Those who think they understand always speak to me with wonder that each year has exactly the right amount of minutes with none left over. I generally nod and agree, since they’re probably happier in thinking so. Really, of course, most years are either under or over-supplied. Astronomers and mathematicians can calculate with astonishing exactitude; the Powers, however, can barely count. When the year begins, they look at the barrels of hours, the bales of minutes and the casks of seconds (packed in linseed oil, usually, to keep them slippery) and are satisfied there’s no possibility of running low, or even out. In January, in April, even in September, they’ll casually dip Their hands in, giving a few extra hours to some poor student slaving at her thesis, or throwing in extra minutes for a team in double over-time. They’ll even use seconds on Their ice-cream when the colored sprinkles have been used up.
Being Who They are, of course, they never think of 1806, when there was no December 29th. No one cares to remember that there was no genuine 1712 at all; just some stray days we found beneath the cushions and then cobbled together and used over and over, so that February 4th, 1611, for instance, came seventeen times that year, though we would generally slap a fresh coat of paint on it each time and give it a clean collar. The poor thing was paper-thin and trembling when it came on as December 13th and it collapsed around 10:30 so that nothing at all could happen for a space which would have held 90 minutes if we had had any minutes to spare. We simply jammed in some old dishes and rags we had lying around. (It’s a terrible thing that there were people who remembered those dishes and rags with great fondness, and counted them as golden memories).