MAXWELL:  God, could you send me some e-mail?

11/17/1999 – Printed in the EDITORIAL section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper


E-mail from:


Yo God!

As of this writing, I am in Indianapolis and have no idea what Hurricane Lenny will do. Will it become a Category 5, a bad one? Lord, I feel helpless. I am up here doing your work _ trying to discuss race in America at a Catholic church and a public high school. My problem right now is that I cannot protect my island home (my books in particular) if you, Omnipotent One, decide to maneuver Lenny, now slashing the Caribbean islands, toward St. Petersburg. God, can we talk about this?

“Dear Billy-Max,

“Of course, we can talk. I’ve had a lot of practice in this sort of thing, you know. And I do listen, despite what you’ve heard.”

Good. A Fort Lauderdale native, born a few days before a major storm hit, I am accustomed to catastrophic weather conditions. Some of my relatives in south Dade, for example, lost everything during Andrew. When I was a child, my parents did not have a TV, so we, like our neighbors, had to depend on a cheap radio and word of mouth for information. We did not mess around, either. When the weather folks said a ‘cane was coming, we either battened down or got the flock out of town.

We certainly did not whine. Somehow, we knew that storms served nature’s design, that in the end those high winds and water surges were beneficial to Earth. I remember that my grandfather, a devout preacher, called hurricanes God’s “washing machines and vacuum cleaners.” Was he right?

“I remember your grandpa. He was prescient. (By the way, I really like this e-mail).”

Cool, isn’t it?

“Yep. From the very beginning, I created storms to clean up the environs, especially in coastal areas and on islands where people shouldn’t build anyway. I mean, what do people think is going to happen if they build on a barrier island? Don’t they know what the word barrier means? Get it _ barrier? Ever so often, Billy-Boy .”

That’s Billy-Max.

“Billy-Max. Sorry. Ever so often, I send a Category 5 through to clean out the mess you people set up in these precious places. Sometimes I consult with Noah and Thor. I’m going to e-mail old Moses, too, because that Red Sea caper taught him a few things about the vagaries of water. Anyway, think of the pristine shorelines, on both coasts, that have been ruined by these gaudy buildings and seawalls. What’s gotten into you people?”

Hell, I mean, heck, I’m not complaining. I just want you to weigh in on some of the storm-related issues we face each year from June 1 through Nov. 30. Like, folks get mad when meteorologists do not accurately predict where a storm will make landfall. I mean, whuzzup with that?

“See, that’s what I mean. Whine, moan, whine. Here you have professionals _ folks risking their lives in reconnaissance aircraft, reporters standing on windy beaches _ doing their best to inform the public. If the pros don’t figure out exactly where I will send a storm, you brats blame them. They’re trying to save your miserable hides. Earthlings have a bad habit of forgetting that only I, God, am omniscient.”

Do not forget omnipresent.

“Yes, omnipresent, too.”

I guess you do not think much of William Gray, the Colorado State professor who predicts the number of named storms each year.

“Naw-w-w, Bill is a good dude. Sometimes he gets a little bit too big for his britches, and I have to inform him that his fancy computers don’t have dominion over Mother Nature. What ticks me off are the hucksters who rip off poor people. One swine in Miami sold a poor man a used chain saw for $1,000. Another, right there in St. Pete, charged folks $100 for one sheet of plywood. I want some heads to roll for that sort of sin. And those contractors and their lousy roofs and windows? Zounds! Something drastic has to be done.”

Look, Big Guy, I have a confession: I really do not feel sorry for people who build on the coasts and barrier islands. Am I cruel?

“No more than I am. I don’t feel sorry for these invaders either. The cruelest thing is that innocent folks pay high insurance rates for other people’s stupid decisions. How many times do I have to send in the likes of Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Dennis, Emily Lenny?”

Sure, Lord. You know, I live on an island, too. Is Lenny going to spare my books?

Note: Billy-Max lost modem contact with and could not reconnect.