Author : S. Craig Renfroe, Jr.

The hail slammed the ground like the ground was some poor kid who preferred writing out math problems to kicking a red rubber ball. That ball pitted like the kid’s face. The ground was pretty pitted by the hail. I never had that problem. I played baseball and did the math problems in the dugout. The problem was this was unexpected. This hail. I’d been trying to control the weather again.

Luckily I had brought my portable blast shield and now we were safe. Though how long would it take for safe to go to trapped? I smiled reassuringly at my daughter Marie, who paid no attention, wrapped in her phone, probably tweeting, her black polished fingernails a blur.

“Don’t you dare post anything about this,” I told her.

“Really? So I should erase my status: Marie’s dad the mad scientist makes her spend the weekend out in a field with a fucked up hail storm of his own making.”

“Does your mother let you curse?” I asked genuinely interested. But she only gave me that sigh she’d contracted since turning fourteen.

The hail storm increased in intensity, which I feared was the exact opposite of what should have happened when I recalibrated my machine when the first few chunks fell. The corn all around was being beaten down. We’d come out to the outskirts of Sumerville because on the one hand it had the advantage of being virtually deserted and on the other hand in the grip of a devastating drought that appealed to my altruistic desires.

Marie quit tapping for a second to watch the hail destroy my machine. It collapsed, a dinted and dinged warrior, what I liked to think of as the fighter who met his end crushed by Goliath right before David was up. My next one will be the David machine and slay this idiotic ecosystem slave master.

“Maybe it’s God’s wraith,” Marie said.

“Honey, you know there’s no god.”

“Right. Spaghetti monster.” She gave me a look and twirled a sprig of blonde hair in a way that can only mean she plans on sleeping with the first evangelical Christian she can, just to spite me.

My feeling of safety erodes as the hail piles up. The cozy paternal closeness to Marie had turned into claustrophobia and I cowardly wondered if I could bring myself to push her out of the pup-tent-sized shelter.

“Should I call for help?” she asked.

“Nope, I got this.” I had nothing.

“You leveled Sumerville,” she reported. “It’s on the news feed all over. ‘Hail Storm Cripples Small Town,’ ‘Windows smashed, roofs collapse under weight, seven killed.’ It’s like you’re Godzilla. Only a geek.”

“This is probably unrelated,” I said. “My experiment was more about research.”

“You told me to ‘watch this’ and made a speech about ending droughts and hunger and poverty.”

“Research.” I watch the clouds darken and the hail add up.

“This is why Mom left you.”

“Your mom cheated on me.”

“What? You never told me that.”

“I didn’t want you to think badly about her, but now that you think badly about me because I’ve doomed us I don’t care so much.”

“Sorry. But according to the Doppler your little mistake is breaking up.”

And a few silent minutes later, the sky did lighten. Surely, when this mess melted, it would be a lot of water. That would help. His daughter told him she forgave him—for what exactly he wasn’t sure—and that the next weekend she expected to go to a concert of her choosing.

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