2020 predictions column: time for an otter one

IMAGES: David Dixon and Bryan Jones, Flick CC
Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Twenty twenty,” says the ophthalmologist.

“That’s my vision?” I ask excitedly.

“No, you’re as myopic as a rhino,” she says. “That’s the year to write on your check.”

I can’t believe it. It’s 2020 already. The year that we once believed would be “the future.” But here I am, going to the eye doctor like a 20th Century chump. Driving a “car.” Eating “food.” Walking around on “feet.”

“You know,” I tell her. “This is the time of year I’m normally summoned to see the Oracle of the Sax-Zim Bog to receive her predictions for the new year. But she hasn’t sent her little otter minions to kidnap me yet.”

She clicks her pen to scribble a note on my chart. “I check eyes not brains,” she says. “Would you like scratch guard on those lens?”

As I leave for the lobby I noticed a curious-looking patient in the waiting room. His furry brown beard covers his whole face, forehead included. One of his legs is significantly shorter than the other. And I just can’t ignore the overpowering smell of the long dead raw fish he was eating. He stands awkwardly.

“Come with me,” he squeaks.

“I don’t know you,” I say.

Then suddenly the man breaks apart like a J.C. Penney mannequin at a store closing sale. Three otters crawl out of the man’s pants while four more emerge from his shirt. The head removes its wig to reveal my old friend, the Oracle’s otter valet.

“She in car outside,” says the otter in his odd yet mostly fluent English.

Over all these years I’d always met the Oracle of the Sax-Zim Bog in the bog itself. But in recent times the bog became a treacherous den of dysfunction. The rise of Stump Tower in the heart of the swamp flooded the place with well-dressed beavers, martens and weasels, many with sketchy law degrees and dubious consulting contracts.

If she’s in the parking lot outside the eye doctor’s office things must be worse.

The otters guide me to the back seat of a rented Chevy Cruze. It appears to be a rental. I squeeze in next to the Oracle herself.

“Oracle,” I exclaim. “What are your predictions for 2020?”

“On the Iron Range, the water warms and the frog swims but the pot does not yet boil,” she says.

“Is that a metaphor or an idiom?”

“Is both,” says the otter in the front seat.

The Oracle continues.

“Trucks without drivers appear on the roads. They haul what cannot be counted.”

“Interesting,” I say. “Any other tech news?”

“Have you seen the torque on the new electric vehicles?” she asks. “They’re really something.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that.”

Now she’s getting out a notepad and marker. She’s drawing a picture. It’s a viking.

“Does this mean the Vikings will win the Super Bowl?” I blurt.

“This …” She pauses. “This is actually the big free agent pitcher the Twins will sign during the offseason. Sorry, I’m not very good at drawing.”

“He looks like a hobo,” I say.

“You’re not far off,” she says.

The Oracle’s face grew serious as she continued with her 2020 predictions.

“Americans will march in the streets, but not for the reasons you think.”

“Is that good news or bad news?” I ask.

She gritted her green-tinted teeth in a mild wince.

“What about the election?”

“Unclear.” She squinted. “Both candidates will watch election returns from a hospital bed.”

“Will this great nation be able to patch itself back together?”

“Not this year,” says the Oracle. She sighs.

“Will you return to the bog?”

“I hope so,” she says. “Things can’t go on like this forever.”

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and is the creator of the Great Northern Radio Show which aired for eight years on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

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