>The living room and dining room at my parents’ house form an L shape. One afternoon, as I was sitting on the lovely rust-colored sectional sofa that my parents bought in the late ‘70s (not long after which my friend Stacie convinced me that jumping on it would be fun, and thus the springs in the fold-our bed were immediately busted) when they planned to redo the living room in “earth tones,” my dad was sitting at the end of the dining room table looking over the gifts he received at his 60th birthday party.

“Come here,” he beckoned me, “I want to give you something.”

“I’m sitting a foot away from you. What is it?” I replied sullenly.

“It’s a $30 gift certificate to Border’s,” he said.

“Dad!” I was touched, but a bit mortified. “Don’t give me your gifts! I appreciate it, but you should use it for yourself! Thank you for thinking of me, though.”

“Take it! I don’t read,” he insisted.

“They sell DVDs. You can get something to watch.”

“Take it!” He walked toward me on the dark brown carpet that seamlessly covered both rooms. “Plus your mom has a $10 gift certificate to Borders, too. She only gets books from the library.”

“Take them,” my mom shouted from the kitchen, which sat in the center of the L, separated by a wall.

I thanked them profusely and promised to put them to good use. However, it turns out that my dad really doesn’t read and neither do I.

When I returned to New York, I went to Borders to buy the book my book club selected (Sybil, the book about the woman with multiple personalities), and while I was there, I also picked up Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell (about a summer she spent driving to sites related to the four successful presidential assassinations in the US – a hilarious idea), Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer (about fundamentalist Mormons who kill a family member and insist that God told them to do so), and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (another true crime book, although with charmingly quirky people in it, not religious zealots.) These books were a buy-two-get-one-free deal, so all four books would be covered by my $40 gift cards. Good stuff.

I brought them to the cheerful gay cashier who rang me up and entered me in the bonus points system. The total came to $40.03. Perfect! I gave him the two gift cards.

“Uh, this one is for Barnes & Noble, not us,” he said kindly.

“Huh? What? My dad said it was for Borders,” I mumbled stupidly. I picked up the card and squinted at it. Indeed it said Barnes & Noble. Ooops.