The Weatherman

The Weatherman knew about Global Warming. I was standing there at the coffee shop by the station and I saw him read the article. Gretchen, my girlfriend, said that he might have been reading anything, a bombing in a country whose location I was unsure of, or that article about Seattle schools and their lead pipes making children stupider, stupider than if they had been running around naked since birth, animal children scraping bark from trees with their tiny fingers. But I knew the Weatherman had read the Global Warming article because it continued on page A-16 and that’s just where he turned, and as his brow furrowed in reading comprehension, he made a “hmph” sound, a kind of non-verbal ‘Who would have thought?’

I knew about the Weatherman reading the Global Warming article because I had gotten close to him, close enough that a day earlier, I had ironed his on-air ties and warmed up his BMW when it was cold outside. I had become his intern.

I had applied for the internship because I wanted to know how he could slap up all those happy, smiling magnetic suns onto the “Big Weather Board” while the Earth was in crisis. I wanted to know why he never spoke about Global Warming. This, after all, was the man who had originated the phrase “sun tease”. I had chosen the name “Geoffrey Sol” for my intern application.
“Sol? Like the sun in Mexico?” the Weatherman had asked as he had given me a technically perfect handshake.
“Exactly like the sun,” I answered “Speaking of the sun…”
“Or like the beer?” He asked as his eyebrows rose like helium balloons.
“Like the sun…”
“I love beer.” He said, and then looking kind of wistful, “But who doesn’t? I think I’d shoot someone with a slingshot full of nails if they didn’t like beer.”
That the last time he used my name, disappointing to me because it had taken so long to come up with a fake one. Instead, the Weatherman called me “Tern”, because he swore by the power of monosyllable names, like the one he had picked out for himself when he joined the station.

The Weatherman was not an actual meteorologist, that was Judy’s job at the station. She handled all the real weather and he was smart enough not to screw with the mouth that fed him the weather.
“Good morning, Judy. Do you want Tern to get you a bagel? Maybe a neck rub or a five-dollar bill?”

Most people wanted to know if the Weatherman was a meteorologist.
“I was one credit short,” he’d tell interested parties on the street. If people recognized him he’d treat them like a free sandwich that had just been teleported into his hands.
“Jesus, look at you!” He’d say and go in for a hug. It was too much, too embarrassing. But for the Weatherman it was an effective way to deflect the hard questions. The Weatherman didn’t ever break the happy character. I only assumed his condo was flooded with tears.

“How come you never talk about the greenhouse effect?” Asked a large man wearing a reddish plaid wool jacket and a hat with earflaps.
“How come I never talk about the greenhouse effect? Listen to this guy!” And then the Weatherman hugged the man a second time.
“You didn’t answer my question.” The man stammered over the Weatherman’s close shoulder, who turned his head to the side and kissed the man on the cheek.
“I love you.” He said, looking into the man’s shocked eyes that seemed to be having trouble focusing on the surprisingly loving Weatherman.

“You know who loves the Earth?” He asked a couple blocks later, without looking in my direction. He didn’t wait for an answer. “Me.”

“What about the greenhouse effect?” I asked. The Weatherman stopped abruptly, made a fist, and kissed it. He looked at me seriously.

“Are you accusing me of not caring about the Earth? Is that what you are doing? I just told you I loved it.” During newscasts, the Weatherman had a disquieting habit of putting his finger to his head and making a “POW!” noise. That is what he did to me as we walked down the street. When he did it on the news he made a happy “POW!” sound, when he did it to my head it sounded more like a real gun.

“All I’m saying,” I continued, as this seemed to be the moment I had been waiting for, “is that since the polar ice caps are melting, it might be a good idea to take the smiles off the suns…”
“You know, Tern, I wish we were canoeing right now…” I imagined us at that moment, canoeing under the 520 bridge. A duck family went by quacking contentedly. “…so I could kill you with a paddle.” He let out what I interpreted to be a long cleansing breath. “Come on,” he said, pointing to the station.

I followed him back to the station, if only because I had left my hat there.

“Do you know why I do the weather?” The Weatherman asked as we stepped into the elevator.
“This is not a participatory conversation,” he interjected, “The reason I do the weather is because I’m a people person. I like to see people happy and I want to make them happy. But you know what? The weather here is not happy. It’s sad, depressing, kick you in the crotch and take your credit cards weather. And there are hundreds of thousands of people out there roaming around like fucking living zombies and the rain is driving them nuts. They’re not going to see the sun in the sky, you understand that? You know where they are going to see some fucking sun? Right here.” He poked himself in the chest as we stepped off the elevator.

“Listen. Me, Chuck Born, and Lacey Mach,” he said naming some other local weather personalities, “are the only people keeping this city from mass suicides. Jesus, Tern, have you seen the weather outside?”
“I have…”
“Stop. Come into my cubicle, I have to show you some of my drawings.”
Opening his desk, he showed me a slightly off scale pencil drawing of a child carrying a teddy bear in one hand and a skull in the other. In the background were destroyed buildings, cars, and a mushroom cloud.
“This is what I am holding back. Chaos is at the door, Tern, and I’m the one sticking the chair under the knob.” Then he cocked his head to the side and stared at me. I debated my options.
“Thank you?” I ventured.
“You’re welcome.” Then he put out his fist. After a second he was already annoyed.
“Punch it.” The Weatherman insisted, nodding his head towards his fist. So I did.
“What the hell, Tern?” He asked in a high voice, shaking his hand wildly. I told him that he had told me to punch his hand.
“I know what I meant,” he said “and that’s not what you did.”

Just at that moment, Mona Peaceking stuck her head into the Weatherman’s cubicle.
“Hey…” and here she paused “…fellas. Come seen the new electronic weather thingy.” Mona Peaceking was the star anchor of the local news, a handsome woman on the screen and terrifying in the flesh. Her head was as huge as a cardboard box and her neck was the pencil that it balanced on. Her eyes looked to be about twice the size of regular eyes and it looked like she could unhinge her jaw to eat. Have you ever heard that thing about if they ever made a human-size Barbie Doll its utter freakiness would make little girls everywhere sob hysterically? Then you know what I am talking about.

We followed Mona out to the news set where Judy was standing in front of the green screen. She was motioning in loopy circles with what looked like a remote control with a ping-pong ball on the top. On a video monitor to my right I saw Judy standing in front of a map of the West Coast. Clouds followed her magical weather wand wherever she waved it and then by hitting a button, the wand could control the sun and rainstorms.
“You’ve got to try this,” she said, noticing the Weatherman staring into the monitor.

“I don’t like this,” he hissed at me. Watching him work on the green screen I knew that he wasn’t within a football field of comfortable with the new electronic weatherboard.

“Look at me, I’m fucking Luke Skywalker,” he yelled before accidentally throwing the weather remote control into the wall for a second time. The Weatherman’s shoulders slumped as he walked past me, “I can’t do this.”

I followed him into the station’s kitchen. Someone, maybe Judy or Mona, had thrown some of the old weather magnets onto the refrigerator. Happy suns were stuck over dour rainstorms, and a blowing wind fell off as we stood there. The Weatherman paused before opening the freezer. “Looks like we’ve got a cold front coming in from the north,” he said in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear. I nodded. Then he said it again, holding the freezer door open, looking for some sort of recognition.

“Shut the door, I’ve got popsicles in there.” Mona said.


That was the last day for both of us. I’d never seen someone break. It was like walking up to an intersection the second before a four-way crash.

They were actually quite gentle with the Weatherman as he rolled up all his drawings and put them into a cardboard box. For him, it was all sun magnets or nothing. I nodded to him as I left. He pointed his gun finger at me. Mona, as frightening as she was to stand close to, handed me a doughnut wrapped in a napkin, a sort of parting gift I assumed. In the end, it didn’t matter, I had gotten what I’d come for. The Weatherman knew about Global Warming.


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