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The gift

I never read the only book my father gave me. It looms among the shelves of my den in its odd height, sandwiched between physics and poetry. Not a thick book. I take it down sometimes to dust; consider what kind of book a mechanic might call good company. After all, he was not a man who sat in his recliner every evening after supper discussing the classics; who would have known how to pronounce Pygmalion or Descartes or Goethe if one of his children had asked him. This is what I own of all he thought: a cartoon sketch of a boy on the cover sporting a crew cut and sneakers, his hands folded in front of him, and the words ``WHERE DID YOU GO?'' ``OUT.'' ``WHAT DID YOU DO?'' ``NOTHING.'' Who knows how some things survive the basement floods, smoke from a plugged chimney, moving from one house to the next, while others don't. This is the book he pulled out of a box to give me, oil accenting the cracks in his hand, ``Here, take it.'' These are the words that matter.

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