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In the forthcoming The Quiet Underwoods Wish Bernum recalls a crippling business failure.

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IT WAS THREE YEARS AGO next month that Wish, trying out Leo the barista’s Caffè Cannabinoid, a grande, at the tiny round table in the bookstore’s front bay window, got a call from an old colleague from his Kansas City greeting card days. They’d hardly exchanged two words when his friend shouted, then excused himself: he’d been shooing an opossum that had climbed over the fence into his back yard. Wish meanwhile had been watching Leo and the store’s manager standing on chairs to hang a red-bowed balsam garland over the bean bins. The words were out of Wish’s mouth before he’d thought them. “Christmas Possums!”

He outlined the entire campaign on the phone in three minutes. First, you go to a website where there’s this big photo image of a possum wearing a Santa hat. Headline reads Give the Gift They’ll Never Forgive. For $24.95, buyer has mailed to designated recipient a poly envelope, or paperboard mailing box maybe, marked in big bold letters YOUR POSSUM PREP PACK. Inside is everything you the recipient needs to get ready for Your Live Christmas Possum Arriving in Two to Three Business Days, including a care-and-feeding booklet, a whimsical cartoon possum air freshener/tree ornament, and recipe cards. Wish filled half a dozen drink napkins with notes before he hung up.

He’d be too late for that year’s holiday season, but he was ready for the next. By the second week the following October, had taken in something in excess of eighteen thousand orders, and he was into a third printing of the information packet items when he received word of a North Dakota woman who, on receipt of this you’d-think-obvious gag gift from her nephew, suffered an aortic aneurysm and collapsed at her mailbox. Wish, shocked and horrified, and guilt-ridden, thereupon learned he’d never completed the final steps of his online application to the Colorado Secretary of State for limited liability corporation status. His attorney fees alone took everything he’d had, and even if Wish going forward were to experience nothing but outstanding years, years as good as his highest-earning year ever, he was scheduled to finish paying off installments to the woman and her estate sometime around his own son’s age for retirement.

pica? or elite?

no entertainment tax

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