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Promise her anything, but give her an ostrich. Christmas sales come but once a year, and the nation's retail merchants have visions of an average season dancing in their heads. Major chains and trade associations predict this year's Christmas buying spree will be of modest proportions -- with merchants experiencing neither boom nor bust.

One unpredictable variable: There are five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas than there were last year. Retailers aren't sure whether this shorter season will affect sales.

And for that special someone in your life, Neiman-Marcus has the answer. How about a genuine ostrich, raised by monks in conjunction with the Oklahoma City zoo? At $1,500 a pair, they're a bargain.m

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