holiday-appropriate fiction
originally published February 1, 2007
in “Letters from Heck” at

The next big consumption holiday is coming up. I doubt you’ve prepared at all. Haven’t found the perfect Hallmark sentiment to mass-mail to your friends and relatives. Haven’t picked up the rubberstamped chocolates and sourball and ribbon candies. Haven’t bought the squirrel quarters for deep-frying or collected the traditional wild morels for the mac-and-cheese casserole or picked up a frozen quince pie from the local supermarket, no rampions and mallows in the pantry for the traditional pie-topping and garnishes. Fresh out of duck milk and duck eggs for the custard. Cornbread? Cornbread you can do. But you can’t make a whole meal for the extended family out of cornbread.

Well, you could. But you shouldn’t.

No hand-gnawed (so to speak) wooden toys to give to the youngsters. And do you have enough wood to chuck on the fire? No, you do not. Too late now, though.

And you really need the spare ramps and moonshine to leave out for… who are you fooling? For yourself to sneak down you in the predawn hours. Though bourbon would do. Bourbon you have. Moonshine is too volatile to store in porous clay jugs, as it evaporates out through the tiny pores. So you keep telling your skeptical spouse.

“What the hell are you thinking? Save some — Save me some for when the in-laws are here. I’ll need it.”

Boy, will you need it. Especially for when you’re all standing in the freezing cold, standing around the groundhog burrow, shovels in hand.

Waiting for the bastard. Waiting for the bastard to show his bashful, grumpy, sleepy, dopey, fuzzy little head.

Easy on the back swing. Remember what happened to your shoulder last year.

But still. But still. If he sees his shadow this year, you’re fucked. Best not to give him the chance.

You have less than twenty-four hours. Should you put up the WANTED posters again this year? Is that festive enough? Is there time?

Barely. On both counts.

You desperately need an early spring this year. An extended growing season’s your only chance to make up all that money you lost on last year’s Fantasy Football fiasco. But you’re not the only one who’s gonna be holding a shovel, looking for a way to make up for last year’s bad business.

Little fucker’ll never know what hit him.

And then there’s the bounty. Two or three of you may have to split it. But since RJR’s the sponsor this year, it’s bound to be fairly generous. They’ve got some catching up to do ever since Philip Morris found a politically correct way to sell nicotine to tobacco addicts — in gum and “patch” form. And let’s not forget the liquid form, at a hundred dollars per thirty milliliters, specifically for the drip feeds of hospitalized addicts too sick to go cold turkey. RJR’s and all’ve been pimping tobacco for a hundred years, telling people it’s safe, it’s good for them, puts hair on their chest; then gets in big nasty trouble for it, gets their asses sued into near oblivion… and fuckin’ Philip Morris rolls over with the rest of them, but, get this, Phillip Morris is selling tobacco to GlaxoSmithKline to sell to sick people as honest-to-God FDA-approved medicine? And Japan Tobacco has its own in-house pharmaceutical division?

Probably RJR too, now. It’s easy to lose track.

More irony in that than in your shovel, weasel-whacker. Let it go. Limber up. Their money’s as good as anyone’s.

How does this work, anyway? The groundhog sees his shadow, gets frightened, and runs like a pussy back down into his burrow taking any hope of an early spring back down there with him. But if he stays aboveground… spring starts now.

How do groundhogs divide up their territories? Is one groundhog good for, say, a whole state? A thousand miles? A hundred? Fifty? Does it matter whether it’s a boar or a sow? Do older groundhogs govern a larger area? Or is it a matter of the groundhog’s size? Do groundhogs fight each other to control larger territories?

How does that work? Are groundhogs just full of magic? If you whack their little heads off, is it like Highlander? Is the early arrival of spring “The Quickening”?

Call the County Extension Office in the morning. After the business is over. Someone has to know.

In the meanwhile, there is bourbon.


February 1, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in fiction  


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