Chapter 7 – Moisture Effacement (Excerpt from Chicago Time)

My novel CHICAGO TIME will be available for purchase from Amazon.com and Smashwords on Monday April 2. Until then you can enjoy this excerpt: Chapter Seven. You can read more about the novel here. You can read previous chapters can be read here: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six.

7 – Moisture Effacement

Robert put his Marshall Field’s bags on the table in the dining room of his apartment. He went to the kitchen, grabbed a handful of pretzels from a bag in a cabinet, and went back into the living room. Robert thought the day had been too strange. He could not have been promoted. It was all a big practical joke that would be revealed tomorrow morning when he went in to work. The meeting would not be about his promotion. It would be the revelation of a prank that had been played on him. Perry would be there with the rest of the department. And they would laugh at him in his only suit. He had managed to get the clerk at Field’s to have the alterations for his four new suits put on a rush. He would be able to pick up two of them Tuesday evening and the other two on Thursday evening.

Robert lived in a large one bedroom apartment. The dining room contained a table and four chairs, but the table was covered with unopened mail and books with pristine spines. His book and DVD collection were filled with some of the touchstones of computer geekdom (in addition to the usual reference books on QA testing, network administration, and programming in C++ and Java): Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman, The Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Office Space, Monty Python, The Watchmen, Brave New World, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? He preferred Star Trek: the Next Generation to the original Star Trek.

Robert turned on his TV to a local station, WCHI, for the noon-time news. It was a little past the half-hour. Nathan Hunt, the legendary Chicago meteorologist and weatherman, had just finished his forecast when Robert tuned in. Hunt, a 59-year-old white man, had six minutes for weather reports. His competitors were lucky if they had three. Not only did he give the forecast for the weather in the city, but he explained in detail how the weather conditions across the country moved, shifted, and combined to influence the weather conditions in Chicago. Everything from gulf moisture to arctic air, to the changing current of the jet stream, to low and high pressure systems, cold fronts and warm fronts, the types of clouds in the sky, where moisture was picked up and dropped off, the shifting winds, and how much moisture accumulation to expect was explained in his forecasts. That day he had had little to do. The weather was warm and pleasant, and was (very unexpectedly) expected to continue to be warm and pleasant for the next few days. Consistent weather was the worst thing there could be for a TV meteorologist.

In fact, the winds had stopped blowing in the city by mid-afternoon the day after the City Council strike had begun. The air was still except for the big eddies caused by cars or trucks on the streets. When the wind disappeared that August it was as if the city had been released from a vise grip of heat which had held since the beginning of July. The sun’s rays did not burn hard, nor did the streets’ asphalt push up heat.

“Back to you Chris,” said Nathan.

“So what did happen to that big storm you predicted on Friday?” asked Anchorman Chris Giancarlo.

Robert remembered that before he had left on his fishing trip, every weather person on TV, including Nathan Hunt, had stated without equivocation that a powerful thunderstorm was heading toward Chicago. Without a doubt it was going to pass over the city and drop as much as four inches of rain in total. They had shown various satellite models of the storm’s projected path. Prepare for a wet Sunday and Monday morning. Possibly even a soggy Tuesday. The rain was inevitable. Expect travel delays. Flash floods. Remember your umbrella. The beautiful day irritated Robert a little more; how, no matter how important it was that you knew what the weather in Chicago was going to be, you couldn’t depend on it.

“It’s gone,” said Nathan.

“Gone?”

Nathan flattened his mouth and furrowed his brow. “Yes. It’s an extremely rare occurrence, but not out of the range of possibilities. It’s called a moisture effacement. It’s when the moisture from a storm front spontaneously dissipates without any precipitation.”

“That’s interesting. I’ve never heard of that.” Chris’ face looked dubious.

“It’s very interesting.”

Moisture effacement. That’s the second time in a week that you’ve said that. Is that a real term?”

“Of course it is,” said Nathan, straightening his back.

“Are you sure?”

“I’ve been studying meteorology my entire adult life, Chris. I wouldn’t just make up some new piece of terminology.”

“Learn something new every day.”

The corners of Nathan’s mouth drooped a little, looking as if he had felt a burst of heartburn.

“Indeed we do.”

“At any rate, this weather is wonderful.”

“Like I told our viewers,” said Nathan, “Enjoy this wonderful weather while it lasts. As you know, in Chicago, the weather can change very quickly.”

“No kidding,” said Robert before nibbling on a pretzel.

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