One fine Wednesday, Frances was on her way to school when two bigger boys turned the corner across the street for her on their way to school - Steve who, well, after the fire ants Steve wasn't so much of an annoyance anymore, and Paulie, who had just moved to town from Brooklyn.
Steve: "Hi, Frances."Frances looked at Steve, and Steve shrugged his shoulders.
Frances: "Hi, Stevie."
Paulie: [to Steve] "Her name is Frances?"
Paulie: "Frances? I knew a guy back in the city named Francis. He always made us call him 'Frankie'."
Steve: "Oh. I wouldn't do that. She doesn't like to be called Frankie."
Paulie: "She's a girl, man. You scared of a little girl? What's she gonna do?"
Paulie: [yelling across street] "Yo! Yo! Frankieeee! What choo dooooin'? I ha'n't seen you 'round much, Frankie. You been hiding from your good buddy Paulie?"
Frances: "Please don't call me Frankie. I know you're new here, so maybe you didn't know, but I don't like to be called Frankie. My name is Frances with an 'e'."
Paulie: "OK, Frankie with an 'e'. I'll certainly try to remember that. I hope it won't, you know, slip my mind, Frankie."
And maybe he smiled. Just a little smile.
Well, all day long, Paulie was bragging about his skills on the skateboard. A regular Z-Boy he was, if you heard him tell it. In fact, at lunch, Frances heard him going on about how he would show all these country bumpkins (Paulie, being from Brooklyn, considered everyone who lived more than 20 miles from there to be a country bumpkin) what a real ripper looks like in action. So they should meet him at the back steps after school to be bathed in awe.
Frances may have smiled. Just a little smile.
Shortly after lunch, Frances asked her science teacher for a hall pass. He said something snarky, "Why? Do you find my class to dull for your big brain?"
"No. I just kind of have some...ummm...female..."
All the color drained from her teacher's face. He quickly tore off a pass and handed it to her.
She chuckled on her way out. Men were so easy. She headed straight out of school to pick up some supplies. Upon returning, she headed to Paulie's locker.
She dug in her backpack and took out an automatic lock pick that, for whatever reason, she had seen at a flea market and decided to buy. In 20 seconds, she had Paulie's locker open (it helped that the school had been built in 1952 and had 1952-vintage locks on the lockers). Her eyes lit up.
She found Paulie's helmet right on top. Digging in her backpack again, she came up with a can of 3M Super 77 and quickly gave a fine coating to the inside of his helmet. Then she was on to her next task in a flash.
She grabbed his skateboard, flipped it over, and removed all the screws holding on the trucks. With a small rat-tail file, she enlarged the holes just enough so that the screws could barely grip. Then, with a little dab of Super 77 on each screw to hold them loosely in place, she re-installed the screws.
Finally, she grabbed his knee pads. "What a big tough gumba. Did your mommy make you bring knee pads?" She took a small pocket knife and cut a slit in the elastic on the bottom. Then, she removed a box of thumbtacks from her backpack. Carefully reaching into the slit, she installed tack after tack into the knee pads, pushing them into the foam pad from the front, but the foam was just thick enough that they did not poke through to the back. She then sealed up the pads with a shot of the Super 77.
She really liked that Super 77. It was something she had stumbled across just by chance. One day, her father had come into the living room with a DVD and had said, "Honey, now that Obama is the president, I think it's time you learned about Illinois Nazis."
Except the movie didn't seem to be about Illinois Nazis. Illinois Nazis seemed to have a small role in a couple of scenes, but mostly the movie has been about a fat guy and a skinny guy who were trying to put a band back together to help someone they called "The Penguin" but who didn't seem to be at all related to The Penguin from Batman.
They had, however, at one point sprayed glue on the accelerator pedal of a pickup truck in order to take out a rival country-western band.
Now that was useful information. She liked her dad, even though he had a strange sense of humor and her mother was mean to him and complained about his drinking. She thought her dad was a genius. And a hell of a nice guy, too.
She closed up the locker and waltzed back to class.
After school, everyone gathered on the lawn outside the back steps. Paulie eventually crashed triumphantly through the door, holding his board above his head like it was the Vince Lombardi Trophy and his last name was Manning. Stevie came walking out behind him with his iPod carrying an iPod Boom Box playing The Beastie Boys "Sabotage".
"Oh, the irony. The delicious irony," smirked Frances.
Paulie blew kisses at the crowd. The he hopped on his board, ollied it into some air for a quick grind down the railing to a picture perfect landing on the concrete sidewalk below.
Or, well, it would have been if his trucks hadn't fallen off, dropping him hard to his knees. Knees that were protected by knee pads that, upon compressing, drove scores of thumbtacks into his kneecaps.
Paulie howled in pain, writhing on the ground. When he recovered a bit, he stood up and tore his helmet off.
Much of his hair went with the helmet, thanks to the Super 77. He saw Steve out of the corner of his eye, and Stevie just shrugged his shoulders.
And maybe he smiled. Just a little smile.