Not Today

Deanna’s eyelids sprang open.

The ceiling of her bedroom still seemed dark so she closed them.

She opened them again, halfway, just to check.

Maybe not that dark; she could not tell. She kept them open to decide. She could not quite discern if morning had really started or not, so she turned her head on her pillow to check her alarm clock.

The glowing numerals informed her that it was 5:56 AM.

Well, she definitely had not slept through her alarm. It was set for 9:00.

She pondered. Was this still nighttime or morning? She peered toward her bedroom window. Annoyingly to her, it faced the east and brought in the rising sun far too early on mornings such as this one, which was nearly cloudless. The sky was starting to lighten but the sun had not yet crawled out of its own bed so Deanna closed her eyes and stayed put.

Something bothered her, though she could not figure out what it was.

She turned her head once more on her pillow. The clock now read 5:57 AM.

She studied the time and compared it to the slowly rising light in the room. They seemed to match. Still, something was not right. She studied the clock some more.

The date.

The day of the week.

Missing. Both were missing.

She closed her eyes and rolled back, triumphant, relieved. Mystery solved.

Then disappointment struck. Stupid alarm clock.

A new uncertainty seeped into her. What day was it?

She glanced out the window. The warmly brightening sky pulled at her. She sat up, propped by her arms, legs extended. Her right foot slid out from under the covers, down the side of the bed, almost on its own. The left followed close behind. Deanna tilted forward, resting her elbows on her thighs, hands dangling between pajamaed legs.

The first blinding hump of molten hot sun suddenly burned over the horizon. More of it pushed its way upward. Deanna smiled faintly. Beneath the over-sized t-shirt she wore she could feel her heart gently drumming the inside of her chest. She glanced down briefly and smiled at it.

Then Deanna returned her gaze out the window to the east. By now, enough of the sun had appeared to paint the few clouds a luminescent yellow and to force Deanna to squint.

Her thoughts returned to the day at hand and wondered for just a moment, what day it was. The clock alarmed her. Her mind set the sunrise aside to remember the night before.

Friday. The night before was Friday. That made today Saturday. Encouraged by her small victory and gladdened by the prospect of an early start to the weekend, she smiled. Perhaps if starting off weekends early rather than sleeping late was always this pleasant, she would try it more often.

With that, Deanna wiggled her toes and reached over to the clock. She gently slapped the radio button.

What she heard put her in a state of perplexity.

A Special News Report was airing. The reporter paused several times and backtracked over what she said, restating and trying to clarify her rambling commentary. She seemed confused.

The evident nervousness of the reporter put Deanna at some unease. The story revolved around the timing of the sunrise and, as the reporter put it, “astronomical positionings.”

Deanna wondered if everyone was this disoriented early Saturday mornings. She thought that maybe the reporter stayed out too late the night before.

The broadcast then cut to an astrophysicist from NASA. The astrophysicist’s voice prompted Deanna to think of bushy white eyebrows on an older, somewhat overweight avuncular man. She imagined him to be in need of a haircut. He sounded every bit a scientist and the expert, which reassured Deanna.

After a rambling flurry of technical jargon, the astrophysicist added the phrase “not Saturday, yet.”

Deanna’s reassurance faded.

Deanna stared at the alarm clock, half expecting an explanation to be streaming across the display in place of the missing date and day of the week. She did not hear the rest of the astrophysicist’s remarks nor the rest of the report until she heard the reporter sign off with, “Live from NASA Headquarters in Alabama.”

No longer gently drumming, her heart was now thumping and Deanna felt a prickling as the hairs on her forearms stood upright. She realized her mouth was open.

“Not Saturday, yet?”

Without bothering to turn off the alarm clock radio, Deanna pushed herself up from the side of her bed and rushed out into the living room of her apartment. She picked up the TV remote and clicked it at the screen. Immediately a reporter appeared, looking down at the small reporter’s notebook in his hand, occasionally flipping pages back and forth. He tried to put together a story, stumbling over words he had written but not understood. Reporting from a local university, he had evidently spoken to another astrophysicist.

Deanna figured that a simpler, non-technical explanation of what was going on would help. What she needed was a sports channel to dumb it down.

She headed to ESPN. What they had to say wasn’t always right, but at least it was something your typical third grader could understand.

The ESPN studio crew, though, apparently was preoccupied with anticipating what would become of, as the anchor put it, “this unprecedented scheduling anomaly.”

Deanna then switched over to the most reliable channel she could think of, The Weather Channel. Surely they could tell her what was going on.

The Weekend Forecast weatherman was standing in front of a weather map of the Northeast, which was presently replaced by a picture from somewhere in Europe of the sun, already high up in a cloudless sky. A room full of puzzled meteorologists soon replaced that background.

Beyond the rapid, disorienting switching of backgrounds and the tentative, halting, unscripted chatter by the weatherman, who spent much of his time asking questions of off-camera people in the studio, something else was not right with what Deanna saw.

The date.

There was no date on the screen. Nor a day. Just a time and a time zone.

Deanna switched back to the local news. Local time but no date.

And no day of the week.

Instinctively, she turned toward the calendar on her kitchen wall. That was no help; it was not even showing the current month, May.

Back to the television, cycling through the national news stations. CNN, FoxNews, BBC, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, Bloomberg, all had BREAKING NEWS banners emblazoned across the tops of their screens. All had befuddled, babbling B-team reporters. C-SPAN simply had a running ticker which informed viewers that “Scheduled programming will begin shortly…” None displayed the current day of the week nor the date.

Deanna decided to make some coffee and let the news teams sort things out.

When she returned to her living room, she switched to one of the local stations. Her favorite weeknight anchor, Gayle Force, was just settling in at the studio news desk. Deanna found it upsetting that the weeknight anchor was sitting in on a morning broadcast.

Deanna listened intently as she cradled her too-hot cup of Kenyan Peaberry. Her heart had slowed back to normal, but only for a moment. Gayle’s words reignited the anxiety that had engulfed Deanna. The Peaberry steamed, undrunk, on Deanna’s lap while Gayle informed her viewing audience that the world was awaiting a clearer explanation from the experts.

Deanna needed a break from the confusion and intensity that this morning had brought her. Her neck and shoulders, past tense, were knotted and needed to relax. She felt she needed to wash her face, clear her mind.

She sipped her coffee and returned the cup to the kitchen on her way to the bathroom. While passing though the kitchen she spied an envelope with a note card and a letter from her aunt. Aunt Millie wrote regularly and sometimes included newspaper clippings from the small town daily from where she lived. Deanna had often meant to write back to her aunt but the closest she ever got was sending a Christmas card once or twice.

In her bathroom, the warm water on her face did soothe her and did calm her. She paused as she dried off. The TV in the other room tugged at her.

Washed and settled, Deanna returned to her living room to find out what was going on.

Across the channels, the consensus was forming that somehow a day had slipped in between Friday and Saturday. Some people wondered how that could be, but nobody was able to convincingly dispute that that was, in fact, what had happened.

Once that was established, a variety of groups raced to be the first to put out some sort of interpretation for the phenomenon. Others found in it something sinister. Democrats and Republicans each quickly blamed the other party for the development. Once polling results indicated a surprising amount of acceptance among Americans for the situation, though, congressional leadership in both parties appeared ready to claim credit.

A prominent Shia cleric pronounced it a Zionist plot and an equally prominent Orthodox Rabbi shot back that it was the work of Islamic extremists, each expressing the suspicion that the other was grabbing an extra day of prayer. Both ignored the fact that, since the day was neither a Friday nor a Saturday, the day belonged to neither religion.

Other religious leaders expressed a variety of denunciations and predictions, some apocalyptic. A number of televangelist-backed fundraising hotlines were quickly established in response to the situation and volunteers were available to take credit card donations by phone.

Back at ESPN, several sportswriters had been gathered for a round-table discussion of what effect a day without any scheduled sporting events would mean for America.

Switching again to her local station, Deanna saw the weekend weatherman try to explain that none of the forecasting models would be able to shed light on what the day’s weather would be. Deanna figured the weather would be somewhere between whatever Friday’s weather was (she had trouble remembering) and what Saturday’s weather would be. The map displayed behind the weatherman was blank. His frazzled explanation became a bit overly technical, however, and the station decided to go live to the weekend sportscaster, who, in the absence of any scores or scheduled events to announce, had been sent out to the streets to get reactions from passers-by.

The first passer-by that the sportscaster stopped was a somewhat older woman on her way to distribute food to the homeless at the park next to where the news crew and sportscaster were filming. When asked about the very odd extra day, she replied with a peaceful glow that she felt it was a miracle, but that even on miracle days, the homeless and the hungry still needed to eat. With that, she hastened on her way.

Before the sportscaster could even turn back to the camera, a young man on a skateboard flew into the picture, stopped, and waved to the camerawoman.

“Who are you?” he demanded of the sportscaster.

The sportscaster rolled his eyes at the camerawoman and answered that they were a news crew.

“A new screw?” the skateboarder exclaimed. “I prefer the old screw!”

The sportscaster ignored the joke. After all, he’d heard it a hundred times before. He paused for only a second and then pressed the young boarder for his opinion on what to make of the extra day between Friday and Saturday.

“I don’t know,” the skateboarder gave an insouciant shrug and he skated away.

The sudden shrill sound of Michael Jackson singing at the top of his voice in her bedroom made Deanna jump up from the couch. Calming herself, she realized that it was just her alarm clock.

She gingerly trotted to the bedroom, circled the bed, and stopped the music. She noted the time was 8:00, halfway between her 7 A.M. Friday alarm time and her Saturday setting of 9 A.M.

Outside her bedroom window, the sun had climbed to a commanding position in the sky. The day, whatever day it was, charged ahead.

Deanna’s bladder prodded her for attention.

Back in her bathroom, Deanna looked in the mirror and reflected, for a moment, about the opportunity this day presented her. This was, she realized, a free day to do things, perhaps even meaningful things, a chance to pad the numerator of her life without touching the denominator.

When she was finished in the bathroom, Deanna headed back into the kitchen before heading to the living room, ideas for the day percolating into her consciousness.

Aunt Millie’s note called out to Deanna. She picked it up off the counter and smiled.

Note card and letter in hand, Deanna strode into the second bedroom, which served as her home office, of sorts. She searched for some stationery, then laughed at herself. She could not remember ever having written anyone a letter. The thought of stationery amused her.

She instead tore off three sheets from a legal-sized pad of paper, grabbed a pen and headed back to the kitchen.

Deanna fixed herself another cup of coffee while she decided what to write.

As she waited for the coffee to start brewing, it occurred to her that she did not know the form of a personal letter. While the coffee readied itself, Deanna returned to her office. Her laptop, upon being opened, greeted her with more news of the day, again, with no date or day of the week displayed anywhere.

She read a few of the news flashes from her usual set of news sources. A few more details were available, but nothing much. The bottom line was the same, a day had injected itself between Friday and Saturday. Each of the religious leaders that had earlier spoken out maintained their positions. Many of the fundraisers that had been hastily set up were now, after consulting with their credit card providers and their banks, urging donors to send cash, afraid that, without a posting date, payments would not go through. Volunteers were available to take pledges by phone and to offer instructions for mailing in cash donations.

Deanna came across one posting that referred to a comprehensive web search of sites and the poster posited that unless someone made one up, no date and no day of the week were available anywhere in cyberspace, only the time of day. Astrophysicists, the post concluded, were right, the world was stuck in a day lodged between Friday and Saturday.

The mention of time prompted Deanna to check the corner of her computer screen. Just past 10 AM. She decided to shower and continue her day.

The hot water of the shower soothed Deanna’s neck and shoulders. As she washed, her mind revisited what she had seen so far that day. The image of the woman on her way to feed the hungry entered Deanna’s thoughts and the word “miracle” gave Deanna pause. She watched a small cluster of bubbles slither past her chest, hop over her ribs, run down her side, climb over her hip bone and spiral to the inside of her thigh. Together, the bubbles slid down the length of her leg, past her knee, down her calf, pausing slightly as they edged to the outermost point of her ankle, and then slipped off her foot onto the shower floor. They circled the drain once and then disappeared.

Deanna stared at the drain for a moment, almost wishing that the bubbles would crawl back up out of it. It took some effort on her part to finish showering.

After her shower, Deanna meandered about her apartment, wondering what to do next. She settled on texting her friend, Carla. Carla possessed an inner calm that was impervious to calamity. Deanna was sure that Carla would make sense of the day. Deanna asked what Carla thought.

About what?” came the reply.

Deanna was incredulous. How could Carla not know about the extra day they were living through that had elbowed its way between Friday and Saturday? She texted back frantically about the day and what was happening and what it meant. She pressed send and waited, her breath quickening.

Carla replied, telling Deanna that she was just kidding and to relax. The day was certainly off to a strange start, she wrote. She proposed meeting for lunch to discuss.

Relieved, Deanna accepted.

Lunch plans with Carla helped settle Deanna and gave her enough time to write the letter to Aunt Millie. She grabbed the note card and letter and the envelope that had brought them, along with the three sheets of legal sized paper and the pen and headed to her office.

At her desk, she pushed aside the still open laptop. The movement brought the screen to life.

A series of email notifications flashed on the screen, each lasting long enough for her to read half the subject. Some presented the appearance of great importance. Several were marked “URGENT” or “READ IMMEDIATELY.”

She pushed the note and letter and three sheets of legal sized paper aside. She pulled the laptop closer. She decided to go through the URGENT emails and then start her letter.

One by one, the emails turned out to not really be all that urgent, in fact, not urgent at all. A few, from her bank or from credit card companies spelled out arcane details about interest calculations and amortization adjustments, followed by lengthy disclaimers. Deanna followed each as well as she could before coming across some clause or another disclosing that the information enclosed therein was tentative, pending review by the company’s legal department.

Deanna closed the last of the URGENT emails and realized that she needed to leave soon in order to meet up with Carla.

She took the note card and letter and envelope and the three sheets of legal sized paper and pen back out to the kitchen. She left them prominently in the middle of the table and promised herself that she would write the letter after lunch with Carla.

In her car, Deanna scanned radio stations. Weary of breaking news and questions and uncertainty, she sought answers. Absent that, she resigned herself to music if any stations were playing any. She finally came across a classic rock station playing Pink Floyd’s “Time” but the line about “one day closer to death” left her feeling rattled so she just turned off the radio altogether.

Lunch with Carla did not help Deanna in the least. She had hoped to be able to seek Carla’s advice on how to use this bonus day. The lunch, however, turned out to be one long string of interruptions. Deanna was not the only person who sought Carla’s advice and reassurance. Evidently, Carla was the nexus, the hub of all the chatter for several groups of friends and they all wanted to chat.

After a couple of hours of Carla constantly excusing herself to answer another text or phone call, and then dealing with a balking waiter who informed the pair that the restaurant was only accepting cash that day, the lunch date finally ended with Deanna frustrated that those were two hours of her life she would never get back.

She decided to return to the sanctuary of her apartment. All the way there, the word “miracle” kept returning to her. So did the vision of the soap suds racing down the drain. She felt confused. Each day might be a gift, but that gift came with no instructions.

Back in her apartment, she started to check again on the form of a personal letter.

She realized that she didn’t care about the form of a personal letter and it did not matter.

So, she sat at her kitchen table and noted that the time was already 3:30 in the afternoon.

She started to write, unsure of what to say. She jotted some notes, a few words about this subject or that, figuring she could at least get something down on paper. She would turn it into a letter later.

Her mind drifted.

When it returned, she looked at the paper on the table in front of her. She saw “half a page of scribbled lines” and could not think of anything else to write.

She felt a not so gentle rumble from her stomach, which reminded her that she had been too nervous at lunch with Carla to eat much of anything.

Pushing herself from the table, she went to her cabinets and rummaged around in them but could not decide what to eat. Finally, she settled on something and went about preparing her dinner.

After eating, Deanna re-read the note card and letter from Aunt Millie. She smiled when she read what her favorite aunt had written. She thought about the patience and simple joy her aunt lived each day with and how she could make even small things seem warm and interesting.

She took the note card and letter and the half filled sheet of scribbled lines to her second bedroom turned into an office. She looked among the books on the bookshelf. Some of them she held onto from when she was a young girl back in her hometown where Aunt Millie still lived. She looked for inspiration, for a hint of what to say.

Then she reminisced.

A noise outside startled her from her thoughts and she noticed that the time was after seven.

Moved by something unknown within her, Deanna grabbed a light jacket and headed out from her apartment.

She made her way down the boulevard a few intersections, turned right and followed the street until it ended at a local park.

Deanna found a quiet, unoccupied rise in the park. She sat in the grass, which needed mowing.

She watched for a while as other people, mostly families with young children, but also couples and a few people by themselves, arrived and found benches to sit on or a patch of grass that suited them.

Just a bit after eight o’clock, everyone had found their seats and the show was ready to begin.

Before her, the sun made contact with the western horizon. It slowly melted into the earth, at first imperceptibly. As the widest part disappeared, it sped up and quickly pulled the remnants along until the last molten hump extinguished quite suddenly.

And just like that, it was gone.

Behind her, from the east, Saturday steamrolled its way toward her through the time zones.

Deanna stared at the darkening horizon for a moment more.

A tear gathered itself in the bottom of each eye and together they dashed down her cheeks.

She sighed, slowly pushed herself up from the knoll and went home.

Back at her apartment, she quietly sank into her couch and clicked the television to life.

Gayle, back in her nighttime slot, recapped the day and bid her viewers good-night.

Deanna turned off the television. She rose from the couch and made her way to her bedroom. On the way past her office, she spied the letter-to-be.

In her room, she slipped into her pajama bottoms and t-shirt, crawled under the covers, and, without looking at her alarm clock, went to sleep.

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