Just A Hunch


The meteorologists on TV disagreed. Their high-tech doppler radar detected no signs of an imminent snowstorm. It was true, they later admitted, in 1933 and 1937, Phoenix had gotten an inch of snow. But a blizzard? In Arizona of all places, where the average daily high in July was 106 degrees?

It was impossible.

All his life, Carl had avoided even the vaguest hint of social agitation. But that was before he’d slipped on a wet spot carrying two trays of ice cubes to the freezer. He’d woken up hours later, laying on the kitchen floor in a pool of his own blood, his ears ringing, head buzzing with the unimpeachable conviction that a blizzard was on its way. He couldn’t explain how he knew the snowstorm was coming, only that it would be wrong for him to keep the information to himself.

At first, people smiled and politely nodded as Carl excitedly told them about his blizzard, but when he lingered on their doorstep most of them quickly grew tired of his paranoid sermons. It was irritating, the way he clomped through the streets of Phoenix in his heavy snowsuit and ski boots, sweat pouring off his face, knocking on front doors and interrupting family meals to pass out the informative “literature” he was always pinning up around town.

He was becoming a nuisance.

It was only fair then, most people thought, when a prankster tore down Carl’s flyers and replaced them with posters of Carl’s blotchy face above the caption, THIS GUY HATES PUPPIES.

The neighborhood kids smashed his mailbox, stole his tabby cat, toilet-papered his house, and hurled flaming bags of dog turds against his front door until Carl finally got tired of the abuse and called the cops.

“We’ll look into it,” the police said over the phone. “But it’s probably just kids being kids.”

Somebody started the rumor that Carl was a decorated Iraq War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, struggling to process his wife’s recent death. She’d been trampled by a horse, people whispered, which was probably why Carl was such a nutjob now.

His neighbors created a GoFundMe page and brought poor Carl a parade of casseroles, possibly because they felt a little guilty for all the terrible things they’d said behind his back.

The truth came out a few weeks later. Somebody checked his public records and discovered that Carl was no war veteran and that there’d never been a wife, much less one who’d gotten her skull kicked in by a wild bronco. The neighborhood kids were furious with Carl for lying about who he was and started hurling double the number of flaming dog turds at his front door.

The mayor held a press conference on the courthouse steps and invited the local media to attend so she could address the blizzard allegations.

“It’s all a bunch of baloney!” the mayor yelled into her microphone. “As proud Phoenicians, we need to stand together against this slander of our great desert city! I say, stock up on sunscreen!”

The crowd applauded and the mayor took a bow.

From that point on, Carl’s neighbors treated him like a social pariah. They stopped short of physically assaulting him, although prank-calling, posting degrading comments on social media, and flipping him off at the supermarket was considered fair game.

“Did you fall and hit your head?” Carl’s sister Bernice asked, calling long-distance from Milwaukee. “Are you going through some kind of midlife crisis?”

Carl admitted that he had indeed fallen and hit his head. As for the midlife crisis, he wasn’t sure.

“Go see a shrink then,” Bernice suggested. “Or take a vacation. Buy a sports car, get a gym membership, learn how to play the guitar. Do something.”

Carl stopped answering Bernice’s phone calls and increased his blizzard-awareness outreach efforts. He woke up early to hand out his fliers and rented out a daily half-hour time slot on the radio so he could plead with people to order snow shovels, space heaters, parkas, and nonperishables before it was too late.

The days ticked by, each one just as hot as the day before, until one morning in late August when Carl awoke to discover the world outside his living room window had disappeared under four feet of snow. Car accidents shut down the streets, trees fell on power lines, pipes burst, schools and businesses closed, and above-ground pools froze into solid blocks of ice.

Carl smiled to himself and went downstairs to flip on the emergency generator, immediately flooding his house with electricity and heat. Breakfast was a bag of dehydrated peaches from his well-stocked doomsday pantry and a warm glass of celebratory champagne from an expensive bottle he’d been saving.

At noon, he dragged his snowblower out of the garage and went outside to clear his driveway. Severe winds and freezing temperatures had forced everyone indoors, but with his insulating snowsuit and fleece-lined ski boots, Carl didn’t mind.

The snow-blowing was tiring. When he was finished, Carl heated up a can of tomato soup on his hot plate and then laid down on the couch to take a nap, covering himself with a stack of thermal blankets from his bedroom closet.

The afternoon passed without a single prank call or bag of flaming dog turds being hurled against his front door, yet Carl found himself tossing and turning on the couch, unable to sleep. He kicked off his thermal blankets and went to the garage to get his snowblower. The streets of Phoenix weren’t going to plow themselves.

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