SUMMER SNOW STORM
By ADAM CHASE
Snow in summer is of course impossible. Any weather expert will tell you so. Weather Bureau Chief Botts was certain no such absurdity could occur. And he would have been right except for one thing. It snowed that summer.
It was, as the expression goes, raining cats and dogs. Since the Weather Bureau had predicted fair and warmer, the Weather Bureau was not particularly happy about the meteorological state of affairs. No one, however was shocked.
Until it started to snow.
This was on the twenty-fifth of July in the U.S.A....
Half an hour before the fantastic meteorological turn of events, Bureau Chief Botts dangled the forecast sheet before Johnny Sloman's bloodshot eyes and barked, "It's all over the country by now, you dunderhead!" Then, as an afterthought: "Did you write this?"
"Yes," said Sloman miserably.
Slowly, Botts said, "Temperature, eighty degrees. Precipitation expected: snow. Snow, Sloman. Well, that's what it says."
"It was a mistake, Chief. Just—heh-heh—a mistake."
"The prediction should have been for fair and warmer!" Botts screamed.
"But it's raining," Sloman pointed out.
"We make mistakes," said Botts in a suddenly velvety voice. Then, as if that had been a mistake, bellowed: "But not this kind of mistake, Sloman! Snow in July! We have a reputation to maintain! If not for accuracy, at least for credulity."
"Yes, sir," said Johnny Sloman. One of the troubles was, he had a hangover. Although, actually, that was a consequence of the real trouble. The real trouble was his fiancee. Make that his ex-fiancee. Because last night Jo-Anne had left him. "You—you're just going no place at all, Johnny Sloman," she had said. "You're on a treadmill and—not even running very fast." She had given him back the quarter-carat ring tearfully, but Johnny hadn't argued. Jo-Anne had a stubborn streak and he knew when Jo-Anne's mind was made up. So Johnny had gone and gotten drunk for the first time since the night after college graduation, not too many years ago, and the result was a nationally-distributed forecast of snow.
Chief Botts' first flush of anger had now been replaced by self-pity. His red, loose-jowled face was sagging and his eyes became watery as he said, "At least you could have double-checked it. As a member of this Bureau you only have to fill out the forecast once every ten days. Is that so hard? Is there any reason why you should predict snow for July 25th?" His voice became silky soft as he added, "You realize, of course, Sloman, that if this was anything but a civil service job you'd be out on your ear for a stunt like this! Well, there are other ways. I can pass over you for promotion. I intend to pass over you until the crack of doom. You'll be a GS-5 the rest of your working life. Are you satisfied, Sloman? Snow in July ..." Chief Botts' voice trailed off, the Chief following it.
Johnny sat with his head in his hands until Harry Bettis, the GS-5 weatherman who shared his small office with him, came in. Naturally, hangover or no, Johnny had reported for work first. Johnny was always first in the office, but it didn't seem to do any good. Now, Harry Bettis could come in an hour late and read the funnies half the day and flirt with the secretarial staff the other half and still be Chief Botts' odds-on favorite for the promotion that was opening next month. Harry Bettis was like that.
He came in and gave Johnny the full treatment. First the slow spreading smile. Then the chuckle. Then the loud, roaring belly-laugh. "Gals outside told me!" he shouted, loud enough so the girls outside would know he knew they had told him. "Snow! Snow in July! Sloman, you kill me! You really do!"
"Do you have to shout?" Johnny said.
"Do I? We all ought to shout this. To the rooftops! Sloman, my foot. You have a new name, sonny. Snowman! Johnny Snowman."
Johnny groaned. Instinctively, he knew the name would stick.
"Hear you had a little trouble with the gal-friend this past p.m.," Harry Bettis clucked in a voice which managed to be both derisive and sympathetic.
"How did you find out?" Johnny asked, but knew the answer at once. Jo-Anne was a roommate of one of the Bureau Secretaries. It was how Johnny had met her.
"You know how I found out, Snowman. Well, that's tough luck, kiddo. But tell me, does that mean the field is wide open? I always thought your gal-friend—your ex-gal-friend—had the cutest pair of—"
"I have nothing to do with whether the field is open or not open, I'm afraid."
"Well, don't be. Afraid, I mean," Harry Bettis advised jovially. "If the gal could make you pull a boner like that, you're better off without her. But I forgot to ask Maxine: can I have little Jo-Anne's phone number? Huh, boy?"
Before Johnny could answer, the three-girl staff of secretaries entered the small office. Entered—and stared.
"That's all right, girls," Harry Bettis said. "You didn't have to follow me in here. I'd have been right out."
But they weren't staring at Harry Bettis. They were staring at Johnny. Their mouths had flapped open, their eyes were big and round. Johnny didn't, but Harry Bettis knew that look on a girl's face. Without any trouble at all, Johnny could have made any of those girls, right there, right then, without even trying.
They gawked and gawked. One of them pointed at the window. The others tried to, but their hands were trembling.
The one who was pointing squawked: "Look!"
The second one said, "Out the window!"
The third one said, "Will you!"
Outside the window on the twenty-fifth of July it was snowing.
* * * * *
It was an hour later. Telephones were ringing. Long-distance calls from all over the country now that the ticker had gone out with the incredible fact that it was snowing in the Northeast in July. Most of the calls, though, were from Washington. Chief Botts disconnected the PBX and walked in a dazed, staggering fashion to Johnny, smiling weakly and saying:
"Sloman, I misjudged you. Genius, right here, right now, in this office, and we never knew it. Sloman, I have to admit I was wrong about you. But how did you know? How did you ever know?"
"Hell's bells," Harry Bettis said before Johnny could say it was all a mistake. "That's easy, Chief. Anyone knows that all rain starts out as snow. It's got to. You see, the droplets of moisture in the cold upper regions of a cloud condense around dust particles because the air up there is too cold to hold them as vapor. Since it's below freezing, snow is formed—snow which warms up as it passes through hotter air en route to the ground, and—"
"That will be quite enough, Bettis," Chief Botts said. "I am a weatherman too, you know. You don't have to tell me the most elementary of—"
"In this case, Chief," Bettis persisted, "the biggest inversion layer you ever saw kept the surface air down and brought the cold upper air very close to the surface. Result: the snowflakes didn't have a chance to melt, not even to freezing rain. Result: snow!"
"The chances of that happening," said Chief Botts coldly, "are about one in a billion. Aren't they, Sloman, dear fellow?"
"One in two billion," Johnny said.
"He is modest," Chief Botts told the staff. "He seems so unconcerned."
Just then Maxine came into the little office. The look of awe on her face had been replaced by one of sheer amazement. "Well, I checked it, Chief," she said. "Wait until I tell Jo-Anne!"
"Won't you please tell us first?" Chief Botts asked.
"Yes, sir," said Maxine, and read from the memo pad in her hand. "Since coming to work for the Bureau, Johnny Sloman has once every ten days made our official forecast. I have checked back on his forecast, Chief, as you directed. Johnny has made fifty-five forecasts. While only one of them—startlingly—has called for snow in July—every single one of them has been right."
There was a shocked silence. "But—but the Weather Bureau average is only eighty-eight percent!" Harry Bettis gasped.
"You mean," Chief Botts corrected him, "eighty-eight percent is the figure we try to foist on the unsuspecting public. Actually, the Weather Bureau averages a bare seventy-five percent, and you know it."
"But Sloman's got a hundred percent accuracy—up to and including snow in July," Harry Bettis said in a shocked voice.
"It was only an accident," Johnny said in a mild voice. "I didn't mean to write snow."
"Accident, smaccident," said Harry Bettis. "It was no accident with a record like that. You have the uncanny ability to forecast weather with complete accuracy, Johnny-boy. You realize what that means, old pal?"
"I'd better call Washington and tell them," Chief Botts said, but Harry Bettis held his arm while Johnny mused:
"I guess I realize what it means, Harry. That is, if you're right. No more getting wet on picnics. Because I'd know. I'd know, Harry. No more going to ball games and having them rained out on you. No more being caught by a thunderstorm at the beach ..."
"Johnny!" Harry Bettis said. "Think, pal. Think!"
"I'm calling Washington," Chief Botts said. "This is too much for me."
But Harry Bettis was still holding his arm. "Now, just a minute, bucko," he said. "You're not calling anyone—not without his manager's permission."
"Whose manager's permission?"
"Why, Mr. Sloman's manager's permission, of course. In a word, me."
"This is preposterous!" Chief Botts cried.
"Is it?" Bettis asked. "Listen, Johnny, don't let anyone sell you a bill of goods—like the Civil Service Commission giving you a GS-8 rating and sending you to Washington. Because stick with me, kid, and there'll be great things in store for you, you'll see."
"Such," said Maxine dubiously, "as what?"
"Are you on our side?" Harry Bettis asked her suspiciously.
"I'm on Jo-Anne's side. If old Johnny here has something she ought to have, I want to know it."
* * * * *
"You mean, if she ought to change her mind and marry him? I'll admit it even if I think Jo-Anne's a real cute trick: she'd be nuts if she didn't." Women, Harry Bettis did not add, never came between Harry Bettis and ten percent of a gold mine. But that's what he was thinking. He went on: "Just think of it, Johnny. Drought in the Midwest. They call Sloman. Sloman predicts rain. It rains. Have any idea what they'd pay for a stunt like that? Or swollen rivers in New England, or California. Looks like another big flood is on the way, but they call Sloman. Looks like rain, kiddo? That don't matter. Predict a dry spell and it won't rain. Do you know," Harry Bettis said in a devout whisper, "what a stunt like that would be worth? Millions."
"Yeah, wise guy," said Maxine. "So what's in it for you?"
Harry Bettis did not look at Maxine when he answered. He looked at Johnny and said, "I'll be frank, kiddo. You have the talent, but you don't have the salesmanship to promote it. Do you want a mediocre job while the weather boys exploit you for the rest of your life or—do you want greatness, riches, and Jo-Anne?"
"Jo-Anne," Johnny said.
Harry Bettis nodded. "My price is twenty-five percent."
"Of Jo-Anne?" Maxine asked suspiciously.
"Of everything Johnny makes as the world's first real Weather Man. Not a forecaster—a commander. Because when my client forecasts the weather, it happens. Brothers and sisters, it happens." He turned abruptly to Johnny, said, "You have any money saved up?"
"A few hundred dollars, but—"
"An ad in the papers. Alongside the article telling how it snowed on July twenty-fifth. Saying that your services are for hire. We're a shoo-in, kid!"
"Well, if you say so," Johnny said doubtfully.
"So don't call D.C.," Bettis told Chief Botts.
"But Sloman's an employee of this Bureau."
"Was, you mean."
"What did you say?"
"Was an employee. He ain't an employee now. He's quitting—with his manager," said Harry Bettis, and walked out of the office, steering a dazed Johnny Sloman with him.
"Wait until I call Jo-Anne," Maxine said.
During the next six months, Johnny Sloman—known to the world as The Weather Man—made fifty million dollars. Since it had taken a whole lifetime for him to develop his remarkable talent, his lawyers were trying to have capital gains declared on the earnings rather than straight income tax. The odds seemed to be in their favor.
How had Johnny made his fifty million dollars? By predicting the weather. He predicted:
A flood in the Texas panhandle—in time to save the dry lands from going entirely arid.
An end of the snowstorms in northern Canada—which had trapped the five hundred residents of a small uranium-mining town without food or adequate drinking water.
The break-up of Hurricane Anita—which had threatened to be the most destructive ever to strike the Carolina Coast.
No frost for Florida that winter—a prediction still to be ascertained, but a foregone conclusion.
Every prediction had come true. In time, the world began to realize that his predictions were not predictions at all: they were sure things. That is, they predicted nothing—they made things happen. Johnny was in demand everywhere and naturally could not fill all engagements. Harry Bettis hired a whole squad of corresponding secretaries, whose job it was to turn down, with regret, some ninety percent of the jobs requested. Johnny, in fact, was in such demand, that his engagement to Jo-Anne—which, of course, had been reinstated at her insistence—remained only an engagement. The nuptials were put off, and put off again.
This suited Harry Bettis, who saw to it that Johnny kept putting off the marriage. Because, ultimately, Jo-Anne would reach the end of her proverbial tether and decide that Harry's twenty-five percent, if it could be shared as a wife, was better than Johnny's seventy-five percent, if it could not.
Jo-Anne, though, was not that kind of girl. Harry Bettis, knowing no other kind of girl, never understood that.
The scientists, meanwhile, had a field day with Johnny. His strange talent obeyed no natural law, they said, and at first attributed it to random chance. Soon, though, this became patently impossible. And so a new natural law was sought. All types of hair-brained theories were proposed, none of them accepted, until an osteopathic physician in Duluth, Minn., hit upon the theory that staggered the world with its simplicity and, eventually, was accepted as that which explained the strange phenomenon of Johnny Sloman.
The osteopath, many of whose patients suffered from rheumatism which was aggravated by the bitter Minnesota winters, suggested that Johnny Sloman was a case of rheumatism in reverse. The weather, he pointed out, had an adverse effect upon the symptoms of his patients. Conversely, why couldn't some human being—a Johnny Sloman, for example—affect the weather in precisely the same way that the weather invariably affected his rheumatic patients?
It was clear, simple, lucid. It was the only theory which could not be disproven by the weight of scientific knowledge. It thus became the accepted theory.
* * * * *
"The Under-Secretary of Defense to see you," Maxine said one day during the winter following Johnny's July snowfall.
"Don't see him," Harry Bettis said. "You don't want to see him."
"But why not?" Johnny asked.
"Because they'll make you a dollar-a-year man and we're not in this to make any stinking dollar a year," Harry Bettis said.
"Well, I think I ought to see him, anyway. At least see him." He turned to Jo-Anne, who was sitting at the next desk, writing up some reports. "What do you think, Jo?"
"If the country needs you, Johnny," she said, "it's your duty to help."
Johnny told Maxine, "Show the Under-Secretary in, please."
He was a small man with a big brief case. He spoke slowly, earnestly, backing up his statements with reams of paper from the brief case. The Defense Department had not contacted Johnny right away, he said, because they wanted to compile all the facts. They had all the facts now.
Johnny Sloman could be the biggest single factor for peace the world had ever known.
Item. In the event of aggression, he could so bog down the aggressor's supply lines and troop movements with continuous rains and snowstorms that it would be all but impossible for the aggressor to maintain hostilities.
Item. In the event that such tactical weather-war failed, he could cause a drought in the aggressor's food-producing regions, forcing the aggressor to surrender or face starvation.
Item. He could always, conversely, see to it that the defensive force's supply lines were never hampered by the weather and that the precipitation over the defensive country's breadbasket was ideal.
Item. He could render aggressor communication difficult with heavy fog and/or icy roads.
Item. He could cover defensive troop movements with low, dense clouds.
In short, concluded the Under-Secretary, Johnny Sloman could be a one-man world police-force practically guaranteeing peace. He stopped talking. He looked at Johnny. His eyes said, the call of duty is clear.
Harry Bettis said, "Well, thank you for your time, Mr. Secretary. Naturally, we'll think about what you said."
"Think about it!" gasped the Under-Secretary. "Think about it!"
"My client is a busy man—the busiest man in his field," Harry Bettis said.
The Under-Secretary smiled bleakly. "The only man in his field, you mean. That's why we need him."
"We'll send you a report in a few weeks," Harry said indifferently, "after we've had an opportunity to study the situation."
"But, Harry—" Johnny began.
"Johnny," Harry said. He did not have to finish the statement. It had happened before—"Johnny, I've made you a tremendous success. I'm your manager, aren't I? Let's leave it that way."
"If Johnny thinks he ought to help—" Jo-Anne said.
"Now, Jo-Anne," Harry Bettis scolded, and led the Under-Secretary to the door.
* * * * *
Three days later, the assistant chief of the F.B.I. came to see them. "We regret this, Sloman," he said.
"You regret what?" Harry Bettis asked.
"Defense allowed a report on its findings out. That was unwise. We'll have to give you around-the-clock protection, Sloman."
"Protection from what?" Johnny wanted to know.
"Enemy agents. The enemy is desperate. At all costs, according to their intelligence reports, they're out to get you."
"Get him?" said Harry Bettis. "You mean, kill him?"
"I mean, get him. Get him on their side. Because everything Johnny could do for the forces of peace and democracy, he could be made to do for the forces of aggression. You see?"
"Yes," said Johnny.
"No," said Harry Bettis. "This sounds like a government trick—to make Johnny go to work. To make him think it's his patriotic duty—"
"Well," said Jo-Anne sharply, "isn't it?"
Harry Bettis smiled. "When he gets as big as Universal Motors, he can become patriotic."
"Mr. Sloman," the assistant F.B.I. chief said, "they will either try to kidnap you outright, or work on you through someone you love. Therefore, our bodyguards—"
"Well, let them keep their distance, that's all," Bettis said. "Bad for business. Nobody wants enemy agents hanging around."
"That's your final decision?" the F.B.I. man asked.
"Well—" began Johnny.
"Yes, it's our final decision," said Harry Bettis, showing the F.B.I. man to the door.
"I don't think you should have done that," Johnny said after he had gone.
"You just make the weather, Johnny-boy. I'll take care of business."
"Well—" said Johnny.
"Johnny!" cried Jo-Anne. "Oh, Johnny! Why don't you act like a man?" And she ran from the room, slamming the door.
After that, Johnny didn't see her again.
She was gone.
Really gone, for certain, not simply walking off in a huff.
Two weeks later, Johnny got the letter—unofficial—from the Enemy.
* * * * *
The F.B.I. was sympathetic, but the Chief said, "You can understand, Mr. Sloman, how our hands are tied. It is not an official letter. We can't prove anything. We don't doubt it for a minute, of course. The cold war enemy has kidnapped your fiancee and taken her to their motherland. But—we can't prove it. Not being able to prove it, we can't do a thing about it. You're aware, of course, of how readily the rest of the world condemns our actions. Not that they wouldn't be on our side if we could prove that this kidnap letter was the real thing, but you realize we won't be able to prove it at all."
"Oh," said Johnny. He went home. He saw Harry Bettis, who said he was shocked. The note read:
Mr. Johnny Sloman:
We have Miss Jo-Anne Davis here in the motherland. The only way she can live a normal life here is if you join her and work for us. We believe you know what the other kind of life is like here.
Bettis said, "It stumps the hell out of me, Johnny."
"I'm just waking up," said Johnny slowly. "In a way, it's your fault."
"Now, don't be a jackass, Johnny."
Jackass or no, Johnny hit him. His knuckles went crunch and Harry Bettis' nose went crunch and Bettis fell down. He lay there, his nose not looking so good.
Now, when it was apparently too late, Johnny knew what his course of action should have been. Get rid of the money-grubbing Bettis. Go to work for the government unselfishly. Insure world peace.
Too late ... too late ...
Because unless he could somehow save Jo-Anne, he would never predict the weather again—for anyone.
* * * * *
"But what you ask is impossible!" the Secretary of Defense said a few days later.
"If I come back, if I'm successful," Johnny said quietly, "I'm your man, for as long as you want me, without pay."
"You mean that?" the Secretary asked slowly.
"I mean it."
The Secretary nodded grimly, touched a button on his desk. "Get me Air Force Chief of Staff Burns," he said, and, a moment later: "Bernie? Chuck here. We need a plane. A jet-transport to go you-know-where. Cargo? One man, in a parachute. Can you manage it? Immediately, if not sooner. Good boy, Bernie. No ... no, I'm sorry, I can't tell you a thing about it." The Secretary cut the connection, turned to Johnny:
"You leave this afternoon, Sloman. You realize, of course, there isn't a thing we can do to get you out. Not a thing."
"Yes," said Johnny.
"You're a very brave man, or very much in love."
Hours later, the jet transport took off with Johnny in it.
He came down near what had been the border of the motherland and Poland. He began to walk. A farmer and his son spotted the parachute, came after him. The son was a Red Army man on leave. The son had a gun. He fired prematurely, and Johnny ran. It was hopeless, he decided. He would never make it. He would never even reach the capital alive, where they were holding Jo-Anne.
He wished for rain. A blinding rainstorm. The clouds scudded in. The rain fell in buckets. The farmer and his son soon lost sight of Johnny.
Just to make sure, Johnny ran and let it go on raining.
* * * * *
"Floods in their motherland," the Secretary of Defense told the President. "Naturally, their news broadcasts are trying to keep the reports to a minimum, but these are the biggest floods we've ever heard of over there."
"Our man is there?" the President asked.
"He was dropped by parachute, sir!"
* * * * *
It was snowing when Johnny reached the capital. He had been parachuted into the enemy's motherland, naturally, because propinquity alone assured the success of his strange talent.
He was tired. His feet ached. He'd been the only one heading for the capital. Hundreds of thousands had been fleeing from the floods ...
"There he is!" a voice cried in the enemy language. He didn't understand the language, but he understood the tone. His picture had been flashed across the length and breadth of the motherland. He had been spotted.
He ran. Down an alley, across a muddy yard, floundering to his knees, then his thighs, in thick mud. They came floundering in pursuit. They fired a warning volley of shots. He stumbled and fell face down in the black, stinking mud.
They took him ...
* * * * *
Dark room. One light, on his face. A voice: "We can kill you."
"Kill me," he said. "My last wish will be for rain. Rain, forever."
"We can torture you."
"And I will say, before you start, let it rain and go on raining. Let me be powerless to prevent it. Rain!"
"We can kill the girl."
"Your country will float away."
A fist came at him out of the darkness. Hit him. It was tentative torture. He sobbed and thought: rain, harder. Rain, rain, rain ...
Water seeped into the dungeon. This had never happened before. The fist went away.
Outside it rained and rained.
* * * * *
"What does he want, comrade?"
"We don't know, comrade."
"Give it to him—whatever it is. He has disrupted our entire economy. We face economic disaster unless he—and his rain—leave us in peace."
"Perhaps that is what he wants. Peace."
"You fool! We are supposed to want peace. Shut up!"
"Yes, sir. Comrade."
"Better ask the party secretary."
The party secretary was asked. The party secretary sighed and nodded.
Johnny saw the light of day. And Jo-Anne.
* * * * *
A month later, the Secretary of Defense told him. "Thanks to you, they agreed to a German settlement, stopped sending arms to their Red ally in Asia, withdrew their promise of aid to the Arab fanatics, and have freed all foreigners held in their motherland illegally."
Johnny listened, smiling at Jo-Anne. They had been married two weeks. Naturally, the enemy had been only too glad to see them leave.
"Just stay available, Sloman," the President beamed from alongside the Secretary of Defense. "As long as they know we can always send you over there again, they'll never try anything. Right?"
"Yes, sir," said Johnny.
They called him the Weather Man. They went on calling him the Weather Man, although he retired more or less—except during cases of dire emergency.
The world called him that, the Weather Man. And, because he had retired to enjoy life with his new wife, they began to suspect, as could be expected, that he had been a fraud.
But the enemy did not think so. Ever again.
And that was enough for Johnny.
This etext was produced from Amazing Stories October 1956. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without note.