SPRING'61 is ushered into Grandview with a freakish death at the hands of sweet, ten-year-old Jamie Brown. Flying her kite in old Mrs. Carlton's yard, Jamie's kite suddenly fishtails out of control, striking Mrs. Carlton's beloved cat on the head, killing it instantly. Panicked, Jamie stuffs the lifeless body into a nearby trashcan, keeping mum the cat's fate from Mrs. Carlton. Jamie Brown will carry this burdening guilt to her sooner-than-later grave.
Grandview is a homogenous, conservative, white-bread community. The community and the fifth grade class of Grandview Elementary School (tragic Jamie Brown; spritely Piper Smith; Lance Clark, the bully; Oren Martin, our hero; Dickie Rogers, the sole black kid; and Helen Dixon, our pretty heroine), are kept in check by an ever-present Narrator. The off-camera Narrator's voice enforces Grandview's socially and financially-oriented status quo—a voice reminiscent of the booming, authoritative narrators of classroom education films of the '40s and '50s.
As "normal" as Grandview appears on the surface, it becomes apparent that strange occurrences are commonplace. Piper's hands slowly and mysteriously shrink until they become so tiny she can wear her doll's gloves, forcing her parents to have her fitted with steel prosthetic hooks. When Jamie announces her June wedding to Lance, Oren promises his love, Helen, that they too will someday be wed. And when Dicky Rogers wins the 50-yard dash, the racist Narrator calmly announces Lance as the winner.
Unable to bring herself to fly a kite again, Jamie skips the class kite-flying trip. To insure her escape from the truant officer, she submerges herself in the River, breathing through a make-shift breathing pipe. Caught up in the river's current, she drowns, leaving Lance brideless. At Jamie's funeral, Lance and his parents decide upon another bride—Helen—who is Oren's true love. Helen vows that she will never love Lance, but she becomes trapped by her parents' wishes (and the Narrator's) for a financially and socially rewarding partnership with Lance's family. Oren is crushed. Inspired by a local myth, he valiantly tries to stop the wedding by reversing the local river. This dangerous endeavor succeeds in temporarily releasing Helen from the narrator's "power" and the young lovers are reunited. And life continues in Grandview in much the same way as before, but with a glimpse of hope.
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