Friday, January 10, 2014

The Vortext of Doom

They can't all be sunny days.  That's why we have local weathermen, a cadre of self-styled community super-heroes that bring advanced science and fortune telling directly to your home, weather you need it or not.

The Vortex of Doom
Jon Stark
"Death threats."  said Jim.  "Actual death threats.  Because of the puppy."  He had worked himself into quite a fit, the sort usually reserved for forecasting really big storms.
"Calm down." said Rick Richardson, the GM of Channel 11.  "We'll get it worked out."  He put a paternal hand on the shoulder of his Chief Meteorologist.  His only one, actually.  The man had cost a fortune and now he was melting down after a single death threat.  Over a puppy of all things.
"Calm down?" wailed Jim.  "How am I supposed to do that?  All I wanted was to find a good home for Scrappy and instead I've made people mad at me.  He was just too cute."  The GM had to agree that Scrappy was a cute mutt and they'd gotten a hundred calls from people who wanted to adopt him.  That meant at least a hundred people had seen the broadcast.
There was no calming Jim.  He left the station a few hours later for a fifteen month stay at the Winfrey Center for Mental Restoration.  Jenny Davis put words to the question on everyone's mind.  "Now what, Boss?"
Rick wasn't sure.  "Do you want to take over weather, Jenny?"
"I'm already doing news and sports." she said.  "You promised me a co-anchor, not more stuff to make up."
Rick looked around anxiously.  "Keep your voice down."  She waved him off, everybody knew the news was made up.  And on channel 11 the sports and weather were too.
She felt bad for him, it really was a spot.  "Listen," she said, "My sister knows a guy who might do it.  But he's allergic to dogs so the 'Corner of Adoption' has to go."  Rick seized the lifeline.
Her sister’s friend turned out to be a natural weatherman, after the initial storm.  He didn't have much in the way of qualifications, but he could qualify anything.  He had a flair for the dramatic and could pull $.50 words from the sky like candy.  If you pulled candy from the sky.
The only problem was that he insisted on using the name Storm Snow.  Rick insisted that wouldn't work and found a new roadblock in the form of Dark McCleod.  "You can't use that, Joe." he told Jenny's sister’s friend.  They went through several more names including Windy Waters -- Rick said, "Everyone knows you're not Windy." -- and Misty Dawn Fogg which even Jenny didn't like.  She said, "Joe, you're not a girl, stop using girl names." and he said back, "They aren't girl names, they're weather names." and Rick said, "Joe, they are girl names and there is no such thing as a weather name." and Joe said, "Sure there are, they all sound like or rhyme with meteorological weather words.  Why, I knew one guy named Noah and they always started his show with 'Nobody knows snow-ah like Noah.' and I want a name like that."
Rick was not amused.  "I appreciate you coming down here kid, but I need a weatherman, somebody who can top channel 9's noon forecast of a polar vortex, not somebody scattering stage names like a windstorm blowing through the office."  Joe looked at him.  Rick looked at Joe.
"You are a genius, Sir." he said.  "I'll be Joe Blow."  Jenny laughed.  Rick shook his head and walked away.  There wasn't time to argue.  Action News was about to start.
The set quieted.  The music ran.  The cameraman pointed.  And Jenny made up the news.  Rick suddenly realized they had never worked out the weather forecast.  He tried to catch Joe's eye but the man was sitting cross-legged with his eyes closed doing speaking exercises.
"And now for the weather." said Jenny.  The camera panned.  Joe stood by the map, smiling and looking every bit like a weatherman.
"Good evening, Springfield -- Detroit's finest, most vanilla suburb.  I'm the new channel 11 weatherman, Joe Blow, bringing you the latest so you know weather too."
Jenny smiled and cut in, "Whether to what, Joe?"
He shot her a death look.  "Weather is nothing to joke about.  Why, even as we speak a polar vortex has developed."  He turned to face the camera.  "And while some of you may be thinking this is no big deal, just another winter storm, I can assure you that it is a very big deal.  I've seen the map, the clouds, the pressure bands, and they cover the entire continent of North America.  This isn't just a polar vortex like they are reporting on channel 9, oh no.  This is -" and he paused, fearfully licking his lips - "A Polar Vortex of Doom."  He went on, "It is entirely possible that snow will fall in sufficient quantity to close schools, burry small shrubberies, and send the kiddies to Westmore Park for some extreme sledding into the ravine."
Rick thought the segment had started well, but now things were starting to go little over the top, even for a local weather report.  Rick signaled furiously and Jenny tried to get it back.  "So Joe, I guess I should pack away my swimsuit for a while?"
He turned from the camera and looked at her.  She became uncomfortable.  He said, "You probably want to keep it handy.  There is definitely a chance that instead of snow some of you -- tuning in via the internet, of course -- may actually experience summer like weather, especially if you are located in the Southern Hemisphere or the Tropical Latitudes.  I think I read somewhere that Freeport is supposed to reach 83 today."
Jenny choked out, "Freeport?"
"Bahama's, Baby." said Joe.  He was on a roll.  "Of course if you're in the Bahama's you'll miss out on this exciting Polar Vortex of Doom."  He paused, then winked, smiled, and added, "But you can still buy the t-shirt."  They flashed the graphic, a t-shirt with a cartoon man sweating profusely and a voice bubble saying, "It is HOT!  I sure miss Channel 11 and the Vortex Doom."
Rick turned to his producer.  "I didn't authorize that.  Did you authorize that?"  The producer shook his head.  "Who authorized the t-shirt?" shouted Rick.  Somebody mumbled something about the meteorology department.
When the broadcast was finished, Rick stormed over to Joe and Jenny.  Before he could speak Joe said, "Wow.  That was incredible.  Did you see me?  I was awesome."  Jenny nodded weakly, she looked as green as the weather map board.
Rick pointed a long finger at Joe.  "You, Mr. Blow, are fired!"
The producer came over to Rick.  "Sir, you won't believe this."
"Can't believe it if you don't tell me." said the GM.
"We've received orders for 300 t-shirts and they are still coming in." said the Producer.
Joe had collapsed to the floor and sobbed miserably.
Rick looked questioningly at Jenny who shrugged helplessly0.  "You said he was fired." she told him.
Rick put his hand on Joe's shoulder.  "I was interrupted before I finished, Son.  I think you've misunderstood what's happening here."
Joe looked up, tearful, nose running.  "I misunderstood you saying I was fired?"
Rick smiled his best boardroom smile.  "What I was saying is that you are fired... up about the weather!"   Joe wiped his nose.  Rick was already holding out his hand, too late to pull back.  Joe took it and they shook.  "Welcome to Channel 11." said Rick.
It sank in very slowly for Joe.  But once it did, he started dancing around the studio.  "I'm a weather man.  Tomorrow it's going to be sunny and we can have a picnic.  Then on Saturday it will rain all day so that we can go to the movies instead of doing yard work."
Rick put his arm around Jenny.  "Good call, finding Joe."
She pushed his arm away.  "You're getting snot on my jacket."
Rick shook his head.  Showbiz types.  All a bit weird.  But he could handle that, as long as they kept bringing in the dough.  He paused on his way out to look at the now abandoned 'Corner of Adoption'.
He'd never much cared for it.

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