Yesterday I happened to read a most interesting blog post by one of our astute NitLetters. (I botched the comment I wanted to make, but let that go for a minute.) Anyway, the subject of the blog post was Daylight Saving Time, which reminded me that I'd posted a story on that very topic long ago. The story itself is even older; I must've written it at least 25 years ago.

Some of the references in the original draft were more obsolete than 8-track tape players. The story opens with a human character changing the times on various devices, including a VCR that flashes "12:00."The man erroneously refers to "Daylight Savings Time" with an "s," as in "savings bank." Other outdated features were fax machines and snail mail. But the main thing I had to delete/revise were the beginning dates for Daylight Saving Time and the return to Standard. Now they occur in March and November, respectively, as opposed to April and November nowadays.

In any event, the 2019 story appears below. And if you're a glutton for punishment, a second story about certain folk of the Celtic persuasion can be found here.

"Spring Ahead; Fall Back”

by Aunt Shecky
All Rights Reserved

Because the early Spring air had sent a freshening balm, because a tiny crack of pink peeked out of the western sky, because the lengthening
days made this night of nights all the more sweeter for its brevity, Mr. Sterne turned to Mrs. Sterne with pleading eyes. His hand gently placed on her shoulder asked the same question, but Mrs. Sterne's answer was not the one he'd hoped for. In fact, she had a question of her own: "Did ya fix the clock?"

With the romantic magic broken, Mr. Sterne was hurled back into reality. "Huh?"

"Did ya fix the clocks? Daylight Savings starts tonight. Ya gotta set all the clocks."

He reluctantly sat up in bed. "Yeah? Well, how do I set 'em?"

"An hour ahead."

The joints in Mr. Sterne's old legs creaked as his bony feet groped for his slippers. "Ya sure?"

"One hour ahead. Spring ahead; fall back."

It could just as easily have been "Fall forward, spring back," Mr. Sterne thought, but he proceeded to advance the alarm clock. "Daylight Savins' Time. What're we savin' it for?"

In the kitchen he climbed up on a chair, removed the clock from the wall, and turned the dial on the back one complete revolution. He had a devil of a time replacing the clock when he tried to match up the hook with the nail. There was a dark circle on the wall, kind of a clock-shadow, that he could use as a general guideline, but it took more
than a few tries to re-hang the clock correctly.

The tiny knob on the automatic coffee maker only went counter-clockwise, so Mr. Sterne had to go through an entire 24-hour cycle (and an off-schedule pot of coffee) until he got it right. The microwave oven whirred on and off, lit up, and beeped a series of irritating beeps before Mr. Sterne was satisfied with the digital read-out on the panel. In the back of his mind he knew that he'd have to go through this routine again come fall, and he didn't want to think about it.

The old grandfather's clock in the hallway was relatively easy if one didn't count having to climb up the stepladder. All Mr. Sterne had to do was move the hands by —er, hand. And climb down the stepladder. And close the door (which kept sticking).

It almost seemed as if the recalcitrant electronic devices were just another instrument for the Universe to tell humans they were stupid. And as far as Mr. Sterne believed, rightly so. "What fools we mortals be, he said."

Then he cursed every clock in creation, cursed the guy who invented Daylight Saving Time, and cursed himself for being human and thus a slave to the clock, though truly, time was nothing more than an artificial convention.

"That's it!" he shouted in a loud, disgusted voice. "I'm never, ever going to touch another clock, watch, or timepiece!”

By the time Mr. Sterne returned to bed, he noticed that the night had gotten colder. He also found that Mrs. Sterne was asleep and snoring, as if it were deep December.

In the place where the first light of day greets the continental United States, sunlight kissed the massive pink face of Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island in Maine. In a misty campsite not far away there were stirrings and bumps from within a little tent.

The occupants were reluctant to get up, understandably so, with the dampness of the dew, the chill of the dawn, with the cold outside, it was cozily warm inside the sleeping bag.

Deirdre's arms emerged in a sluggish stretch. She let out a long and audible yawn. "Sure, and I feel I've been sleepin' all winter."

Mahaffey chuckled. "That ya have now, me Lass."

Like listless turtles they crawled out of the tent. Deirdre clutched her arms and shivered.

"Two-four-six-eight, why do we hibernate?" she chanted through chattering teeth.

"All the better to estivate, my dear," he said.

"Aye, and for how long? All summer? An hour? Just how much time are we gettin' now?"

Mahaffey, who had been filling his robust lungs with clear sea-air,put a reassuring arm around her shoulder. " 'Time, there will be time. Time to mur’ther and create.' "

"Ah, 'tis a wee bit early to be quoting poetry," she said.

By now the sun had climbed high, and the day was warming up. Mahaffey was surprised to find himself swatting a swarm of tiny insects away from his nose.

" 'Tis a bit early for the likes of mayflies as well," he remarked.

Deirdre's usually-smiling eyes glazed over with a veil of sadness. “ 'Tis later than you think, Mahaffey."

The Dean of Students, as imposing and imperious as his oaken desk,took off his glasses, rubbed the lenses with the corners of his suit jacket, and put them back on. "I appreciate your uh, thirst for learning, Mr—, Mr—"


"Mr. Oberon, but you must understand that even though we are operating a not-for-profit institution, we can't just bend the rules. We have to be fair, you understand. If we let you attend classes without charging you tuition, we'll have to let someone else do it. Then we'll have to let someone else do it, then someone else, and you can see where that might lead us, don't you, Mr. Oberon?"

"Yes, but you see, Sir, there's so much learnin' I'm after and so little time."

"Pretty soon we won't have any income at all. No money for our operation expenses. Nothing for faculty salaries. I mean, there goes the Athletic Department just like that!" The Dean snapped his fingers so loudly that Oberon flinched.

" You do see my point, Mr. Oberon."

"Yes, indeed I do, Sir, but I wasn't after the credit," he said in a way he hoped sounded sheepish and humble. "I was just auditin'."

"For which we charge a fee -- from all non-matriculated students."

"Two, four, six, eight, why do we matriculate?"

The Dean cleared his throat. "I beg your pardon!" His face became even redder than his natural expression. "Now get this and get this straight. If you set one foot on campus again, I'm going to call Security and have you hauled in for trespassing. Do I make myself clear?"

Clear as the grand clapper atop Saint Brendan's. Clear as the River Liffey long before it was clouded by industrial development and academic prose. Clear as the skies above Macgillycuddy's Reeks.

What wasn't so clear to Oberon was why he had been caught, after all these years (non-sequential, of course) as a non-matriculated scholar. Then again, it had only been a matter of time before the Forces of Commerce won out over the Forces of Knowledge.

Gettin' caught -- what a kick to the noggin! The "how" was fairly evident: an overly conscientious teaching assistant religiously taking attendance had discovered that there was an extra body in the classroom that morning. Oberon had always assumed -- and up to this point he had been right -- that university classes would be over-enrolled and that their instructors, customarily condescending and pompous, would never notice a new or even a strange face. Even graduate students were sublimely oblivious to the presence or absence of academic stowaways — except for this zealous Phi Beta Kappa today.

Oberon had an extremely successful history as a "non-traditional student". In order to cram his bean with learnin', he had started on the A's (Accounting, Animal Husbandry, Anthropology, Astronomy, American History), graduated to the B's (Biochemistry, Biology, Botany) and on to the C's and D's. He was now on Economics, Engineering, and Educational
Statistics. In addition to these sundry courses, he was acquainted with every physical plant and campus of the nation's institutions of higher learning. Be they mammoth universities or sleepy little ivy-covered colleges, Oberon knew them all and knew them well — better than most administrators, faculty, and students, certainly better than most alumni.

Alumni -- the mental mention of them gave Oberon an idea. He reached into his pocket and threw a handful of dust —sparkling gold,green, and silver stardust —across the oak desk. It covered the Dean completely; in his thinning grey hair, flakes of it shone like dehiscent dandruff.

Without sufficient warning the Dean's secretary invaded into the room. Though she was definitely middle-aged, she bubbled and gushed like a nubile Texas cheerleader. "Forgive me for bargin' in, Sir --" (no such breathless apologies to Oberon) "but we just got a message from the Farnsworth Foundation. They're endowin’ us with a grant of fourteen point six
million DOLL-ars!"

The Dean whistled and exhaled an two-word expletive which Oberon definitely had not heard in Ethics class that morning, though in a different context, he might have heard the "Holy!" part.

"And that's not all!" More and more the secretary was sounding like a television quizmaster. "We've got bags and bags of mail -- full of contributions from alumni! That’s not even countin’ online texts from Squre Cash and Venmo.”

The Dean glanced across his desk; he seemed to have forgotten exactly who Oberon was and why he was there. The Dean removed his glasses again and put them back on.

Oberon grinned his impish grin. "You were sayin', Sir?"

"Oh, yes. It's -- what? -- May already, and, seeing it's late in the semester --"

"Sure, and there be a wee few weeks left, methinks --"

" --That I don't see the harm in your sitting in on a few classes. With the professors’ permission, of course."

"Of course." Oberon stood up and shook the Dean's hand. "Well,I'll be off now. As you say, 'tis late in the year."

Here was a dream, or rather a cinematographer's depiction of a dreamscape: only a couple of lights trying to cheat the darkness, the air replaced by a cloud come to earth, everybody moving (if moving at all) in slo-mo.

In reality this was the Wee Small Hours Bar and Grill, though the consciously-chic crowd praised the joint for its "unpretentious ambience". You wouldn't know that the proprietor had paid this month's electric bill because the only lights were the neon beer ads, the glowing video game in the corner, and the baby spot, making the band look just as blue as they sounded. The stuff from floor to ceiling wasn't dream-fog;it was just smoke mixed in with a little Fall haze that sneaked in the door past the bouncer. And if the barkeep and the patrons looked
barely animate, it was only because Zoot had mesmerized them into the mellowest of moods.

The trill coming out of his alto sax was so intense that you couldn't hear another sound in the place: not a titter from a tipsy college girl, not the come-hither beep of the coin-operated video game,not the slight clink of an ice cube shifting down in an empty glass. Zoot had them in the palm of his hand; he had their minds in a grip tighter than a goatskin stretched across a bodhran. The crowd worshiped him, and his band members, who knew a lot more than the crowd, thought that they had never heard Zoot play this well.

Even Zoot himself felt it; he hadn't discovered grooves this strange since he'd played under the borrowed aliases of Prez, Vice Prez, and Trane, maybe because it was the last set of the last night of the gig and (for him) the last night of the season. Maybe it was the number itself,an old standard whose melody was so bittersweet and minor-keyed that even
if you weren't a jazz aficionado , you could almost guess its title: "Early Autumn".

The song ended in a tentative way, without a coda, and it took the crowd a moment to begin applauding. The drummer threw down his "bones";he went to punch Zoot's arm but instead grabbed him by the shoulders and hugged him as if Zoot had just batted in a grand-slammer in the last game of the division playoffs. The piano player sat stunned, motionless except
for the tears welling up and the head shaking. "Man!" he whispered again and again. "Oh, man!"

It was last call, and the hard core drinkers were scrambling for their nightcaps. As after every performance, people came up to the bandstand to congratulate the musicians, especially Zoot. Once in a while he'd draw some pompous know-it-all who'd ostensibly praise Zoot only as a means to show off. Others would come, sweating with sincerity,
to ask quasi-intelligent questions, but they were would-be saxophonists out to pick Zoot's brain (as if the music came only from his brain!).

And then there were the jerks. This one was particularly tall for a human, and he had muscular arms and red hair. He only looked Irish.

"Say, you got some sounds outa that 'thang'," he said. "Like our Afro-American brothers say, you play pretty good for a white man."

"Not so sure about 'white', Definitely not so sure about 'man'," Zoot muttered. "But, uh, thanks."

"Whaddaya mean? Are you one o’ them —"

"One of what? Sure, I'll be ignorin’ the blarney for now. Listen, we -- all of us -- are connected. If it weren't for them, this music wouldn't exist. Sure and everything's linked, don't you know?" One could almost hear echoes of Zoot's tenor sax mode in his lilting voice. "The sax and the pipes, the bodhran, and the jungle drum. Classical and folk music, jazz and gospel, The Gospel. The heart and mind. They're all connected, right?"

The big guy scratched his head. He started backing away, though not gracefully.

"The black and the white. The Christian and the Jew. The human bein' and the fairy folk --"

"Huh?" The big guy's face assumed the same shade of his hair. "I knew you was one of them, them --" and having run out of words, he let Zoot have it right across the jaw.

Zoot hit the floor like the mercury hitting the bottom of the thermometer in February. He hurt like mad, but of course, he did not bleed. "Two-four-six-eight. Why do we palpitate?" he gasped.

The crowd, a blasé bunch, took no notice of this mini-brawl,even though its victim was the very musician they'd lionized minutes before.

What captured the crowd's attention was the bartender's announcement. "Listen up, everybody! I forgot that tonight's the night that we turn the clocks back. Keep drinking, people! We got a whole ‘nother hour."

The bartender stood on a stool and removed the glass which covered the face of the huge clock above the bar; in hot pink neon it proclaimed "It's Time for a Muckenmire", and instead of hands told the time with two little pilsner glasses. With a flick of his finger, the barkeep changed the hour hand from "II" back to "I".

With that Zoot was hurled back also —to the point at which he was finishing his penultimate, not his last set. He hadn't yet played the Ralph Burns masterpiece that had driven the crowd wild. Nor had he suffered that sucker punch, for the big guy was still on his stool and nursing only his third Muckenmire’s brew/ Zoot blew the final chord to Vernon Duke's
"Autumn in New York" without further fanfare and began to pack up his instruments.

A blonde clad all in blue asked the bartender, “Ya sure you got that right? The clock goes back?"

" 'Tis true," Zoot said as he slipped out the door into the cold darkness. "Spring ahead, fall back."

Their legs were dangling over the cliff of the Grand Canyon, as they watched the sky explode into ephemeral tints of gold, pink, and purple.

Deirdre silently wept. Mahaffey was silent and strong.

"Ah, I hate this so!" she sniffed. "Just when everything's gettin' good, we have to be goin'."

"Just as 'tis. Just as 'tis written.”

"Oh, but the leaves are after puttin' on their fall finery and the sky! Our Lady's cloak must be that very shade, I'm thinkin'.

Mahaffey turned sharply and gave her wrist a squeeze. "Ah, don't be doing this, me girl. Ya know nothin' can be done about it."

The word "fret" could almost be read on Deirdre's forehead. "How do you know, James? Hasn't anybody ever stayed?"

Mahaffey shook his head. "There are those who've tried. Cheatin' it with jet lag. Hidin' out in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Sure, and you'll be knowin' that even in the Auld Country it ne'er gets dusky ere eleven."

Her melancholy eyes widened a bit. "And?—“

"And nothin' works. Not even the likes of this." Mahaffey dug into his pocket and threw a clump of something down the enormous hole of the Canyon. Shimmering gold, silver, and green bits floated down like so much dust.

Deirdre buried her face in her hands; her shoulders shook slightly. Mahaffey's burly hand rubbed her back. "Aw, girl, were ya thinkin' we'd be going west, west, west forever now?"

"I wanted to see snow. I wanted to have a Christmas. Sure and it isn't fair now, Jim. Those human bein's -- they get to stay." Deirdre pouted a mean pout, albeit an attractive one.

"You can be sorrowin' all you want about 'em, me lass, but we'll be owin' our very existence to 'em. We're connected, don't ya see, now? They'll be givin' us a summer, an hour. 'Tis somethin' to be grateful for." He slapped her knee lustily in an attempt to get her out of her pensive melancholy.

"Why couldn't they be givin’ us some more time, Jim?"

" 'Twould be a cold day fer the divil if they're after giving us some more of their precious time, me lass. What, will they be throwin’ away their calendars now? Keepin' their hands off their blasted clocks?"

"All of them?"

He shook his head. "It only takes but one."

His smile froze when he realized that he'd imbued her with false hope. Again he slapped her knee. "Forget it, me girl. Sure, and it won't be happening this year. You're all a-twitter with the wishful thinkin'.

Her sigh echoed through the national park, down the walls of the mighty canyon, and up to the heavens like a prayer.

Mr. Sterne felt the sharp jab of his wife's elbow in his brittle ribs. "Tonight's the night we're supposed to change the clocks back."

To a mortal, Mr. Sterne's laugh might have sounded disdainful or downright rude. To a different race of folk, it was music for the ages. Mr. Stern turned out the light, rolled over, and went to sleep.