Groundhog Day Takes an Unexpected Turn

Punxsutawnitus contemplates while trying to predict the weather. Illustration by Míceal Munroe-Allsup.

The Backdoor is a work of fiction and humor.

DESPITE WHAT Lewis & Clark’s California students may mutter under their breath on the way to class each morning, Portland has enjoyed a mild winter. Yes, I know the weather app says it might snow through this week. But it’ll be, like, an inch at most. The rest of the country’s in a polar vortex. It could be worse.

Of course, there’s only one true arbiter of winter’s end — and he’s no meteorologist. On Feb. 2, famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his hole in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to react to his shadow (or lack thereof) and tell the world how soon spring would arrive.

But this Groundhog Day, the festivities took a shocking turn. For the first time in 132 years, Phil spoke to the press surrounding him — and announced his retirement.

“Have any of you heard about this Plato guy?” Phil said, still blinking from the sun in his eyes. “Cuz I’ve been doing a lot of reading and I’m seeing this whole shadow thing in a totally different light.”

Phil, who asked to be referred to as “Punxsutawnitus” from now on, allegedly encountered Ancient Greek philosophy after second-semester freshman Immanuel Foucault ’22 discarded their copy of “The Five Dialogues” by his den.

“Look, I know littering is bad, but this really isn’t my fault” said Foucault when confronted outside Templeton. “How was I supposed to know the overgrown rat could read? And anyways, the Allegory of the Cave isn’t even in the Five Dialogues! It’s in the Republic, Book VII!”

Punxsutawnitus apologized for abruptly ending such a cherished folk tradition, but insisted that he “could not persist in this lie.”

“I’ve lived in fear for so many winters, terrified of that nightmare beast lurking outside my door,” Punxsutawnitus said. “And then this Plato dude shows up and starts talking about these ‘shadow’ things and bam! It hit me.”

Although Groundhog Day is something of a two-bit holiday that nobody would care about if it weren’t for Bill Murray, Punxsutawnitus’ announcement quickly went viral. While social media users paid their respects and wished Punxsutawnitus luck, Fox News political analyst and ogre Tucker Carlson lauded the rodent’s retirement as “a brave protest of the climate change narrative pushed by Hollywood elites.”

For Punxsutawnitus, the decision is bittersweet.

“There’s a whole world out there that I’ve never dreamed of, and I’m going to see everything,” Punxsutawnitus said. “It’ll be really hard to leave all my groundhog friends behind, but none of them listened when I told them the truth. It didn’t seem like they wanted to listen.”

Even so, Punxsutawnitus remained hopeful.

“They’ll figure it out eventually,” he added before taking his first few steps into truth. “And I’ll be up here when they do.”

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