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No Sweat on Groundhog Day

by SHELL SHERREE

February 2nd is Groundhog Day in the USA. Spare a thought for Punxsutawney Phil. The entire schedule of winter coat sales rests heavily on his little furry shoulders and those of his brotherhood.

He usually lives quietly with his dear wife Phyllis in the library {that's right, the library} of his namesake town in Pennsylvania, waited on by carers known as the Inner Circle, easily distinguished by their top hats, tuxedos and unnatural fascination with mounds of earth.

But once a year with monotonous regularity, he is uprooted from his comfortable urban home and forced to live in temporary digs at Gobbler's Knob, a bucolic spot a few kilometres out of town. This enables him to go through the public charade of retreating back into his hole if he sees his shadow {thereby indicating six more weeks of winter weather} or sitting on his haunches to point and laugh at the dudes in formal dress {thereby indicating an early spring and a damn fine sense of humour}.

What people neglect to consider is that when Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his hole, still sleepy and bleary-eyed, his first thought is wondering where his wife got to. Whether he bolts back into his hole or not could be governed by how quickly he wakes up and realises that Phyllis is safely tucked in bed at the library, and not making Marmots with Octararo Orphie. {Octararo usually lives just up the road in Quarryville and it's heavily rumoured in the woodchuck community that he did a runner to escape the pressure of another year's seasonal expectations. He was last seen scampering into the woods after demonstrating that it is physically possible to flip the bird without having opposable thumbs.}

According to the Groundhog Club, whatever Punxsutawney Phil predicts, he will speak to the Club President in "Groundhogese", intelligible only to the Inner Circle; this prediction is then translated for the entire world.

{This can be logically explained. Each summer, Phil is fed a mysterious elixir of immortality called Groundhog Punch. He is presently 122 years of age and going strong. When Groundhog Punch is imbibed by humans, however, it has an hallucinigenic effect that lasts for at least 12 months. As only the Club members and Phil speak Groundhogese, no-one has been able to explain this to them in a language they can understand. This phenomenon could also explain the top hats and tuxes.}

Alongside the speculation about Octararo Orphie, there are whispers in woodchuck circles that Punxsutawney Phil is kept in the local library for his own protection. After all, last year he predicted six more weeks of winter in direct opposition to Jimmy the Groundhog, Dunkirk Dave and General Beauregarde Lee. Lucky he has Groundhog Punch and dapper bodyguards in his corner.

Sweet dreams, little Phil. Bloomingdales is counting on you.

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