CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rosalie Earle, who has been my editor for many years and whose retirement story is posted in this section, gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. Actually, she gave me two of them. I'll tell about the second one first, as it still makes me giggle. No one has ever handed a prankster such an easy target as she.
It happened several years ago, when Rosalie was in a frenzy getting ready to leave town for Christmas while putting out last-minute fires at work and, at the same time, attempting to secure gifts for a few family members still left on her list.
The year before, I had helped Rosalie by making her a gift certificate to give to her cousin. The certificate entitled the recipients to 48 hours of baby-sitting services, provided by Rosalie, for their three children.
Although I created the certificate in just a few minutes, it was nicely professional-looking, and Rosalie's cousin enjoyed the gift so much that Rosalie decided she'd just give them another, but she wanted to tweak it a little. Make it different somehow. We talked about it briefly, but then she got busy and I got busy and she ended up having to leave town before I could get a new certificate made.
Before leaving, Rosalie jotted down their name and address and asked if I could make something and mail it to them. She emphasized making it different from the previous year and suggested I do some kind of letter telling them their free baby-sitting contract was about to expire, and give them a card to fill out if they wanted to renew.
"You're creative. I'm sure you'll come up with something," Rosalie said. "I trust you."
Those final few words caused a good bit of ruckus as my imagination and conscience went to battle against each other. On the one hand I had Rosalie, leaving the door so wide open, practically begging to be had. On the other hand, I had the issue of betraying my editor's faith in me, as well as, y'know, that minor worry about the unemployment line. In the end, I suppose it should've been a more difficult choice. It wasn't.