April would blow over the Iowa prairies when the boxing match called spring came around. The match was Jack Frost vs. Blooming Spring. They would clash on who gets the dominant climate, snow and frost, or sunshine and flowers. For me, it was getting ready for summer vacation which was a month and a half away at the end of May, halfway through the 4th quarter, and 75 percent done with the semester of school. It was freshman year, and I was in love with a senior named Francine “Frankie” O’Connell. Frankie was a bleach-blonde cutie who was skinny with hazel eyes and stood 5’3. She dressed kind of skimpily like a typical teenager. In the Hard fish-Valentine-Normandy High School rankings, I was popular despite my financial woes with the recession of 07-08. I didn’t dress fancy nor have wealth like the Trumps or Bill Gates, but being poor and wearing discount thrift store clothes and hand-me clothes was popular at HVN High.
It was the week after spring break and on a typical spring Thursday, my oldest sister Daisy woke me up along with my 2nd oldest brother Hosea at 6:00 a.m., she pounded on saying, “Wake the heck up, Hosea and Adam.” Daisy was 80 lbs., 4’11, with dark hair, eighteen, and 100 percent super polite. Hosea was 6’7, 200 lbs. and called Chewie at school after Chewbacca from Star Wars. Daisy was up at 5:30 getting ready for work. She works at Valentine Grocery, the small grocery store that served our town of Valentine which had a population of 475 that opened at 7 A.M. every morning and closed at 9 pm every night. Daisy dropped out at fifteen from high school and she got her GED at 16 due to bullying at HVN. I had another brother who was 25 named Steve. Steve worked at a telemarketing place in Bridgeport which was 15 miles up the road on the Des Moines River. He had slim shady hair, a beard, and knowledge of sports and games. I had a younger sister named Bretina. Bretina was thirteen, sassy and athletic. The youngest was our 7-year-old brother, Blaine whom the rest of the family called me and Blaine, “Beavis and Butthead” because we were very cheeky and always picking on Hosea and Racecar. Blaine had red hair, played rated m games, and took after me. The matriarch was Carol Bronte, our mom, a hard-working mom, who worked as an HCBS supervisor at Great Prairie Care and Services where Francine worked, and she was her boss. My mom was 40, blonde, wore glasses, and was smart as hell.
It was 6:40 after I got out of the shower, I put on my Marilyn Manson tee, red and black plaid shirt, and black faded Levi’s jeans. I put on my red Vans shoes and put on my Monster Beanie. I walked outside to Daisy’s car, a ’99 Black Monte Carlo with Iowa license plates that said Bkwrm. The Iowa breeze of the morning was amazing as me, Daisy, Bretina, and Hosea drove the three blocks to Valentine School which was the elementary school. Daisy told us to have a nice day and drove up Main to Jackson to the grocery store to work.
My buddies, Dustin, Lane, Cousin Robby, and Tristan pulled up 15 minutes later on the Valentine local bus, and 7-12 graders scurried out like rabbits to the front of the building. Bretina was bickering with Mariah or Piranha Face because everyone in town despised Mariah because she didn’t bathe and was annoying to every kid in town. The bus came at 7:15 and I and the 7-12 graders were corralled in the bus like barnyard animals huddling into livestock train cars. I sat with my friends and I put my iPod on my awesome mix which was Seether, Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, Nirvana, Eminem, 30 Seconds to Mars, 3 Doors Down, Our Lady Peace, Madonna, Rihanna, Apocalyptica, Blue Oyster Cult, Skillet, Red, Coheed and Cambria, Matchbook Romance, and Linkin Park I enjoyed the countryside and Dustin said, “What are you listening to, Adam?” I replied, “Three Days Grace and Just Like you.” Dustin asked, “How’s Frankie?” “She’s so and so, been moody.”, I replied as we reached Hardfish. Hardfish was the most industrialized town in the school district with agricultural plants on the edge of town. It was called Edmonton of the Midwest because its industry popped up overnight with the corn mills and foreign companies brought their factories to Hardfish. It was a town of 1250 and growing due to the local economy. The bus passed over the Des Moines River and up the hill to the school at 7:45 I was unaware today was going to be unexpectedly out of the ordinary and that I was heading to disaster.
Me, Bretina, and Hosea got off the bus and scurried to school as the southwest wind blew in the granary’s burning corn smell. It wasn’t a light or super strong wind; it was a teasing wind that blew in strong steady puffs. I went to the gym and looked around for Frankie and she was nowhere to be seen. I grabbed my phone, and texted her, “Where r u?” as I walked to math class. I sensed something stormy was up but I ignored it and continued with my morning as I raced off like a dirt car racing at the Knoxville Raceway to my first class which was math. It was the second-period study hall when Frankie texted me, she replied “@ the dentist, b their third period. I replied, “Sounds good.” as the third-hour Sci Class faded to the Fourth-hour bell, I rushed to the halls to see Frankie. She was wearing a striped blue and white polo, pink tank top, and light blue denim skirt. I said, “Hey Frankie.” She said, “Hey Adam, how are you?” I replied, “Pretty good, and you?” She said, “So and so Adzy.” We held hands in my history class and as the bell rang, Mr. Dale called me, “Adzy Mac because my last name was McCormick. -, . We learned about westward expansion and watched a movie with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. It was amazing and by the fifth-hour bell rang, and it was time to find Frankie. She was walking to her next class from being a teacher aide with Hosea and Ricky. I held hands with her as I walked her to the Spanish room, we bid each other farewell, and as I ran to gym class not knowing the next time I encountered Frankie, I was going to be the hurricane’s eyewall.
When I got into the boy’s locker room; the other track boys, Art, Billy, Johnny, Sean, Xavier, Dillon, Jake, and Charlie were discussing lunch and jokes for the lunch table with Molly, Bernadette, Jade, Cierrah, Kyleigh, Abby and Chrissy. I chose some George Carlin Jokes and You might be from Iowa jokes. I asked Billy to take a shirtless picture of me to put on Myspace on my camera. I joined the gym class for warmups and soccer outside. The wind blew strong on this clear, nice spring Friday in April, but I felt like I was in the outer bands of the hurricane, and it was coming fast. I ignored it and continued with the gym class. I thought I was great like Pele, Thorpe, Irelan, and Adu. Coach Crabtree grabbed her whistle and said, ” Class dismissed.” I walked to the locker room and got changed and went to lunch. I sat at lunch with my gang. I joked, “If it snows from Halloween to Easter, you might be from Iowa.” and the gang took turns telling jokes and talking about the party at Charlie’s the following night. “Hey Adam, Gotta good joke, is it a good idea to tell off the teachers,” said Dillon. I replied, “Why not?”, as I heard the lunch bell ring for the 6th music appreciation class. Music appreciation was the easiest class to pass, and it was taught by my mom’s band teacher, Mr. Gordon. He called me, “CJ” for Carol Junior.
I saw Frankie over by the Spanish room, and she was waiting on me, I said, “Hey, Frankie, want to walk me to class.” She replied, “We need to talk.” I replied, “Will it be after school.”, as I rushed away towards the band room. I was heading for shelter from the hurricane, now I was in the outer eyewall. I ran as fast as I could. I knew now I was heading towards impending doom from the storm. I made it to the band room, I proclaimed barely made it with a side of sugar-coated f-bombs that hung over the lower Des Moines valley for days. Mr. Gordon said calmly, “Almost a detention, CJ.” I replied, “Sorry, Mr. G.” He said, “It’s all good.” I ran to my seat where I saw Charlie saying, “Uh oh, Adam.” I said, “What do you mean uh oh?” He replied, “Someone’s here for you.” I looked around to see it was Frankie. I said, “Oh S-dash-dash-dash.” I asked, “What now?” She asked, “Will you get mad?” I replied, “Why am I going to get mad?” She said glumly, “Adam, we can’t be girlfriend and boyfriend, but we can be friends all right?” It felt like somebody threw a cut onion at my face. Then all hell broke loose, I was in tears, the hurricane made landfall finally and I ran like hell. Frankie tried to grab me, but I was too fast. I went back inside the band room, and everybody asked what happened. I replied, “Go to the eighth-grade English room and find Bretina asap.” The hurricane Frankie was hit head-on, and Charlie went to the 8th grade English room to find Bretina. I sat and cried as Mr. Gordon sent us to take a test. Bretina showed up and hugged me and said she had gym 8th hour, the same hour Frankie had p.e., I told her, “Kick her ass.”, as I bawled. Mrs. VanDePol showed up and she asked, “I’m sorry.” I told her, “I know Frankie is a conniving witch.” She told me, “I talked to Frankie, and she was lying and going to hurt you.” I started bawling even more and ran off and after I finished my test, I asked Mr. Gordon if I could go to Mrs. VanDePol’s office, He said, “Sure, thing CJ.” because he knew I was in pain mentally and emotionally from the hurricane.
I walked to Dean VanDePol’s office still sad and depressed. I asked still processing my annoyance towards Frankie, “Why did Frankie betray and lie to me.” She replied, “She was cheating on you with a guy from Illinois, I think Peoria area, son.” I said, “thank you kindly.”, as she handed me a tissue to blow my nose. I asked to call Daisy and mom. She called Daisy and Daisy answered, ” Bronte residence, this is Daisy speaking.” Mrs. Vandepol explained to Daisy what happened, and Daisy was shocked. She told her that I was to go home after school. I smiled a bit that I was missing track of my mental health. The bell rang for the seventh-period health class, and I heard rumors about the eighth-hour fight in the gym between Bretina and Frankie. In the halls between 7th period and the last class, I saw Frankie in the halls, and she tried to apologize. I replied, “You’re not sorry.” as I walked away towards the gym, I saw Bretina in a position ready to pounce on her prey. Frankie walked into the gym and Bretina pounced and attacked Frankie. Bretina hauled off and punched Frankie in the face. She was handing Francine Marie O’Connell a good-ass whooping. Everybody raced to the gym cheering, “Go eighth, whoop the stupid senior’s ass.” Some were yelling, “For Adam!” Principal Cornwall came in and yelled, “Get out!” to the students and told Bretina and Frankie, “Go to the office now!”, with a loud shriek.
I walked to Language arts with a round of applause but was still sad. Jade LaFleur, who was from my lunch table and teacher aide in 11th grade, hugged me and said, “You’ll be ok.”, as my grandma Bronte’s 3rd Cousin Misti said, “Hosea and Adam McCormick- come to the office.” I walked to the office still in tears and I saw Daisy she hugged me and cried, “She fucked with the wrong family.” I knew the storm had passed but the damage had been done. Bretina was facing a 3-day suspension from school while Frankie got detention. I was scarred for life because of Frankie’s shenanigans. Daisy, Hosea, Bretina, and I drove home from Hardfish to Valentine’s. It was clear and mid-afternoon over the Iowa Prairie with the wind blowing across the grass. We all got to Valentine’s at 3:25 p.m. to get Blaine from Valentine Elementary school. Afterward, I went to my room, grabbed my twelve-pack of Coca-Cola, and wept. I was not alone but I felt it, that is how Frankie was meant to make me feel alone. My mom knocked on my door at about 7:30, she had just fired Frankie for unethical behavior against the company. I cried myself to sleep as the hurricane did her damage, but I was barely mentally alive.
The next morning, at school Frankie had her comeuppance, all the kids were singing to her, “Twelfth-grade baby stuck in the gravy, had to call the navy to get her outta the gravy.”, and the middle school kids pointed and said, “Look! Here’s Frankie O’Connell. She made a freshman cry, but a middle schooler beat her ass.” The chants continued all day long and hung over the Iowa prairies and Des Moines Valley like fallout. There was a rumor about her stealing a wallet to buy her prom dress and everybody avoided her like a rabid dog. Meanwhile, her car had corn syrup in the motor, and it wouldn’t start. Karma finally helped me win in the end. The hurricane had long passed, and I smiled as I realized I won, and Frankie didn’t.
Dylan Ulin was born in the heartlands of Iowa during a warm late winter afternoon. He writes and goes storm spotting for his local national weather service office. He also enjoys playing games, reading, and ideas for his next story, and weather watching.