Planner's Predicament

The one called Planner waited for the guests to be seated before throwing back the cloth to reveal the large calendar mounted on the easel. Everybody leaned forward, anxious to know whether their special day had been circled in red crayon. Planner waited for the company to settle down. An air of anticipation filled the room. Giving a small cough, Planner raised his eyebrows to draw attention to the fact he was about to speak.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he began, "it has been determined that the limit for specialized days has been exceeded. Regretfully, I have been instructed to call upon one of you to relinquish your position."

A dissatisfied hum spread like wildfire. "It may not be permanent," Planner quickly added, "chances are, next year, that all will return to normal." He gave a weak smile. "We'd rather not be forced to choose," Planner announced in a pleasant tone. "It would be infinitely preferable if one of you would volunteer...." His voice trailed away as he surveyed the faces before him.

"Don't look at me," declared an elderly matron who rocked a sleeping baby. "If I'm not here, who'll show this little one how to start off the year, huh? Answer that and remain fashionable!" Planner admitted it wasn't feasible.

A doe-eyed young woman, selecting chocolates randomly from a heart-shaped box, pursed her cupid-bow lips and blew Planner a kiss. "What the world needs now is love, sweet love...no way, honey!"

An auburn-haired giant of a man leapt to his feet shaking a beefy fist at Planner. "Faith and begorrah," he cried, "if it's in MY direction you'd be looking..." Planner promptly averted his eyes to a small boy, dressed in a white shirt, blue pants and red hat.

With a package of pyrotechnic delights tucked under his arm and hand poised over his chest, the child began to sing with an earnest and shrill voice. "Oh, say can you see...." Planner moved on.

"Keep goin' down the line, homeboy," urged a richly deep voice. "We had to wait far too long for this!" Planner felt ill-equipped to argue with that and looked hopefully at the toddler sitting cross-legged on the carpet. She was amusing herself by removing colored eggs from a basket and then putting them back in again. Planner rubbed his hands together and was about to open his mouth when he noticed the platoon of protective dust bunnies gathering under the furniture.

"What about you?" he asked the white-bearded, jovial-looking fellow in a red suit. The eyes behind the gold-rimmed spectacles grew icy. "You'd have nine innocent reindeer, together with a whole army of elves, on unemployment for the entire year? Not to mention thousands...millions...millions of thousands of trusting children who...." Planner shuffled his feet. "Nevermind, I get the picture."

Planner was becoming nervous. He'd already gone through almost half the room. Then, a little figure jumped down from his perch on a bar stool. "I'll do it," he announced with a broad grin. Everyone in the room applauded gratefully and breathed a collective sigh of relief.

"Thank you," grovelled Planner. "Thank you so much. Like I said earlier, this is only temporary. You'll probably be called back next year."

"No problem," said the volunteer cheerfully, slapping Planner's outstretched palm. "Don't even give it a second thought." He whistled gaily as he marched out of the room. Planner sank heavily into a chair, mopping his forehead with a napkin.

Suddenly, the door opened again and the volunteer reappeared. "GOTCHA!" he announced, his face purple with laughter as the bells on his quartered jester cap jingled in nonsensical fashion.

"Can't believe you all fell for that," he said, skipping jauntily across the room and hopping nimbly onto the same bar stool he had occupied only moments before. He wagged a mocking finger under Planner's nose. "Tsk, tsk," he said with derision. "April Fool...!"

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