The Gift (Story #13)

Sandra placed her hand on the window and looked inside.  She loved the mahogany bed, which was placed at the center of the showroom.  It was like the one her parents had in their home.  Luis was still a couple blocks behind her, talking to their son, no doubt, about the plastic toy banana that the boy had become obsessed with lately.  Quickly, she let herself go into the furniture store and take a look.  She didn’t want Luis to see her.  There was no way they could afford a bed like that, and she knew he got sad when she looked at things they couldn’t afford.

What Sandra didn’t know was that Luis knew exactly what she was doing.  He kept Ruben busy with talk of where plastic bananas come from in order to slow the boy down.   He wanted his wife to look all she wanted because that would make his surprise that much better.  This is why when Luis finally did catch up to Sandra and saw her coming out of the furniture store, though she blanched, he said nothing.

As for Ruben, though young and obsessed with his plastic toy banana while awake, he had dreams about his parents at night—visions, you could call them.  In his dreams, he saw the sketches of the bed his father was planning to build, and even at five years old, Ruben knew they were only slightly better than anything he could do.  He tried to tell his father that he didn’t have to worry, that mom still loved him no matter what.  He also tried to tell his mom about his father’s sadness, and that she needed to hold his father the way she held him when he hurt his knee.  Big people needed hugs, too.  But the words didn’t come.  They got lost in the confusion and desperation of a child’s vocabulary.


           The next day, Sandra woke up and found Luis staring at her.  Not much light was coming into the room, but there was enough to make her realize that he wanted something, or at least, that he wanted to say something.  This made her feel shy.  Even in the blueish light, she could tell it was important.  “Why are you awake?” She finally let herself ask.  Luis smiled and pulled her toward him.  His breath was painful, earthy and metallic at the same time, but she was happy that Luis seemed lighter than usual.  She wondered if it had to do with work, if he had an interview or something and hadn’t told her.  It wasn’t impossible.  She knew her husband was a little superstitious and that he believed things could be jinxed.  So she sat still, breathing in her husband’s breath until her alarm went off.


       As it happened, the small, insistent beep of the clock radio represented very different things to the people in the apartment.  For Sandra, it meant routine, and that was ok with her.  Soon, she would be waking Ruben up with a thorough back scratch (aside from his toy banana, back scratches were his favorite thing), then a shower and the making of a sandwich and the washing of an apple, followed by two bus rides—one to drop Ruben off, the other to go to work.  For Ruben, aside from the back scratch, the beeping meant getting ready for kindergarten, which he was only starting to get used to, but which he enjoyed enough—especially the art-time when he could draw what he saw in his dreams.  There was a consistency to the sound.  It meant what it meant.  The same, however, was not true for Luis.

Before he came up with his plan the week before, that little beep signaled defeat.  The sound was dingy and gray like the walls of the small apartment they rented.  But now, with a goal and a stack of wood hidden from Sandra in the small storage space that their landlord had given them, and with tools he borrowed from the super, the little beep was music and brightness.  By the end of that day, Sandra would have a bed, not a mattress thrown on the floor.

As soon as Ruben and Sandra were out the door, Luis brought the wood he’d stolen from a construction site the week before and started assembling the platform just like he’d seen it done on YouTube.  The wood he used was not as nice as what they used on the video, but it wasn’t terrible.  It had character, he told himself.  By midday, he had the frame done—not perfect, but ok.   Then he started staining, which took another hour.   The rough wood was stubbornly fighting off the stain’s deep shade of red, but after a double-coat, he could see the wood losing its paleness.


            By five o’clock, Sandra was home after having picked up Ruben from daycare.  The smell of the stain was overwhelming.  She didn’t call out for Luis.  Instead, she went into the bedroom where she saw a wooden thing on the floor.  It looked like a rectangle with four unevenly cut legs attached.  She wasn’t sure what it was until she got closer.  And then she understood why Luis seemed different that morning.

Ruben came into the room, slowly, still holding the drawing he’d made that day in school.  He could tell by the way his mom was bent down on her kneed fingering the rough wood, that she was not happy.  He knew this would happen.  He’d tried to warn his mother on their bus ride home.  He tried repeatedly to show her his drawing: the yellow construction paper with a giant red bed crushing down on the house and everyone in it.  He looked up at his father, who’d at that moment walked in.  “I wanted to be here when you came home, but I had to return the tools I borrowed.  What do you think, amor?” Luis asked.

Ruben heard his mother crying.  She was kneeling next to her husband’s gift, touching its rough wood and saying something to herself.  Ruben knew it, and his parents were realizing it, too.  The bed was a gift of sorts, but not a good one.  Not one that you should ever give.  Ugly and awful, it was a sign of what was coming for them.


Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: fiction

Author:the circular runner

g. martinez cabrera currently lives in San Francisco with his lovely and talented wife. He holds degrees from Columbia and from the Harvard Divinity School where he spent three years thinking about lofty things. Since then, he tries to write some lofty and some not-so-lofty things down so others can see how lofty he sometimes is. When he’s not writing or spending time with said wife, he tortures young people with learning. He blogs at and Tumbls at

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  1. The night before, bear with me for just a little bit longer « notsobuddha - September 11, 2011

    […] The Gift (Story #13) ( Share this:ShareFacebookTwitterStumbleUponDiggEmailRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Posted by notso buddha Filed in Uncategorized ·Tags: Family, Home, Maggie, Montreal, Mother, Parent 1 Comment » […]

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