An Imperfect Storm


I recently contacted a weather-system by the name of Zipper, a
tropical wave hanging out in the Atlantic Basin looking for a shot
at the big time in the world of weather. His dream was to become
a full-blown hurricane, preferably a category 5 or more. I reached
him at his summer headquarters, just off the West coast of Africa.
He leaned back on a cushion of clouds and sipped iced
precipitation from a tall, frosty glass as he answered my

“It’s all about hot water.” he said as he dipped a big toe into the
Atlantic Ocean, just below us. “Right now, it’s about 70 degrees,
not really hot enough yet to get me going. It’s only a matter of
time, though. When it gets up to 79 or so, it’s time to rock and
roll!” He smiled a big, puffy, slightly malevolent smile. “I think I’ll
head down to the Cape Verde Islands first, then, who knows? The
sky’s the limit!” He gazed off into the distance, probably dreaming
of the havoc he might wreak. His huge iPod, sitting on a nearby
cloud, played Sinatra’s version of “That Old Black Magic”. Zip
hummed along for a while, then sang along with Frank:
“Down and down I go,
Round and round I go,
In a spin,
Lovin’ that spin I’m in…”

His expression changed suddenly. His misty brow began to furl. “I
have a big problem, though,” he said, “This name of mine.”

His reference of course, was to the fact that hurricane names all
start with the letters A through W, leaving out the troublesome
last three letters of the alphabet. Even if names starting with Z
were used, those storms would have to wait until the end of a
very active season to participate, and those last storms of the
hurricane season are generally weaker and less well known than
their predecessors.

I could tell that Zip was worrying about all this in spite of his
outward appearance of blustery confidence. I could see a hint of
the inner turmoil, which could someday explode in unleashed fury
and destructive force, if conditions were ever, as NOAH puts it,
“favorable” for the formation of hurricane activity.

“The hell of it is,” he fumed, “Is that I can’t simply change my
name. It’s very difficult to do that unless you know somebody.”
Meaning, I assumed, an employee of the National Weather
Service. “I’m working on that.” He said, then, “Do you happen to
know anybody over there?” I told him I’d do what I could.

As our conversation progressed, I noticed Zip becoming
distracted. He appeared agitated and drummed his huge fingers
on the cloud in front of him. He put down his drink and dipped his
giant toe once more into the water.

Suddenly, a strong breeze blew through, tipping over Zip’s drink
and scattering my notes. Zip began slowly turning in a clockwise
direction. The breeze picked up and I had to hustle to gather up
my papers, pencils, and voice recorder and stuff them into my bag
before they all blew away. When I looked up, Zip had rotated 180
degrees away from me and I was staring at his huge, billowing
backside. His face came around again as his whole body began to
drift off in a Westerly direction. “Hey, buddy! Nice talkin’ to you
but I gotta go-o-o-o-o!” Zip yelled above the howling wind. He
gave me a big, evil wink and a thumbs-up and blew away.

I saw him on radar a couple of days later. He had shown signs of
becoming a major storm, but I guess things didn’t work out
between him and the Weather Service. When his name was
disclosed, he was immediately disqualified. Fortunately for us, but
sadly for Zip, he’s now an un-named area of disorganized weather
drifting aimlessly around Bermuda, occasionally raining
harmlessly on a few fishermen and sailboats floating offshore. If
anybody bothered to taste those raindrops, they just might notice
the taste of salt.


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