Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CALENDAR (10/20/16)
TITLE: In Which the Calendar Act Confounds the Common Man
By Ann Grover
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“I don’t follow the king’s thinking, but then I never does.” Abel, the largest of the trio, sighed.
“How does a calendar go wrong?” Bart, reeking of the butcher shop, slammed down his tankard. “One day follows another, and there you go.”
“It’s Julius Caesar’s calendar what went wrong. Sumpin’ to do with the sun and the earth twistin’ about. It don’t match up to the calendar no more. So’s the king’s scupperin’ the whole mess and startin’ over,” the third man offered, leaning back on his bench.
“Blimey, Jasper,” roared Bart and Abel together. “Is the king God now? He’s fixin’ the earth and sun?”
“Nay, just the calendar. Not even His Highness can change the way of the world’s turnin’. So’s what you’re goin’ to do is tuck yourself in on September 2, and when you wake up, it’ll be September 14. Eleven days gone. In a blink. Everything’s supposed to carry on, like usual.” Jasper ordered another round of ale. When the barmaid brought the foaming mugs, Abel stroked her arm.
“Come here, lovey, give me a slobbery one, eh? In fact,” he said, a sly look slithering over his face, “what say you visit me on September 2? Accordin’ to Jasper here, anything that happens that night don’t happen. What about it, lovey?”
Bart guffawed when “Lovey” smacked Abel smartly and sashayed back to the bar.
“I said no such thing, Abel,” Jasper declared. “I’m just tellin’ you the facts.”
“The facts makes no sense,” pouted Abel, scratching his belly. The men slouched, each mired in his thoughts.
Suddenly, Bart bellowed, “I ain’t paying no rent to Hecker for days I ain’t lived in that hovel.”
Jasper shrugged. “Then I guess you won’t be hearin’ that the new calendar was the pope’s notion.”
Bart stood, sending their tankards teetering. “What do you mean, the pope? Didn’t we get rid of them fifty years since?” He leaned over the table, spewing his stale breath into Jasper’s face.
“Calm down, Bart. No popish plot is bein’ sprung on us. Most of the continent jumped into next week nigh on two hundred years ago already. Drink up, now.”
“I don’t understand, Jasper. How did the calendar go awry?” asked Abel.
“Julius Caesar’s calendar reckoned eleven minutes too many, is what I heard,” Jasper said.
“Eleven minutes?” Abel and Bart stared at him. “That’s it? Eleven minutes?”
“Aye, but eleven minutes adds up over the years. Like I says, I’m just givin’ the facts. I don’t pretends to understands any of it.”
The men slid into another silence. Pipe smoke drifted around them, a haze as muddled and foggy as their thoughts. Patrons came and went. Lovey served them slabs of bread and bowls of steaming stew.
“God Himself started the clock’s pendulum to swingin’ back there in the garden. Methinks we shouldn’t be meddlin’ in God’s business,” said Bart, a gobbet of mutton dribbling down his chin.
“Aye,” agreed Abel. “‘Tis blasphemy.” He belched lustily.
“Perhaps it was our meddlin’ that set it askew,” said Jasper.
“But Jasper, it’s goin’ to befuddle the crops and whatnot.” Abel flicked his fingers through his lank hair. “And the geese and ducks’ll be out of kilter, not knowin’ if they’s comin’ or goin’.”
“Aye, and it’s worse,” cried Bart. “We’re goin’ to be taxed for eleven days that don’t happen.”
Abel brought his fist down, setting the spoons jangling. “What say you, Jasper? Shall we rise up against the king and Parliament?”
“I say I should be gettin’ home to the missus.” Jasper donned his cap and nodded. “Evenin’, gentlemen.” Frosty air gusted into the tavern as Jasper headed into the dusk.
Abel let out a wail. “Blimey, Bart, my birthday is September 6. I ain’t goin’ to be forty-seven.”
“Don’t be daft, you halfwit.” Bart cuffed Abel’s head, and then his grimy face paled. “Abel, listen. We’re losin’ eleven days of our lives, thieved away by the king. Next, he’ll swindle the taxes out of us, then swipe more days. We’re goin’ to be snuffed out, like a candle.”
Abel’s eyes widened. “Oh, Bart, you’re right. The king takes us for ignorant fools.”
“Aye, we’re doomed. Done for.”
Both men slumped, morosely watching a fly investigate a smear of grease on the rough table.
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