Storm on Demand
by James Allen StarkloffSam Wallace was a soap opera producer and director. His daytime television show was one of the most watched by lonely housewives. Realism was what he demanded from his film crew and actors and it didn’t matter to Sam how much it cost or at whose expense the plastic gold was made.
“Cut! Cut! Cut! Damn it! You’re being pounded by a category five hurricane. Your house is falling apart and you’re taking cover in the bathtub. You both realize that this time could very well be the last time you’ll be alive together. I want realism!” shouted Sam. “Now, action!”
“Betty, I want you to know something about me that I never told you before,” said Jon, played by a mid-thirties ex-porn star.
Betty, played by an aging soap star, looked into Jon’s eyes.
“I’ve always loved you, Betty.” Jon caressed Betty’s face. “It’s just that... I’ve always felt incapable of giving you everything you deserve.” Jon looked at his pants.
“Oh, Jon, don’t worry about it. I love you and that’s all that matters.”
They embraced one another and kissed.
“Cut!” yelled Sam. “This isn’t going to work. What do I have to do? Do we have to shoot this scene in a real hurricane? I want realism.”
Yeah, a real hurricane. That’s what I need, thought Sam. He looked at his camera crew and asked, “Does anyone know if there’s any storms brewing in the Gulf right now?”
“Not right now. But I think there’s a disturbance forming in the Caribbean,” said the guy on the boom mic.
“I need something in the Gulf. I’d pay money to have one hit right here in New Orleans,” said Sam.
* * *
Sam was at home when his telephone rang. He picked it up. “Yeah.”
“Mr. Wallace? Am I speaking to Sam Wallace?” asked a voice on the other end.
“Maybe, and you are..?” asked Sam.
“How much would you pay?”
“Who the hell is this?”
“Someone heard you say you’d pay to have a storm hit New Orleans.”
“If you don’t tell me who you are, I’m going to hang up.”
“Mr. Wallace, I’d like to remain anonymous.”
Sam hung up the telephone with a slam.
* * *
The next day in his office, Sam found a sealed envelope on top of his desk with his name on it. He hesitated before opening it. Inside was a piece of paper. It read, “Call me if you want a real hurricane. 555-555-1257”
Sam stared at his telephone for a moment before picking it up and dialing the number. It rang a few times before someone answered.
“Mr. Wilson, I can guarantee you at least a category one hurricane. Are you interested?” asked the voice.
“Big deal! I can do the same thing. Someone’s bound to get a storm somewhere. I want a storm right here in New Orleans. I don’t want to chase hurricanes all over the South. Besides, I need footage of a hurricane in New Orleans. Sure, I could wait for one to hit Florida, but everyone would know that it was filmed in Florida and not in Louisiana,” said Sam.
“I don’t think that’ll be a problem. We have a slot open in August 2005. How powerful of a storm do you need?” asked the voice.
“I want a big storm, a real house shaker,” said Sam.
“A category four storm should be enough to shake your house,” answered the voice.
“Yeah, but no one knows if or when a storm like that will hit. It might not happen during my lifetime.”
“What if I told you that I could make it happen?” asked the voice.
“Don’t tell me that you actually charge money for this service,” said Sam with a laugh.
“We charge one hundred thousand dollars U.S. per category. For example: a category one storm would cost you one hundred thousand dollars and a category two storm would cost two hundred thousand dollars and so forth and so on. The cost is very minimal for what you’re getting.”
“What the hell are you talking about? And why am I talking to you? No one can predict where and when a hurricane will hit.”
“I represent Storm On Demand, a team of scientists that recently lost their jobs at NASA due to budget cutbacks. It’s really a sad story. But now that these scientists are working in the private sector, you can take advantage of their talents.
“We can guarantee you any size storm, anywhere. Last year’s hurricane season was a huge success for the company, allowing us to branch out to other types of weather systems such as tornadoes and heat waves. So, Mr. Wilson, if you still want to have a hurricane hit New Orleans in August, we ask that you deposit the money into an offshore bank account. We won’t collect a dime until delivery. Do we have a deal?” asked the voice.
“You’re out of your mind! I’m not giving you or your scam company a penny. And another thing: couldn’t your scientists be more constructive? Isn’t there money in developing new energy technologies or something? Oh, I know! That’s because your scientist don’t exist,” said Sam.
“I assure you, Mr. Wilson, we are very real. The scientists can send rain your way, but they don’t have much business sense. That’s where I come in,” said the voice. “It’s not economically feasible to venture into the unknown.
“Please, don’t get me wrong. I’d like to seek out what no man has done before. But, contrary to what the politicians like to throw in their speeches about how they’re all in favor of the research and development of solar, wind and hydrogen fuels, I happen to know that very little government subsidies are available for the development of new energy technologies.
“Fortunately, the scientists worked for NASA at a time when the United States government had deeper pockets and weather control had a subversive budget. Mr. Wilson, if you don’t take the slot in August, someone else will. I’ll put it to you this way: expect a very busy 2005 hurricane season,” said the voice.
“Yeah, right, I’ll make the deposit right away,” Sam laughed. “What was it? One hundred thousand dollars per category?” Sam laughed some more.
“That is correct. We will upgrade your order one category for every one hundred thousand dollars that you deposit,” The voice said without a change in pitch. “Just make the deposit, Mr. Wilson; we’ll know where and when you do,” said the voice.
“We’ll see.” Sam hung up the telephone. He was shaken by the conversation. Then he thought for a moment, What would it hurt to put away four hundred thousand dollars in an offshore bank account? I’ve always wanted to stash away some playboy money for those getaways. Okay, Mr. Anonymous, let’s see if you’re for real.
* * *
It was a hot day in August and Sam was closely monitoring a storm in the Gulf. He used the remote to turn on his television, which had been glued to the weather channel.
A reporter stood on the shoulder of a very busy Interstate 10. “Hurricane Katrina is due to make landfall somewhere in Louisiana or Mississippi tomorrow. State officials have already posted a mandatory evacuation of all low-lying areas. If you are leaving, the time to go is now...”
Copyright © 2006 by James Allen Starkloff