Saturday, April 19, 2008

Der Böögg

"I realised at that moment that all my girlfriends have been mental or using me as a distraction from their upcoming exams. The bad dreams always come on Fridays. They are always about girls I like. They are repetitive in nature. I wake feeling inadequate and disorientated - write that down, disorientated - and the day passes and I wait for sleep." I drew circles on the table with my index finger. "You are lucky your English is bad, because when you dream in English, your dreams are neither vivid nor escapable."

"Is this going to be in the exam?"

"What exam?"

"The exam we are studying for." Students. Exams. Whatever. Better than dreaming.

"Oh, that. Don't worry about it," I sighed. "I'm good at exams and I don't get stressed about them. Just relax and you'll be fine. Let's talk about something important. I want to know why I have Monday off."

"Monday? Oh, it's because of Der Böögg," said a student.

I looked up. "Excuse me?"

"Der Böögg. You must know about Der Böögg. No? Well, he's a snowman. And once a year we burn him on a big fire and his head explodes."

"You burn... a snowman?"

"At six o'clock. It's important because he tells us how long summer will be. If it takes a long time for his head to pop, summer will be bad. And, ipso facto, vice versa."

"Is this still a dream? Where's my ...?"

"Look, it's simple. In the olden days, the rich people of Zurich used to take a peasant and put him on a big fire and he'd scream how long the summer would last and then the explosives strapped to his head would explode." My student gestured a messy explosion. "Then the bankers would buy or sell wheat futures and corn derivatives and make a ton of money. Zurich is the only canton in Switzerland with this tradition and it is by far the richest. Coincidence? Impossible."

Another student spoke up. "When the head exploded, the brains would splatter on nearby poormen, and the one with the most brain on his coat would be Der Böögg the next year. For one year he'd be the toast of the town, and then his head would explode lucratively."

The first student took up the story once more. "But over time it became unseemly to explode a poor person so frankly. Political correctness and that. So in the late seventies, they were encased within a snowman and the explosives replaced with fireworks. It's better for the kids, and costs less in psychiatry. So that's why you have a day off."