The Best Gift

“I want the red one,” said the little girl, pointing to it.
Mr. Watanabe looked at it.  Then at the other colors.  All of them were the same price, except for the black one.  It matched the sale price they’d seen in the newspaper.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said, “but is that sale price the same for all the colors?”
“Oh no sorry,” said the perky sales clerk, “only the black one’s on sale.”
He thanked her.
“Grampa,” his granddaughter said again, “can I have the red one?  Pleeeeease?”
“Callie, honey,” he said, “I like the black one, don’t you?  It’s so nice and shiny compared to the others.  See?” he said, gesturing with his hand as though he were a model selling it.
“No, Grampa, no,” insisted the little girl, tugging at his wrist, “I want the red one.”
Mr. Watanabe thought about the price difference.  With tax it would be – he pulled out his wallet.  Damn.  He would be almost $10 short.
As he slid the wallet back into his pocket, he cursed his wife for never letting him have a charge card anymore.  Everyone gets carried away once in a while, and they’d finally paid off all of his Amazon and Home Shopping Network purchases.  And the Lexus looked brand new.  He treated it as if it were his baby.
“Can I, Grampa, can I please have the red one?”
And now Ethel had put him on a weekly allowance on top of it.  He’d worked hard for years so he could enjoy his retirement.  Half their money was his, wasn’t it?  That she no longer trusted him to control his spending irked him, especially at moments like this.
“The red one sure is pretty, honey, but the black one is so much shinier,” he tried one more time.
His granddaughter said nothing.  He took this as a hopeful sign.  But his optimism was shortlived as Callie began to cry softly.
“Oh!” he said, patting his pocket, “phone call.”
The old man turned away, pulling his cell out of his shirt pocket.  It hadn’t been vibrating; he needed to call his wife.  Fortunately, Mrs. Watanabe was just down the mall having her hair done.
“What is it, dear?” she asked.
“Ethel, da one she like not on sale.  Only da black one on sale.  She like da red one.”
“Well buy it for her, Walt.  If she wants the red, get her the red.”
The old man tried to keep his volume in check so as not to alarm the little girl.
“I would, dear,” he hissed, “except I no more enough cash.”
“Oh my,” said Mrs. Watanabe, “that’s not good.”
“Tell me about it,” Mr. Watanabe spat back at her.  “If you would let me have my Visa card back, then we wouldn’t have a problem.”
Mrs. Watanabe laughed a little too loudly and too long to suit Walter’s current temperament.  He was boiling.  “When your appointment finished?”
“I’m just paying now,” said his wife.
“Please get down here fast and give me some money so I can buy her da red one.  The doll was from you.  I want this to be from me.”
“Oh Walter, don’t have a coronary,” said Ethel.  “I’ll be over in two minutes.”
“An one more thing,” said Walter, “slide da money to me so she think for sure I bought it for her.”
Mrs. Watanabe laughed again.  “Of course, dear, I’ll do that.”
Mr. Watanabe hung up and turned back to his granddaughter.  “Callie, okay, honey, let’s buy the red one.”
The little girl lit up, clapped her hands together, and began shouting, “Thank you thank you thank you sooooo much, Grampa.”
“Oh ma’am,” he caught the attention of the sales person, “we’ll take that one.”
“Are you sure, sir?  The sales price is only on the black model.”
“Ah,” said Mr. Watanabe, “no make difference.  She wants the red, so of course we gotta get it.”
Callie was still bouncing up and down.
“Oh, I’m sure she’ll be super happy with it,” said the sales clerk, taking one down from the shelf and heading over to the cash register.  “Can I get you anything else?”
“Oh no, that’s all, thanks,” said Mr. Watanabe.  He looked over toward the entrance of the store.  Still no Mrs. Watanabe.
The sales clerk rang up the purchase.  “That’ll be –”
“Wait wait wait,” blurted out Mr. Watanabe, “ah, hmmm, get batteries inside?”
“Let me see,” said the sales clerk.
Mr. Watanabe shot another look over to the entrance.  No Mrs. Watanabe.
“No, I’m sorry, sir, it says that batteries aren’t included.”
“Good,” he said.
The sales clerk gave him an odd look.
“I mean, good we found out before we got home.  We better have some batteries too, right Callie?”  He strained a beaming look at her.  She beamed right back enthusiastically.
“Okay, sir.”  The sales clerk went over to the rack of batteries.  “Do you want the value pack?”
“Sure sure sure,” said Mr. Watanabe, a swift glance at the entrance.
The salesclerk came back with the batteries and rung them up.  “Okay, that’ll be – ”
Mr. Watanabe held out his hand to stop her.  “Sorry,” he said, “phone.”
Turning and walking away a few paces, he dialed up his wife.  “Ethel, where you stay?  I need the money!” he said at as low a volume as he could manage.
“I’m just coming in now, dear.”
He turned and saw his thriftier half walk through the entrance.  With a huge sigh of relief he put the phone back in his pocket.
“Hi honey,” he said, forcing his best smile at his wife.
Hugging her he said, “Give it to me.”
“I’m sorry, Walter, I stopped by the cash machine and it was out of order.  We have to charge it.”
Squeezing her harder, he said,  “Great, good, give me the card.”
He felt for his wife’s hand and grabbed the card, then turned to the sales clerk.
“Wow, you two, you must really be in love.  What a hug!” said the sales clerk.
“Oh yeah,” said Mr. Watanabe, handing her the card, “sometimes we cannot keep our hands off each other.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” said the sales clerk, “but your card has been declined.”
Mr. Watanabe choked back a cry, pivoted and glared at his wife.  He went to her and hugged her again. “Dammit, Ethel” he whispered, “give me another one.”
He felt his wife opening her wallet and then pushing another card into his hand.
“Whoa ho ho, you two, not in front of the young lady,” the sales clerk joked.
Walter laughed an oddly strangled sounding laugh, handing her the card.
“Sir, I’m sorry, but this is your gas card.  We only take Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or American Express.”
“Of course you do,” said Walter, his shoulders sagging.  He did not feel like hugging Ethel again.
“Please pay her, dear,” he said to his wife.  “You do the honors.”
Mrs. Watanabe gave the sales clerk her charge card.
As they walked out of the store together, Callie said, “Oh thank you, Grandma, with this and the doll, these are the best birthday presents you ever gave me.”
The old man sagged even more.  Suddenly he needed a beer.
“And thank you too, Grampa.  You are the best Grampa ever.”
Walter Watanabe smiled a huge smile.  It was like he’d received the best gift of all. Life looked good again. Now it felt like a two beer night.

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