It’s Feb. 2 in Forest Park and the clock radio goes off. “It’s cold out there campers,” the wacky morning man says, “Of course, it’s cold,” says his sidekick, “It’s Groundhog Day.”
He remembers he has to cover the local Groundhog Day celebration for the Review. Forest Park is substituting a squirrel for a groundhog, but who cares as long as it’s capable of casting a shadow.
As he walks to the Park, a long lost classmate turned Realtor greets him. “Hey, have you seen this house yet? It’s a doozy.” He declines a quick tour — $500,000 being out of his price range.
At the ceremony, he scribbles notes, while the squirrel predicts six more weeks of winter. After leaving the Park, he brushes past a homeless man on Desplaines and steps directly into a puddle of slush.
At the post office box there are a dozen skinny envelopes that look like they contain checks. But they’re all tax statements from clients telling him how much they paid him last year.
He ignores three elderly ladies struggling to change a flat tire and heads for the bank. “Did you go to the Groundhog thing at the Park?” the teller asks cheerily. “Yeah, he predicted six more weeks without deposits.”
The next morning, the wacky radio guys are talking about Groundhog Day again. He checks his phone – it’s still Feb. 2. Walking past the open house, his old classmate greets him, “Hey, have you seen this house yet? It’s a doozy.”
The same squirrel and the same speeches at the Park follow this. By the time he brushes past the homeless man, steps in the puddle, grabs the skinny tax statements and ignores the elderly ladies struggling with the tire – he feels like he’s on a treadmill.
Following a night of despair, he awakens to the wacky morning guys with a new attitude. After putting down an offer on the $500,000 house, he walks to the Park and is moved to tears by the speeches about the squirrel. He invites the homeless man to McDonald’s and they both step around the puddle.
He grabs the skinny envelopes, grateful for the taxable income he received the year before. He calls the local tire repair company for the elderly ladies and has them bill his credit card. The teller is moved to tears, when he talks about the Groundhog thing at the Park and, before he can leave, the bank has approved his mortgage.
That night, fresh from his piano lesson in Forest Park, he plays keyboard at the local bar. Who should walk in but his wife, while he’s playing their song, “Just the Way You Are.” The next morning, it’s still cold and gloomy in Forest Park but at last it’s Feb. 3.
This column originally ran in 2008.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com