A SOLI Original Document.
You won't find it anywhere else.


(c) Copyright 1975 R J Hustwit
It was a beautiful, clear summer day in the little town of Newton, Massachusetts. Phineaus Sloane, smiling and waving to the occasional passer-by on the street, was driving home in his two-year old 1965 Lincoln. Fred Smith stopped washing his own car long enough to watch his next-door neighbor's Lincoln slowly move up the driveway and into the garage attached to Sloane's palacial home. As the garage door closed, Phineaus Sloane caught sight of his neighbor, now back to washing his car. "Hi, Fred! Lovely day, isn't it?" "Hello, Phineaus. Yes, it is a nice day, but it'll probably rain before it's over." Phineaus looked at his neighbor intently, making him slightly uncomfortable. "Why do you think it will rain, Fred? Whatever made you say that on such a beautiful day?" Fred smiled, pointing to his car, "Every time I wash the goddamnned thing, it rains!" Phineaus' face broke into a smile, too. He said, "Maybe so, Fred, maybe so. Well, I have work to do. See you later." Fred watched him go into the house, a slight frown on his face. "Work? Phineaus Sloane, work? Ha! That'll be the day!" Fred stood and thought for a moment about Phineaus Sloane. Nobody really knew just what it was he did for a living, but he had so much money, and supported so many local charities, that no one cared to dig too deeply. Mrs. Toomey, the town gossip had variously reported that Sloane was a brassiere salesman, an author, even a Nazi war criminal. The fact that he was much too young didn't seem to make any difference to her. As Fred got back to washing his car, he thought of Phineaus' Lincoln, all shiny and clean. He remembered asking Phineaus who washed his car for him, and Phineaus telling him that he did it himself, every week. "But, I've never seen you washing your car," Fred had replied. "Well, dammit, you've never seen the Pacific ocean either, but it's there." And Phineaus had rushed into his house, angry. Fred had wondered about the temperamental outbreak then, and now thought of it again as he began putting his car- washing paraphernalia away. "Queer duck, that Phineaus Sloane," he thought. Just then his attention was distracted by an ominous rumble. Fred looked skyward and groaned. The clouds gathering overhead forecast one of those sudden thunder and lightning storms for which New England summers are famous. As he set his load on the floor of the garage, the skies opened, and, while he sprinted the distance from his garage to the back door, he thought to himself, "Every time--every time I wash the goddamned thing, it rains." Phineaus Sloane was at his desk, reading what looked like a very old newspaper and every now and then referring to a map of the central United States, when the storm hit. He looked out his window in time to see Fred Smith make his dash. Phineaus, smiling, reached for the antique telephone on his desk, consulting the old map in front of him. "I'd like to send a telegraph message," he smiled into the ancient mouthpiece. It was pouring outside. *** On August 16, 1897, it had been eight months since any rain had touched ground in Clinton, Arkansas and things were desperate. The lake was dry, the crops were dying--it was a critical situation. The town meeting that night was a little subdued. Mayor Isaac Ashley didn't really have much to say, which bothered no one except mayor Isaac Ashley. You see, he always had something to say--except now. He was coming up for re-election soon, and he was worried. Tom Weber, one of the local farmers, stood up, "Maybe we should hire ourselves a rainmaker! You know, they got one over in Green's Ferry last month and he made it rain for fifteen minutes!" "Fifteen minutes!" cried a dozen voices, "What good is that? What a stupid ideal!" "Well, it's better'n nothin'," Tom sat down sullenly. The mayor was just thinking how glad he was that he hadn't publicized his search for that very rainmaker, Everett Greenfield. Oh, well, nobody could locate him anyway, he had disappeared. Isaac Ashley was considering what to do next, when the telegraph operator rushed into the meeting waving a sheet of paper and announced, "Telegraph message for the mayor! Urgent message for the Mayor!" In Clinton, Arkansas, in 1897, it was very unusual for someone to receive a personal telegraph message, even the mayor. It was a status symbol. More than one of the good, Christian townspeople might have thought that the mayor was trying to get an early start on impressing people for the upcoming election, had he not almost fainted when he read it--not a very mayor-like thing to do. There was silence in the meeting hall; everyone sensed that the telegram was important. The mayor cleared his throat, recovered to enough to say, "I have just received the following important telegraph message. Quote: 'To the mayor, Clinton Arkansas,' that's me," he beamed, "'Phineaus Sloane, Rainmaker Extraordinary, offers the Town of Clinton guaranteed rain for $500.00 gold. Stop. No gold; no rain. Stop. No rain; no gold. Stop. Wire answer by five p.m. tomorrow. Stop. Signed P. Sloane, Newton Massachusetts.'" Isaac Ashley finished reading and looked up at his constituency, "Friends, if Mr. Sloane here, is willing to guarantee his work, what have we got to lose?" "Think of it," said Joel Geer, "rain--guaranteed rain. We'll all be saved!" "Just what does he mean, 'No gold; no rain. No rain; no gold'?" asked Matilda Hopkins. "That's his guarantee," Ashley explained, "he's saying that if we don't pay him, he won't make it rain; and if we hire him and he can't make it rain, we don't pay him anything." Tom Weber spoke up, "Five hundred dollars gold is an awful lot of money, I don't know..." "Listen," it was Joel Geer, "if he can give us just two inches of rain..." "Wait a minute!" A voice from the back of the room shouted, "What if he just makes it rain for fifteen minutes, like Green's Ferry?" "Then we won't pay him," The mayor was definite. "But we can tell if it's going to rain for just a few minutes, or not. We'll know. And if he does make it rain--really rain-- why, it'll be the best five hundred dollar investment this town ever made." The meeting voted overwhelmingly that night to accept Phineaus Sloane's offer. It was the best five-hundred dollar investment the town of Clinton, Arkansas ever made. Phineaus Sloane stayed in Clinton less than an hour, but before he left, it was raining cats and dogs. Clouds filled the sky. It would rain for at least two days, announced the mayor, whose re-election was now assured. After all, the telegraph message had been addressed to him. People were rolling in the muddy streets delirious with joy. The mayor's prediction was false. It rained in Clinton for nine straight days--ten inches of beautiful life-giving water--and nobody seemed to mind the few problems with flooding. Ah, yes. How? How did Phineaus Sloane, Rainmaker Extra- ordinary, accomplish this wonder? To what heights of science did he rise? What depths of the supernatural or occult did he plumb? Read on. Three days after sending their telegraph, the people of Clinton, Arkansas, were treated to the arrival of Phineaus Sloane. He drove into the center of town in his 1965 Lincoln, which was now dirty and caked with dust. After assuring himself that the promised gold was on hand, Phineaus Sloane, removing some jugs of water and empty pails from the trunk, began washing his car. First the roof, then the hood and trunk, then the sides, and finally the wheel covers. He worked with slow, practiced deliberation. As he started work on the hood, one of the people in the crowd tore his eyes from Sloane long enough to look skyward. He cried out, pointing at clouds that were beginning to form overhead. By the time Sloane got to the wheel covers, it was obviously getting ready to rain. As he began loading the empty jugs and pails back into the trunk of his car, the first drop of rain fell from the sky. A shout went up from the crowd as Phineaus slammed the trunk shut. By the time he had collected his gold, it was a downpour. As he was driving away, the mayor ran after him, shouting for him to stop. Phineaus stopped and rolled the window down, as the mayor's round face filled the opening. "I've got to know, you've got to tell me, how did you do it? How did you make it rain? Please, please tell me!" The mayor had to shout to be heard over the pounding of the rain. Phineaus Sloane looked at the mayor of Clinton, Arkansas, smiled, shrugged, and said, "Every time I wash the goddamnned thing, it rains." THE END