The blind woodchuck was absolutely furious, stomping back and forth in her burrow and swearing like a trapped beaver. It was Groundhog Day, and she had been betrayed.
She’d thought about skipping it. Her burrow was always so cozy in February and it irritated her to no end that she had to rouse herself from hibernation to participate in this stupid spectacle. Because that’s really what this was; she wasn’t a psychic— how the hell was anyone supposed to know what the weather was going to be in six weeks? She was a rodent, for God’s sake.
But then the woodchuck had remembered how grateful people were when she told them winter was almost over. The attention she got from the other woodland creatures who were jealous of her success warmed her all over. She had decided to go, if only for the sake of the crowd waiting in anticipation.
She had hauled herself out of bed and started the coffee. Maybe she should wear a little mascara, just to accentuate her lovely eyelashes, since her picture would probably be in several newspapers.
There was dawdling as she groomed herself; she would admit that was true. But she hadn’t been THAT late, and when she arrived at the scene, the woodchuck was horrified to see the mayor struggling with a new groundhog. The idiot crowd was cheering and laughing as if they couldn’t tell this imposter apart from the real thing, which was her. It was like all the woodchucks were mall Santas and it didn’t matter who the stupid mayor hoisted up in the air.
Back in her burrow, it felt like the walls were closing in as she paced back and forth. She hadn’t been outside in months because of the stupid plague and now she had blown her one chance to shine. She wanted to bite someone.
“Yoo hoo, Philomena!” Her cousin Shirley never knocked; she had to make an entrance. “Didn’t Kevin do a great job today?! We were worried when you didn’t show up, but he stepped right into the role like he’d been playing it for years! A classic Broadway trope where the understudy becomes a star!”
“That was Kevin?!” The woodchuck could never tell any of her cousins apart. “Shirley, I was on my way. Why didn’t they wait for me?”
“I may have mentioned that you were afraid to leave your burrow because of the plague. But wait!” she rushed on. “I have great news! I know where you can get a shot!”
“Why on earth would I want to get shot?! It’s bad enough that I have to wear that ugly orange vest during hunting season.”
“No, Phil, this is THE shot. The one that stops the plague! Hurry, go to the burrow at this address; they’re almost out.”
There was a line stretching through the forest as she found the site where they were apparently shooting people. She still wasn’t sure about this, but she was worried about how much weight she had gained in lockdown so she felt she should give it a chance. She stood with the other animals in the snow, little sprays of yellow appearing off to the side as the hours dragged on. Being last in line was unnerving, so she was glad when another woodchuck got behind her. It was her oldest cousin Maud whom she hadn’t seen in ages, and they chatted as they neared the front. The woodchuck had to shout since Maud was nearly deaf.
“There are only four doses left!” announced the racoon who was in charge of the shots. The woodchuck counted quickly and was relieved to see that she was number four. A groan went up in the line behind her and the other animals trudged off to try find to find another site. “This is a stupid way to run a public health crisis,” grumbled a rabbit.
Maud was still standing behind her. “Cousin, I’m afraid they don’t have any more right now. You’ll have to come back another time,” she said loudly.
Maud just smiled. “No, I have to get a shot. My son told me not to leave until I get it.”
The woodchuck’s turn was next. Her cousin did not seem to understand that there wasn’t enough for her. Maud was very old – surely survival of the fittest had something to do with who should get this shot
The blind woodchuck knew she was not perfect. She fought for what was hers and did not share any of the Snickers bars that she had hiding in her burrow. It was the law of the forest that only the strongest would live.
And yet—long ago, Maud had taught her to recognize the cry a hawk makes just before it grabs you in its razor-sharp talons. The sound was a cross between a victory shriek and a yummy noise; recognizing it had saved the woodchuck from being devoured many times. She looked back at Maud as the raccoon rubbed Philomena’s fur with alcohol, preparing to plunge the sharp stick into her arm.
“Stop!” she shouted, hoping she wasn’t going to regret this. She pushed Maud ahead of her and fled up the burrow before she could change her mind.
As she trudged through the snow back to her tunnel, she found, much to her surprise, she wasn’t sorry about what she had done. In fact, she felt kind of good about it. She started humming a song from Hamilton, as she often did. Lin Manual Miranda wrote great lyrics, she thought – but sometimes you do have to throw away your shot.
For anyone standing in line in the forest and frustrated beyond belief about getting an appointment, Illinois has just introduced a new site that consolidates various vaccination sites in one place. Fingers crossed that it actually works.