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The perfect gift 

Presents from the heart are the ones that count the most

Jesus God, what the hell is wrong with a lazy Susan for a wedding gift? Lary acts like I dug it out of a pile of trash under a freeway overpass or something, when really I put some thought into this gift. I mean, I actually spent an entire evening on ebay, typing phrases like "atomic age" and "Eames era" (whatever those are) into the search engine to find not just any lazy Susan, but the world's most retro, almost-magical-in-its-coolness lazy Susan that was probably used by Dennis Hopper and his first wife to pass munchies at a pot party in the Hollywood Hills in the early '60s.

"Are you insane?" Lary argues. "A box of used Q-Tips would be better."

Thank God I have someone to take to Liz and Tony's wedding besides Lary, who, when he escorted me to my friend Evelyn's wedding three years ago, heckled the minister during the ceremony and then bolted with another woman before the first glass of champagne was poured at the reception.

"You don't mind, do you?" he asked.

"You're my date, you dick!"

"I knew you'd understand," he called over his shoulder as he left.

I still cringe at the memory, so this time I'm taking Chris, who is at least amenable to The Gift -- the Utmost Goddess Of All Lazy Susans -- the kind of party showpiece that will have Liz and Tony's guests foaming at the mouth and falling over each other in admiration of their hosts' taste in tableware. Liz must love to throw parties, I figure. After all, she does it for a living as the head of her own public relations agency, which she runs from a sunny loft in Inman Park. Her office has so many windows, it's light-drenched even when it's raining. I like to visit on occasion and sit at the edge of her desk, hoping some of her Liz-ness will rub off on me.

Daniel feels the same way. We are both a little in love with Liz. She's like a bouncing beam of atomic energy, the popular girl in high school who deigns to include us in her posse, one of our favorite human rays of hope in which we occasionally bask like blissful little lizards. For example, Daniel and I spent yesterday morning amazed that you can call Liz at 7:30 a.m. and catch her coming back from already having been somewhere. Can you imagine that? The most you'd catch me doing at that hour is playing a prolonged bout of patty-cake with the snooze button on my alarm clock.

So what do you get a girl like Liz? Daniel is lucky. Like Tony, he's a talented artist and plans to bestow the couple with one of his latest creations. It's not like I can do that. The last time I gave a piece of personal artwork as a gift was to my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Wolvertine, who had long hair that curled under at the ends like Marlo Thomas in the later episodes of "That Girl." She taught me words like "astonish" and "thorough," which I don't think is normal third-grade study material, and she once hit me square in the skull with a chalkboard eraser for reading Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes instead of the assigned Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Evidently tired of seeing me come to school in mismatched castoffs and long, uncombed hair, she finally sighed exasperatingly one day and attacked my head with a brush. On class-picture day she personally smoothed down the collar of my pinned-up blouse and cleaned my face with her own spit before I faced the camera.

For her birthday I drew her a picture of a princess on a piece of notebook paper, complete with organza gown, pinched bodice and puffy, lustrous pre-collagen lips -- and long hair that curled under at the ends. I swathed it lovingly in old Christmas wrap and a curly-cue ribbon. That afternoon all her students gathered about her desk to witness the gift parade, and soon afterward my heart hit my feet at the uncovering of each competing surprise: a fancy pen set, a designer valise, a leather-bound Shakespeare anthology. After awhile I separated myself from the pack and simply sat back down at my desk, hoping she would overlook my offering and commence class. No such luck, mine was the last she opened, followed, as feared, by the uninhibited snickers of my classmates. She called for me, and the kids parted to afford her a view of me sitting alone across the room, studying my dirty fingernails. "This is beautiful," she bellowed, silencing the little demons and perking me up somewhat. "Really, just lovely," she continued, "the perfect gift. Thank you."

I beamed so hard my brain almost exploded. Now all I have to do is spin the same spell for Liz. Daniel, for one, is thoroughly supportive of The Great Lazy Susan inspiration. "Is it fabulous?" he asks of The Gift, knowing it will be. "Yes," I glow. "It's Barbarella Jane Fonda-esque, with a swivel base, honey." He assures me Liz will open it and have to catch her breath before tearing into the next gift, which will pale in comparison, of course.

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