New Hampshire, as you may have heard, has five seasons, not four. Tucked between Winter (which can be long) and Spring (which, by law, cannot be) there is Mud Season, that dreary time when any remaining snow is grey or brown with smoke, ash, or tire-spray, and not even the bravest of crocuses has dared yet to emerge.
I have noticed, though, another weather and behavioral anomaly in the Granite State. This one is a quadrennial pattern; I suspect it has something to do with sunspots.
Every four years, predictably, like a genetically modified fungus crossed with a species of locust, strange organisms appear. Some seem to be the fruiting bodies of some mushroom, brightly colored, rectangular, and on one or two thin stalks. They show up by the dozens on the sides of highways, by ones and twos in people’s yards, and by the hundreds near particular buildings. Some folks seem to collect them, although I have never seen recipes, nor any reason to suspect they are not toxic. We know what bright colors mean in nature.
Whether connected to these organisms or not (I have not ruled out the possibility of airborne spores), the behavior of the locals inhabitants is also changed, and there seems to be a bizarre attraction of new people (I’d say “like bees to honey”, but the influx appears to be not attraction so much as compulsion; these people are not happy, but apoplectic with poorly directed anger). People tend to gather in small and large groups, often simply to yell incomprehensible things at one another. Many of them will carry one or more samples of the fungus.
There is some reason to suspect that the spores (if indeed that is the explanation) attack the frontal lobes of the afflicted. Critical reasoning appears to be absent, or severely attenuated, in individuals holding the fungi. They may revert to a primitive fight-or-flight mentality, often joining one another to attack, or at least denounce, groups that are perceived to be less powerful (women, homosexuals, the poor, etc.)
The bad news is, the affliction appears to be permanent. The best predictor of who will succumb in a given cycle appears to be past affliction. The good news is, for most individuals the flare-ups appear to be temporary (weeks or months at most), with few or no side effects noticed in the intervening years. Occasionally, in the more strongly hit, flare-ups may continue, especially in confined spaces (diners, classrooms) on a chronic basis. (Note to self–if such a location is identified, will bleach help?)
This is all conjecture, of course. Why, I hadn’t made all the connections, as early as four years ago when I last saw it. Here, for instance, is my verse from January 1st of 2008. At the time, same sex Civil Union had just become the law. Since then, New Hampshire has accepted full-fledged marriage equality, although the quadrennial madness now has invasive individuals attacking that institution. Anyway, the verse:
I had insufficient warning
When I stumbled out this morning
Past a half a dozen candidates, each stumping for my vote;
When I looked, the morning paper
Had a headline of some caper
Or the record-breaking snowfall—really, nothing there of note.
So I grabbed my trusty shovel
To plow out my “home sweet hovel”
When I noticed something different—something didn’t quite feel right.
There was snow, and politicians,
But some change in the conditions
Made me wonder if my marriage had the sanctity it might.
So I checked the sanctitometer
And struggled not to vomit—her
“Conventional morality in danger” light was on!
Now a grim new dawn was breaking
And I couldn’t stop my shaking
‘Cos the morally upstanding world I trusted now was gone!
I considered seeking shelter
As I watched the helter-skelter
Of the politicians canvassing the noble Granite State;
I heard one of them disparage
Civil Unions, or Gay Marriage
As the reason for the panic—then I thought, more clearly, “wait!”
All this rattling of sabers
Is about my friends and neighbors;
These are people whom I know, and who have lived here all along
If these folks are who they’re blaming
It’s just pre-election gaming
And between the politicians and my friends, I know who’s wrong.
If our morals are declining
As the candidates keep whining
I propose a different theory to explain why this is so:
An invasive mass of liars
With their speeches, signs, and flyers,
Slinging mud and kissing babies in a dog-and-pony show.
Soon the voting will be over
And the state, from Keene to Dover,
And from Lancaster to Nashua, will heave a weary sigh;
With the moral issue buried
Now my neighbors can get married
And the Granite State will mean it when it says “Live Free or Die!”