A chunky rat was gnawing the remains of a hot dog when he felt the first snowflake drift onto his head. He looked up, his jaw still moving. He was a Miami rat and somehow, in his little rat brain, he knew there was something off about that icy crystal perched on his head. Clamping his teeth around the hot dog, he scurried along the wall of the concession stand, over the sand, past a flip-flopped foot and into the clumps of beachgrass.
The owner of the glittered flip flop might have screeched if she hadn’t been holding her phone to the sky.
“Oh my GOOOOOODDDDDDD!!!” she squealed.
“It’s SNOWING!!!” her equally flip-flopped friend shrieked.
The flakes were falling thickly, glinting and sparkling in the sun. All along the beach, toddlers giggled and danced in the snow while their parents scrambled to gather towels, umbrellas, toys and coolers.
“It could be a chemical attack!” shouted one father. Parents jerked their face masks over their ears and thrust them onto their children’s faces as they dragged them off the beach and into their cars.
Meanwhile, bikini-clad teens and hungover college students ran to the water, jumping and laughing in the snowfall.
Miley kicked off her flip flops, grabbed her phone and pulled her friend’s hand.
“Come on, Bells!”
The girls dove into the sea, Miley struggling to keep her phone out of the water as she turned it on herself.
“Coming at you live from South Beach! The water is warm, the sky is blue, it’s July and the sun is shining ….and IT’S SNOWINNGGGGG!!!!”
With a click, she posted it to her Twitter. #SouthBeachSnowstorm.
In an instant, Ronald Buford saw Miley’s Tweet. From his basement in Grimes, Iowa, Ronald kept a fraught eye on the weather. Not even a raindrop escaped his surveillance. His moon face glowed as he squinted through his glasses, his nose an inch from the computer screen. The moment Miley’s video ended, Ronald’s fingers were flying over the keyboard. Diagrams and lists of numbers flashed onto the monitor. With a grunt, Ronald heaved himself out of his chair, corpulent thighs pulling away from the vinyl like taffy. He lumbered over to the wall and studied the graphs, photos, newspaper articles and maps overlapping each other and connected by a web of color-coded string and thumbtacks.
“Mmm-hmmm, mmm-hmm. Humph,” he mused, moving an orange string from a crossword puzzle to a grocery list. The sound of his heavy breathing filled the room as he surveyed his work.
“Ah- HAH!” he said at last. “I knew it!”
He swung around to his computer, plopped into his chair and stared into his webcam.
“Attention, attention, fellow SkyWarners. You have by now seen the videos of the snowfall in Miami, Florida – 25.7616 degrees North, 80.1918 degrees West - at 1337 hours today. Phase 2 is underway. I repeat. Phase 2 is underway. Background summary: A secret group of government agents is changing weather patterns throughout the United States. Goal: To eliminate the COVID-19 pandemic by forcing everyone outside. Phase 1: Warmer winters North of 37.8393333. Cooler summers South. Phase 1 complete. Phase 2 initiated on 12 July 2021 at 1337 hours with extreme weather changes. Expect to see similar patterns at 33.4484 N, 112.0740 W and 34.0522 N, 118.2437 W. Alert, alert: All SkyWarners, turn your Astrotrons 36X500 to 16S 18W immediately. Stay tuned for updates. Buford out.” #ThundersnowConspiracy.
In Arlington, Virginia Samantha Baldwin was scanning her phone as she strode down a hallway at the Pentagon. She stopped when she saw Ronald's Tweet. Her coffee crashed to the floor.
“Oh, shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit,” she said staring at her phone and not even noticing the splatter on her Ferragamos. She stepped over the coffee puddle and clicked down the hallway, jaw set.
She glanced over her shoulder before opening an unmarked door that could have been a cleaning closet in the Pentagon’s maze of corridors and offices. No one noticed as she slipped through and made her way down a narrow staircase that spiraled far beneath the building’s two basement levels.
On the final step, she stared into the biometric iris scanner and a steel door opened. Inside, ten men and women sat at computers, facing a wall of monitors, most of them flashing red. The only sound in the room was the clicking of keys as they typed. No one looked up as Samantha entered and went straight to a computer in an alcove set apart from the main space.
She punched a button and the chiseled face of a man in military fatigues appeared on the screen. Red lights flashed behind him. An alarm blared in the background and a woman’s voice repeated: “Misfire. Misfire. Misfire.”
“What the hell happened, Colonel?” Samantha demanded.
“Misfire, ma’am,” responded Colonel Pringle.
“Well, ma’am, we had intended to send a cold front to Florida today. The temperature broke 102 degrees Fahrenheit and more than 80 percent of the population was spending the majority of the day inside. But we had a systems breakdown where a miscalculation was made, verification protocol was bypassed and a damn blizzard was fired at Miami.”
“Well stop it.”
“We’re working on it, ma’am. It should end in a few minutes.”
“That error is unacceptable, Colonel.”
“It is, ma’am. We are taking care of the perpetrator.”
“Very good. We will deploy a team of scientists to the media to offer a credible explanation.”
“Colonel, we have a more serious problem.”
“7501-1222 has figured out what’s going on thanks to that snowfall.”
“Buford? The fat fella in Iowa? Well I’ll be. Smart son of a bitch.”
“Colonel, this is an 84-20.”
“Yes, ma’am. We’ll deploy to Buford immediately. Did his followers redirect their Astrotrons?”
“Yes, my team will hack into them and disable them. We’ll also hack into the Miami phones and delete all video of the snow.”
“Yes, ma’am. Anything else?”
"Yes. You'll need to create an event in Miami. Something to divert attention from this incident."
“Copy, ma'am. Over and out."
45 minutes later, Ronald Buford heard a pounding on his door. He was clumping up the stairs when the rapping sounded again and a rough voice shouted, “We know you’re in there, Buford!”
Two soldiers stood on Ronald’s front steps. He glared at them through his glasses, which sat askew on his nose.
“I’ve been expecting you,” he said.
“Like hell you have,” said one soldier.
“You’re coming with us,” said the other.
“I know,” said Ronald, sneering. He waved his hand at the zip ties they held. “You’ll not need those. I’ll go quietly.”
The first soldier looked at the fat folds of Ronald’s legs spilling out from his underpants.
“For God’s sake – put on some pants.”
Back in Miami, the blizzard thinned to a squall and then to a flurry of chunky flakes drifting one by one onto the sand. Miley and Bella scanned the sky.
“I think it’s over,” said Miley.
“That was so WEEEIIRRD,” said Bella.
“Yeah, totally.” Miley scrolled through her Twitter looking for her video, but she couldn’t find it. She looked on her phone, but the last video was from that morning when she and Bella had tried the Whipped Chocolate Coconut Frappuccino.
“What the…? Check your phone, Bells.”
Bella couldn’t find her video either.
“That’s so BIZARRE.”
“Yaaaahhhh….Oh my God, Bells.”
“Look at my feet, my nail polish is all chipped! Let’s go get mani-pedis.”
The girls slung their bags over their shoulders and sauntered down Ocean Drive. All over Miami that afternoon, beachgoers puzzled over their missing videos. Even the local news led with it: “Conspiracy Afoot? Blizzard videos DISAPPEAR!” But the mysterious explosion of a popular beachfront bar the next morning diverted all the attention and the summer snow faded into mere Miami legend.
Meanwhile, a pointy nose poked out from the beachgrass and sniffed the air. The rat scampered across the sand and to the concession stand where he found a thick potatoey fry on the ground. He sat on his haunches and clasped his prize, wriggling his whiskers. The air felt different. Lighter, cooler. His paw weren’t moist with sweat and he breathed easier. He set to gnawing his French fry. All was well.