Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Severe Storm Steve

by Kristie Smith-Armand, M.Ed, CTVI

Chapter One- “Meet Severe Storm Steve”

Every since I was in the second grade, I had been fascinated with learning about weather. I remember my second grade teacher inspiring young eager eight-year-olds to learn about Benjamin Franklin and how he developed the theory of electricity, invented the lightning rod and many other great inventions.

Mrs. Bennett was my teacher’s name in my second year of school at Lincoln Elementary in Dallas. She was similar to the fictional character Mrs. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus series written by Bruce Degan. Mrs. Frizzle, I mean, Mrs. Bennett would ask her class to put on raincoats in a blinding rainstorm where we would go outside and collect rain in buckets, bring the water back inside the classroom, measure the water in beakers and water the plants. We made insta-snow and turned it pink, made tornadoes form in a bottle and even made poor Marcus faint when Mrs. Bennet made a volcano explode by adding mints to a soda.

Marcus was a weird kid who never spoke, never looked at anyone, nor had an interest in anything but his food at lunch. That was until the volcano. Mrs. Bennett literally turned Marcus from a weird oddball to being our science guy and friend. He even wore a white lab coat to school on days when he was conducting experiments, and on those days, Marcus never stopped smiling.

Because of an awesome teacher like Mrs. Bennett, I was inspired, like Marcus, and became the school’s weatherman.

Living in Dallas, Texas gives me plenty of resources and material to track as far as weather is concerned. As the old saying goes in our great state, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait for a few minutes and it will change.”

I’m in the fifth grade now, a stud, the school weatherman, and an A Honor Roll student, have no vision, and did I mention I am Severe Storm Steve?

Chapter Two- “Evan”

Because I have no vision I have a vision teacher who teaches me Braille, technology and other ways of being independent named Ms. Clay.

Ms. Clay is really cool, and everybody says that we act just alike. I always remind her that this is a compliment to her. I also have an awesome orientation and mobility specialist that helps me to be awesome getting around places. Since I am the school’s weatherman it is crucial that I find my way back and forth to the library on my own.

I am not only the school’s weatherman but also a Webmaster and can outplay anyone and everyone on the piano, so being blind doesn’t bother me at all.

I was born blind and having never known anything different. So what’s so bad about being blind? Oh, I have to overcome obstacles like finding my way around, but everyone has something they have to deal with, and my life is the best. After all, I am living my dream chasing storms and creating masterpieces on the Internet.

My storm chasing friends are an eclectic group as we have three boys and two girls in the group. My girlfriend Lily is not into weather nor is she in my weather-chasing group, however, she is still pretty cool.

At exactly 8:15 every morning during the school week, I bellow, “Goood Morning, Lincoln Cubs. This is Severe Storm Steve and today’s weather is looking up with sunny skies and a high of 75 degrees. Tomorrow morning, however, you will need to have your umbrellas ready. Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow morning and will end by noon.”

While I was giving my morning spiel, my fellow storm chasers sat quietly in their own classrooms thinking about their storm chasing adventure last weekend.

Evan Bennet is the school’s sports guy who all of the girls like. Evan seems to enjoy the attention he received because of his dark good looks. He is tall, strong and looks more like he should be sitting at a high school desk rather than the one that made his large frame appear even bigger.

Evan is an interesting and peculiar friend. He is one of my best friends and the weather chasers’ closest friends but only on the weekend or after school.

Every afternoon my group huddles together in the basement of my home in the afternoons where we have all of our weather chasing equipment, computers, printers, and every one even has their own desks set up.

“Why don’t you talk to us at school?” I asked Evan one day without receiving an answer since it was during the school hours. Evan simply walked off without a word. However, that afternoon Evan apologized and told me he wasn’t feeling well at school or something stupid like that.

Evan puzzled me, but I soon found out why Evan acted the way he did. You see one day after school Evan invited me over and I have to say I was pumped about walking to the super stars house while all the kids were probably watching. “Hey Dad. I want you to meet Steve. He’s our school’s weatherman,” Evan stated as we walked into the living room where a television was blaring with constant news of sports.

I stood there and waited for a response in total silence, so I finally just spoke up, extended my hand and said loudly thinking perhaps his father had a hearing problem, “I am Steve. Nice to meet you, Sir.” There was once again silence.

“Where is Kingsley? Where are your football team friends? I don’t suspect the kid with the cane can play football,” this poor excuse for a father said.

“Why yes sir I can play. You see I am the football and the other guys throw me around and then kick me for the extra point,” I said like I was being totally serious. I cannot stand a bigot or someone who is prejudiced against others because they are different, so I didn’t think twice about telling this numero uno jerk off.

I felt someone large and strong grab me by the arm. “Hey, watch out!” I yelled.

“You watch out, Kid!” Evan’s father yelled, and then he literally grabbed my arm and tossed me out of the house.

I kept this knowledge to myself because the last thing I needed at this point was for my mother, father, or older sister to find out about me being manhandled by a large bully. I liked Evan and I was not about to lose him as a weather friend because of his jerk of a father.

Chapter Three- “The Storm Chasers”

The following Monday after school my weather friends and fellow storm chasers came over after school and we headed down toward the basement. My parents are really cool about my passion and once told me that they prefer kids coming over to their house, so they can keep an eye on them and me. ‘Whatever’ was my remark but deep down I was happy that my parents cared so much about me.

“The thunderstorm is coming this afternoon according to my radar,” Becka said from behind her computer.

Becka was one of those kids that took a while to get to know. She would much prefer to sit behind a book than to socialize with others, and Becka was brilliant. I think she would fit in better with the other kids if she didn’t wear big thick glasses that made her eyes look like dinner plates and would wear her long brown hair some other way than in small ponytails all over her head. Since I am blind and could care less about these sorts of things, I heard all of this information from another storm chaser, Kara.

Kara is a cheerleader for Evan’s football team, The Pirates, in our community. I cannot help but hear all of the ‘ooooooh’s and aahhhhhhhh’s’ every time she walks by a group of guys, so one day I asked Evan what the big deal was about Kara. He answered, “Brother, when Kara walks by this is one time you should be sad that you cannot see,” and then he patted my back and walked away.

I wanted to let Evan know that even though I cannot ‘see’ I know who the hot girls are and the ones that are not. Sighted people sometimes just don’t get it. You see, most of the so-called ‘hot’ girls think they are hot, so they dress a certain way, smell and talk in ways that girls with less confidence do. You can spot a phony person miles away.

For example, the girls that want attention really bad and do not think they are pretty get really loud and overdo everything like their perfume. There’s one girl, Haley, that screams for attention, wears waaaaay too much perfume and wears so much jewelry you would think a band of gypsies moved into town.

As I was analyzing the female mind, and by the way, my dad is constantly reminding me of the impossibility of that task, Kara’s voice took me out of my reverie and back to reality.

“Yes, the storm looks like a bad one,” Kara spoke back to Becka. “I cannot wait to get footage of this one.” While Becka was our researcher and I was the computer whiz, Kara was the Girl Friday who loved to shoot video. I mean this girl was always with a video camera in her hand.

“Just wait until it rolls in. I am going to send in my footage to Channel 8,” Kara beamed.

As I was listening to the weatherman, Kirk Meeks, on Channel 8, I heard a loud stomp and a huge sigh. Yep, Adelio had finally made it to my house.

“Where have you been?” Becka barked. “I’ve been researching this storm, and I need your strategic mind today. Did you bring the video?”

“Yep, I sure did, Boss,” Adelio teased. Adelio was the type of kid who was considered a thug. He hung out with the wrong type of kids, wore heavy chains around his neck and scared the bageebies out of everyone, except for the Weather Chasers.

So what did The Weather Chasers have in common? We had all been in Mrs. Bennet’s second grade class.

Chapter Four- “Mystery Bully”

I am what you would call a cool kid and am not the type of kid that others pick on, but someone obviously did not get the memo because I was becoming the victim of a bully, and this guy was mean.

It all started three weeks ago after I did my daily weather report with Mr. Metzler in the library. I was walking with my cane when I felt a large tennis shoe trip me, and splat I landed right in the middle of the hallway.

“Hey, what’s up with you?” I yelled. “Can’t you see the cane and don’t you know what that means?”

I heard a low whisper in my ear, “Quit giving the daily weather report or you will really know what pain feels like.”

“You don’t scare me! You are the one who better watch out!” I yelled with my angry monster voice. Silence and then….

“Who are you talking to?” Adelio asked me.

“Adelio, did you trip and then threaten me?” I asked angrily.

“Dude, first of all, I ain’t such a coward that I sneak up on someone who can’t see and then trip them. Second of all, we are tight, so why would I pick on you?

Steve, you rock. You let me know if someone is picking on you, and I’ll take care of them,” Adelio stated.

“Thanks, Friend. If you could be eyes then we can take care of them together,” I said.

The next day after the announcements right after I signed off with, “That’s the weather for today. So use your umbrella if you don’t want to get wet.”

I left the library when I was grabbed from behind, picked up and placed in a locker.

“You sicko!” I screamed. “You won’t get away with this and I will find you out soon!” I yelled to no avail.

About fifteen minutes later, I could hear the kids in the hallway and yelled and kicked. Two football players named Tim and Caleb open the locker door and said in unison, “WOW! Who would do something like this to a blind kid?”

“Blind kid?” I asked. “Who would do this to anyone? Thanks Guys. Would you keep this to yourself?” I asked. “I want to catch this creep, and I have my own way of handling a bully.”

“No problem,” Tim and Caleb agreed.

“So, you are okay?” Tim asked once more.

“I’m great! Couldn’t be better,” and then I walked back to class. What on earth was going on? How could it be that I would become the target of a bully and why? I had a plan cooking in my head. I would be lying, however, if I said that I wasn’t a little afraid because I was.

The next couple of weeks, the bully simply vanished, but would return again soon. ,

Chapter Five- “Storm Chasing”

The thunderstorm that the Storm Chasers were waiting did not happen for many weeks. We had the usual casual thunderstorm, but the one that was suppose to be a whopper turned into only a few showers. However, today was different.

After school, the chasers came over and down into the basement we climbed. “Hurry, Guys. The storm is quickly approaching,” Becka yelled.

“I’ve got my video ready, but let me check it one more time,” Kara shouted.

We get so pumped and excited. The adrenaline rush is always awesome when big weather happens. We record all types of weather video taped, take pictures and analyze all types of weather, watch the weather, radars and gather data.

“It’s coming this way,” Adelio shouted.

I opened the window in the basement and smelled the strong scent that a storm was quickly approaching.

“Guys, let’s grab our gear and go!” I barked. “No time to waste. It’s coming soon. I can feel and smell it!”

No one argued with me because my sense of smell was more accurate than the radars from the Internet.

The five of us ran like lightening, no pun intended. Once outside we jumped on our bikes and took off. Since I am blind, Adelio and I ride together on a bike that my dad purchased online. It’s similar to a bicycle built for two but way cooler.

We carried our gear in plastic bags, so that the rain would not harm it and made it to a baseball field before the thunderstorm did its worst.

“Run into the restroom,” Becka hollered. “We can unwrap our equipment in there.”

“Which restroom,” Evan hollered back.

“What does it matter?” Becka screamed. Point taken, we ran into the bathroom on the right.

Typically, during our chasing adventures I leave my cane behind and use a technique called ‘sighted guide’. Sighted guide is when a person who cannot see holds on to the back of the sighted person’s elbow and allows them to guide the blind kid, and in this case that blind kid is me.

“Kara, can you video tape now?” I asked.

“Yes, everyone let’s go!” Kara commanded, so we took off into the thunderstorm.

It was thundering, not lightning, and I was so pumped. Even though we loved excitement, we were typically not dumb kids. For example, we knew safe weather procedures like not standing under a tree during a thunderstorm or to stand out in an open area during an electrical storm and if it ever started lightning, we would run like crazy inside a safe area, and for today, we had the restrooms: boys or girls, it didn’t really matter.

“Awesome picture!” I heard Adelio shout. I could also hear the snap, snap, snap taking of pictures.

“I got excellent video footage,” Kara squealed.

“Fill the pail, so I can analyze the rainwater,” Evan yelled.

The lightning began, so we ran inside of the restroom and waited for safety to return before we rode our bikes back to my house and hurried down to the basement.

“Awesome!!!!” Evan kept saying over and over again. I mean I get pumped about the weather, but Evan goes ballistic over excitement like this.

“Dude, I agree totally!” Adelio said and began high-fiving everyone. When he got to me he said, “Steve, I’m showing the real man, you, a new high-five handshake.”

Adelio taught me our next handshake. I was feeling so good I could have floated out of the room.

“Kara, let’s take a look at the footage,” Becka said.

“Here it is. I think I have some really great shots,” Kara beamed. They watched and I listened to the sounds of the pelting of the hard rain, trees blowing wildly and the sound of a fierce wind.

After we recorded our data, I heard my mom coming down the stairs. “Okay, Storm Chasers, I hope you were being extra careful and did not stay outside when it was lightning,” Mom said.

“Mom, we know more about weather safety than most adults,” I said sounding defensive.

“Oh, I know that or I wouldn’t let you leave from my house and be outside in this type of weather. Anyway, I made some fresh hot chocolate chip cookies for everyone and milk to go along with it.”

“Thank you, Mrs. D.,” Adelio said. He was the one out of all of my friends who seemed to appreciate anything anyone did for him. He really seemed to like my mom, and that was cool with me.

After the weather chasing excitement today, I struggled falling asleep. Something kept bothering me in the back of my mind, and then I remembered. There was someone at my school who was out to get me.

Chapter Six- “My Mighty Sword”

Even though I liked Evan a lot, it was still so weird to bump into him or hear him walking with other friends in the lunchroom, outside at PE or other times during the day and totally ignore the rest of us.

Even though Adelio didn’t hang with me during the day he was always polite and spoke to me in the hallway. At first I thought this was because I was blind, but then I heard Becka and then even Kara complaining about Evan ignoring them, too.

As I was walking back from doing the daily weather, I heard Evan in the background, and once again he ignored me. However, after a few seconds, someone else was not ignoring me. The bully was back and with vengeance this time.

Someone grabbed me and threw me down to the ground. Unfortunately, for me, when I left the library there was a long dark hall that lead to the gym that teachers never ventured down. They just walked their students to the gym before their PE time, and ran away for their free period like the place was on fire.

“I told you to quit, Storm! You’re not only blind but must be slow in the mind,” the bully continued.

For some reason during this attack, I was not going to just lie there and be helpless. An image flashed through my brain of me being an adult, on the street corner, ringing a bell and selling pencils for money, and then I got really angry.

“Hey, Tough Guy,” I yelled when I got up from the floor. He said nothing but grabbed me again, however, before he had the chance I used my secret weapon, the cane. WHACK! WHACK! WHACK! I was going crazy defending myself with the cane. I would never tell my orientation and mobility specialist, Ms. Hall, this, however.

I heard an ‘owww’, ‘watch it, Crazy Kid’, and another ouch.

“You don’t know crazy I can be!” I yelled and began swinging my cane like Robin Hood in his last crusade.

The next thing I realized was that the bully was finally gone…at least for now. What bothered me the most was that other than a certain cologne smell, I had no idea who this guy was. I was hoping like crazy in the pit of my stomach that it was not one of The Storm Chasers.

I went back to my classroom, hung up my cane, sat down and listened to my teacher, Ms. Morrell talk about descriptive words on the dry erase board.

“Hey, Ms. Morrell,” I wanted to shout. “How about using these nouns to describe: jerk and bully. Let’s use our adjectives,” I thought sarcastically. “Big, loud, and stinky. What about some verbs: hit, cry, scared, run like the wind, etc, etc, etc?” Fortunately, I have a filtering device in my brain that won’t allow me to act like a complete idiot.

The bell rang and it was finally time for lunch although I did not have much an appetite after getting assaulted in the hallway once again. I needed help, and I knew whom I could turn to without feeling like a total baby.

“Hey, what is up?” Adelio asked me as he approached the lunch table.

“Nothing my man. Well, except that bully you heard about the other day, is at it again. I don’t want to tell my parents like some first grader might, so I really am stumped. I can’t let this creep keep using me as a punching bag either. He is such a jerk.”

“How do you know that it is a ‘he’?” Adelio asked.

“Well, if it’s a girl, not only will my body be bruised but my ego as well. I keep smelling cologne that I know I would recognize.”

“Hey Guys.” It was a kid in our class named Jason, and I smelled the cologne.

“Jason,” I began. “Dude, you are way too nice of a guy to attack a blind kid from behind. What is up with you?”

“It’s Jason?” Adelio asked. “Man, you better speak up fast and explain,” Adelio said.

“What are you two nuts talking about?” Jason asked. “You’re wearing cologne or aftershave that smells just like a bully that’s been grabbing me from behind and making me lick the hallways after the announcements,” I explained.

“Steve, I am wearing drug store bought cologne that everyone is wearing. Have you been in the locker room? I’ll take you there this afternoon. Man, Dude, that’s what everyone is wearing now, even some of the girls. I would never attack you because I don’t hit or terrorize my friends,” Jason demanded.

Oh, man. I thought. Now, I did not have a clue as to who the bully might be.

After lunch that goofy Marcus kid walked by me in his crisp white lab coat. I could always smell the dry cleaners when he wore his lab coat on his day to shine as the science man.

Every teacher loved how Marcus was becoming a well-liked kid and how much his self-esteem had been boosted, so every year he some how ended up in my class as the science guy.

Could Marcus be the bully who wanted my place as the school weatherman?

Chapter Seven- “The Braille Letter Mystery”

Ms. Clay and I work in a great room that our principal, Mr. Richards lets us use. We have all my equipment like the embosser, the printer, the laptop, a desktop, paper, books and whatever else we may need.

I usually meet Ms. Clay in the Braille room around 1:10 right after lunch. As I was making my way down to the room, she whizzed by me and said, “Steven, I have to make a quick phone call from the office. I’ll be right there in a few minutes. “ I told her that there was no hurry and I would just work on my Talking Typer program until she returned.

As I was sitting there in the room alone, my fingers stumbled upon a sheet of Braille paper that was covered in sticky Braille letters that formed a threatening letter.

Whoever left the note used Ms. Clay’s prebraille letters from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) and wrote a hateful message. It simply said in sticky Braille, “Watch your back. Oh, no, that’s right, you can’t.”

After my fingers read the message, I was starting to get angry. However, I didn’t have much time for anger because fear was about to overtake me. A hand grabbed the note out of my hand and stuffed it into my mouth. I was yelling, kicking and trying to get help and then the bully vanished once again.

Soon afterward Ms. Clay walked into the room and asked, “Steve, are you okay? You look like something’s wrong?” Wonder where she got that idea? My hair was messed up and I had a look of horror on my face, but I did not want to involve any grown-up in my predicament, so I told her that I was struggling with math and decided to stop thinking about how much it was getting to me- wrong thing to say.

For the next hour, Ms. Clay worked with me on division until my fingers bled from reading the math form of Braille, Nemeth code.

I told Adelio about the next attack, and he came up with a plan.

“I got an idea, Steve. I am going to ask Mrs. Morrell if I can go with you and help out with technical assistance or something like that, and then hide when you’re walking down the hallway and grab that creep,” Adelio yelled.

“Well, the only problem with that one is that I am pretty awesome with technology, so I am not so sure how that will fly with Mrs. Morrell.

Chapter Eight- “Auntie Em, Auntie Em”

"Hey Steve. Can we meet after school at your house today?” Evan asked me in the hallway. I think I was more in shock over Evan speaking to me at school than I was over the excitement of a tornado. I kept thinking about one of my favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz and how Dorothy would yell, “Auntie Em, Auntie Em” when the tornado was blowing through and destroying their farm.

"Sure. I’ll tell everyone,” I spoke quickly, so Evan could keep up his image of being a super stud.

After I told the gang everyone was so pumped, excited and raced to my house right after the last bell. We were booting up our computer when my mom ruined the party.

“Steve and the rest of you listen up. I know you love to analyze the weather and are passionate about it, but under no circumstances will I allow you all to go out and track a tornado. I know what you are thinking. You will be careful and just record the damage if there really is going to be a tornado. However, we are going to stay here until the warning is over,” Mom barked.

“But Mom, we know what we are doing because we are experts.”

“No buts!” Mom yelled this time. “It’s turning an eerie green outside which could mean a thunderstorm, however it is getting really still and humid outside. I am telling all of you, to stay in or you will all face consequences.” Mom then stomped back upstairs without another word.

“Now what are we going to do?” Becka asked.

“I’m going out,” I said boldly and stupidly.

I mean I wasn’t going to let a tornado go by without me being able to investigate, and something big was blowing through.

“I’m looking out the window, Storm, and I see clouds moving quickly and the sky is turning a dark green now,” Evan shouted over the loud thunderous sound that was booming loudly in the sky.

“I’m going with you, Storm,” Kara shouted.

“Are you guys, crazy?” Becka asked. “It’s too dangerous to go out into a tornado. You will die! We love weather tracking but not when it may take our lives.”

“Becka’s right. Everyone stays here,” Adelio said sounding like the one in charge.

“I’m out of here,” I yelled. I grabbed my cane, my recording device and opened up the latch that led from the basement to outside.

“I’m right behind you, Steve,” Kara yelled. “I have my video cam and am ready!”

“Okay, I’m with you guys, too,” Adelio said.

“Let’s go, Kara and Adelio,” I shouted over the fiery blowing wind.

It was tough getting the latch to open because of the strong wind and when we were outside the basement, debris began flying around and hitting us.

“I am getting footage,” Kara shouted as we ran to an old barn a few yards away from my house. “Storm, the clouds are funneling quickly. Hurry, let’s get shelter.”

I felt the strong wind stronger than I have ever felt in my life.

“Kara, Storm, hurry, run!” Adelio shouted. “I see the tornado!” I don’t know what happened next because a large tree branch knocked me out. The tornado was beating us. I woke up and heard the sound of Evan’s dad's voice.

Chapter Nine- “Meet the Police Chief”

I have to admit I was more frightened of Evan’s dad than I was the tornado.

“What’s wrong with you, Steve?” Evan’s dad, Chief Harper said sternly.

“Are you a policeman?” I asked and then added, “Where am I?”

“You are in the emergency room, Storm. I was able to get Kara and Adelio back inside the basement safely, however, when I returned to get you, the winds from the tornado had blown you miles from the barn. You ended up caught up in branches from a fallen tree. Thank goodness.”

I felt the stings from a million scratches, could smell the medication on my body and felt really funny in the head.

“Steve, I owe you an apology. I acted horrible the day you came over. You see Evan does not want to do sports anymore. I kept thinking if he hung out with more athletic guys he would enjoy the events like I did and do. You are a brave kid, but we are all still upset with you,” Chief Harper scolded.

“Your parents are outside the room and are very worried about you.”

I heard my mom and dad come inside the room, and then felt both of them carefully hug me.

“Steve passion is one thing, stupidity is something else,” my dad said sternly.

“I get it,” I said.

“Well, you are grounded for a month to make sure you really get it!” Dad spoke loudly.

The next day Mom and Dad took me home wiser from the tornado experience, and with a new friend, Chief Harper.

Chapter Nine- “Welcome to the Club”

The following Monday, after my brief stay in the hospital, Evan walked up to me at school. Really, during the school day.

“Hey Storm. My dad thinks you are one of the coolest kids ever. He is finally getting off my back about football and sports and agrees that I can pursue my passion for science. He even thinks I might become some hotshot doctor one day.”

“Awesome, Evan. Evan, your dad is really cool, and I think I want to hang out with him,” I teased.

“One step at a time,” Evan joked.

That day and the following days after, Evan ate lunch with us- the weather geeks and loved every minute of it even when Tim, the football star, made fun of him.

“Hey Science Guy,” Tim teased. “Want me to buy you a lab coat like Marcus?”

I have to give Evan credit because he did not cave in at all. He simply said, “Sure, Tim. I wear a size medium.”

I laughed aloud and high-fived Evan as did Adelio. Even though I learned so much about tornados from my experience, I knew how to be safer next time. However, Kara got some amazing video and let me listen to it afterschool in my basement the following week.

“Okay, Storm Chasers, a huge hailstorm is coming this afternoon. Let’s go to the park, bring the containers and beakers. We need to get going before we miss it!” Becka said.

“Hey, I’m enjoying hearing this, but I need to find out a little more about how hail forms and what conditions cause them to become icy,” asked my girlfriend, Lily at the lunch table.

So I began, “Hail forms when tiny clumps of ice are held upwardly by strong up draughts, get blown through freezing thunderclouds until they are heavy enough to fall to earth. Most large thunderstorms create some hail, but conditions must be met if the hailstones are to grow large, freeze solid, and survive until they reach the ground. Ideal conditions for hail are tall clouds that reach high into the atmosphere, many swirling updrafts such as in a tornado, and cold temperatures within and beneath the storm.”

“Cool,” Lily said. “Well, Storm, I’ve got to go back to class, so call me later and let me know about the hailstorm today.”

Lily walked away and I felt my heart go, ‘bbboooooommmmmmm, boooooooooommmmmm, boooooooommmmmmmm”.

Chapter Ten- “I’m Just Hanging Around’

Well, I made friends with Chief Harper, Evan’s dad and was even becoming closer to Evan. However, that did not stop the bully from coming back again and again.

I decided one day after doing the announcements that I would take a different approach to being safe, so I asked Mrs. Morrell if Adelio could start walking with me to and from the announcements.

“Okay, Steve, I know what you two are up to, and the answer is no. Case closed!”

Great… That’s just great. After my morning weather report about the upcoming hailstorm coming this afternoon I walked and could feel a presence behind me, so I began swinging my cane wildly and hit somebody on the head. I know it hurt because I heard a low, “ouch”, and then I felt my feet being lifted off the ground and placed again inside of a locker.

I kicked and kicked loudly until I heard Adelio open the locker.

"Man, I told Mrs. Morrell I had to go to the restroom. It’s a good thing I did, too. We have to find out who is doing this to you. I’m still thinking, Storm, and I know we’ll get this bully soon.”

“You bet we will, Partner,” I said boldly, and I meant it. I was not going to allow someone to push me around. I just needed strategy and a rock solid plan.

That afternoon, Adelio, Evan, Becka and Kara came over with everything that we needed for tracking the hailstorm.

“Hey Storm. You guys have to come over and see my new lab my dad ordered for me from some great science guy named Steve Spangler. It is the coolest,” Evan beamed.

Ever since the tornado incident Evan was the coolest guy ever to hang out and on the weekends I hung out with him and Chief Harper. The chief was really a great guy once he learned to embrace Evan’s own passions.

“Let’s go, everyone,” Becka yelled. “The sky is turning green. Let’s head out to the ballpark.”

We jumped on our bikes and headed to the park with our beakers, video cam, and cameras and waited under the awning.

The hail came down hard pelting the roof that was protecting us and it was falling hard and large. Kara and Becka were recording, Adelio was gathering different forms of the hail, Evan was taking pictures, and I was talking into my recorder and taping the loud sounds of the hail. It was amazing!

When we got back to the basement, Evan told us that one of the football players was interested in coming over.

“Which one?” I asked. “Tim,” Evan answered.

“Absolutely not!” Becka barked. “There is something up with that guy. I do not trust him at all. He’ll come over and start making fun of us or something like that.”

“No way,” I answered. “Tim is cool.” I didn’t want to go into how he helped me out a locker one day.

“I agree with Becka,” Kara answered. “Call it women’s intuition or whatever you want, but I say no, too.”

“I’m with the girls,” Adelio said. “He tries to be friendly and all of that until the other football players are around. Besides, he is too cool for school most days, or so he thinks.”

The next day was science experiment day and Marcus was happy as a pig in a pin. I could tell how happy Marcus felt because I could always hear him whistling down the hall on Thursday science experiment day. His white lab coat smelled like the dry cleaners again and had on waaaaay too much cologne.

“Hey Marcus,” I said as he walked passed me. I knew it was safe to speak to him on Thursdays because of how happy he was on this particular day of the week.

“Hey Storm,” was all he said, but that was enough for me. I have to hand it to Marcus, however, because he was really doing well teaching us science experiments.

Our teacher, Ms. Morrell always made up do an interactive notebook when it was time for science. We would illustrate the pictures on one side and then write details on the other. Since I used a note taker or a laptop, I simply keyboarded details and printed them off in class. Mrs. Morrell would cut the information into a square and allow me to glue the words in on the right side of the notebook. On the left side, for left- brain thinking, I used wikki sticks and created my own picture.

“Okay, class, everyone settle down,” Marcus, the science guy yelled. We laughed at Marcus when he tried to be the big man on campus during the science experiments, but Ms. Morrell gave him the floor, so what else could we do but get quiet and listen. If the truth be known, all the kids really enjoyed Marcus’ experiments if he just wasn’t so weird and kinda creepy.

“Look what happens when I place baking soda down inside of small balloon. I will then place the balloon over a small bottle of vinegar and watch what happens. Storm, I will describe to you what is taking place,” Marcus said.

Not many people thought to do this, so Marcus wasn’t such a bad kid after all. I could hear the balloon making a hissing sound and then Marcus described how the vinegar and baking soda caused a chemical reaction to blow the balloon up.

He walked it over to me and allowed me to feel of the blown up balloon. It was awesome!

“Cool, Marcus!” I said, and then he whispered under his breath into my ear, “I know who is picking on you, and I will help you to make them stop, but first, you have to let me become a Storm Chaser with you and your friends.”

He left me speechless.

Chapter Eleven- “Psycho Circus”

I have always been one of the bravest kids I know- besides Adelio. I mean I can handle bullies, walk with my cane to an intersection and face just about anything. Well, at least until Halloween. Last week was pretty much a disaster for me.

It all began when Evan and Adelio came to the basement for our regular afternoon storm meeting. Adelio told us all about a new cool haunted house called Psycho Circus.

I was pretty pumped about it even though Kara was a little creeped out, but not Becka.

Becka’s voice became very excited and she yelled, “When can we go? I’m ready, and I am going to dress up like a witch.”

“Dress up like one?” Adelio teased.

“Oh, be quiet,” Becka laughed.

So, last week I dressed like Darth Vader from Star Wars, Adelio went as a criminal (surprise, surprise), Evan was a pirate, Kara went as a famous movie star and Becka, a witch, as she promised.

The night started out really fun because even though we were getting older, we continued to get great candy from our neighborhood. I hung on to Adelio, and the two of us led the way.

One house in particular was way cool because it had scary noises and sounds coming from a speaker and smelled like smoke.

“Storm, this is so cool,” Evan beamed. “There are all types of fake dead people hanging from the trees. Awesome!”

We walked through the house and stuck our hands into all kinds of junk. I’m use to not always knowing what my hands are getting into, but the sighted scaredy cats were freaking out.

“This is soooo fun!” I yelled.

However, next was the scariest house of them all- a house someone named Psycho Circus, and they weren’t kidding.

We waited in a long line with our candy and finally it was our turn to go inside. Fake ghosts and ghouls jumped out at us and screamed their heads off. We walked over a moving floor and then landed on a large soft mattress. I was cracking up and turned to grab Adelio’s arm, however, his arm felt different. I froze and realized that the person who now had a hold of me was not Adelio, Evan, Becka or Kara… it was the bully!

I tried to scream for help, but it was of no use. The bully ushered me outside of the house, grabbed my cape and tied me up to a tree.

The creep then took a candy bar from my bag and stuffed it wrapper and all in my mouth. He took my bag of candy and left me tied up to a tree.

I was tied up a good hour before someone finally heard me. I spit out the candy bar and began yelling for help.

Thank goodness for Tim and Caleb from school. “Storm, are you okay?” Tim asked.

“Yeah, some creep tied me up and stole my candy,” I gasped. “Caleb, I’m going to go and find this crazy person. You stay here and make sure Storm is okay, and Storm, please take my bag of candy.”

“No thanks, Tim, but that is really cool of you to offer.”

Finally, the other storm chasers came up out of breath.

“Oh, my gosh!” Kara yelled. “What happened to you? Your bag is gone and you have rope marks all over you.”

“It’s okay, Kara,” I said trying to sound brave but was shaking in my boots.

“No, it isn’t,” Adelio said. “I’m finding this bully if it’s the last thing I ever do.”

When I got home, my mom was yelling in the background, “Steven, how was Trick-or-Treating? Where’s your candy?” she asked.

“Oh, well, I gave it to some poor kids who were digging from the trashcan,” I lied.

“Hmmmmm,” was all my mom said.

Chapter Twelve- “Stormin’ Steve’s Meltdown”

As I have said numerous times, I am not a wimp. However, this bully was getting to me this school year, but I would not allow him to defeat me.

Finally it was November and everyone was getting ready for colder weather. In Texas you have to wait until November to even feel a cool breeze, so we usually whip out the jackets the minute the temperature drops below 60 degrees.

I did my morning announcements today, and to my surprise I was not attacked. I wondered if this guy was absent today.

“Hey Storm,” Evan said to me after I hung up my cane.

“Yo, Evan! What’s up?” I asked.

“Hey, I invited Tim over today to hang out. Is that okay?” Evan asked.

“Sure. No problem with me, but you better tell the others because for some reason they weren’t too excited about him joining our group.”

That afternoon after school, everyone came over and began to load their computers with current weather information.

“Hey Storm, can I watch what you do?” Tim asked.

“Sure, Tim. Come over here, and I’ll show you how my JAWS voice output system works.”

When JAWS began reading the weather, Tim was in awe.

“Storm, man, you have to teach me how you do that,” Tim smiled.

I heard Becka mumble something under her breath and it wasn’t flattering to Tim.

Tim left a few minutes before everyone else. “So long, Storm, and Weather Chasers. I’ll see you tomorrow,” Tim said cheerfully.

“See you tomorrow,” Evan and I echoed.

“You guys are crazy for allowing him into our club,” Kara said.

“Why? What’s up with you and Tim?” I asked.

“ Becka and I just have a feeling that something is not right with him. He’s too nice, too funny, too perfect,” Kara spoke.

“Whatever,” I said back. However, after the other kids left, Adelio walked up to me and said, “The girls are right,” and then he walked out the door.

Something weird was going on the following day. It was only November but the weather had turned blistering cold over night.

I walked up to the front of the school after my mom dropped me off and heard and felt snowballs being thrown. Snowballs?

“What is going on?” I asked Evan after hearing him shout for me to come toward his voice.

“Steve this is so cool. It just started snowing a few seconds ago, and it hasn’t stopped,” Evan laughed.

“Hey, Steve, look this way,” teased Kara, and when I did she pounded me with a snowball while videotaping the scene. I laughed and gathered the snow, rolled it into a ball and threw it back. However, I did not have any idea where Kara was at this point, so I threw it straight ahead of me, heard a whisper in my ear, and then I felt sick to my stomach- the bully had returned.

“Storm, I made it snow,” the weirdo said. “I found out if I banged on your Braille Writer three times, I could have any wish I wanted, and my wish is for you to be buried under the snow. So after I banged on the Braille Writer, I said, ‘Let it snow.”

The bully laughed his evil laugh and laughed some more. I was petrified… I was scared…. And then I felt the snowballs hitting me one after another and after another. Finally, Adelio ran up grabbed me and pulled me into the cafeteria.

“Wow, thanks, friend,” I said.

“No problem,” the voice said not belonging to Adelio but to the bully replied. “Storm, from now on everything you touch will turn to snow. I banged on your Braille Writer again and made my wish.”

“You’re crazy,” I hollered as he disappeared. My throat was dry, so I grabbed a cup of water from the cafeteria lady.

“Thank you,” I said, and I began to drink.

What happened next was unbelievable. When I began drinking my water, it turned into snow just like the bully said. Everything I touched was turning into snow. I ran to get a lunch plate, and when I began to eat, it turned into snow and kept snowing until the cafeteria was filling up with snow.

“Help me,” I screamed as I was being covered up by blankets of white.

“Storm, Storm, are you okay?” I heard my mom shout.

“Yes, Mom,” I yelled sounding like a little kid but so thankful for her help.

“Well, go back to sleep because you woke up the entire house.

Chapter Thirteen- “Steve’s Idea”

After my crazy dream, I came up with an idea for Thanksgiving that I hoped my family would agree to. I wanted to do something special for the weather chasers, so I asked my dad and mom if I could purchase a snow machine that would spray out snow all over the lawn. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be, so I was pumped to present this idea to them.

“Well, Steve. Let’s think about it,” mom said.

“What’s to think about?” Dad answered. “I think it sounds great!”

“Okay, guys if that’s what you want. Steven, your sister, Libby, can also have a friend to come over.”

“Sure, Mom!” I said. I was so pumped and could not wait to plan the whole afternoon before the actual Thanksgiving Holidays even though I had to wait a few weeks.

That afternoon Lily came over. I told her how excited I was about the snow and that she could come, too.

“No, thanks, Steve. You guys have fun,” Lily stated.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. Lily was a lot taller than I was and seemed to have grown even more since last summer, so her voice was sounding really high up in the air.

“Nothing, really, Steve. I gotta go. See you around.”

See me around? The thought ran through my head that I was getting dumped. Oh, well, I thought. She’s getting too tall for me anyway.

Chapter Fourteen- “Winter Wonderland Turkey”

The snow machine idea was even better than I thought it would be. Some guy came out and began literally pumping snow into our backyard. It went from being dried up and brown to snow white and fluffy- that’s at least what my mom told me. The gang came over as did Libby’s friend, and we had the most incredible time ever. We threw snowballs, made a snowman, and later on, my mom made us snow ice cream. Have you ever had one of those days when everything is going your way? Well, today was that day, and I was having the time of my life.

Kara filmed the entire afternoon, while Becka snapped away with her high-tech camera, Adelio was the snowball thrower of the year, and Evan and I made a tall scary snowman we named Dr. Evil. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

After we played in the cold homemade snow for four hours, we were exhausted, so we took a break and went back inside. Mom brought us hot cocoa and warm chocolate chip cookies while we rested for a few minutes.

“Storm, I have never had so much fun,” Kara told me. “Libby and Elizabeth are having an awesome time, too.”

“Yes we are,” Libby said loudly. “Best day of my life.”

“Second that motion,” Becka said.

“Third and fourth that motion,” Evan chuckled.

We had another surprise waiting on us after we rested and spent another two hours playing. “Come and get it,” my dad hollered.

“Come and get what?” I asked.

“You’ll find out!” he answered with cheer in his voice.

The Storm Chasers and I walked into the dining area and were served turkey and dressing, hot apple pie and ice, cold tea. Even in the cold months, Texans love their tea cold.

We were a little sad when our fun evening was over. After everyone left, I was watching television. Yes, someone who is blind watches television, but we use our ears instead when I heard what I thought was Libby outside still in the snow. I was worried because it sounded like she needed help, so I put on my slippers and raced outside. Bad mistake!

Once outside I was tackled from behind and began unintentionally eating the snow.

“Eat more snow,” the bully laughed as I gagged.

I fought hard but was quickly covered with snow. I still did not understand how quickly the bully was able to cover me up so quickly.

I was freezing, wet and was trying desperately to get out of the snow when Becka reached down and pulled me out of the snow.

“Storm, oh my gosh! I am so glad that I accidentally left my hat out in the snow, or this situation could have been bad,” Becka replied.

“Becka, did you see anyone when you came up to the house?” I asked.

“No, Storm, but I could hear a lot of commotion.

Chapter Fifteen- “Marcus”

The following Monday Marcus walked up to me in the hallway.

“Hey Storm,” Marcus uttered with a huge lisp. “I have an experiment that will identify the bully,” Marcus said proudly.

“I thought you said you knew who the bully was,” I said.

“I was wrong. Your vision teacher did not really do it. She’s been cleared.”

I decided to humor this weird kid, so I said, “Sure Marcus. Help me out and you can join the Weather Chasers.”

“Awesome,” he beamed.

“So what is this great invention?” I asked.

“It’s a formula I learned from the science channel. I’m going to spread this sticky formula all over your coat. After you do the announcements, keep your coat buttoned. When the bully attacks, his hands will turn a dark red color, so everyone will know who he is,” Marcus said spitting every two seconds.

“Marcus, if you can positively find out who it is, then I’ll make you a regular member of the Storm Chasers,” I said.

“You won’t regret this, Steve.”

I was hoping that Marcus was correct. After I hung up my cane, Evan walked up to me. “Hey Steve. Why are talking to that weird kid, Marcus?” he asked.

“Well, he may not be as weird as we think. I am considering him for the group, but before you say anything, I want you to know that he could be the mastermind of our group doing some amazing things,” I stated.

“Okay, if you say so,” Evan said not sounding convincingly.

Mrs. Morrell began teaching while I had my laptop out and was keyboarding away when I heard Lily.

“Pssst. Psssst. Storm. Give me the answers to these problems. I get so confused,” she said.

“Lily, you need to attend tutoring like the rest of us do when we can’t understand something,” I said a bit annoyed.

“ Whatever, Storm. You and your weather chasers are a bunch of geeks.” “Keep telling yourself that,” I laughed.

“Steven. Do you have something to say?” asked Ms. Morrell.

“No, Ms. Morrell. Sorry, I am just mumbling to myself,” I answered.

I was beginning to think Marcus wasn’t so bad after all.

Chapter Sixteen- “Caught Red-Handed”

The following week was typical except for the fact that the bully was leaving me alone for a few days anyway. I guess I had spoke too soon because another attack was coming. The good news was that my coat was ready to identify him to the entire school. Marcus was actually a brilliant kid.

I did my morning spiel about the weather, grabbed my cane and told Mr. Metzler good-by.

As I was walking down the hall, I heard footsteps from behind, and then I heard another set of footsteps.

“What was going on?” I wondered.

“Hey Storm,” the bully said in my ear. “Want to go hang out?”

Thankfully, he grabbed my coat and we would have fingerprints. For the first time, I sensed someone else was with him.

The other person grabbed my other arm, and I was hoisted into the locker. However, I was wearing a grin on my face for the first time.

“You have nothing to grin about,” the voice whispered, and then I heard him say to someone else, “Let’s get out of here.”

The locker door opened once more, and to my surprise it was Marcus who hoisted me out, and said happily, “Steve, we got ‘em.”

Chapter Seventeen- “Case Closed”

I walked into the classroom and could hear laughter.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Steven,” Kara laughed.

“You should see Tim and Lily’s hands. They look like they have been throwing tomatoes,” Kara said.

“Hey Red People,” Kelsey, a girl from our class, teased.

Tim and Lily? Why would they do that to me? I can’t believe my own ex-girlfriend and the guy that kept rescuing me did it all! Just then, the door to the classroom opened and I heard the vice principal, Mr. Richards said, “Lily and Tim, you need to come with me, and by the way, I love the red matching hands. You’ve been caught red-handed.

Chapter Eighteen- “Why?”

Weeks later after Tim and Lily returned from suspension, Tim walked up to me and actually apologized.

“Storm. To tell you the truth, I want to be a weather chaser, too, but my dad, like Evan’s dad, wanted me to play football. He called me a wimp when I wanted to join the band. You had everything I wanted. Lily got mad because you never really asked her to join the club. You said that she could come by afterschool but never participate in the club. We wanted revenge,” Tim confessed.

“I don’t know what to say,” I answered. “You made my life miserable. All you had to do was to ask to be in the club, be a genuine good guy. By the way, I want every piece of my Halloween candy back to me by Friday,” I demanded.

I smiled and called Tim’s name again, “Hey, Tim. It’s really okay. We all make mistakes, so let’s shake on it, and I’ll let you come by after school. Hey, I still want my candy.”

Tim laughed, patted my back, and this time his hand remained white.

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