Here is a short story I wrote awhile back and recently updated. I’ll run it in three parts. Let me know what you think.
Pepe (part 3)
I went to bed early that night right after supper. I tossed and turned, dreaming of a crazy Latino in baggy pants, with a chipped tooth, offering me three wishes, and a large plate of rice and beans.
When I woke the next morning, I felt the same. Did I get my wish or not? I jumped out of bed and raced over to my height measurement chart that I had drawn on the wall ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Standing as tall as possible, I drew another line. I looked at the new mark and hung my head in disappointment…sixteen years old and still only a paltry four-foot ten inches tall.
I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. Nothing prepared me for the person who appeared in the mirror…a teenager in his jockey shorts looking like an elf-sized Santa Claus without a beard. I had grown alright…only out instead of up. As I watched in amazement, my outline split, flesh blurred, shimmered like a spirit, and shook like Jello in an earthquake. The two vibrating me’s went in and out of focus, until they came back together, like two cells under a microscope, joining to make a larger entity twice as big.
This pattern repeated itself several times during the next two weeks and despite hardly eating, boot camp exercises, visits to the doctor and trying all the fad diets…grapefruit, low-carb, and jellybeans…I kept gaining weight. Sometimes the shifts were violent, like David Banner turning into the Hulk, splitting out my clothes, and leaving me naked, one time much to the amusement of my coed gym class.
Freak got added to the name calling, along with balloon boy, hippo, tons-of-fun, and so forth. When I outgrew my dad’s clothes, my parents started buying stuff from the big and tall shop. After I outgrew those, Mother started making my outfits from scratch buying material in large rolls because I could change up to two sizes in a single day. Mom practically lived at the sewing machine, trying to keep up.
I quit going to school because I couldn’t fit through the front double doors. It got to the point I couldn’t walk, sleep in a bed, or live in our garage. The fire department kindly let me stay in one of their large bays, reclining on a flatbed tractor-trailer covered with mattresses. I don’t even want to talk about the problems that occurred when I had to go the bathroom.
Finally, fearing the end was near, they towed me to the baseball field and lowered me gently down…filling the entire infield, covering all the bases and home plate. Right after arriving, my stomach flip-flopped, my body shimmered, and I expanded another two inches. I could hear the ooh’s and ahh’s from the crowd that had gathered as they witnessed my latest transition. I held my breath and closed my eyes because I did not want to watch my imminent death.
A minute went by, then two. Nothing happened. I opened one eye and looked around. The onlookers had covered their ears and were slowly backing away. The TV crews and paparazzi raised their cameras in anticipation of capturing the precise moment I blew up…piranhas. I just wanted it to be over.
“Hola, Tom,” a familiar voice whispered in my ear.
A man stood beside me, cleaned shaven, sparkling smile, dressed in Armani and looking like a movie star.
My stomach gurgled. “What happened to Pele?”
He laughed. “Pele is only one of my characters. You probably know me better as Diablo.”
“I’m in trouble here. Where have you been?”
“Rooting for the bulls in Mexico City.”
“You don’t want to be big anymore?”
“What do you think?’
“Is that your second wish?”
“For goodness sakes, yes.”
He crossed his arms across his chest, blinked and nodded. “I always wanted to do that…every since I saw an episode of “I Dream of Jeannie.”
The crowd gasped as I instantaneous shrank from blimp to ant size and disappeared. Diablo knelt down on the grass. “You okay there, Tom?”
I push aside a dandelion stem and addressed the giant face above me. “You tricked me.”
“One more wish to go. Make it a good one.”
“Just put me back to the way I was when we first met.”
Diablo smiled, snapped his fingers and I returned to normal, spitting out some grass that I had almost swallowed during the transition. The crowd once again shouted their approval of the show.
“No more wishes, Tom.”
I sighed. “So, I’m right back where I started.”
“Not exactly. You signed a contract.”
“What does that mean?” I shouted at him as he disappeared in a flash of lightning, a puff of smoke, and the smell of sulfur, leaving behind only a trail of wicked laughter.”
* * *
The unusually short old man came out of the confessional at the same time as the priest.
“That’s quite a story, Tom.”
“I swear it’s true.”
“I worry about you. Are you eating properly? You look so skinny.”
Tom glanced around the church. “No matter what I eat, I can’t gain weight and everything taste like rice & beans.”
“You’re not hitting the sauce again?”
Both Tom’s hands were shaking. He grasped the end of a pew to steady himself. “No more than I need. I keep catching glimpses of him…on the street, at the store…and hearing his creepy laugh.”
“Say three Hail Mary’s and two Our Fathers and you will be fine.”
“Will that give me absolution?”
“You didn’t sign a deal with the devil. You just had a bad dream.”
“For forty years?”
“Go home, Tom, get some rest. And for goodness sakes, eat something.”
Tom, coughing up blood from the cancer racking his body, broke out in a sweat as he shuffled out of the church. He hurried down the street, his coat collar turned up against the wind and the cold. Pulling a key from his pocket, he entered the small apartment, ceiling and walls papered in pictures of Jesus and complemented with large crucifixes everywhere. He locked the door behind him, turned the three deadbolts into place and fastened the double chains.
He sat down in his easy chair and began reading the bible, as he did every night. Was it a dream? Harry died years ago in a car accident and his mother had told him no one had seen anybody out on the baseball field with him. The doctors explained his condition had been caused by a rare gland problem that somehow cured itself.
Tom put down the bible and took a swig from the nearby flask. Another series of coughs shook his whole body. He wiped the blood from his mouth with a handkerchief. It wouldn’t be long now, ten days at most, and then he would know for sure…
Copyright Richard Allan Jones 2018