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"Where are you?"

It was Doug. He was probably looking for me because he was hungry. When I began this task, the sun was high; but now it was dark outside, and I'd turned on the lights to keep working.

"I'm in here!" I called from behind piles of catalogs stacked from one end of the bedroom to the other. "Follow my voice!"

Once he found me, he marveled, "You've been at this since early afternoon. Have you made any headway at all?"

"Absolutely," I assured him.

"Those over there," I said, pointing to a small stack below the windows, "are catalogs that have expired, or that I've decided not to order from. And that pile over there" -- I indicated a slightly larger heap by the closet -- "is for catalogs from which I might order a gift for someone ... but I'm not sure yet.

"Now, that pile over there," I continued, indicating a slightly bigger stack leaning up against Doug's dresser, "are catalogs full of stuff I'm definitely ordering for people for Christmas, including that battery-operated lap-dog for my mother. I think she really wants a furry companion, but, at her age, doesn't really cotton to the idea of having to take it for walks or lug home 50-pound bags of dog food."

"So why don't you just get her a nurse with a mustache to look in on her twice a week?"

"Be serious," I said. "It's really cute, and it only costs $29.99, plus $9.99 shipping and handling. She'll get a kick out of it. When you turn it on, it looks like it's breathing!"

"Yeah," said Doug, "and when you turn it off, it looks like it just kicked the bucket.

"OK, so what's in that gigantic mountain of catalogs over there," he asked, "the one leaning up against the bed? By the way, did you know that your Christmas catalog hoarding habit is a fire hazard?"

"And did YOU know that so are Christmas trees?" I countered. "But that doesn't stop people from having them."

I went back to thumbing through the dog-eared catalog in my lap and pretended he wasn't there.

"Well?" insisted Doug. "What's in the huge mountain of catalogs by the bed?"

"Those are the ones that have stuff I like in them," I answered. "And don't say a word. Not one word."

Doug stood silently for a minute or two. I'm not sure if he was considering his dinner options; deciding whether he should offer to help me finish going through the catalogs I'd been collecting since they started flooding our mailbox in early October; or just trying to figure out whether or not I was kidding about the biggest pile in the room holding my own Christmas wish-list.

Most likely it was the latter; and he was fervently hoping I was joking. I wasn't, by the way. It doesn't hurt to dream, right? I wrote Santa a letter this year, and I gave him the catalog names and page numbers, too, just in case.

"As of today, there's only one month left until Christmas, and some of these catalogs will take several weeks to deliver the goods," Doug reminded me. "You probably should have placed yours orders back when they first arrived."

"Guess I'd better jump online right away," I conceded, gathering up the catalogs containing "definite gifts" and heading for my computer.

"Great," said Doug, "I'm 100 percent supportive and behind you all the way with that plan. Anything, just as long as we don't have to go to the mall on Dec. 24, or shop in any tiny boutiques with barely enough room for three customers, and where everything costs an arm and a leg.

"But first ... " he added, "could we PLEASE talk about dinner?"


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