INTERIOR – UPPER FLOOR OF THE BIG HOUSE – OLD EAGLE ROOM – MORNING.
“As you all know, our American cousins celebrate Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania every year on February 2, as you all know, the Groundhog Day.” Blanco opens the meeting . “It’s a celebration that has a deeply rooted meaning in the history of that country and the citizens feel it’s their duty to honor this important occasion.”
“That’s right. It all began in Pennsylvania, thanks to German immigrants, on February 2 in the early 1800s,” continues Wright. “German settlers imported into America their traditions, such as meteorognostics, the practice of predicting weather conditions based on natural phenomena or events. That’s why they chose the groundhog…”
“The groundhog?!” amazes Byjove.
“Just so.” Bell replies. “With his response he determined how much longer winter or spring would last. Even today, the mayor of Punxsutawney still questions Phil…”
“And who the hell is this Phil?” Super Dan confused questions.
“The oracle groundhog.” Blanco replies. “Every year he’s awakened by its hibernation to enlighten citizens on the weather forecast for the coming weeks…”
“A groundhog playing the oracle…” Byjove mumbles forbidden.
“To know what to expect,” continues Blanco, “on February 2 you have to observe the groundhog’s shelter: if when the animal comes out of his lair he can’ t see his shadow because the sky is cloudy, then winter is going to end soon; but if instead the shadow is well visible because the sky is clear and the sun is shining, the groundhog will get scared and go straight back into his lair. In this case the winter is destined to last for another six weeks. This happens in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania”.
“A country with an unpronounceable name, a groundhog named Phil, who also plays the oracle…” mumbles Super Dan. “And while we’re at it, a talking parrot, right?”
“That’s right, the President is right,” Byjove intervenes, “what do we care about the oddities of our neighbors?”
“But how, don’t you know our tradition?” Wright stunned asks. “Look, what happens in Punxsutawney happens in different cities around the world, even with different animals.”
“Exactly.” Moore intervenes. “Here at our place, in a lovely little town called .Piggyburgh, more or less the same thing happens, but with two differences, compared to our neighbors: the day is postponed to February 16, and the oracle animal is the guinea pig.”
“Guinea pig?” Super Dan asks surprised.
“That’s right.” Bell explains. “In Mont of Groovia the guinea-pig day is celebrated…”
“And if you don’t want to call him that, you can call him by his name: Archibald.”
“Archibald?!” exclaims Byjove. “They even gave him a name?”
“He seems very nice to me…” comments Naive. “Can I call him Archy?”
“Miss Naive, you can call him whatever you want with that mouth…” answers gallantly Moore.
“A guinea pig…” mumbles Byjove. “And they even gave him a name. But couldn’t they have chosen another animal?”
“And which one, General?” Wright asks him.
“What a question…a pig!” exclaims the military man. “A real one! And after the party…”
“We’ll give him the party!” adds Super Dan, who burst out laughing with the general. “Ah! Ah! Ah!”
“Sausages, ribs…” adds Byjove.
“Gentlemen, have you gone out of your mind?” Blanco intervenes. “Eat the national mascot?”
“Never!” exclaims Byjove. “I don’t like the guinea pigs, don’t worry…”
“Sure, if he had been a pig, instead…” reflects Super Dan out loud.
“Gentlemen,” Blanco intervenes decisively, “shall we resume the discussion, please?”
“The crux of the matter is simple,” Blanco exposes, “we have to take part in the guinea pig day.”
“What?” Byjove says. “Do we have to go see a guinea pig?”
“You’re joking, aren’t you?” asks Super Dan astounded.
“No, we’ve been officially invited by the local mayor,” continues Blanco, “and since no president has ever gone before, nor any member of the government in office…”
“…we thought it was a nice way to show ourselves close to the people, the small country villages and the ancient folk traditions.” concludes Moore.
“In short, a move that could boost your consensus, Mr. President…” Bell adds.
“A guinea pig would increase the popularity of our President…” mumbles Byjove.”But where we are now, this is modern politics…”
“But where we are now, this is modern politics…”
“And what would this party consist of?” Super Dan asks perplexed. “In short, what happens once you get down there?”
“Once we get down there,” answers Blanco, “we’ll find a party atmosphere, and all the people and tourists waiting for the guinea pig, now the town mascot, to come out of his hut. Archibald’s lair, in fact, is not in the village, but in a rural area, not far away. Brought to the village for the occasion, everyone is waiting for him to come out. Once outside, everyone is going to study his movements carefully, to predict the coming season…”.
“Do we have to stare at a guinea pig?” Super Dan asks amazed.
“That’s right.” Bell continues.”The mayor knocks on the door of the den with his stick, then the guinea pig is let out, the mayor speaks to him and the animal answers him…”.
“Does the mayor speak to him?” Super Dan asks more and more interdict.
“The animal answers him?!” mumbles stupefied Byjove. “I told you it was better to have a talking parrot.”
“After that the mayor addresses the people,” Bell continues, “and announces that Archibald, the guinea pig, has seen his shadow and therefore winter will still be long, or that he can’ t see his shadow because the sky is cloudy, then winter will soon be over…”.
“But in that country they have never heard of meteorological satellite?” Super Dan asks.
“Mr. President,” Wright tries to explain, “it’s an ancient tradition, a popular holiday, an opportunity to be together, you know?”
“Only two things are infinite,” Moore mutters to Blanco, “the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the first. Albert Einstein.”
“It’s a ritual,” Wright insists, “a ritual that has been repeated forever. For this reason, as time goes by, it ends up becoming a tradition…”
“All right, all right,” Byjove intervenes, “and after this chat between the mayor and the animal, what happens?”
“We’re celebrating…” Bell replies. “The mayor takes the mascot in his hands, lifts it up and shows him to everyone, the people applaud…”
“Yes, of course, I understand,” insists Byjove, “what about afterwards?
“The city dresses up and a real ceremony is celebrated for Archibald’s exit from his lair, as well as celebrations in case the groundhog announces the end of winter, it’s obvious…”
“Yes, of course, I understand,” continues Byjove undauntedly, “and then what?”
“Well, after that there’s the music, the dancing, the laughter of the people, you’re together…”
“Yes, of course, I understand,” continues Byjove, “and then what?”.
“But after that…what, exactly?” Wright asks confused.
“Beer and sausages, Wright, beer and sausages.” Moore intervenes. “You haven’t mentioned the most important tradition for someone here: barbecue.”
“Ahh…that…” sighs Wright.
“That, as you call it,” Byjove says, “represents one of the oldest traditions of this country, certainly older than a guinea pig chatting with a mayor…”.
“Well said,” says Super Dan, “barbecue is at the root of our history, our ancestors have created the greatest barbecues in the history of mankind, but they didn’t teach you anything in school?”
“Holy words, Mr. President!” Byjove supports him now excitedly. “With this saber I have pierced more sausages than enemies! And remember that our barbecues are envied by the whole world!”
Silence has descended into the hall, those present are looking at the two of them in dismay…
“Yes, you can rest assured, there will also be a barbecue,” sighs Blanco, reassuring them “in a country town is almost an obligation during the holidays…”.
“Oh, very well,” smiles Byjove, “healthy people, country people, healthy habits!”
“Good people, I knew I could count on them,” says Super Dan smilingly, “maybe a little strange, but good people…”.
“Your attachment to popular traditions is touching…” comments Moore.
“So can we make our participation in the guinea pig day official?” Blanco asks.
“Of course!” exclaim President Kramp and General Byjove in chorus.
“Let’s make a brief summary, for the sake of clarity for all of us and for Naive, who will have to put everything on record,” concludes Wright. “Departure for Piggyburgh, arrival, meeting with the local authorities, together with them we’ll go to the park where the ceremony takes place, we’ll go on the stage mounted especially for the occasion, on which there will also be the Archibald refuge. The mayor will knock on the door of the den with his stick, the guinea pig will come out, the mayor will lean over him to hear his response, then he will declaim it to the crowd, he will raise Archibald to the sky and everyone will applaud. Then handshakes, music, dancing, etc.”.
“Etcetera?” exclaims Super Dan. “No, wait a minute, what is this etcetera?”
“That’s right!” adds Byjove. “Who screwed up the barbecue, where did it go?”
“Don’t worry,” Bell answered calmly, “inside etcetera, the barbecue was included…”.
“What?!” slams the first citizen. “The barbecue is finished inside this etcetera? And as it has ended there inside?”
“Gentlemen, no jokes,” adds Byjove exaggeratedly, “who put our barbecue inside this etcetera? I want to know who did it!”
“Get the barbecue out of this etcetera,” continues Super Dan, “and don’t ever try it again, understand?”
Those present, astounded and silenced, stare at the two exalted ones.
“All right…” Wright takes the floor, still stunned. “After the ceremony there will be handshakes, music, dancing and your barbecue…”
“Oh, that’s better…” exclaims satisfied Byjove, “…see? With good manners you get everything.”
“Very well,” agrees Super Dan, “the barbecue’s back where it belongs, good, good.”
“I can’t believe it…” mutters Blanco, with her gaze lost in the void.
“Naive, have you put everything on record?” Moore asks, eager to conclude the meeting as soon as possible.
“Of course, I wrote it all down.”
“Even the barbecue?” Super Dan asks suspiciously.
“Of course, Mr. President.”
“Ah, there, very good. Now the meeting can be considered over.”
16TH FEBRUARY – PIGGYBURGH.
Getting out of the cars and surrounded by escort officers, President Daniel Kramp, accompanied by the First Lady and followed by Ms Brontenserious and his staff, are greeted by Mayor Ethan Davies. After the ritual pleasantries, they head towards the park, greeting the crowd that has gathered for the occasion.
“Your country is really charming,” compliments Blanco, “here time seems to have almost stopped…”.
“Thank you.” replies the mayor. “It’s true, here we don’t know the frenetic rhythms of big cities.”
“Is this the stage on which the ceremony will be held?” Bell answers.
“Exactly. Please, let’s go up,” says Mayor Davies.
“This is the famous lair of Archibald, isn’t it?” Naive asks amused. “How nice…”
“Yeah, we bring it here every year for this party. Actually, Archibald lives out of town on a farm.”
One of the councillors of the municipality takes the microphone and welcomes the crowd, announcing the start of the guinea pig day.
“Excuse me,” says the first local citizen, “now it’s my turn. Have a good time.”
Mayor Davies, in his ceremonial dress, greets and thanks the audience, and then kicks off the traditional ritual.
Here he is slowly approaching the den, casting glances towards the public, who in religious silence follow his every move.
Once in front of the den, the mayor raises his stick to the sky to show it to the public. Then he knocks, with solemnity, at the door of the den and waits, looking at the public with a smile. The seconds pass, but the door remains closed. The mayor then repeats the same pantomime, but for the second time nothing happens.
“Excuse me, but what is going on?” Super Dan asks quietly.
“Exactly,” mutters curious Byjove, “but where the hell has the guinea pig got himself?”
“I have no idea,” mutters Blanco, “he usually comes right out…”
Mayor Davies continues to smile as he repeats the ceremonial for the third time, which does not achieve the desired result. Archibald doesn’t come out of the den, the buzz of the people increases, the embarrassment of the first citizen also.
“Gentlemen, excuse me,” Bell whispers, “but are we sure that the lair is not empty?”
“Bell,” scolds him annoyed Super Dan, “don’t talk nonsense. Are you insinuating that they forgot to bring the little piggy?”
Then, doubtful, he turns to Blanco: “They haven’t forgotten, have they?”
“At this point, I don’t know either…” mutters Blanco, interdicted.
“Fantastic,” whispers Moore, “the day of the Guinea pig, without the Guinea pig…”
The mayor, meanwhile, is repeating the ritual for the fourth time, trying to hide the embarrassment in front of the refuge door, which remains closed again.
The mayor, awkward, looks at President Kramp, as if he wanted to apologize, and then knocks again. Nothing, not even a shadow of Archibald.
“And now, what do we do?” Wright asks quietly. “What if the guinea pig isn’t really here?”
“I got it,” General Byjove proclaims, standing up, “I’ll have to take care of it!”
Drawing his saber, he takes the few steps that separate him from the lair, where he moves the poor mayor with a shoulder, making him fall to the ground.
“Excuse me, excuse me, get out of the way,” he says, with his proverbial delicacy, Byjove, who begins to knock on the lair door with his saber.
“Hey, in there, what are we doing, did we fall asleep, by any chance?”
“General, what are we…” Blanco murmurs in amazement.
“Well then,” insists annoyed Byjove, “what are you going to do, are you going to decide to go out alone, or am I going to come and get you?”
“…or shall I come and get you?!” Bell panting, already in search of his inhaler.
The door to the den continues to remain closed, while the mayor, having risen, tries in vain to stop the military man.
“Excuse me, but don’t…”
“Apology rejected!” replies the general peremptorily. “I understand, I have to get you out of there, don’t I? And it’s all right…”
Byjove opens the lair door, slips his saber into it and starts moving it.
The animal, frightened, comes out of the den and starts running on stage, among the chairs of those present.
“Then you were there, you damned beast!” cries Byjove, who starts chasing him, waving his saber in the air.
“General, stop!” exclaims Blanco, but too late, because Archibald is spreading panic among the authorities present, who get up, trying to avoid the animal.
“Stop, you damned quadruped,” the military intimidates him, “or I’ll stab you with this saber, do you understand?”
“What?” exclaims the mayor, astonished. “Stick our mascot??”
On the stage there’s the hullabaloo, chairs overturned, some people jumping around, others flying on the ground because they’ve been shoved by Byjove, who, like a bulldozer gone mad, chases after poor Archibald, the most frightened of all.
In the park, instead, people enjoy the unexpected spectacle, amid laughter and jokes.
“Stop the animal!” orders Super Dan. “Catch him, put him back in his lair and then nail the door!”
At that moment the little animal passes over Bell’s feet, who, terrified, jumps backwards, overwhelming his President and falling to the ground with him.
In the fall Super Dan loses his toupee, flying right over Archibald, who keeps running scared and now also blinded by the presidential hair.
“My hair! They stole my hair!” cries Super Dan, with his hands on his head.
“The President’s hair!” cries Moore with a sneer. “General, Archibald has taken the President’s hair!”
“What? How dare he?” thunders Byjove, now out of his mind. “You damn animal, stop and give the President’s hair back!”
The poor guinea pig keeps running wild between people’s chairs and feet, while the escort officers help Super Dan and Bell get up.
“Bell!” the general is stunned.”What have you done? You made our commander fall down and make his hair fly off!”
“Me? But that beast attacked me…” defends the Secretary of the Treasury.
“Attacked? Bell, that thing is little bigger than a mouse! But where did you grow up, in a turtle farm / a goldfish bowl?”
Meanwhile, the audience is laughing loudly, while the stage seems to have become an equestrian circus. At that moment Archibald, vainly chased by Byjove, the mayor, Super Dan and some agents of the escort, reaches the stairs and runs towards the park’s lawn.
Here, the crowd starts cheering for the guinea pig, running blind, covered by the presidential toupee.
“Stop him!” yells Super Dan.
“Damn rat,” cries Byjove, “if I catch you, I’ll have you shot for attacking the President!”
“The President’s hair is running away!” cries Naive.
Byjove jumps off the stage with a few jumps, followed by the others, and starts chasing Archibald through the amused crowd. Super Dan is taken away by some escort officers, together with his wife and the Austrian housekeeper, heading towards the first aid caravan for a new toupee.
The old one, meanwhile, keeps running on the park’s lawn, among the amused people and the angry pursuers, until it leaves the green zone and disappears in an alley.
“That way!” cries Byjove, with his saber pointed towards the sky. “He has escaped into the alleyway! Men, with me!”
Byjove and the others head toward the alleyway.
After almost an hour…
“So,” asks Blanco to Byjove, returning after a long and fruitless chase, “did you find the mascot?”
“No. That damn rat must have slipped down some manhole…” Byjove says.
“In short, the mascot has disappeared…” Wright concludes, discouraged. “General, if you had remained seated…”
“Nothing would have changed, that damn animal would still be locked up in its lair and us sitting there waiting! Anyway don’t worry, I had an idea…”
“Oh God,” Bell murmurs, “every time the general takes an initiative, disasters usually follow…”
“This time I fully agree with you, Bell …” whispers Moore.
“And what is this idea?” asks Super Dan, who came behind them.
“Ladies!” Bjove stands at attention. “My idea is based on a very simple reasoning…”
“I would have been amazed at the opposite…” comments Moore in a low voice.
“First point: what are we chasing?” asks Byjove.
“My hair!” replies Super Dan angrily.
“Ehm…Mr. President,” stammers Byjove, who doesn’t have the courage to contradict him, “really your hair is not running through the streets of this country by itself…”.
“Ah, yeah…that damn animal!” Super Dan comes out.
“That’s right, my commander!” exclaims Byjove. “And what kind of animal is it?”
“A little guinea pork!”
“Ehm…Mr. President,” stammers Byjove again, “it really would be a guinea pig…”
“All right! But what is this idea?”
“It’s known that animals of the same species recognize each other and instinct pushes them to find each other. Therefore…”
“So…” questions Super Dan.
“So, being a guinea pig, I thought only his kind could find him!”
“More guinea pigs?” the President asks surprised.
“No, sir. At the moment there were no guinea pigs available,” answers Byjove. “So I found something better…”
To be continued…
See you next episode. Ending theme!