Freelance Friday: Punxsutawney Phil

Every Groundhog day I like to think that Punxsutawney Phil is essentially every one of us who has put off a long-term project too long and wakes up on the due date in a cold sweat and scrambles to finish it. Like Groundhogs day snuck up on him again and he has to wing it. This is more or less how I picture that going….

Phil was woken from his drunken stupor by a commotion outside of his rural Pennsylvanian hole. In his still very much inebriated state, Phil assumed it was just Jerry again. Jerry had been on a workout kick of late and he’d taken to doing P90x in his living room before work in the morning. Phil was happy for him, sure. Jerry needed to lose the weight. He’d been trying for years and this New Years resolution appeared to be sticking. He’d already lost almost a full pound since starting the program. Yes, it was mostly water weight, but it was more about Jerry finding a groove in his workout routine than it was the actual weight and Phil was genuinely happy for him. That being said, Phil and Jerry shared a wall and Phil was in rough shape this morning. The last thing he needed was an early wake-up call from Jerry whose general sunny disposition he’d picked up with the workout kick had begun to piss Phil off. He’d been up all night drinking you see. He’d been drinking a lot since Sarah left. 14 years together down the drain. He understood why she had to leave, he really did. What he didn’t, and never would understand was why she had to take the kids. Once every third weekend and every 4th federal holiday. That’s what drove him to drink.

As he began to find his bearings and his brain began to calibrate itself, Phil realized that the noise wasn’t coming from Jerry’s but from outside of their modest duplex. Reaching for his nightstand to grab his glasses knocked over a half-full can of Hamm’s. “Jesus Christ Phil,” the cripplingly hungover groundhog thought to himself, “you definitely needed that last Hammer. Yeah, that was the one that you needed right there.” Finally finding his glasses, paw soaked in beer, he sat up in bed. With the ruckus still in full swing outside, he wandered aimlessly into the kitchen. Coffee. He needed coffee. As he grabbed for the pot of old, cold coffee he brewed yesterday (or was it Wednesday?), his eyes were drawn to the calendar above his kitchen table.

He dropped the pot of coffee. Broken glass and Folgers covered the kitchen floor.  

“No,” he whispered aloud. “No, it can’t be. It fucking can’t be.”

It was.

February 2nd. Groundhogs Day.

He sprinted to his study, stacks of paper, beakers, and manuscripts strew across his desk. “You fucking idiot Phil. You fucking idiot. One day a year. You have one job, one day a year. How could you let this happen.” Words couldn’t describe the pit in Phil’s stomach. He riffled through the disaster of unfinished work on his desk. Papers titled Early Springs of the 1800’s, Arctic Sea Levels and Long Winters, and 6 More Weeks of Winter, 6 Fewer Weeks of Farming, were thrown aside as Phil scrambled to put something, anything together.

The music blared outside. Trumpets. Drums. Chanting. His head was pounding. Phil wasn’t ready. He wasn’t near ready. He hadn’t finished his first soil test. He hadn’t tested the pH of the Mahoning Creek. He hadn’t even opened his grandfather’s notes on the correlation between dry summers and long winters. He’d been on what roughly equated to a six-month bender since the divorce and his work had suffered because of it.

He sunk to the floor, completely defeated. “You fool,” he said to himself, tears streaming down his checks. “You drunken fool.”

The music had stopped outside. That could mean only one thing. A giant, white, hairless hand emerged from the hole that leads to the outside world. Phil scrambled to get away from it. The hand had him cornered behind the desk in his office, there was no escaping it. As the long slender fingers wrapped themselves around his leg, Phil spotted a quarter half covered by Sunlight and Shadows: What Does it All Mean?. He reached for it, his paws grasping the coin. “Last chance,” he thought to himself.

He flipped the coin as the hand dragged him to his living room. “Heads – early spring. Tails – 6 more weeks,” he whispered, the enormous hand pulling him out of his home and into the throng of screaming people gathered outside…