The Fearsome Foursome

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Just a fantasy story about someone's grade-school year summer. It's almost a flash fiction, but not quite. It's about kids, kites, and the growing process.

I was twelve and she was ten and three-quarters; at least that is what she told me.

It took me a week of stick-ball games, rollerskating, and dodge-ball before I found out she was a girl; you could have knocked me over with a feather.

One of my pals was her brother, his name was some name none of us could pronounce, so everybody just called him Butch, like the haircut he had.

He never said a word about his sister being a girl, he just showed up one day with her tagging along beside him. He said her name was Joe, and of course we all though he meant JOE, Joe, not JO, Jo. That was mainly due to the baseball cap, blue jeans, and sloppy T-shirt.

It was summer, we were out of school, and there were adventures to be had for the "Fearsome-Foursome" of the Carmelitos Housing Project.

We didn't bother changing our Title when she tagged along, we figured if the Three Musketeers could add a fourth and not make any changes, so could we; besides, no-one knew us by that title anyway.


One day, while playing stick-ball, it was Joe's turn to pitch. And after several underhand sliders Joe began to sweat.

It was a big jolt to the male side of me when she pulled off her baseball cap to wipe the sweat off her brow; that's when the hair fell down and Joe suddenly became JO.

I don't know if any of the other guys knew she was a girl before that moment, but we sure knew after that.

Now you might think we were clueless, but you gotta remember, this was the 1950's and we were at that age where hair and dresses were the only "Tells", the only sure sign as to who was who. Children's mothers were usually in charge of posting the signs, and if the girl was thin all over, well, you get the picture.

But with Jo it was a tad different, she had no mother. I found out at a later date that Jo's Mom had passed away when she was five, and that left her with a Daddy and two brothers to try and fill the void.

I didn't want to ask any questions because I didn't know if the other Guys knew she was a girl, and if they did then I seemed like a clueless jerk; so I just kept my mouth shut.


After about a month, the windy season set in, and in this area of southern California it happens every year at about the same time. Then with the wind came the kites!

No, these were not big flashy, colorful, kites. You gotta remember that we were poor, Housing Project Poor, shit outta luck poor, so our version of a kite was a year long process of accumulating materials.

We gathered wood strips from appliance store boxes and paper that we squirreled away from Christmas wrappings.

Whenever Scotch-tape found it's way to an empty pocket, that was something we shared at kite assembly time.


Now you need to realize that Kite tails were another matter, every kite must have a accurately balanced tail; too heavy and she won't get off the ground for long, too lite and she will cartwheel and eventually crash headlong into the ground.

How do you do that? Well, to begin, draw a line in the dirt, then you measure out about two shoe lengths and draw another line. From the second line you lay out two length's of the kite that you have built, and draw another line. After that, you fashion a tail that reaches from the very first line to the very last line; attach to kite and adjust as needed.

Yes Sir, if a tail is properly balanced, well, the kite will practically fly itself.


It was early morning and the wind was gusting pretty heavily when Butch and Jo arrived on Updraft-Hill. Rickie, Smokey, and I were were about to launch when Jo presented a new idea to the kite flying project; a parachute.

"How's it work?" I asked while scratching my head.

Jo explained, "It is a tissue paper opened all the way up, then you twist each corner and tie threat on each corner, don't use string cause it's too heavy.

After that, you tie all four corner-threads together at the other end; all the threads have to be the same lengths otherwise the parachute will be all Caddywampus.

After that, you tie something heavy to the end of the thread, then "Wallah" you have a miniature parachute."

I looked at the little parachute and gingerly asked, "How's it work?"

That is when Jo pulled a paperclip from her pocket, and said, "Like this." Then she bent the paper clip into an "S" shape, threaded one end into the center of the tissue-paper square, and held the other end by the top of the "S".

"I still don't get it," I said feeling as foolish as the rest of the guys.

"Launch your kite and I'll show you!" Jo said very confidently.


Well, up the kite went with little coaxing, and when it reached the height of about three telephone poles, Jo stepped up to me.

"Hold your string spool out in front of you," Jo ordered very femininely.

And as I did, Jo hooked the top of the "S", of the paperclip, onto the Kite's string, then she let go.

No sooner had she let it loose of the parachute, a light gust of wind whistled past and the parachute was away. Up the string it went, higher and higher with every gust. And the higher it went the faster it climbed toward it's inevitable end, the kite itself.

When the parachute was just a short ways from the kite, Jo said, "Give it a jerk!" And she made a motion as if to let the kite string slack very quickly, and then pull back.

So I looked up at the parachute and did exactly what she said; that's when the parachute detached and opened with the downward fall.


I told you earlier that a kite with a proper tail can fly itself, and that is true. I know, because, as the parachute descended Jo and I stood side by side, watching it. And as I felt Jo's hand touch mine, the spool of string that was in my other hand became the furthest thing from my mind.


It's funny the things you remember in your latter years. And the things you tend to squirrel away, like old worn-out teddy bears, movie ticket stubs, photographs, etc..

With me, I've been meaning to toss out is that old kite. Don't know why I keep it (?).

And as far as remembering stuff, well, I remember Jo was diffidently a girl.



D. Thurmond / JEF



Submitted: February 18, 2021

© Copyright 2021 D. Thurmond aka JEF. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Serge Wlodarski

The shit outta luck kites are the best ones. Good story.

Thu, February 18th, 2021 11:03am


Ditto, and thanks.

Thu, February 18th, 2021 11:59am

Serge Wlodarski

The shit outta luck kites are the best ones. Good story.

Thu, February 18th, 2021 11:03am



Thu, February 18th, 2021 12:00pm

Joe Stuart

This story brought back memories, JEF. I used to make kites out of newspaper and sticks. Sometimes they worked but more by good luck than good design. Until I read your story, I had forgotten the parachutes we made. Ours were made from a handkerchief, string and a cotton reel. We didn't launch them from kites though. We rolled them into a ball and threw them into the air, where they unfurled and floated to the ground.
And you are right about the gender difference, too. Around the middle of last century and earlier, society went out of its way to emphasise the difference between males and females.
As Bing Crosby once sang--or was it Bob Hope?--thanks for the memory.

Thu, February 18th, 2021 9:34pm


Thanks Joe, --- And you're welcome.

Thu, February 18th, 2021 2:50pm


A lovely tale of growing up, JE. Brilliant character work.

Sun, March 7th, 2021 4:00pm


Thanks very much, Hul, and have a great day.

Sun, March 7th, 2021 9:55am

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Other Content by D. Thurmond aka JEF

Short Story / Children Stories