Jim Meirose

Posted on March 29, 2011


Editor’s Pick

Best of the Net 2011 nomination

Two Dolphins

You go shopping at Illum. You’re looking for a gift for your sister. What might she want? A crystal dolphin looks good. You call over the salesgirl.

I’d like to see that, you say.

She smiles and takes it out onto the countertop. It looks perfect.

It’s perfect, you tell her.

I’ll take it.

Wonderful, she says with a toss of her blonde head. I just need to go in the back and get it for you—

What’s the matter with this one right here?

This is the display model, she says. I’ll get you one from the back in a box—

No. I want the display model.

Somehow you think the one you looked at will feel bad if it’s not the one you buy. It went out of its way to appeal to you—the least you can do is to buy it.

All right, she says. I need to go in the back and get the box.

She sways away into the door to the back. The dolphin has faceted crystal eyes—tiny ones. You look at it close. Your finger runs along its curves.

You have made me like you, you think.

You have made me buy you.

The salesgirl comes back out with two boxes and puts the open one down in front of you next to the dolphin and begins opening the sealed one with a letter opener.

What are you doing, you ask her.

I need to have a new display model since you’re buying the one I had here before.

She takes out the dolphin and puts it into the display case and puts the empty box on the table behind her.

Now, she says. This is the one you want—

She picks it up and puts it into the box and tapes the box shut in what seems like one seamless smooth motion.

How much, you ask. You’re surprised you hadn’t asked this before.

Two hundred fifty dollars, she says—plus tax.

Quickly she rings you up and you use your credit card and ask her if they gift wrap.

Unfortunately not, she says. Out comes a pen and the paper you need to sign. You sign and before you know it you’re on the street, and you walk along. That was too easy. You stop on the sidewalk and take the box out of the bag. You wonder if the dolphin is really in the box. You sit on the sidewalk with your back against a building. You open the box and take out the dolphin and look it in the eye. People pass—this way, that way. You sit there a long time until you decide you must have this dolphin for your own. You put it back in the box and bag and immediately your heart sinks, because you realize you have to find another gift for your sister. An idea hits you; go back to the store and get a second dolphin. You go in.

The salesgirl smiles and tilts her head as you come up to the crystal counter.

Is there something wrong, she asks.

No, no—I’d just like to buy another dolphin. This one was going to be a gift but I like it so much I will keep it for my own. I’ll take another one—that one.

You point to the display model.

She goes through the routine of going in the back and getting another display model and she puts the one you’re buying back in its box, and rings you up for another two fifty and you leave with the second box in the same bag with the first. You leave the store gratified at having found something so fine—but then you stop again on the sidewalk and look in the bag at the two identical boxes and it hits you—you don’t know which one is which. Which is the first one that had made you love it and which is the second one that you want your sister to fall in love with? It’s important that you get the right one; you had looked it in the eye; it had looked back at you; it had said love me; you had said I love you.

Again, you sit with your back against the building and put the two boxes atop the folding bag and you sit there trying to decide which is which. It’s important which is which. You sit there a long time, until it is dark. You can’t decide. You can’t decide. You throw your face in your hands. It would not be good to be seen to cry.


Jim Meirose‘s short work has appeared in many literary magazines and journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, New Orleans Review, South Carolina Review, and Witness. A chapbook of his short stories was released in October 2010 by Burning River. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and the Shirley Jackson Award. One of his stories was cited in the O. Henry awards anthology.

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