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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #359
Making Rain
David Gunn

Wampum Joe awoke to the sound of a mockingbird twittering a song that vacillated between feigned curiosity and cheeky abstractionism. It was rather unsettling, given the task he was preparing to undertake today--turning a male dance into a female rain. It was just before dawn, and he allowed his eyes to adjust to the dim glow from the travel alarm clock, which he'd attempted to light for warmth when the Cracklin' Log® fire burned out and the inside-tepee temperature plummeted. It hadn't helped, and he was still cold. His thin blanket-- fire-retardant, but still smoldering--provided scant insulation from the frozen ground. He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with familiar early morning earth scents: corn pollen, corn flakes, corncrakes, cornets and coroners. His vapory exhalation spawned little fogdogs, which chased one another around the tepee, at one point bumping into and knocking over the fax machine. He puffed on his hands to warm them, but they were still as light as feathers from his spirit quest dream, and they blew away. Drawing back the entrance flap, he gazed out onto a wizened plain, dun and starved for rainfall. The fogdogs raced through the opening, but a gust of wind caught them and blew them into smithereened wisps.

Wampum Joe shook a small family of reptiles of the Testudines order from his left boot and slipped it on. (Traditionally, he kept his right foot bare, the better to be in intimate contact with the Earth Mother.) He stood up, exited the tepee, and stepped to the edge of the circle he had drawn in the earth around it. The geodes with which he had lined the circle sparkled with crystalline energy. As he stepped over the stones, they pulsed, and Wampum Joe sensed a coincident dynamic shift. His right foot instantly felt on fire--but whether that was a result of forces emanating from the earth's magnetic field or the colony of fire ants he trod on, he couldn't be sure. Still, it provided a wonderful impetus to commence his rain dance. At first, he hopped around like a person hobbled by a painful foot. But gradually, water- themed nuances began to filter into his movements. Lying down on the ground, he approximated the arm and leg motions of a professional swimmer attempting to escape the clutches of a hungry coelacanth. Jumping up, he withdrew a gourd from the folds of his robes, prized off the top, and pretended to extract from it an umbrella, which he then pantomimed employing to no effect in a torrential downpour. He bent over, scooped up a handful of parched soil high in alkalinity, held it over his head, and let it trickle from his fingers. Simultaneously he uttered a guttural incantation that sounded not unlike 400 owls attempting to outwit a giant badger in the rain, corkscrewed his body in a tight circle, then reached into his loincloth pocket and extracted a thousand silver iodide crystals. A fresh breeze sprang up and, facing into it, Wampum Joe flung the crystals high into the air. Abruptly, a bolt of lightning sizzled from a nimbostratus cloud that materialized overhead and struck the crystals. They were borne up into the cloud, where they attracted and absorbed surrounding water vapor, which in turn created large drops heavy enough to fall out as rain.

Wampum Joe owed his rainmaking chops to more than a traditional Native American upbringing that fostered a hyperawareness of the natural world. He was also a student of the work of Dr. Vincent Schaefer, the half man-half centaur who, at the New York General Electric Laboratory in 1946, discovered the technique of cloud seeding. Hed been trying to create artificial clouds in a chilled turbinate chamber, and having scant success. But when he added dry ice to the mix, water droplets glommed onto the solid carbon dioxide ice crystals and formed miniature thunderstorms. This led to Schaefer's patented "Downpour-in-a- Can," a product that was, alas, effective in only the most localized (i.e., a maximum six-foot radius) situations.

The rain fell cool but aloof, damp but duplicitous--a female impersonator rain. Wampum Joe refined his dance ever so slightly, increasing the tempo and emphasizing his left foot more. The precipitation responded, falling more steadily, more confidently, and smelling faintly of pot holders--a female rain! It was, however, still cool, and Wampum Joe--no matter he'd warmed to the dance--was by now was bone cold. He repaired to the tepee, doffed his drenched duds, and slipped on his titanium jerkin street clothes. He massaged his achy right foot and uttered a small oath. But, no oath, when spoken during a rain dance, was ever too small. A teensy energy tendril from it flew up into the overhead nimbostratus, which responded with a PMS rain.

Wampum Joe sprinted across the plain as a deluge pounded the earth around him and a wild wind whistled from all directions. He glanced back at the tepee and circle of stones that were sizzling from three consecutive lightning strikes. His Ford Mercator was just ahead, but so, too, was a gauntlet of fulguration balls. One of them exploded towards him, and he barely had time to dive out of the way. Inadvertently, he approximated the arm and leg motions of a professional swimmer attempting to escape the clutches of a hungry coelacanth ... and in response, the rain slackened, the wind died, the lightning ceased-- though, unfortunately, not before obliterating his car.

The rain continued to fall mainly on the plain for two days, long enough to replenish local aquifers and thus fulfill Wampum Joes contract, which he intended to modify with a vehicle replacement clause at his earliest opportunity. The earliest opportunity we have to cautiously report that you're listening to the 359th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar is now, followed by an equally circumspect continuation of broadcast palaver from Kalvos.