Columnist

Dave Molter is a freelance writer and Golden Quill and Keystone Press Awards winner. He also is a freelance musician in the Pittsburgh area.

Punxsutawney Phil and his wife were arguing.

“I’m not going out there next year!” Phil said, using the back of his right paw to sweep away the bowl of alfalfa, clover, peas and beans she had placed before.

“Not this again!” Mrs. Phil rolled her eyes, wiped her paws on her apron and sat across from her husband of 38 years. “You said that all last year: ‘I’m not going! When that sucker in the stovepipe hat reaches in for me, I’m gonna take a chunk outta his hammy fist!’ Then came yesterday, and you went out anyway, like a pet gerbil.”

“I mean it this time!” Phil said, probably a bit louder than he intended. His head drooped as he shook it. “I’m sorry, Phyllis,” he said, looking her in the eye. “It’s just so damned … humiliating!”

“Honey, you do what you have to do.”

“Easy for you to say,” he said, snorting. “You’re not the one being dragged out before dawn and held up in the air like the severed head of a conquered enemy.”

“Just do it,” Phyllis said, calmly. “It’s only one day at year.”

“I am 140 years old!” Phil shouted, banging the tree stump that served as a table. “They made me start ‘predicting’ when I was only 5 years old. ‘Predicting!’” He huffed. “All they do is make a phone call on Feb. 1, then repeat what the National Weather Service told them. I should have been able to retire in 1946! “

He checked himself, sighed, and sank back into his chair. “Besides, I’ve been talking to PETA.”

“Oh, those radicals!” Phyllis said. “They’ll probably throw paint on us because we wear fur!”

“It’s not like that!” Phil countered. “They want to protect animals from being abused. And listen to this: They say I can be replaced by a robot groundhog!”

“Oh, great,” Phyllis said, laughing. “It’ll be just like Disney’s Hall of the Presidents … all fun until the programming goes south and Lincoln and Washington start choking Donald Trump!”

“Who cares?” Phil said. “We’ll be out of the rat race. Here, let me read a part of this letter they sent to the Groundhog Club: ‘When Phil is dragged out of his hole and held up to flashing lights and crowds, he has no idea what’s happening.’”

He threw the letter aside. “That’s the only part that PETA got wrong; I know very well what’s happening! I’m being made a mockery!”

“The Groundhog Club will never go for it,” Phyllis said.

“They will after I bite the president of the Inner Circle! “ Phil said, a malicious look on his face. “Maybe I’ll claw his cheek ... gouge out an eye … bite his jugular ...”

Phyllis stood so quickly that her chair tumbled over backward. “You will do no such thing, Phillip Horatio Woodchuck!” she shouted. “We are Marmota monax of the family Sciuridae! We do not bite, gouge or claw! Have you no pride?”

“You forget about your Uncle Jimmy up in Sun Prairie, Wis. I seem to recall that Jimmy bit the ear of the mayor back on Groundhog’s Day 2015.”

“He was put up to it … by PETA!”

“Don’t know ’bout that, luv,” Phil said. ”Jimmy told me that he’d had a little too much Groundhog Punch the night before. Said biting seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“I never should have married you!” Phyllis blurted.

“You love it!” Phil said, laughing. “Without me you’d still be doing a hooch dance in that carnival sideshow in Muncie.”

Phyllis screamed and left the room.

Phil chuckled. “Now,” he said, picking up PETA’s letter. “Where did I leave that jug of Groundhog Punch?”

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