The Iron Writer Challenge #182
2017 Spring Equinox Challenge #3
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
E. Chris Garrison, Bobby Salomons, M. D. Pitman, Vance Rowe, Josh Flores
A lying national media cable TV anchorman (real or fictional)
A crystal ball
A small snowblower
Doing Something About the Weather
E. Chris Garrison
Sally’s elderly Prius barreled along the breakdown lane of the freeway. The thermometer and the speedometer both read 75.
Other drivers, stuck in a jam, blared their horns at Sally. Some made rude gestures. Did she hear cars backfiring or shots being fired by hotheads?
Sally didn’t care. She wouldn’t be denied the truth.
From the bracket on her windshield, her smartphone streamed news of the Weather Emergency. Bundled up in a parka, the cable news anchor mimed shivering cold while talking with a bespectacled woman in a puffy coat. White flakes swirled around them on the New York City streets.
“So, this wave of cold will continue until the end of January, Dr. Fahrenheit?”
The woman stared at the camera. Her eyes panned from right to left as she said, “Yes, that is correct. The polar vortex is sweeping across the plains, through the Midwest, and on to the East Coast.”
Sally exited the freeway, upsetting more drivers as she whizzed past them on the shoulder. The side of her car struck sparks from the concrete barricades along the right. Sally laughed as she passed a supermarket, its lot full of cars. The news told her that stores had all the French Toast ingredients depleted due to the Weather Emergency, since citizens had been warned that they’d have to stay off the streets after dark, so that plows could clear the streets for the morning commute.
Sally turned up her air conditioning as she skidded onto Broadway, the back end of her car fishtailing.
A great glass orb, very much like a giant snowglobe, blocked the roadway. Inside, Sally made out the figures of Blaine Roberts and Dr. Fahrenheit, their gestures slightly leading the broadcast. Sally resisted the urge to speed up as their faces registered terror as her car burst through flasher barricades and hired guards flung themselves out of her way.
The nose of her Prius met the enormous glass enclosure, which cracked like an egg. Sally hit the brakes even as the airbag deployed and shoved her back in her seat.
She flung open the car door and stumbled into the space between the camera and the other two. She picked up handfuls of white flakes and rubbed them all over her face. “It’s a lie! Global warming is real! They’re lying to you! This is just styrofoam!”
The low drone of a small snowblower’s electric motor quit. So did the camera’s red light.
Many rough hands seized Sally at once.
Blaine Roberts stood before her. “Ma’am, you’re in a lot of trouble. Vehicular assault, sure, but also the Weather Normalization Act, which makes discussing Global… Discussing that topic, a federal offense.”
“You’re not fooling anyone! They’re pretending, just like you! This is stupid! Why doesn’t anyone wake up?”
“Look, if you people win the election next time, then you can write the news.” Blaine flicked a piece of glass off his parka as Sally was dragged away. “Could someone get that poor woman a coat?”
Cold Lies, Burning Truth
Why do I keep trusting Jimenti Roso after he made up stories to improve ratings? No one caught on when he lied about a magic cure to cancer being tested or how the perfect weight loss drug was found. Then he decided to make up a kidnapping. That made the Were-Police begin sniffing around. He had to admit he lied. The scandal lasted a while.
He was fired. He was interviewed. He wrote a book. He became more famous. He did the talk shows. He was re-hired. Ratings went up. Job accomplished.
I watch his plastic-like mouth stretch out on my cable-ready crystal ball. Canines sharp and white belied the words barking past them.
“Global warming, the world’s leading sorcerers have confirmed, is a human urban myth! It is simply not happening. There is no danger of the Earth’s climate changing. The Warlock Coven has released an official statement today. They have looked at the mortals’ scientific data and consulted their charts, familiars, crystal balls, the stars, and the bones; and have determined global warming to be a hoax, created by some of the human corporations and political groups to control others and make money.”
I’m hoping he isn’t lying. Winter business has been bad for a few years now. I look at my inventory: snow plows, shovels, salt, scrapers, dragon’s fire-spit, heaters, and of course, snow blowers. I stock from small to heavy duty ones. But the last few winters have been mild and if it wasn’t for the other stuff selling at a reasonable rate, I would be bankrupt.
My attention goes back to Roso.
“In other news, sightings of dragons, chimeras, phoenixes, and other fire creatures have increased. These beasts have been captured and handled by the Defense Mystics, who have put out a national alert asking anyone who notices unusual steam, flames, or heat to report it immediately. When asked as to why these pests are populating rapidly, the spokesman said,
‘No comment. Man, it is getting warm in here.’”
I wonder if I can sell Roso a snow blower or two. I fantasize about it for a bit when my doorbell rings. A customer! Finally.
I look up to see a brown-skinned lanky man, with salt and pepper hair and beard.
He lifts his hand in a stop motion and reaches into his pocket to pull out his wand.
“Parli Ingles!” He incants. “Me understand you?”
My face said no.
“Parli Ingles ni google!” He pauses. “Do you understand me?”
“Yes. How may I help you?”
“I want to buy all this. How much?”
“This year a lot of snow in my country. I sell these and all others I find, no?”
“Sure, we can come up with a price fair to both.”
I look at my crystal ball TV. “So no such thing as global warming, Mr. Roso?”
“His name in Spanish sounds like He mentiroso — ummm — He Liar.”
“There will be little to no snow at all this year due to global warming in the upper portion of North America and Canada, so you can all sell your snowblowers and keep your shovels in the shed. You won’t even need winter clothes this year as it will never be colder than 72 degrees Fahrenheit,”said Smiling Chet Armstrong, America’s favorite newscaster.
“Hot Damn. No snow this year,” Eustis said, looking outside. Eustis lives on a hill and his driveway is long. He tires of walking it with a snowblower. “Now I can sell that blasted thing.”
“Wait a minute, you cannot trust that liar. Before you do anything, let me consult with my crystal ball. Spirit has never led us astray yet,” his wife said.
“Bah, you and that damn crystal ball. You consult your glass ball and I will put a sign up down by the road.”
After Eustis put the sign up, he walked back up the long driveway to his house, his wife greeted him at the door and said, “Spirit says we are in store for a lot of snow this year, Eustis.”
“Grenadine, I want to hear no more about it. I will believe Smiling Chet over your stupid ball.”
“You’re a fool, Eustis. What happens if we get a lot of snow this year?”
“We won’t, Grenadine. Smiling Chet said so.”
Two days later, the snowblower sold and Chet was a thrilled man. Regrettably, two weeks later, Chet stopped being a thrilled man when the snow fell. It fell for two days straight.
“You blamed fool. I told you not to believe that son-of-an-unnamed-goat. Now what are you going to do?”
“I will just go buy another snowblower, Grenadine.”
Eustis found a place that sold only small snowblowers.
He purchased a small snowblowers, and it only just made a path up his driveway after hours of use.
“Face it, Eustis. It will be easier just to shovel.” Grenadine yelled to him.
Seething, Eustis responded with, “I ain’t shoveling jack.”
Eustis grabbed his shotgun off of the rack above the fireplace, went out to his truck and drove to the news studio where Smiling Chet broadcasts at. He walked inside and grabbed the newscaster by the scruff of his neck and dragged him out to the truck.
“What happened to not being any snow, Smiling Chet? What do you call this? I sold my big snowblower because of your stinking lies.”
“I-I-I don’t know what happened,” Chet replied, stuttering.
“Shut up and shovel before your new nickname is Toothless Chet.”
A police car soon pulled up in front of Eustis’s house and the county sheriff stepped out of the vehicle.
“Oh, thank God. This man kidnapped me and is forcing me to shovel his driveway.”
“Is this true, Eustis?”
“Sure is, Sheriff. This lyin’ so and so said we wouldn’t be getting any snow this year and I sold my snowblower.”
“Sheriff, don’t just stand there. Arrest him and let me go.”
“Nope, I sold my snowblower too because of you. Bring him by my place when you are done, Eustis.”
“Sure will, Sheriff. I sure will.”
The director and live studio are blabbering through each other like drunk sonority girls on Mardi Gras. I know – I was one.
“So, why the crystal ball again?” I say to the expert next to me. “I don’t think I caught on the first time.”
“’Global Warming’ is pure ‘fortune-telling’. A hoax.”
Across from the parking lot, an elderly, black man is clearing his lawn with a small snowblower. His red ski jacket and white snow hat remind me of my grandfather. ‘Papa’ was a Norwegian immigrant, loved snow and ice. Never used a snowblower, maybe a snow shovel but not before we’d play and build a snowman. I miss him.
“We’re about to go live.” Terry, my cameraman, says. “Maybe more cleavage?”
“Cleavage!? It’s freaking 23F!” I bark.
“It was a joke, Melissa.”
“A cold day for Global Warming!” My colleague Nancy in the studio chuckles, I hate her. “And my colleague is outside! In a blizzard! With an expert! Melissa, how is it out there?”
“Hi, Nancy! It sure is cold! They theorize the Earth is warming but it sure doesn’t feel that way out here! Oh! Is that a polar bear!?” I say, pointing at a white Husky passing by. Fake laughter in the studio.
“I’m here with Simon DeWitt! Expert from the Independent Ecological Research Institute.”
“That’s right!” He grins, “No associations with other research groups, no government grants!”
“So, tell us about this ‘Global Warming’-theory in the middle of a blizzard!”
He begins his story of disinformation. I zone out, looking across the street. The man’s still there, blowing snow, his back to me. For a moment, I believe it really is my ‘papa’. He turns around. I gasp. It is.
“I know!” The expert says smug, crystal ball in hand, believing it’s about him.
I choke. Seconds pass. Terry’s making a face at me.
“I-I can’t do this.” I say, thinking of ‘papa’, “This is all a lie. This man isn’t a real expert, he’s an economist paid by Exxon Mobil!”
“We have no asso-”
“-Oh, please! You’re wearing one of their key chains right now!”
Terry zooms in, the expert breaks sweat.
“I’m sorry, global warming is real. Pass the world on to our children the way it was left to us, so they too can see a REAL polar bear, not just a dog pointed out by a lying anchorwoman! Just Google it, dammit!” I yell emotional.
“Um, thanks, Melissa. We’re back in the studio, it appears our colleague is having some… technical problems…” Nancy says.
“Why don’t you go suck a dick, Nancy! Maybe it’ll warm your cold heart!”
“That’s it! You’re fired!” The director barks over the headset.
“Good! I’ll go work for the Home Shopping Network!”
I push my microphone into the ‘expert’s’ hands, head for my car and drive off passed the house. The man’s stopped the snowblower. He’s himself again, waves and smiles. I blow a kiss his way.
One Lie Too Many
Jacob Scott’s jaw hung open for a good fifteen seconds before he realized he wasn’t saying anything and asked the ZNN’s president, “You want me to say what?”
“I don’t think I stuttered,” said Louis Copeland, who founded the news network 40 years ago as a way to report the news how he saw fit.
ZNN has developed into the go-to echo chamber for those of a certain political persuasion, which is the same persuasion of those currently in power. That made ZNN the most powerful and popular news networks, and Louis Copeland the most powerful political figure.
It also is the most despised because of the sensationalized and often inaccurate news. But Louis did not care because he’s making more money than ever before even though his rhetoric has transformed from fringe to flat out falsehoods.
Jacob’s been told to say many things over the years, who started out as a 38-year-old anchor with idealistic fervor. A half-decade later he’s developed into a jaded cynic because of the B.S. he’s been ordered to “report.”
He compares Louis Copeland to a charlatan clairvoyant gazing into an oversized crystal ball. But the only thing oversized was Louis’ ego … and Jacob’s dependency on his seven-figure salary. That’s been enough to compensate his conscious as he’s become America’s most unreliable news anchor
“I’m to say global warming is a hoax because of Stihl? The power tool company?” Jacob’s jaw has yet to shut.
“Specifically their lawnmowers and snow blowers,” Louis added.
Jacob could usually spin what Louis wanted to be said on the news, but he’s been able to spin it into something that didn’t sound like it was a mandated from a senile fool. “That doesn’t sound a bid … um, odd?”
“No. Not at all,” said the octogenarian news magnate.
Jacob ran his fingers through his perfectly sculpted hair. He closed his eyes as he inhaled a deep breath, held it for a second, and slowly released it. He opened his eyes, looked Louis into the eyes and said, “It’ll be an unforgettable report.”
Louis Copeland slyly smiled as he nodded. “That’s by boy.”
“Hey, Linda,” said Frank as he cracked open his second beer from the cooler next to his recliner. “Check this out. I think that Jacob Scott guy you like on ZNN is having a nervous breakdown.”
Dressed in an apron and wiping her hands with a kitchen towel, Linda walked into the living room staring at the television. All that appeared were the color bars with the words “Please Stand By” appearing. “What did he do?”
Frank tapped rewind on the DVR to the start of the newscast the pressed play. “Watch this craziness.”
“Good evening and welcome to ZNN,” Jacob Scott started before pausing. He took out his earpiece. “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve been told to repot” – and he made quote marks around that word – “and because I wanted to keep my job I did. But I can’t anymore.”
Before Jacob Scott could say another word, a producers rushes on set and the color bars appear.