“The Gift” is a song by The Velvet Underground taken from the album White Light/White Heat (1968). The song is a short story written by Lou Reed and narrated byJohn Cale about a guy, Waldo, his girlfriend, Marsha, their long distance relationship and how he decides to make her a gift.
“Waldo Jeffers had reached his limit. It was now Mid-August which meant he had
been separated from Marsha for more than two months. Two months, and all he had
to show was three dog-eared letters and two very expensive long-distance phone
calls. True, when school had ended and she’d returned to Wisconsin, and he to
Locust, Pennsylvania, she had sworn to maintain a certain fidelity. She would
date occasionally, but merely as amusement. She would remain faithful.
But lately Waldo had begun to worry. He had trouble sleeping at night and when
he did, he had horrible dreams. He lay awake at night, tossing and turning
underneath his pleated quilt protector, tears welling in his eyes as he
pictured Marsha, her sworn vows overcome by liquor and the smooth soothing of
some neanderthal, finally submitting to the final caresses of sexual oblivion.
It was more than the human mind could bear.
Visions of Marsha’s faithlessness haunted him. Daytime fantasies of sexual
abandon permeated his thoughts. And the thing was, they wouldn’t understand how
she really was. He, Waldo, alone understood this. He had intuitively grasped
every nook and cranny of her psyche. He had made her smile. She needed him, and
he wasn’t there (Awww…).
The idea came to him on the Thursday before the Mummers’ Parade was scheduled
to appear. He’d just finished mowing and edging the Edelsons lawn for a dollar
fifty and had checked the mailbox to see if there was at least a word from
Marsha. There was nothing but a circular from the Amalgamated Aluminum Company
of America inquiring into his awing needs. At least they cared enough to write.
It was a New York company. You could go anywhere in the mails. Then it struck
him. He didn’t have enough money to go to Wisconsin in the accepted fashion,
true, but why not mail himself? It was absurdly simple. He would ship himself
parcel post, special delivery. The next day Waldo went to the supermarket to
purchase the necessary equipment. He bought masking tape, a staple gun and a
medium sized cardboard box just right for a person of his build. He judged that
with a minimum of jostling he could ride quite comfortably. A few airholes,
some water, perhaps some midnight snacks, and it would probably be as good as
By Friday afternoon, Waldo was set. He was thoroughly packed and the post
office had agreed to pick him up at three o’clock. He’d marked the package
“Fragile”, and as he sat curled up inside, resting on the foam rubber
cushioning he’d thoughtfully included, he tried to picture the look of awe and
happiness on Marshas face as she opened her door, saw the package, tipped the
deliverer, and then opened it to see her Waldo finally there in person. She
would kiss him, and then maybe they could see a movie. If he’d only thought of
this before. Suddenly rough hands gripped his package and he felt himself borne
up. He landed with a thud in a truck and was off.
Marsha Bronson had just finished setting her hair. It had been a very rough
weekend. She had to remember not to drink like that. Bill had been nice about
it though. After it was over he’d said he still respected her and, after all,
it was certainly the way of nature, and even though, no he didn’t love her, he
did feel an affection for her. And after all, they were grown adults. Oh, what
Bill could teach Waldo – but that seemed many years ago.
Sheila Klein, her very, very best friend, walked in through the porch screen
door and into the kitchen. “Oh gawd, it’s absolutely maudlin outside.” “Ach, I
know what you mean, I feel all icky!” Marsha tightened the belt on her cotton
robe with the silk outer edge. Sheila ran her finger over some salt grains on
the kitchen table, licked her finger and made a face. “I’m supposed to be
taking these salt pills, but,” she wrinkled her nose, “they make me feel like
throwing up.” Marsha started to pat herself under the chin, an exercise she’d
seen on television. “God, don’t even talk about that.” She got up from the
table and went to the sink where she picked up a bottle of pink and blue
vitamins. “Want one? Supposed to be better than steak,” and then attempted to
touch her knees. “I don’t think I’ll ever touch a daiquiri again.”
She gave up and sat down, this time nearer the small table that supported the
telephone. “Maybe Bill’ll call,” she said to Sheila’s glance. Sheila nibbled on
a cuticle. “After last night, I thought maybe you’d be through with him.” “I
know what you mean. My God, he was like an octopus. Hands all over the place.”
She gestured, raising her arms upwards in defense. “The thing is, after a
while, you get tired of fighting with him, you know, and after all I didn’t
really do anything Friday and Saturday so I kind of owed it to him. You know
what I mean.” She started to scratch. Sheila was giggling with her hand over
her mouth. “I’ll tell you, I felt the same way, and even after a while,” here
she bent forward in a whisper, “I wanted to!” Now she was laughing very loudly.
It was at this point that Mr. Jameson of the Clarence Darrow Post Office rang
the doorbell of the large stucco colored frame house. When Marsha Bronson
opened the door, he helped her carry the package in. He had his yellow and his
green slips of paper signed and left with a fifteen cent tip that Marsha had
gotten out of her mother’s small beige pocketbook in the den. “What do you
think it is?” Sheila asked. Marsha stood with her arms folded behind her back.
She stared at the brown cardboard carton that sat in the middle of the living
room. “I dunno.”
Inside the package, Waldo quivered with excitement as he listened to the
muffled voices. Sheila ran her fingernail over the masking tape that ran down
the center of the carton. “Why don’t you look at the return address and see who
it’s from?” Waldo felt his heart beating. He could feel the
vibrating footsteps. It would be soon.
Marsha walked around the carton and read the ink-scratched label. “Ah, god,
it’s from Waldo!” “That schmuck!” said Sheila. Waldo trembled with expectation.
“Well, you might as well open it,” said Sheila. Both of them tried to lift the
staple flap. “Ah sst,” said Marsha, groaning, “he must have nailed it shut.”
They tugged on the flap again. “My God, you need a power drill to get this
thing open!” They pulled again. “You can’t get a grip.” They both stood still,
“Why don’t you get a scissor,” said Sheila. Marsha ran into the kitchen, but
all she could find was a little sewing scissor. Then she remembered that her
father kept a collection of tools in the basement. She ran downstairs, and when
she came back up, she had a large sheet metal cutter
in her hand. “This is the best I could find.” She was very out of breath.
“Here, you do it. I-I’m gonna die.” She sank into a large fluffy couch and
exhaled noisily. Sheila tried to make a slit between the masking tape and the
end of the cardboard flap, but the blade was too big and there wasn’t enough
room. “God damn this thing!” she said feeling very exasperated. Then smiling,
“I got an idea.” “What?” said Marsha. “Just watch,” said Sheila, touching her
finger to her head.
Inside the package, Waldo was so transfixed with excitement that he could
barely breathe. His skin felt prickly from the heat, and he could feel his
heart beating in his throat. It would be soon. Sheila stood quite upright and
walked around to the other side of the package. Then she sank down to her
knees, grasped the cutter by both handles, took a deep breath, and plunged the
long blade through the middle of the package, through the masking tape, through
the cardboard, through the cushioning and (thud) right through the center of
Waldo Jeffers head, which split slightly and caused little rhythmic arcs of red
to pulsate gently in the morning sun.”
–“The Gift”, The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground – The Gift