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Smell the Coffee: Life-altering break deserves a pranking

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.

The first paragraph of the letter I wrote to her cousin simply informed them their contract with the Earle Sitter Services was about to expire, but they could renew by returning the enclosed card.

The next line read: "If you act fast, we'll also include a one-time full housecleaning, closet organization and car detailing special. To claim this deal, just write the words 'Rosalie should have known better' in the little box at the top of the card."

Over the years, I've tormented poor Rosalie by writing about colonoscopies and farts and feminine hygiene products and subjects a classier columnist wouldn't venture anywhere near.

But she had no one to blame but herself.

Since it was Rosalie who, 16 years ago, asked if I'd like to try my hand at writing a column.

I doubt many other editors would've offered such a chance to a quiet newspaper secretary who dreamed of writing. But Rosalie believed in me. She took a gamble and it changed my life.

And for that, I'll be forever grateful.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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