Sunday, April 20, 2008

Satire: Earthquake In Midwest Stirs Ghost of Iben Browning Vindicated

A 5.2 magnitude earthquake hit southern Illinois and eastern Missouri in the early morning hours of April 18, shaking windows, waking up people throughout the bi-state region, flooding police departments with panicked calls, and disturbing St. Louis' downtown drug peddlers who mistook the commotion for a police raid and frantically dropped their stashes.

Also, your mother called you during the quake to ask if the kids were okay, whether the doors were locked, and why you don't visit anymore.

No major structural damage has been reported thus far, however, several locals say they have been mentally traumatized by the event, and are also "quite disappointed that it was nothing like the earthquakes at that Richter's restaurant we ate at on vacation in Florida."

Other locals have vowed to take up arms against the city of Bellmont, where the quake was centered. "That city's been trouble ever since it added that second, unnecessary 'L' to its name," said Valley Park native Todd "Goober" Farkins. "It's because of that city's blatant arrogance in violating accepted rules of linguistics, and not the scientifically-explainable phenomenon of two tectonic plates moving apart near the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone that caused this."

Most dramatically, the ghost of Iben Browning emerged from a prolonged silence to announce the earthquake has vindicated his previous prediction made in 1990. Browning, who managed to create a sustained panic and all-around level of irrational stress in St. Louis and surrounding areas by claiming there was a 50% chance an earthquake would strike at the New Madrid fault line on December 2 or 3, 1990, quickly became the object of scorn and ridicule when his prediction failed to materialize. Not even being name-checked in the Uncle Tupelo song, "New Madrid," could repair his reputation in the Show Me State.

With this major, catastrophic quake that caused little damage to buildings and no serious reported injuries, Browning feels like a preening rooster and wants the world to acknowledge the accuracy of his prediction. Speaking from the Great Beyond, Browning had this to say: "I told anyone who would listen that the quake would happen. Sure I overshot it by nearly 20 years, and got the month and day wrong to boot, but the bottom line is that the event occurred."

Browning is also seeking gratitude from the people whose lives his bold prediction helped spare. "Back in 1990, schoolchildren were practicing earthquake drills by diving under desks, businesses shut down to prepare for the impending destruction, and insurance companies squealed like stuck pigs as Missourians bought earthquake insurance at premium rates. I have no doubt these knee-jerk reactions caused by my forecast saved countless lives in this recent quake."

Browning wants to reassure those traumatized by what he calls the "defining meteorological incident of the last 268 years" that the risk of another devastating quake is quite low. "Massive quakes hit about once every 500 years. The chance of another one occurring anytime soon is exceptionally unlikely. Besides, I'm the professional here. Trust me."

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