Fr. Anthony Lusvardi, SJ
The rains burst from an almost clear sky. The Director of the Clinic, irritated by the mistake, noted that the weather service had not predicted rain at all.
“Are they astrologers or scientists down there?” he said.
I found it rather amusing imagining the frenzy they must have been in, and it continued to be amusing for the first several weeks, when the rain was little more than a drizzle and the weather service, obviously adjusting its software in response to the error, churned out all sorts of strange and contradictory predictions. By the time the drizzle had turned to rain they were predicting cyclones, hail, straight-line winds, fog, inland hurricanes, balmy afternoons, blizzards, dust storms, darkness—everything but steady rain. Down in the capital, some poor schmuck was poring over computer code, trying to find the extra “1” or “0” that was causing their mistake.
The drizzle, however, was not limited to Bimini, nor even Padania, but seemed to be falling all over the world. Over dinner—escargot and kale and a nice dry champagne—I mentioned that I suspected whatever phenomenon we were witnessing had not been anticipated by the weather service’s programs. The woman I lived with shrugged and said she thought all the rainbows were pretty.
The Director seemed less upset by the increasing showers than he had been by the initial mistake. Bimini University Clinic would never have become what it was if the Director had been the sort of man who tolerated mistakes. Of course, he was not the man for groundbreaking research; the Clinic would never have produced the Breakthrough if he had been director all those years ago instead of me. In Bimini our research team—my research team—had produced the virus that could penetrate the cell’s nucleus and deliver the extra two dozen rungs on the DNA spiral to halt the aging process. Diseases had fallen one by one at the hands of researchers all over the world, but in Bimini we had won the war. We had bested death.
And we had almost put ourselves out of business doing so. Hospitals and research centers closed all over Europe, and while Bimini could live off the prestige of the Breakthrough for several years, our facilities were small and our location remote. When the Board of Trustees came to me with the new position—Chancellor—I knew I was being pushed aside, but what else could I do? The Director was Board Chairman at the time, had been on the Board throughout the years of research leading to the Breakthrough, and was several years younger. The coup was, I admit, a shrewd maneuver on his part, just the sort of shrewd maneuver that kept the Clinic afloat after he took over. We adapted, pioneering research in nutrition, safer recreational drugs, psychology, becoming Padania’s number-two center for plastic surgery. The physical plant itself grew, slowly but inexorably, taking over the halls and libraries of the university that had been its genesis and then rising higher still, all marble and reflective glass, its towers coming to dominate the whole countryside, a medical Neuschwanstein. The complex surmounted the entire peak of the mountain on which Bimini was perched, and its central tower, the Administrative Building, stood taller than any mountain within sight.
Our location was to prove significant once the drizzle became a downpour and the cities and the plains began to flood. The Director had begun to make contingency plans after the first month of rain, with an ad hoc committee of Clinic employees meeting to discuss our options. Researchers were quietly reassigned. Provisions were secretly amassed, the orders for them spread out among different vendors so that no one would know quite the scale of our preparations. A geological survey of the mountain was ordered, and at a few points on the western slope concrete pilings were sunk to provide redundancy. Fortunately, the core of the mountain on which Bimini sat was very old, very solid bedrock. And all this was done without the town’s mayor or the national and European authorities needing to know.
Anthony Lusvardi, SJ, earned his BA in English and philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Before entering the Society of Jesus, he taught English for the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan and served as a campus minister of Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. He was awarded the 2015 J.F. Powers Prize for fiction for his story “Ends of the Earth.” He has work forthcoming in North Dakota Quarterly and in Ruminate this fall.