The Groundhog Develops a Sense of Nuance

The following is a work of fiction. Staten Island Chuck the groundhog does not talk. We know nothing of his handler’s personal life. Michael Kardos co-directs the the creative writing program at Mississippi State University. He will be reading at Freebird Books in Brooklyn on Saturday at its Punxsutawney Phil retirement party.

Three more weeks?” said the mayor to the groundhog’s handler. “What on earth is he talking about?”

“At first the days will feel cold and lonely,” said Staten Island Chuck. “The nights will be ice in the veins. But time, if I may quote Thoreau — ”

“Wrong, rodent.” The mayor looked around at the crowd, with their coats and hopeful, flushed faces. He lowered his voice, but was careful not to extend an exclamatory finger too close to the woodchuck’s chompers. “Come on. Winter, spring — which is it?”

“It’s both,” Chuck said. “I think we both know it in our hearts.”

The night before, Chuck’s handler’s longtime live-in girlfriend had returned with her suitcase and a long list of reasonable demands. From his cage in the garage, Chuck had listened to the negotiation, then to the sound of crying, then laughter, then human pleasure. The morning had brought rays of sunshine through the garage door windows, extra carrots and an awakening to the world’s fragility.

“I got a sand crab in Wildwood, N.J.,” said the handler, “that can tell you if your moles are cancerous.”

“Won’t do,” said the mayor. “My people need this. This is what we have.”

“I got a coyote near Reno that dreams lottery numbers.”

“You’re fired,” said the mayor to the handler. “You too,” he said to the groundhog.

“It’s O.K. I live in truth now,” said Chuck, glad to be only a shadow of the animal he once was.

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