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  • Writer's pictureAnthony R. Carrasco

The Perfect Calendar

Robin Swann penned by hand the “perfect calendar” on New Year’s Day, 2255. For the last fourteen years, the retired nuclear engineer labored alone on his invention in the rural community of French Gulch, California. Rumored to be a descendant of Julius Robert Oppenheimer, all that could be said for certain about Robin is that he was born on the ides of March in Berkeley, California, was first married in Reno, Nevada, and was hitched for the second time at Niagara Falls. Both times, Robin Swann fell in love with gentlemen of numbers: the first an applied mathematician, the second a specialist in pure math. At holiday gatherings, after a couple of mugs of spiked eggnog, Robin Swann liked to jest that his first marriage could have been an “infinite series” but for want of “pure numbers and significant digits.” He called his second go-at-love a “perfect set.”

Every evening after supper, Robin and his partner Oliver would walk down Main Street, past the local general store, to feed the fish under Clear Creek Bridge before the one-room schoolhouse. A sizable black salmon would dance often in the shadow of the two lovers on evenings lit by moonshine and starlight. It was this same spot within which Robin experienced his greatest revelation. Mesmerized by the flickering movements of light and dark, Swann found the answer to the question that had stolen weeks of slumber from the intrepid scheduler: How can weeks and years get along? The answer was simple: “To heck with the years, let the week inherit the Earth!”

The town preacher, who also happened to be Swann’s landlord, invited the inventor to debut his “perfect calendar” before the Easter potluck at the community church. Swann wore the same satin tuxedo within which he was married twice. The preacher named Max paid Robin a compliment: “I don’t think French Gulch has received a more dapper gentleman than when President Kennedy visited back in 1963!” Apologetic, Robin begged the pastor’s pardon, “I don’t mean to distract! I’m very grateful for the opportunity to share my work and get feedback from my community. I hope French Gulch will become the first city in the world to adopt the One-World Calendar!”

“We ain’t a town,” interrupted Paul, the portable toilet technician. “Gotta have a Mayor to be a town and we ain’t got none. No government, no town, and sure as heck no city. If you wanted to get your calendar started in nowhere U.S.A., you couldn’t have picked a better stool to pop your squat, with all due respect,” Mr. Putter concluded. With a look capable of chilling a glacier, Robin promised with a squint, “Where time reaches its dainty hands, there shines the metropolis of our greatest honors: our most valuable treasure is time and its vault is our commonwealth. I am proud to offer to the world a new type of bank that will pay a hefty return on every moment a learned investor is wise enough to deposit.”

While the flock queued up for grub, Pastor Max made a short pitch for the attention of the congregation: “Dear parishioners, we have a special presentation this Easter from our own Dr. Robin Swann. As you may recall, we all lost Oliver quite suddenly two winters ago. Ever since Robin has been dedicated to producing something he thinks will make the world better off. Without further ado, please give a warm welcome to our dear Dr. Robin Swann!”

Sheepishly Robin began his pitch, “Good people of French Gulch, this Easter Sunday I do not come to you with a message from another world, but instead a gift born of this one.” Dr. Swann began passing out laminated squares of cardstock paper. On the card was a 12x12 grid. Swann sang, “Hate having to buy a new calendar every year? Are you done with the chore of keeping track of leap years? So were the Egyptians! I have a solution to all your chronological controversies in the form of the first ONE-SHEET calendar in the multiverse.”

The old man was now short of breath from excitement. After a long silence, the only sounds the audience provided were the rustling of paper plates, the chatter of plastic cutlery, and the periodic pouring of water over ice. The old visage of the inventor transformed into that of a man struck by lightning, “I forgot to explain how it works! My apologies. Look here, give it a simple fold in half once and now another half -- twice!”

The elder waived the folded paper over his head like it was a winning lottery ticket, “See! Four seasons means a fourfold deal. Each season is 108 days: three 36-day months of six-day weeks. That means the year is 432 days in total. You see, we base most of our structurally defective calendars on how many times our planet circles our sun, which is all wrong since an orbit isn’t even the same every year. Imagine setting your clock to the cry of Clancey’s bloodhound. Sure, the poor boy cries every night, except - mark my words - except, on the night after Turkey Day since that lucky guy is too busy slurping bird marrow to bother us with a ballad. Plus, some folks don’t even live on this rock anymore, so why keep up the guises? Someday, we will find intelligent life in this multiversal cosmic gumbo of ours and this! This piece of paper will prove that our elevator goes to the top floor! This intellectual passport, if you will, shall prove to any new interstellar lover, that we are playing with a full deck!”

Paul Putter swung open the bathroom door to embrace Robin with a hearty bear hug. He swung back around yelping, “By George, it does work!” Putter waived around a completely soiled One-World Calendar. Homeward, Robin didn’t notice he had forgotten all his extra calendars in the church sanctuary. The pastor’s final semi-compliment, “Great for bingo,” echoed in the noggin of the once-esteemed scientist. When he got home, he took a long look in his bedroom mirror. Some tears began to collect in the corners of Dr. Swann’s eyes recalling the quiet evenings he spent with Oliver making collages out of their old calendars. Oliver would call Robin “his one world man who just so happens to be out-of-this-world.”

Before falling asleep that night Robin got a ring from outer space. The lifeform on the other end said that they heard his presentation through a cellular phone locked in the church kitchen deep freezer. The being thanked the inventor for finally giving his superiors a good reason to visit Earth. Earth’s newest fan confided in Dr. Swann, “If the people of Earth are sensible enough to get their calendars in order, they might be worth sharing in a holiday or two with together.” Holding back tears of joy, the only reply with which Dr. Robin Swann could muster a response was as follows: “If that wouldn’t be lovely, I don’t know what is, Oliver. If setting a date with you wouldn’t be lovely, I don’t know what is.”

This short story first appeared on September 28th, 2023 in Rural Fiction Magazine and is dedicated to the loving memory of Theodore “Pastor Ted” Russell Rivers (March 22nd, 1951 - January 31st, 2022) and Jeanette Marcell Rivers (October 22nd, 1953 - April 11th, 2022).

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