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Before the tornado hit, the days were all the same. The mornings were slow and hot. The afternoons brimmed with dark thunderstorms that spat out pink lightning. Jai and I were not allowed outside because it was the summer of skin cancer and the hole in the ozone layer.

Every afternoon, Dallas would knock on our door and ask if she could come inside. When we said no, she would sit on our porch and tell us about her dad who lived across town in a house with a pool, how he had a Camaro, and how she was going to go live with him and have her own room.

“Camaros are stupid," said Jai, flicking tiny pebbles at her legs.

“He bought me a crimping iron, see?" said Dallas, holding up a bumpy shank of hair. “My dad says he saw a spinning cloud yesterday when it rained."

“You have boogers in your hair," said Jai.

Burnt eyelashes

“Go home, Dallas," I would shout.

She would stand there for a while. Then she would turn around and go home.


The day before the tornado hit, people called the local radio station to talk about the spinning clouds they had seen. They wanted to know why they were spinning and if something bad was going to happen.

When Dallas came, she was wearing a red raincoat even though it wasn’t raining. She had crimped all of her hair and burnt her eyelashes in the process.

“Look what I got, you guys" she said, pulling four hailstones from her pocket. They were the size of marbles and already melting into pools of dirty water.

“Let’s see," said Jai, snatching them from her palm. He frowned at them and then began throwing them, one by one, as far as he could.

“Go fetch, Dallas!" he shouted before running into the house.

“I’m telling ma," I called after him. Dallas was already across the street, pawing through the grass on her hands and knees.

“Found one!" she shouted, waving at me.

“Go home, Dallas," I shouted back. I watched her search some more and then finally head home, empty-handed.


When the tornado hit, our dad was at work and our mother was out shopping. Hailstones the size of grapefruits smashed into the backyard. Jai collected them in his T-shirt and dumped them in the freezer. Every so often, the hail would stop and everything would be clear and quiet.

It was during one of these lulls that Dallas came, carrying an umbrella and a lunch box.

“I brought cookies," she said. “Can I come in?"

“Go home, Dallas," I said. “It’s a real bad storm, you have to go home."

“I have my umbrella," she said, shaking it out. “See?"

“Go home, Dallas," said Jai before slamming the door in her face. Almost immediately, we heard the hail start again. We stood there, listening to it get louder. Finally Jai opened the door again, but she was gone.

“Dallas!" he shouted. “You idiot! Dallas!"

We called her name and tried to make out her small, thin figure somewhere in the battering shriek of the storm. We stood there until the storm pushed us back inside, soaking wet and bruised by the hail.

“She’s probably home, right?" said Jai. He was already starting to shiver.

“Yeah," I said. “She’s probably home."


When it was all over, Jai and I went to Dallas’ house, carrying one of the huge hailstones he had collected from the storm. We went back three times before her mom answered the door and said that Dallas was busy and we should come back tomorrow. A couple of days later, Dallas went to live with her dad across town and we did not see her again. We kept her hailstone in the freezer for a long time. When we finally threw it in the sink, it took a long time to melt.

To submit a prompt (a word, phrase, quote or brief idea), mail Kuzhali at or tweet it using the hashtag #kuzhalistories.

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