(Reverse dedicated to my favorite 6-year-old, Samantha Buffington… even though chances are she’ll never read this anyway. PROVE ME WRONG SAM.)
The densely packed slushball hit February in the back of the head with all the force and consistency of a loogie hawked by Paul Bunyan after a breakfast of milkshakes and potato latkes.
“Son of a—who threw that!? April, was it you? No? Well who was it then, huh? HUH?!”
A voice came from behind a nearby tree.
“Easy there mini month. You’ll lose another day if you keep hoppin’ around like that.”
Shoulda seen that one coming, February thought to himself as he turned to confront his assailant.
“Damnit January, what the hell? That really hurt! And now it’s dripping all down the new sweater mom bought me yesterday.”
“You’ll live? You’ll live??? That’s all you have to say?! Ooh, look at me, I’m January! I have two frickin’ heads and twice as many mouths as everyone else, but I’m still so succinct when I speak. Well la-di-frickin’-da Your Highness. The calendar may revolve around you, but the world certainly doesn’t. Seriously, grow up you Roman bastard.”
January raised an eyebrow at his irate accuser.
“Look Feb, your Napoleon complex might fly on the playground, when you’re railing on August for sweating like a bitch after only 10 minutes of kickball, or when you’re teasing March for her stupid ass ‘coming in like a lion’ impression, but when Master Gregorian ain’t around, you’re just a puny little desktop one-a-day in a world of refrigerator-hangin’ 18-monthers.”
February fumed. “Okay, Jan. Whatever you say, Jan. I swear to God, I’m so sick of your shit, Jan.”
“So do something about it then.”
“You want me to do something about it?! Cuz I will! Oh believe that. In fact, screw it. Let’s end this right now.”
“What are you proposing?”
“Oh, nothing fancy. Just a straightforward footrace around the block. You win and I’ll give you free reign to mess with me as much as you want.”
“I already have that,” January smirked.
“Hahaha, Jan. I’m talking about in school—during class, lunch, whatever. Master Gregorian won’t hear a peep from me, no matter how much crap goes down.”
“And if you win?” Jan asked, suddenly interested.
“If I win, not only do you have to stop messing with me, you have to trade me three of your days for this freakin’ hemorrhoid I have to deal with every four years.”
“Except those years which are divisible by 100,” January reminded him.
“Well yeah, unless any of those years are also divisible by 400, of course.”
“Duh Copernicus. And shouldn’t we also get one, like, every 8,000 years or so?”
“Well, sorta kinda not really. Technically, since the solar year is really slightly less than 365.25 days, the ‘extra-day-every-8,000-years’ theory would seem to make sense, but practically speaking, thanks to the precession of the equinoxes and tidal acceleration and whatnot, there’s just no way to predict the length of the vernal equinox year multiple millennia from now.”
The two stood quietly for a moment, each lost in thought as he considered the stoner-worthy paradox inherent in time’s simultaneous penchant for concrete exactitude and relative ephemeralness.
“So do we have a deal?” February finally asked, breaking the near erotic stillness.
January didn’t hesitate. “You’re on. And when I win, you’re gonna need more than just President’s Day off to recover. Oh, and Chinese New Year too.”
February debated making a crack about how much money his rival probably spent on hats every year, but ultimately decided against it, figuring that not too many readers really understood the first reference about January having two heads anyway.
“So here’s how it’s gonna work,” February explained instead. “We’ll start at the Timex store on Solstice Ave and head toward the Century 21 building. After the Sun Microsolarsystems office, we’ll bang a louie onto Date Street and swing around to Appointment Boulevard—past the Four Seasons, mind you. The first one to reach Lunar’s Cycles on the corner of 7th and 52nd wins.”
“Sounds swell lil’ Febby. So what say we quit running our mouths and just start running?”
“Works for me,” replied lil’ Febby—err, February—as he headed toward the starting line.
When they reached the Timex store, January stopped and turned. “You know, there’s still time to back out,” he goaded February. “Nobody would know…at least until I told the whole school at recess tomorrow.”
“Stick a sundial in it,” February offered, and began to count down.
“On your mark…get set…GHOSTBUSTERS!”
January didn’t budge.
“Ha ha, just kidding. For real now. On your mark, get set, GOGO BOOTS! GO ARMY DOT COM! GO SCREW YOURSELF! Okay, just GO!”
And with that they were off.
It was a dead heat for most of the race, but as they approached Lunar’s Cycles, matching each other stride for stride, the inconceivable happened. January tripped.
February watched uncomprehendingly as his arch nemesis somersaulted end over end into a pile of trashcans, like a tumbleweed in the desert that for some reason has trashcans.
I don’t believe this, he thought. I’m actually gonna win this thing. And with that, February began jumping up and down for joy, literally hopping the final few yards to the bicycle shop. So intent was he on celebrating, in fact, that he failed to notice the delivery truck backing out of Lunar’s driveway.
The truck hit February with all the force and consistency of a truck hitting someone—which is to say, it wasn’t good.
As he lay in the street, a bloody, mangled mass of flesh and metaphor, February wondered if there was, perhaps, a moral to his all-too-abbreviated story, one that might have saved him from such an excruciating and inglorious end. Unfortunately, he died from his massive internal injuries before he could think of one. However, as is so rarely often the case, it turned out that there was such a moral as that for which poor February had briefly groped. In fact, the moral was his to have known all along. What’s more, it was actually the final line of two totally sweet rhyming quatrains. Would you like to hear them? I thought so…but I’ll tell you anyway.
A life cut short (though aren’t they all?),
Demanding studious reflection,
Prompts a netherworldly call
To justify one last selection.
Without delay comes Death’s reply:
“HEED ME THOSE WHO WOULD NOT SLEEP HERE!”
Then grinning wide, he gives a cry.
“ALWAYS LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP YEAR!”
Ain’t punchlines a bitch folks?