People used to talk about the weather, but now they just sit in front of their TV sets and curse it.

Everyone has his own theory why this country has had such horrible winters. One was advanced by a friend named Merkin, and while I don't personally buy it, I feel obligated to pass it on.

Merkin believes all the bad weather in the United States began just after Anita Bryant attacked America's gay population.

"God," said Merkin, who is very devout, "Got very angry with Miss Bryant when she said He doesn't like gays, and He's been punishing us ever since.'

"How do you know this?" I said.

"I talk to God every night," Merkin said. "Right after Miss Bryant's attack He became a very upset and decided to teach us all a lesson. You see God loves us all, and He doesn't distinguish between heterosexuals and gay people. As far as He's concerned we're all His children, and when one person says He doesn't like a certain group of people He becomes furious."

But Anita Bryant talks to God too, and she says God is against homosexuals and believes they're sinners.

"She doesn't speak to the same God I do," Merkin said. "My God is too busy to get involved in people's sex lives. As long as they don't hurt anybody my God believes everyone should be left alone.

"But Anita Bryant has to be speaking to the same God," I protested. "After all there is only one.

"Maybe she's not hearing Him the same way I do. Everyone hears God differently. My message from Him is that there are a lot of straight people who are sinning and are on their way to hell, and there are a lot of homosexuals who will be allowed in heaven. What's getting God really sore is that there are more and more people in this country telling other people what He does having such bad weather.

"Merkin has God told you this Himself?"

"I'm afraid He has."

"When?"

"The other night just before I went to bed."

"What exactly did He say?"

"He said everyone is using His name these days to plug his or her own cause. People are making fortunes telling the rest of us what's good and whats bad. He says He's being sold on television like soap or toothpaste. What's even worse is that anyone who has a political ax to grind says that God supports him. If there is one thing we know from the Bible it's that God doesn't like people cashing in one His name."

"Did he tell you He was going to drop a pile of snow on the East Coast?"

"Yup."

"What did you do about it?"

"I went out and bought up all the rock salt at Sears Roebuck."

"That was good thinking," I said.

"Did God say He was going to continue giving us all these bad winters?"

"He did indeed. He said He was going to keep it up until everyone stopped saying terrible things about their fellow Americans."

"How do I know what God told you is anymore valid than what Anita Bryant says God told her?"

"Why don't you ask Him yourself?" Merkin said.

That's exactly what I did. That night as I kneeled by my bed I said, 'God did you tell Merkin you were punishing all of us because everyone was using for your name for his or her own purposes?"

There was a pause, and then God said, "Merkin talks too much."