art by Richard Gagnon
by Torrey Podmajersky
He looked at my year's work, listed out on paper. He drew breath through his long nose. He stretched his neck. It looked like his collar was trying to bite his head off. "Let's talk about your gifting, shall we?"
He didn't wait for me to answer. He stabbed the middle of one page with a pudgy finger. "Seventeen candy canes. Let's start there."
"Start with that giftee? Or just about the candy canes?" I hoped I sounded innocent.
"Why would anyone want seventeen candy canes?"
"She's new at her work. Her team was all excited about decorating a tree. It's not her holiday, but she still wanted to. So then she had the candy, and could join in."
"Ah! So that was a nice gift. Glad to hear there's one of those on here." He looked down again, then his head tilted to the side. "A rock. You gave a child a rock. On her birthday."
"It was one she didn't have. She's collecting them."
His finger moved to the next red-underlined word. "Worms."
"He wanted to start a garden."
That one had been difficult. And itchy. "He met another little boy with chicken pox at the doctor's office. They got to play together, and now they're good friends."
He steepled his fingers together, and spoke slowly. "A bag of garbage split open on a kitchen floor."
"She's an archeologist. It gave her a different perspective on the Pompeii ruins."
"A faulty transmission."
"He learned how his car works. And that he doesn't really want to be an engineer."
His neck turned purple as he read the next item. I knew what he was about to bring up, and braced myself.
"Two cases of gonorrhea?"