“Entrepreneurs,” by Sara Backer

Sep 28th, 2011 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

It’s genetic.  If you get the entrepreneur gene, you always dream of owning your own business.  If you don’t have the gene, you might think about starting your own business once or twice in your life but can be talked out of it.  An entrepreneur can’t be.  No amount of financial loss, horrendous work load, or family disruption can make the entrepreneur give up his dream.

The non-entrepreneur spouse cannot understand this.  The non-E spouse is compelled to argue, persuade, suggest, bribe, threaten, and blackmail to get the E spouse into a real job.  Non-E spouses should just get divorced and get on with things, but usually they’re in love with their E dreamers and being in love is almost as hopeless as being an entrepreneur.

The E gene’s in my family, though I didn’t get it.  My mother had it, and both her parents had it.  Her parents were a special type of entrepreneurs: mail-order schemers.  But none of their schemes did well, not even the family meatloaf recipe guaranteed to impress dinner guests, and they had to resort to becoming landlords.

I used to have friends who had the gene . . .not any longer, because entrepreneurs don’t have time for friends.  Sometimes the gene emerges in childhood.  These are the kids who sell their used toys to other kids.  Who get business cards printed up in the third grade: “Zachary Wells, President, Unlimited Universe Enterprises, Inc.”  Who, on a rainy Saturday when the other kids are bored and don’t know what to do, say, “Let’s make a million dollars and I’ll get seventy percent!”

Most of the time, the gene is latent, appearing around the age of thirty.  One day Zachary, up to now a decent, responsible, fairly intelligent and darn nice guy, will come home and say, “Why should I continue to give forty plus hours a week of slave labor to Mr. Example and Example Company when I could be in business for myself, slaving eighty hours a week at one-quarter of the pay with no benefits?”

“But, Zach,” protests his lovely young wife.  “What about me and the kids?”

“You can work eighty hours a week, too,” Zachary offers.  “The kids can work after school and weekends.  We’ll get a cash loan on our mortgaged house, sell your Honda, and max out our credit cards!  We’ll be rich!”

Go figure.


Sara Backer, author of the novel American Fuji, has short pieces forthcoming in Gargoyle, San Pedro River Review, Sleet, and others.  She lives half her life as a deadly serious English teacher and the other half as a comic strip character.

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