The Great Abu Bushwiq Sits On His Throne
By Ed Malin
The great Abu Bushwiq sits on his throne. He has discovered the unmentionable. He has built the magnificent aquarium at Sharif el-Sharq. But forget about what he has, we all know he wants something new. He calls for a story.
“Would you like to hear one about the past or the future?”
“You unenlightened one! If that were an option, would you need to ask such a question?”
The humbled advisor retreats, bowing up and down like a sine curve.
With a smile that tempts any other courtiers to object, the great Abu Bushwiq hears a tale. It takes place in a far-off land called California.
“Oh, so this is an Islamic story?”
“Good. I mean, every once in a while I like to hear something exotic.”
Indeed, a timeless tale, but if we must specify, we don’t know if it happened at all. And why would we say a thing like that, your majesty? Because this is the story of a boy who collected Leap Year Memorabilia.
“Oh, that’s a funny thing to be interested in!”
“Yes, the silly people in California they use the solar calendar. The one which doesn’t adjust fully to the orbit of the earth, so every four years they need an extra day.”
“Amazing! Let’s just jump in so it’s like we’re living in that story.” And it was so.
Some things come along once in a blue moon. Also, there are leap years. But we don’t really celebrate them conspicuously. There are no commemorative coins, no big sales. So, any souvenirs that they ever happened in the first place have to be carefully curated.
I have a buddy who attended the Progressive Police Force convention (A.k.a. Operation Great Leap Forward), on February 29, 1968. Who knew that year was going to be a great leap backwards for the U. S. of A.?
Random special pins and party favors have been collected which capture the mere shadow of the day that passes in the night, like a photo negative.
Is it a day that really exists? Rumor is that women started proposing to men on leap days because someone (perhaps the great Saint Patrick) humored them. If it’s a day that doesn’t officially exist, you may do those types of things.
If no one is paying attention, wouldn’t it be a great day for Aliens to visit Earth? There are, after all, 188 elements on the periodic table, and those samples don’t collect themselves. Any self-respecting alien would want to make it worth the trip, and a leap day would be ideal for exploring the Earth.
Little Walter McJohn was born on February 29th. His family called him Little Walter as a joke. Of course, he had a birthday every year, but they pretended he only had one every four years, so he was always going to be little. After a while, he felt angry, or at least unappreciated.
One year, he thought, one time I want to have a real party for my birthday, in a place where everyone knows it’s a special day.
Anthony, TX and Anthony, NM are leap year capitals. The two Anthonys are right next to each other across the state borders.
The Anthony in Texas is in El Paso County. Back in the day, when Texas was not yet its own country, the legend is that leap folx asked the Mexican government to declare a holiday, and the Mexican government in turn asked for the Bishop’s dispensation to celebrate. The response was “Prohibido El Paso”. Local leaders interpreted this to mean, what is not allowed in El Paso (nowadays bordering Old Mexico) can be enjoyed in Anthony (bordering New Mexico).
You drive on Interstate 10, and you will see a lot of things. One of them, or actually two of them, are the towns of Anthony and Anthony. There’s a certain amount of desert in those parts, and also the Rio Grande River, which in some places is not yet as majestic as its name implies. So, there are places where humans would have a hard time surviving. Funny thing, though, not all visitors to Anthony are human.
Over in Roswell, New Mexico, that’s a place where people say the aliens are. The government captured them and keeps all the evidence there. Well, as I mentioned, and apparently the aliens agreed with me, a leap year is a good time to visit the Earth. In this case, it was this group of aliens’ second trip here, and they did a fly-by of Roswell. It was about 5 PM and the museums were closing, when one of the aliens reminded her colleagues of something: she had been born on a leap year. Now, their planet had two suns so the calculations were a bit more complicated, but she has never really fit in with birthday celebrating, for many of the same reasons Little Walter didn’t.
It was a long way back to their Alienlandia. No one was really looking forward to the journey. So the rest of the crew agreed to chill out in their ship while the birthday girl put on her holographic human skin and went on a short trip to the place where leap years are important.
There she stood, on Main Street of one or the other of the Anthonys, perhaps both. A line runs down the middle of it, ostensibly to keep traffic segregated. But tonight, the street is blocked off to make a better street party. And that party is orbiting one particular restaurant-type warehouse structure.
He’s sitting at the bar by himself. Checked into the motel. Ready to mingle, and surrounded by all these other Pisces. Should I talk to the ladies next to me, he wonders? Tricky, though. The polite conversation could go on all night. Once you start talking to a Pisces, no one really knows how to stop it.
But then she walks in, like a fish out of water, forgive the astrological pun. Is there someone in your life who just completes you? Like, me plus one?
They have met in the middle. He has his backpack slung on one shoulder like a man hung over. Both hands carry the fishbowl drink.
“Hello. My name is Walter.”
“I’m. Thirsty,” she says. “When I see you, it is good.”
Kind of hard to place the accent and the diction. Is she a missionary’s daughter from Transylvania? She has quite the tan.
“This dacquiri is, I mean, really much too big for one person. Shall we get two straws? Don’t worry, I don’t have cooties.”
And so they drink it up that much more efficiently.
“If people from another planet were watching us right now, they would be amazed at our:
“I love to make lists!” she squeals.
Well, that could mean two things, he thinks. Lists of all the boys that have been her beaus. It could also mean lists of her favorite classic cars, or, say, sexual positions. So many things Walter wants to learn tonight, so someday he can make a bigger list.
“How about those drinks?” he asks. “What kind of person would drink those at home? I guess it’s only hurricane time when you’re with people.”
“Oh, just one night to be with people.”
He thinks she’s talking about leap year birthday people.
“Happy Birthday to you, Thirsty lady.”
“So much to love tonight! Tonight is paradise. Tonight is Days of Sears & Roebucks.”
The way she spoke, it made him feel very safe. He felt safe nowhere. That is, back home, which was Sacramento, which was nowhere, made him feel very safe, also.
Now, Sacramento has many sister cities. The capital of the country of Moldova is one sister of the capital of the State of California. They both are known for their wine. So maybe it’s not that big a stretch.
Just a moment of reflection he was having, and she’s going for it. It was a new one for Walter, to have a girl making out with him at all, but especially without him having to make a move. Yes, he would go with it.
Making out in front of all these other Pisces. Who are averting their eyes because, why pry. Making out has never been this great. Her tongue is doing all sorts of acrobatics in his mouth. It almost feels like there’s a slit down the middle.
He pauses for breath.
“I really feel like we have a connection.” he says. “Thank you for listenin’ to me.”
“Listenin’” she says, “ain’t on the periodic table.”
Back to his hotel they are going. Can they take the drink with them? Out on the street? Depends if they’re on the Texas side or the New Mexico side. I guess they’ll have to walk on the yellow line just to be safe.
“Oh no, Thirsty. I’d rather keep the lights off.”
“Fine,” she sighs. “Then you won’t see me get undressed. I don’t know if I’m stifling or sweltering in here.”
“You must be havin’ one hot February 29th!”
Before he knows it, they’re doing it. She calls him Big Daddy. Shouldn’t all the Little Walters of the world have one day to be Big?
Wow. He lies back to take a breath. And already she’s ready to go again. He makes the international sign to be gentle. She touches his forehead, source of all the myths such as the refractory period, the square root of minus one, and the Loch Ness Monster. Well he certainly feels stronger and harder and more rational now, just from her touch.
She’s almost too good to be true. She has electric magic, and a forked tongue, and, is she the devil? Nah, he says to himself with a smile, everyone knows the devil ain’t a woman.
It is daybreak when she tiptoes out. She has assumed another humanlike disguise. She carries a hurricane drink glass, full of the smegma samples she has collected. These will go back to the ship, which swings by to beam her any which way it can.
Her crewmates great her warmly. They love DNA. They put the hurricane glass in the freezer. And up and away they go, high on science.
Asks the Great Abu Bushwiq, “did she miss him?”
“Oh yes, sire, at first.”
“Faithless one, was she?”
“Not that, so much as she had no antibodies to the common rhinovirus. She has to be quarantined for 50 years until someone found a cure.”
The great one ponders. “But that means…”
“Yes, oh majestic. He was the love of her lifetime.”