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Game of Chance

“If we were at a restaurant, another dessert would be an additional ten dollars. But at home it’s still from the same $4.99 pint”

“What’s this?”

Laibel fingered the pink slip of paper.

“What does it look like? A lottery ticket,” Zeidy said, reaching high to pinch his grandson’s cheek. “I follow the news. You kids are drowning in student debt, I figured this was the only way you’d make it out alive.”

Laibel chuckled, put the ticket back in the card, and passed it to Shira. “Zeidy’s graduation gift.”

Shira attempted a laugh, but it didn’t sound natural like her husband’s. “Thank you for coming, Zeidy, it means a lot to us,” she said graciously.

The old man looked up at his granddaughter-in-law. “It’s not every day my progeny graduates from NYU with an MBA. I’d feel important, but I don’t want to know how much your fancy piece of paper cost.”

Shira bristled. Laibel smiled easily and clapped his grandfather on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about us, Zeidy, we’ve got it all figured out.”

“Mazel tov, Laibel,” Shira said after dessert of their post-graduation celebratory dinner. Laibel was licking his spoon after scraping his ramekin clean. “Want more?” she offered. Laibel handed her his empty ramekin. Shira left to refill it and was back moments later.

“If we were at a restaurant, another dessert would be an additional ten dollars. But at home it’s still from the same $4.99 pint.”

Laibel gave her a lopsided smile. “Amazing.”

Shifra pointed to their empty plates. “Seventy-five bucks, tops — with leftovers in the kitchen. This would be close to $200 or more in a proper steakhouse.”

“For sure,” Laibel said, scooping sorbet into his mouth.

“And Mommy and Tatty gave us $400 to eat out in style — we’re totally ahead this month. Should we start paying off your student loans now? They’re not due yet, but it still accrues interest even if

you don’t have pay them yet.”

“Ah,” Laibel hesitated. “Let’s figure out what to do with our windfall later, let’s just celebrate now.”

“Sure,” Shira said. Her fingers twitched on the stem of the wine glass, but she changed the subject. “Some gag gift from Zeidy.”

“Yeah, he’s a funny guy.” Laibel laughed. Shira didn’t.

“I was a little offended,” she started. “Like you said, we have it under control. It’s like he doesn’t trust us or something.”

“Oh c’mon,” Laibel waved a hand. “He wasn’t thinking of us as us, but us as the young people he watches on the news.”

“Whatever.” Shira shrugged. “Maybe Zaidy should read Dave Ramsey’s book on financial peace and he’ll understand that we have a plan. ‘Live today like no one else, so you can live tomorrow like no one else,’ ” she quoted.

Laibel finished his sorbet. Shira sipped at her wine.

“I graduated. Can you believe it?” Laibel said after a quiet minute. They both broke into broad, genuine, disbelieving smiles. The tension of moments before dissipated in the joy of the moment, the knowledge that they had their whole lives ahead of them, no more droning professors or pointless group projects.

(Excerpted from Calligraphy, Issue 781)

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