Yesterday was Groundhog Day. You might not have even noticed, what with the news world as crowded as it is, but Punxatawney Phil was once again rudely awakened and forced to take the easiest Rorschach blotter test we could find.
“It’s me,” he said. “For the last time, it’s me. Now would you please-” Six more weeks of winter! the crowd at Gobbler’s Knob interrupted with a roar, for some reason pleased by the bad news. Men in tuxedos and top hats led the crowd in an awkward dance while Phil grumbled back to his home, “You ass-hats could be so lucky… Lousy freak’n water, stink’n weak-tit ass bark fall’n off everywhere… Six straight weeks of a season, ha!… Go drive a Hummer you sons of…” and he slammed the tiny door of a tree stump with faded ‘Gore Lieberman 2000’ and ‘Coextinct’ stickers stuck here and there.
You’ll have to pardon his irritability – for over 150 years the proud Punxatawney family have been held in captivity and forced to take part in these charades. It all started when Phil’s great-great-great-grandfather, Punxatawney Horace Q. Pearce was scooped up by a passing group of dignitaries on an autumn afternoon as innocuous as any. “I cannot abide, Dickenson, your rules, they chaff me,” one voice struck out. “For it was Adam and Eve, good sir, not Adam and someone… who… well, who wasn’t clearly his sister!” Throats were cleared with assenting or dissenting guffaws. “The eyes of God witness all and his hand does the same,” countered another. “If man were meant to marry his sister then let this boneless hare, bound or scurry as he may, and leave off directly south south-easterly.” In his diary, Horace swears to a stronger moral compass than this rabble, but the incestuous direction was the closest to the brush, and thereby a different and more instinctive physical liberty, one that a century and a half of Punxatawney bondage more than vindicates. But freedom for some was not so easily purchased, and a muddy boot quickly blocked his path. He quickly became legend.
Since that day an innocent bloodline of marmots has been used to predict any number of things: Horace Q. Pearce was ironically later used by Quakers to prove the devilry of physical relations closer than first cousins; his son, Punxatawney Christopher was used in 1983 to answer the vague question of whether or not society should panic; Punxatawney Earl was a character witness for OJ; and it was Punxatawney John who Pete Carroll relied on for play calling in Super Bowl 49. But for the most part they’ve been enslaved rather simply in the Hamlet of a small town Pennsylvania: to-spring or not-to-spring.
“We’ve said shadow, we’ve said no shadow. Nine times early on my father’s great-great grand pappy Pearce told them to f*#! right off. Hasn’t made a difference. I mean what do they want from us?” Exasperation was easily discerned watching Phil raise a shaky paw of cider to his mouth. After twenty minutes he drew quiet. “Listen, I’m glad someone’s finally trying to see it from my perspective, but we’ve got bigger tofu to fry. Have you seen these tweets?“ I was unable to read anything on the miniature Samsung S7 held out to me, but I had a pretty good guess. There’s only one thing on any of our minds, and thought it best not to press a troubled mind.
I left him staring silent and against the grain of the table before him, but as I walked away I could hear the knock and clatter of Phil returning to life, attempting to fallout proof his stump.