing again. “See that one? Oh boy, it even has access to her …”
“Gift card,” I said as I grabbed his arm and pulled him through the crowd that had gathered. “Cookbooks, kitchen aides, pottery, DVD’s, pet toys.”
“Boy,” he said, twisting his arm from my grasp and looking back one last time. “You sure don’t have the holiday spirit.”
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