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The Gift of the Magi: The Sequel

From Dec. 27, 2005
By John Kelly

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And 60 cents of it was a coupon for a 12-inch cheese steak at Jerry's Subs.

Three times Delia counted it, trying not to think of the FINAL NOTICE she'd received from the cable company or the $9,783.42 MasterCard bill she'd only just opened.

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

Delia sighed, then shuffled to the stove to make herself a cup of chai. She looked about the kitchen, the chili pepper Christmas lights she'd strung above the sink a silent, blinking rebuke.

The kitchen was small but well-appointed. There was a convection oven, of course. And a programmable, in-wall Miele coffeemaking system with milk-frothing arm. Other necessities were arranged on the countertop, like icons atop an altar: a KitchenAid mixer, a tiny blowtorch for caramelizing the sugar on creme brulee, a lever-style corkscrew that opened wine bottles in one easy motion.

This last was engraved with the letters "JDY": Jasper Dillingham Young. He was the young man of the house, Delia's groom, a handsome junior executive.

Now, there were two possessions in which Delia and Jasper took inordinate pride. One was Delia's Apple 17-inch PowerBook G4 laptop computer, loaded with the latest software and equipped with a BlueTooth firewire card that allowed her to stylishly surf the Web from coffee shops and hotel lobbies across the country, if not from her unwired condo.

The other was Jasper's gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Air-King wristwatch, a gift from his father for promising not to go to graduate school.

Pretty much everything Jasper owned had a clock on it -- his cell phone, his Blackberry, his iPod -- yet he loved that old watch. That watch was classy, and you couldn't buy class (though you could, apparently, have it given to you).

And Delia's laptop! No marble caryatid was as sleek and lovely as her PowerBook. Sitting at the kitchen table, she basked in the soft glow of its backlit keyboard. She let a tear or two fall onto its brushed aluminum alloy case. Then, with an explosion of energy, she snapped it shut and shoved it into her calfskin bike-messenger-style laptop bag. She ran out of the condo and didn't stop until she was standing in the doorway of Honest Abe's Pawn Shop.

Abe -- thinning hair, stained T-shirt, smudged aviator glasses, the stub of an unlit cigar clenched between his lips -- stood behind a screen of bulletproof glass. He didn't look very honest.

"Will you buy my laptop?" asked Delia.

"I buy laptops," said the man, shifting the cigar from one side of his mouth to the other. "Take it out of the case and let's look at it."

Out came the gleaming laptop computer.

"Two hundred dollars," said Abe.

"Are you kidding?" shrieked Delia. "The 17-inch G4 retails for more than $2,000! What do you take me for? A moron?"

The little man shrugged. "I take you for a lady who for some reason is trying to sell an expensive laptop computer the night before Christmas."

"Give it to me," she said.

Delia grabbed the cash and rushed from the pawnshop. She joined the crush of desperate last-minute shoppers. Holiday songs blared from tinny speakers as she ran from store to store, searching for the perfect gift. Then she saw it. . . .

An hour later, she was back at the kitchen table, a tastefully wrapped present in front of her, when Jasper's key turned in the door. He looked at the package.

"It's your Christmas present," Delia said. "Open it, Jasper darling."

He did as he was told, peeling the paper away to reveal an Acme Automatic Watch Rotator.

"Jasper," said Delia, "I know how your Rolex winds down over the weekend when you don't wear it and how much it annoys you to have to reset it. This little box spins around and around to keep the watch wound. It uses microchips!"

Jasper looked confused. "How, how did you afford it?" he said. "These are like 200 bucks, and we're up to our eyeballs in debt."

Delia looked down at the floor, then said: "I hocked my laptop."

"You hocked your laptop?"

"Pawned it to a dreadful man," Delia said. A note of worry crept into her voice. "I'm just as trendy, hip and stylish without it, aren't I?"

"You say you sold your laptop?"

"It's gone, Jasper. So what?"

Jasper pulled from inside his coat a rectangular box adorned with a single ribbon. "It's your present," he said. "A wireless router. You plug it into the DSL so you can get the Web on your laptop in any room. It's top of the line. I sold the Rolex to get the money to buy it."

And that is the story of our two foolish lovers. Is there a moral? Just this one: Consider gift certificates.

By John Kelly  |  December 27, 2009; 10:48 PM ET
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