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A few nights after Christmas I was out in front of my house swearing like a sailor and scooping up wet garbage from the road. As is normal, trash pickup in my neighborhood had been delayed because of the holiday — first one day, and then a second day, and then no one had come at all.

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I shambled past the balloons hanging from the mailbox, a sweaty, aching mess. I was halfway to tears, but honestly couldn’t spare them. Every drop of liquid had been wrung out of me.