The number, not any of that Satanic stuff. Yet.

Guess what. This, my last column of the year, happens to be the 666th item I have had published in the Boise Weekly. Ooooo, don't that just send a shiver up your spine?

I discovered it by accident. Last week, I was adding the last couple of month's worth of titles to the list I keep of everything I've ever written for BW. I've numbered every 10 items so I can keep a general track of where I'm at, get it? And when I put 660 in front of a piece I wrote in November, I thought to myself, Holy smokes, Bill ... you're coming up on that big six-six-six.

The ironic part is, at the time I realized the last column of 2007 would be the 666th entry, I hadn't written it yet. I hadn't even figured out what I was going to write about yet. The trouble is, see, by last week, I had already spent two weeks piddling around with my contribution to the Spuds and Duds feature, and I hadn't thought much about what to end the year on, column-wise. Plus, I was trying to get everything done a week earlier than normal because the family was driving up to my bro's place in Washington the day after Christmas, which means I would be out of town on the deadline day for next week's column. So I was pushing to get that one done even before I thought of a topic for this week's column. Still with me? And all the sudden, about eight days ago—or, a measly three days before my deadline—I started to panic and thought to myself, Holy Smokes, Bill ... you'd better get your fanny in gear.

But as often happens when I absolutely, positively have to write something, I couldn't think of a damn thing to write about. I considered doing an essay on how the Earth is basically little more than a 8,000-mile-thick ball of molten lava covered with a thin skin of floating rocks, over which is scattered some dirt, some water and some bio-forms, and that at any second it could all come apart like an over-cooked marshmallow, and what more reason do we need to cherish every moment and every precious thing because when you think about it, there's not much separating us from the same fate Gollum met at the end of Return of the King, is there? I thought it would be a nice way to send out the old year with something inspirational. Something along the lines of "Relish the moment, friends, because by this time tomorrow, you could be melting down to a puddle like a cheese stick in a microwave."

But upon further reflection, I realized some people might not grasp the inspirational message in the prospect of melting like a cheese stick. To some people, such a message might actually get them all agitated and nervous, and that's not what I wanted to accomplish in the last column of the year.

Then, I had the idea of switching the column I'd been preparing for next week—which is about (and now, dear readers, is the time to cover your eyes if you like to be surprised. I'll give you a moment to do that ...

... Got 'em covered? OK, here goes.) why Hillary Clinton definitely should be elected president—but that wasn't much of a solution because I'd still have to write one for the following week. And I was getting all agitated and nervous at the prospect of going to my editor and saying, "Look boss, I got something for either the last column of this year, or the first column of next year, but I ain't got both. Hope that won't be a problem." It was either that, or going to my family and saying, "Look loved ones, we can't go to Washington like we've been planning to do for two months 'cause I gotta stay here and write next week's column." To destroy my career as a freelance writer, or to destroy my credibility as a husband and father ... Holy smokes, Bill ... that's a mighty grim list of options you're looking at.

In fact, I was getting so agitated and so nervous that I had to do something, even if it was meaningless fussy work. That's when I started adding the last couple of month's worth of titles to that list I keep of everything I've ever written for BW. It was just to keep my hands occupied is about all, and it wasn't helping out my predicament, not a bit. But I always feel less agitated when I'm doing something, even if it's nothing.

And that's when I realized the last column of the year would also be the 666th item I would have written for BW ... were it to ever get written. It sent a shiver up my spine, I tell you. How spooky is that? ... to have the year end on 666? As I'm sure you know, 666 is about as ominous a number as a number can get. But if somehow you managed to come this far without knowing why 666 is so ominous, you could rent The Omen (I strongly suggest the one with Gregory Peck and not the remake with Liev Schreiber. Not that Liev Schreiber isn't a good actor, but hey ... he's no Gregory Peck.) Or you could read the book of Revelations in the Bible. But I guarantee you'll have more fun with the movie.

Anyway, I am not a superstitious person, but even I get a little goosebumpy when 666 shows up, as it often does on a team bowling score on league night. If it comes up, it's usually in the sixth frame. But if the whole team is bowling well, it can be in the fifth frame. And every time it does, I think to myself, Holy Smokes, Bill ... you don't suppose that bowling is the Beast everyone's worried about?

Of course not. That's just plain silly, isn't it? Still, I have to say, I get a little shiver up my spine every time it happens. So I thought—briefly—about going to my editor and explaining how proper it would be if I skipped a column for this week because it would be the 666th. I figured if some hotels don't put in a 13th floor because a lot of people get freaked over that number, then I should be able to skip a week because a lot more people get freaked over this number.

But upon further reflection, I realized that even if I skipped a week, I couldn't skip the number. Like, just because a hotel goes from the 12th floor to the 14th, it's still the 13th floor. Right? And whenever I write the next column, it'll be the 666th, whether it falls at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. So I decided that I'd rather end 2007 on an ominous note than kick off 2008 on an ominous note. Personally, I have great expectations for 2008, while I consider 2007 a crappy year. All except for the night last spring when our team won the league championship. I'd tell you all about it, but ... Holy smokes ... looky there. Ol' Bill's come up with something to hand in on deadline day, after all.

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