Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2266564-Shadow-on-the-Snow
by SSpark
Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2266564
What would he do for an encore?
Shadow on the Snow
Word Count: 754

As he looked at the calendar hanging next to his recliner, Chuck let out a groan.

"Ugh," he said. "Tomorrow is the second. Groundhog Day. My day to shine. Shine - yeah, right."

Chuck thought he successfully ended his career as the Staten Island Zoo's chief meteorologist two years before when he took a hunk out of Mayor Bloomberg's arm. Like a starving coyote, he had waited until the time was right. Just as Bloomberg's view shifted from him to the cameras, Chuck lunged at the patch of white skin peeking out between the arm of the mayor's coat and the glove protecting his hands. PERFECT AIM! When Bloomberg dropped him, screaming profanities, Chuck had high-tailed it back to his hole and shoved his body, as fast as he could, into his den.

"Take that!" he thought as he rubbed his back against the wall. "They never think about how I feel when they grab me by the hair and jerk me out, expecting me to forecast six weeks of weather when their goofy weathermen with all their gadgets can't do it! It hurts, being yanked up by the fur and heaved another five feet, legs sprawled out in every direction, just so some old coot, stinking of fear, can slap on a fake smile in front of a bunch of cameras. And that's before they cram me into the snow to check for a shadow."

For the better part of two years Chuck had lived in absolute serenity. Last year, the zookeeper had chosen a different groundhog to perform the annual duties. Chuck, of course, could not be trusted and besides, Bloomberg's successor, Bill de Blasio, would be conducting the celebration for the first time. They needed a softer, kinder groundhog.

"Oh, Charlotte," Chuck sighed as he remembered his friend, now gone. "Poor sweet Charlotte. If I'd have known what fate would befall her, I might have taken the gig for her." After considering the statement, Chuck blew out his breath and said, "Nah. I'm definitely glad it was her and not me."

Charlotte had replaced Chuck for the festivities, and she had been giddy with excitement. "I don't know why you're such an old curmudgeon, Chuck," she cooed as she primped in front of the mirror. "There will be lights, cameras, and people from all over the world, crowding in just to get a glimpse of me. I'll be a star!"

"Yeah, we'll see how you feel about it once they finish with you," Chuck responded warily.

Her big day only a few hours away, Charlotte had not been able to sleep. Her imagination worked overtime as she conjured up images of flashes going off, one camera after another snapping her photo. And Charlotte had a surprise she was positive would make headlines. Once the mayor hoisted her up near his face so his PR girl could get a good shot, Charlotte planned to press her cheek against his. "They'll just eat that stuff up," she sighed as she imagined the scene playing out. "I'll be the zoo's go-to star from that point on."

The next morning, when the magic moment had come, the zookeeper reached down and grabbed a hunk of Charlotte's fur, then jerked her up, cramming her into an enormous pair of hands as if she were a football being thrust into a running back's midsection. Once she could see, she realized the new mayor had hold of her and was raising her skyward so the cameras would be able to get them both. "Sweet man," she thought, "thinking of me that way. And he's soooo tall!"

As she neared the spot where their faces were level, Charlotte reached over to complete the moment. Unfortunately, the movement startled the new mayor and he let go. Her husky body plunged almost the full length of de Blasio's frame - and he was six five.

Charlotte never regained consciousness and passed on six days later. Chuck mourned the death of his friend, silly as she had been. He even felt remorse for a couple of days before he realized that between his shenanigans and Charlotte's demise, the annual Ground Hog Day forecasting event would, at the very least, have to be moved to another location.

Chuck was wrong.

In the year since Charlotte's passing the zoo had not been able to replace her, and Chuck was the facility's only other full-grown groundhog. Much to his surprise, the zookeeper made the decision to send Chuck back out. As Conrad. What were they thinking?

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