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Some might say that 14-year-old Brandon Williams is an over-privileged white kid. He lives in a million-dollar house overlooking the ocean in Santa Cruz, California, gets a weekly allowance equal to the take-home pay of many service industry workers, and has gone to a private, all-white school from Kindergarten through eighth grade. Health-nazis would call him “overweight," but Brandon is only slightly chubby, and handsome by American Caucasian standards, though his looks are nothing special in a sunny, seaside environment of blond and blue-eyed surfer dudes.
Brandon should be happy -- or at least think he is -- but he’s not. Like many young teens he’s sure there must be a better world somewhere, a "there" that's better than "here." and he's tried to find it in fantasy games, and has even created a website world with his best friend, 12-year-old Tommy Turner, a cheerful fat boy who lives next door. He's also tried to dull his angst in various chemical ways, and has wasted a year of his youth staying high.
Brandon hopes to be a writer and use pen and PC to right wrongs in the world. Being who he is and living where he does, he’s never experienced discrimination or hate based on appearance or race. Despite the protests of his liberal-minded and loving, but career-oriented and somewhat distant parents, Brandon decides to attend public high school. He isn’t completely naive, thanks to his older brother, Chad, who also attends public high school and is now a senior; but Brandon’s first day is a reality-check as he discovers what public education in the U.S. is all about... pounding just enough knowledge and mainstream values into kids’ empty skulls so they can get their McFreakin’ diplomas and become productive Proles.
Since no one knows Brandon, he naturally falls in with the outcasts, which include Travis White, one of the school's few black students and also the fattest at five-hundred pounds. Other new friends include Danny Little-Wing, a Native-American boy from an almost forgotten local tribe and the second-fattest dude at school; Carlos, a fat gang member; Zach, a pot-bellied gainer; Rex Watson, a smaller-than-average boy with higher-than-average intelligence who was kicked into high school a year early; and dismal Jason Gray who is really not “obese” but who has been taught that he is and therefore to hate himself. There is also chubby Bosco Donatello, a world-class surfer though indifferent to his fame and seemingly oblivious to the present as if he’s been transported through time from 1963.
Brandon has never been hated before, and there is a question of whether a person can empathize with the suffering of others unless he or she has suffered. Along these lines Brandon discovers that most of what he “knows” about black people (and fat people) is only what he’s been taught. Brandon also delves into the mostly cyber universe of teen and pre-teen gainers, a rapidly growing (no pun intended) counter-culture that few young-adult authors, educators, and "experts" on youth seem aware of... or perhaps don't want to admit exists.
Phat Acceptance is a mix of issues, including consumerism, advertising, propaganda, xenophobia, and how kids are brainwashed from the time they first turn on a TV into buying what they’re told to buy, wearing what they’re told to wear, eating what they’re told to eat, looking how they’re told to look -- which now includes weighing what they’re told to weigh -- and hating who they’re told to hate.
It also illustrates how the “war on childhood obesity” gives haters a group of people whom it’s socially acceptable to hate, as well as how sheep-like people are in accepting how “unhealthy” they are because they're being told they are by a health and fitness industry with multi-billion dollar profits. The result is a new religion of "health" and a new holy war against those who won't worship.
© 2011 Jess Mowry
For all the phat kids
Maybe he wasn't the world's fattest kid, but he was the fattest that Brandon had seen or had ever imagined existed on earth! He wasn't the only fat kid in the house; of the thirty-two freshmen in History class at least eight were packing extra pounds from slightly chubby to maybe obese.
But this dude was off the fat grading scale!
Brandon tried not to stare at the boy, though he'd chosen a desk at the rear of the room because he wanted to watch everyone. His 8th grade Creative Writing teacher had said that a good writer had to "observe," but so far here on this first day of school, in these first few minutes of World History there hadn't been a lot to see that might have inspired a story. The kids were a typical Santa Cruz mix -- meaning that most of them were white -- from surfers in tank-tops, hoodies and shorts, to wiggers in big-jeans and backward-turned caps. A pair goths, boy and girl, had so many piercings that Brandon winced, although he wore an earring himself. There were also a couple of obvious jocks.
The surfers were tanned to the shade of old pennies. One could have starred in Endless Summer, a buff-bodied blond with movie-star looks. Another resembled a wiry coyote, his body as hard as a sheet-metal roof, while a third was a big-bellied baby-fat boy who looked like he'd just spent the night on a beach, with sand in his hair and beer on his breath.
The goths were as pale as vanilla ice cream and as bony as week-old cadavers. One of the wiggers was chubby, though his oversize clothes concealed the degree. One of the jocks could have been on TV as a model for All-American boys, a sort of muscular Opy Taylor complete with freckles and rusty-red hair. There was also a skinhead in boots and suspenders who could have passed for an albino ape. About the only "statement" he made was that some Caucasians had lame-looking skulls and should have kept something on top of them. Of the ten other white kids, Brandon included, most were fairly average in build, meaning that most looked pretty well-fed compared to the 1960s kids that Brandon had seen in his mom's photo album. A couple of girls were "pleasingly plump," though another resembled a Barbie doll, which looked almost scary in real life.
In a front row desk sat a marshmallow dude whose belly peeked out from under his shirt, an Area 51 souvenir tee from the Little Alien Cafe. The shirt was at least two sizes too small, but cool in a space-nerdy way. The other students included three Asians; two slender girls who looked Vietnamese, and a Japanese boy either chubby or husky depending upon your point of view. Four kids were brown, and three of them fat, a raven-haired girl with a friendly smile, and a pair of rolly Latino dudes in white T-shirts and baggy old jeans. The other brown girl might have been Middle-eastern.
The black race hadn't been represented... until this ebony mountain of blubber had lumbered casually into the room.
That wasn't a good metaphor, thought Brandon; a good author had to describe his people so readers could picture them clearly. For one thing, mountains didn't "lumber.” The boy's massive chest looked like water-balloons about to burst out of his shirt, while his waist seemed as huge as the truck-tire tubes that were rented down at the Boardwalk beach. His clothes were kind of carelessly cool; his T-shirt was black and at least triple-X, though it still couldn't cover a huge hanging belly that wobbled against his gigantic thighs and plunged and rebounded with every slow step though its average level reached his knees. Beneath that avalanche of blubber were faded blue-jeans that were dragging the floor, and only the toes of his sneakers showed.
Brandon made notes in his "writer's journal," a section reserved in his shiny new binder bought yesterday at the mall. At least this dude was something new, and a prime candidate for his Beastworld book, a graphic novel he planned to write as soon as he found an illustrator.
Brandon found he was staring again, not being "detached" like a writer should be. He shifted his eyes from all that black fat to study a face like an African cherub's; chubby round cheeks, a wide snubby nose, and eyes as dark as the space between stars. Fierce white teeth were displayed in a grin that might have been his normal expression; like he just didn't care about being so fat or what anybody might think.
The fat boy's hair was a lion's mane that tumbled over his super-size shoulders to midway down his massive back, which was almost as rolly as his front. It might have been braided, or maybe dreadlocked, though Brandon wasn't sure about that, not being down with African Culture. He supposed it was only natural that the boy was waddling toward him, his huge belly clearing a road ahead as kids leaned aside to get out of its way.
The desks were arranged in five rows of six, with another four at the rear of the room, and Brandon sat in the back right corner, farthest away from the door. The desk to his left was still empty, while the chubby surfer was sprawled in the third, smogging the air with alcohol fumes and shedding a virtual beach on the floor. Brandon had made a few notes about him, his hoodie unzipped, a sneaker untied, his hair like a mop of salt-stiffened curls. One of the white girls, an "average type," had taken the fourth desk beside the surfer but wasn't looking very stoked about her choice of neighbors. There was another empty desk in the first row at the front of the room, but any cool dude would have sat in the back and taken a chance on Brandon.
Brandon was cool enough, he supposed, though a little detached from the center of cool. If cool was a sun then he was a planet, not shining himself but reflecting the rays. At age fourteen he was five-foot-five and probably slightly “overweight” if judged by the current health-nazi standards. He had silky blond hair in a central part that flowed down over his chest and back like a feral young prince in a sorcery game. His eyes were dark blue, his nose slightly snubbed, and his lips rested partly open a lot, displaying a pair of startling teeth that probably should have been tamed by tin. He had a few muscles in all the right places; his chest was high and gently defined, though his tummy gave him a Bugs Bunny look when his mind was involved with other things besides maintaining a physical pose. He'd tried working out with his big brother's weights, but had only developed a killer back ache. A chiropractor had aligned his spine -- under the eyes of his worried mom -- while scolding him for being "brainwashed," and falling for the "movie-star image that Hollywood fed to American kids."
Still, Brandon managed to look fairly cool; his tan was as deep as the drunk surfer-boy's, and he'd carefully chosen his clothes this morning to give him a sort of ambiguous look; a Gap chambray shirt from his big brother's closet with three buttons open to show off his chest, along with a pair of loose Tommy jeans and experienced-looking Rocket Dog sneaks. Most Santa Cruz kids would have thought him a surfer -- hardcore skaters seldom had tummies, and the drunk boy had dreamily greeted him, duuuude -- a cool enough image to front in this town where everyone had to be something. It was also a look that didn't offend or attract much attention; good camouflage to be an observer without getting caught in anyone’s mix.
The woolly black mammoth was grinning at him as if he'd been reading his mind. Obsidian eyes queried Brandon's blue, confirming the empty desk wasn't taken. Brandon still fought to control his stare, but the dude was just so awesomely... FAT! Every step seemed a separate struggle against the inertia of rest; his gigantic thighs got in each other's way so he had to squeeze one in front of the other, which looked like he was wading ashore though waist-deep invisible waves. Brandon glanced around again to observe the other kids' reactions.
The average white girl abandoned her desk, not wanting to sit with an unrated Brandon, a drunk and smelly surfer-dude, and now this enormous ebony beast... a word Brandon used as a compliment. She snatched her things and fled to the front, landing beside the "51 kid," who nervously tugged at his undersized shirt.
The other two surfers were smirking at the sight of the mammoth boy fighting to walk. The All-American looked disgusted in a properly jock-ass fat-hating way. The skinhead was beaming a stupid hate stare -- though not based on weight -- that he probably practiced every morning while scraping the fuzz off his simian skull, while the 51 kid seemed a little relieved at no longer being the fattest in class. The Latino dudes looked impressed, while the Japanese boy was scanning the black as if maybe thinking of Sumo wrestlers. A few of the students were looking confused, as if not knowing how to react: fat kids were common enough in their world -- even if not this extreme -- but there weren't many black dudes in Santa Cruz and nobody knew much about them. Their movies and music were ass-kickin’ cool; and Brandon had heard all the usual stories about how strong and bad they were: but this dude didn't fit into his role any more than his clothes fit him.
Then, Brandon wondered how he should react? The other students were watching him, too, since he seemed to be the fat boy's objective: he felt as if he was up on a stage and no one had told him what part to play. This enormous black dude was invading his space on the very first day of high school, dammit! It seemed like his cool was a house of cards and this ebony mammoth was shaking the floor.
Brandon had gone to a private school from kindergarten through junior-high so he didn't know anyone here. He had no posse to take his back and validate his coolness permit. He remembered something his father had said about making career decisions. Nobody would dis him for dissing this dude, but they'd probably dis him for not. And they'd have him under a microscope for all this freakin' period. Observer, hell!, he told himself; he was the one who was being observed... scanned, filed, and categorized, labeled and tagged for the next four years by how he treated this fat black kid in the space of the next few minutes!
He turned for support to the sandy surfer, who sprawled with sockless sneaks splayed out, his chubby chest on careless display in the sleeveless hoodie and short cutoff jeans. He was wearing a charm around his neck, a little wooden tiki god suspended on a leather strip between a pair of bobby breasts, their nipples inverted like soft little slits. His eyes were hidden beneath his hair, a messy mop of tangled locks, bleached by years of sun and salt, and seemingly never combed. A rat was tattooed on one of his arms above a chubby bicep; a Disney kind of cartoon rat who grinned around a big cigar, the sort of thing a kid would love but most adults would hate. Words were tattooed underneath, but Brandon couldn't read them... not without getting way too close and maybe looking gay. But, any dude who had a tat would naturally be cool, and his judgment would be final in this Freshman student court...
But, dammit, he was sleeping!
The mammoth boy had finally arrived. The effort of moving had sheened him with sweat, darkened the shirt beneath his huge arms -- which were bigger around than Brandon's thighs -- and painted it over the orbs of his chest. His vast body seemed to radiate heat, like being close to the steam locomotive that chugged though the Santa Cruz Mountains. Brandon almost expected a hiss of air-brakes as the dude came puffing to a halt. His scent was strong and blatantly male, though Brandon wouldn't have called it bad. He found himself a little surprised that the boy wasn't any taller than he, though easily four times as wide.
The dude wiggled out of his ancient pack, his shirt climbing up over acres of belly, displaying a navel as deep as a cave and big enough to swallow an orange. Sweat dribbled out of that oval-shaped tunnel to spatter the floor at his feet. Again, Brandon thought of the steam locomotive, which always seemed to be leaking. Those jeans weren't really doing much to cover the dude's enormous bottom, which looked like a pair of planets colliding. He seemed... well, just too fat to wear clothes, like something never meant to wear clothes; huge, black, steamy, slow, yet somehow suggesting enormous power.
It was also strangely embarrassing to be so close to the boy's huge body, especially now with that belly thrust out, its midnight mass almost pulsing with life and its navel like the bore of a cannon seemingly aimed at him, feeling his heat, steamed in his scent, with everybody watching. Brandon turned to the surfer-boy, still hoping for a backup; but the dude was lost in space somewhere, or maybe riding waves. Brandon felt betrayed somehow, as if he'd been sentenced without a trial by a jury of peers who wanted a hanging, yet there was nothing he could do but smile and say, "What's up?"
Total silence ruled the room. Every ear was listening. The place was like a pack of raptors massing for attack. But, could the prey defend itself? The dude didn't look like a video thug, but his size was still intimidating; a locomotive loose in the room. What could it do? Bash you aside if you got in its way? Smash you under its awesome weight? Should it be respected, rejected, or feared?
Snickers were stored away for the moment, and smirks were carefully traded. Insults waited locked and loaded, but who would be the first to fire?
The goths looked understanding. The jocks just looked disgusted. The skinhead chewed on broken glass and didn't seem to like the taste. The brown boys traded Latin glances cryptic to Caucasians; and the Anglos seemed to realize that four of them were "overweight"... and one of those a surfer.
"Chillin'," said the black dude. "S'up with you?"
"...Oh. ...Phat," said Brandon, the first "black thing" that came to his mind. As soon as it was out of his mouth he felt his cheeks turn red. "I mean with a 'P',” he added, sweating. "You know? Like, phat is cool?"
He almost expected a crushing "duh," which might have turned the raptors on him, but the fat boy only chuckled. "I heard you, man."
Then the bell rang and the teacher came in. The other kids turned like Pavlov's dogs as if expecting Scoobie Snacks... but they would remember that Brandon had smiled and spoken first to the huge black dude. The enormous boy sat down in the desk, and Brandon watched in fascination.
He almost had to put the desk on, like donning a personal spacecraft. This took a lot of puffing and struggle; and Brandon actually held his breath, wanting to help but not knowing how. He remembered an ancient classic cartoon of an overloaded Arabian camel whose legs had splayed out in four directions beneath an impossible burden. He expected the desk to do the same and dump the huge kid on the floor. That would murder Brandon's cool faster than a cluster bomb! But somehow the thing held together, and the boy finally managed to squeeze into place. Most of his midnight middle was bare, avalanching over his jeans, as well as the moons of his gigantic bottom, while his chest rolled over the desk top and Brandon wondered how he could write. It was lucky that no one had seen the show: the kids were watching the teacher now, and probably scanning for weaknesses.
The teacher, Mr. Rosenberg, had seemingly chosen not to watch and might have distracted the class on purpose by squeakily chalking his name on the board.
Brandon scribbled "careless fat" on an empty page of his journal. It seemed like a perfect description; a dude so fat he just didn’t care that his body overflowed his clothes and steamed the air around him. A locomotive might be cool, a puffing, massive, midnight thing, but careless of its awesome size so you approached it carefully. He turned to the boy and whispered: "Um? Are you okay?" Then his cheeks got red again: had he just said something else uncool?
The fat boy only flashed his grin. "Guess I can wait fifty minutes to breathe. Figured the desks would be bigger in high school."
"Yeah," agreed Brandon. "Would've thought so, huh? Um, do you need anything from your pack?" It was clear that the boy couldn't reach his stuff; there was too much of him to reach over.
The dude studied Brandon a moment, then smiled. "Sure, dawg. Snag me a pen an' the binder."
Brandon flicked a glance at the teacher, who'd turned from the board and was facing down eyes. He looked somewhere in his middle forties and obviously knew about animal taming. He also acted pretty cool, not seeming to notice when Brandon got up to get the fat boy's things. The binder was ancient and battered, but covered with wicked grafitti cartoons of Bambi-eyed black boys in various poses. Many were shirtless and several were fat, their oversize jeans sagging comically low. The dude offered Brandon a chubby hand. "Travis."
Brandon was guided through twists and turns in one of those complicated shakes. He'd never touched black skin before... what a stupid thing to think! Like, what was it going to do, rub off?
"Brandon," said Brandon. "Um, did you draw all this stuff?" he added, indicating the tagged old binder. "Those 'toons are crazy cool."
"Yeah. Thanks, man," the huge boy replied. "Just a little thing I do."
Mr. Rosenberg cleared his throat, and Brandon scuttled back to his desk. A couple of kids looked over their shoulders, but no one seemed very interested now. The teacher flipped open a folder and smiled. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to World History. Which, believe it or not, you're a part of."
The skinhead raised his hand. "Are we gonna learn about Aryans? Or just that 'muliticultral' crap?"
The jocks and surfers snickered, but with him or at him was hard to tell. The 51 kid seemed a little embarrassed, maybe for the sins of his race, while the brown boys scowled at one another but otherwise didn't react. Brandon scanned for Travis's view, but the fat boy only looked amused, as if a baby had cooed the F-word.
Mr. Rosenberg's smile didn't change. "This is World History, Mr...?"
"Uh, Slater," said the skinhead.
"Yeah. It's an Aryan name."
"Anglo-Saxon, actually. A mender of roofs... slates, you know?... but a perfectly honorable trade." Mr. Rosenberg marked the roll. "Unfortunately, we live in a country that doesn't spend much on education. We have many new privatized prisons, and are building more every year. We also spend billions on various wars, but we don't have the funding for ‘frills' in our schools, such as music, art, and up-to-date books. Or a special class for European History. However, I think you ought to know that there never was an Aryan race. If you want to study 'Aryans,' you'll need to focus on languages... and at your own expense."
The skinhead's skull flushed neon pink. "That's a... not true! I got a book!" He frantically dug in his pack.
"Ah, yes, I'm familiar with that one. I've also read Mein Kamph, as I’m sure you’ve tried to do. However, Mr. Slater, it's either true, or else there have been many other books written... by genuine scholars... for the sole purpose of deceiving you. But, I'll be happy to give extra credit for a well-researched paper on Aryans."
Some of the kids looked curious. Joe just looked confused.
Mr. Rosenberg scanned his folder. "Please answer up as I call your names. And correct me if I mispronounce."
"Woah," whispered Brandon to Travis. "I didn't know that, about Aryans."
"I did," said Travis. "Never were any, just a language. Want me to wake up your homie?"
"Um... sure," said Brandon. This didn't seem like the time to explain that he didn't know the surfer dude.
Travis's desk creaked ominously as he leaned way over his massive middle and tapped the surfer's shoulder. The dude woke up and shook back his hair, scattering sand like a blizzard. "Huh?" His eyes were blue, and widened fast. "Wooooah!" he breathed. "Are you ever fat!"
He didn't say it loudly, but it drew a few snickers here and there. Also a frown from the teacher.
"You ain't no bone-bag yourself," observed Travis.
The surfer scanned his surroundings, seeming surprised to wake up in school. He could have still been half-asleep, or maybe more than slightly drunk, but he had a dreamy kind of face and might have always looked that way. His teeth were big and beaver-like, and his hair tumbled over his eyes again. Then he smiled and slapped his belly, which quivered like Jell-O pudding. "Dude! We're brothers!"
Travis smiled. "I think I know what you done last summer."
"Yeah, heh," said the boy. "Been totally heliotropic, man. Best summer I ever had in my life!" He searched the sandy floor at his feet. "Aw, shit! Musta left my stuff at the beach!"
"Um," whispered Brandon, trying to see around Travis's bulk and feeling a little left out. "I've got an extra pen. And tons of pape..." He suddenly became aware that silence ruled the room again, and Mr. Rosenberg was frowning.
"I seem to have a 'Bosco Donatello' penciled in here." Mr. Rosenberg scanned the roll as if someone had added that name as a joke. "Where might this gentleman be? ...Or not?"
"Oh, heh," said the surf-boy. "Yo, teacher-dude."
A few kids promptly snickered, but the other surfers looked surprised and turned to stare at Bosco.
"Thank you... dude," the teacher replied and went on reading names. "Travis White" also got snickers, being sort of an oxymoron, but "Brandon Williams" got nothing at all... not being ethnic or anything special.
Well, thought Brandon, at least one of his teachers was cool this year. But he had to survive the rest of the day, sort of like mapping a minefield. He'd almost stepped on a mine already, but surfer Bosco had saved his butt, had taken his back by talking to Travis.
Mr. Rosenberg closed the folder and roamed the room with his eyes. "I seldom alter seating arrangements, unless there's a problem, but I hope it won't be a case of 'Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria.' That would be history repeating itself, and those who don't learn from history are always doomed to repeat it."
Brandon felt embarrassed for Travis, as if the teacher had singled him out, but Travis only smiled.
"Mr. Tanaka?" added the teacher, turning to the Japanese boy. "Would you please pass out the texts?" He glanced at a stack of books on his desk and frowned at their aged and battered condition. "Such as they are."
The next few minutes were normal enough for a first day of school anywhere, Mr. Rosenberg sketching the course while Tiger Tanaka distributed books that looked like they'd been through a war. If someone had snickered at Tiger's name, Brandon had missed it while talking to Travis. He slipped from his desk to give Bosco some paper and one of his extra Pilot pens. Bosco thought the pen was "boss," like something he'd never seen before, and started drawing a rat on a surfboard. Brandon checked the dude's tattoo; the words beneath were, "Tola Rats"... whatever they represented. Mr. Rosenberg noticed Brandon but seemed to approve of his charity.
"You surf, dude?" asked Bosco. "You got the look."
"Nah," said Brandon. "But I hang at the beach. And I usually skate every day."
"Skurfs are cool," said Bosco. "Got one myself."
"...Skurfs?" asked Brandon.
"You know? Skurfboards. Sidewalk surfin'."
"Oh yeah. My dad said they used to be called that back in the 1960s."
"You oughta check out real surfin'. Ain't nothin' so boss in the whole universe! Not even sex, heh. ...'Less it's havin' it in the ocean."
Brandon considered that picture, then shrugged. "I'm probably too old to learn."
"Nah, man. Anybody can. I could teach you easy. 'Specially if you ride a skurf. Them things are treacherous, woah! They skid all over the place!"
"What kind of wheels do you ride?" asked Brandon.
"The regular kind." Bosco circled a finger and thumb. "You know? About this big."
"...Oh," said Brandon. "But, surfing looks really hard."
"Nah," said Bosco. "Cement, now that's hard. Like, bust your buns. Heh." He turned to Travis. "How 'bout you, big black Kahuna?"
Brandon winced but Travis chuckled. "I can float really good."
"Um?" asked Brandon. "Does it ever bother you, being so black?"
"Huh?" asked Travis and Bosco together.
Brandon's cheeks flashed red again. "I... I mean fat," he stammered.
Travis smiled. "Somebody's Freudian slip is showin'."
"Huh?" said Bosco.
"Sorry," said Brandon.
"I always been fat," said Travis, and didn't sound unhappy about it.
"Yo," said Bosco. "You'd be a natural long-boarder, Travvy. I got some big old beauties at home just dyin' to meet a dude like you."
"I never heard of black surfers," said Travis, then glanced at Brandon. "Or fat ones either."
"You never been to Hawaii," said Bosco. "They got some huge kahunas there! An' it wasn't white people who invented surfin'."
"Hmm," said Travis. "Food for thought."
"Cool tat, Bosco," offered Brandon.
"Thanks, dude. Got it when I was eight. ...Oh, an' thanks for the paper, too." He searched his hoodie pockets. "Aw, shit! I don't got my schedule! It's back on the beach with my stuff. ...I guess."
"Shit," agreed Brandon.
"Can I borrow yours, Brandy-boy?"
"...Um... I need it myself. I don't even know where the rooms are yet."
"Well... could you copy it down for me?"
"Planet earth callin'," said Travis. "It's Brandon's schedule, man. What the hell good it gonna do you?"
"What are your classes?" asked Brandon.
Bosco shook more sand from his hair. "...Well... The regular kind, I guess. ...Like, um, History..."
"We're in History," said Brandon.
"Yo," said Travis. "Axe if you can go to the office an’ get another schedule."
"Gentlemen and dudes," said the teacher, materializing suddenly. "I'm glad to see the races and..." He glanced at Bosco. "Other species mingling. But, I must ask the question; do we have a problem?"
"Oh, heh," said Bosco. "No prob at all, Mr... um...?"
"It's on the blackboard, Mr. Donatello."
"Oh yeah. I can see it from here."
"Um," said Brandon. "He lost his schedule."
"I'm sure it's wherever his mind is. ...Come up to my desk, Mr. Donatello. I'll give you a pass to the office."
"Woah," said Bosco after the teacher walked away. "He's kinda cool, huh?"
"Yeah," said Travis. "An' your ass is lucky."
Bosco got up, swaying dangerously, and Brandon grabbed his shoulders.
"Heh," said Bosco, blowing beer fumes in Brandon's face. "Guess I'm still kinda buzzed. I can't remember nothin' last night."
"Did you have sex in the ocean?" asked Travis.
"I think I woulda remembered that."
"Well, pull up your pants 'fore y'all get arrested."
"Oh. Heh. These are my lucky cutoffs. But, they got kinda small this summer."
"Now we know you're a natural blond. ...Funny, you don't look Italian."
"A lot of Northern Italians are blond, but I get asked that a lot."
"Learn somethin' new every day," said Travis.
Bosco ambled away, shedding more sand on the floor. The other surfers flashed hang-loose signs, which Bosco returned with a careless smile.
Brandon sat down. "He's kind of a mess. But, a cool kind of mess."
Travis nodded. "He could sink the Titanic."
Brandon smiled. "Was that a Freudian slip?"
"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
The rest of first period was pretty routine, the kids mostly trying to housebreak their minds after three months of letting them go anywhere. The teacher established his rating of cool by not assigning homework that day, except to "look over the book tonight"... which naturally nobody would. The office was right across the hall, but Bosco got lost and was gone half an hour.
"You coulda followed your trail," chuckled Travis, dragging the toe of his sneak through the sand as Bosco finally plopped down at his desk.
"Oh, yeah. Heh."
"Did you sleep on a beach last night?" asked Brandon.
"Oh yeah," sighed Bosco dreamily. "Ain't nothin' so boss in the whole universe than wakin' up to the sound of waves an' the sun shinin' rosy an' gold on the water." He closed his eyes as if seeing a picture. "Like, God just finished makin' the world an' you're the first dude who gets to see it. Like bein' born all over again."
Brandon made a note of that, surprised that Bosco was so poetic. Then the bell sounded out in the hall, and most of the kids had leaped to their feet before its last echo had died. Brandon suddenly realized that he'd made two friends in these first fifty minutes, but now he'd have to go it alone in five more alien atmospheres. He quickly shouldered his Sideout pack, not wanting to leave but scared of a tardy. "Maybe we can hook-up for lunch?
"Sure," said Travis.
"Pray for surf, dude," added Bosco.
Panic and urgency curdled the air as Brandon hurried into the hall. Kids crowded past in a jostling herd, the younger ones looking bewildered. Brandon felt like a fool with a map in his hand, and it wasn't much comfort to see other Freshmen scanning their maps with desperate expressions while slammed aside by older kids who knew their way around. There were muttered curses and shouted threats, as if Freshmen were an inferior race that nobody wanted to integrate; though Brandon had been prepared for that, thanks to his older brother. But, this was the safest school in town, with only four shootings and one homicide to blemish its record last year.
Just like back in history class, most of the kids were white. Brown was the next predominant color, the other majority Asian. A few black students flowed along, or battled against the teenage tide like night-colored salmon fighting upstream. A white dude pushed Brandon and called him a punk, but Brandon ignored him and kept on going. Other bullies lurked by lockers like bears on a riverbank waiting for fish. Brandon got spit on once or twice, was called a faggot a couple of times and hit in the face with a wad of gum... which wasn't as bad as he'd expected. He finally found the freakin' "quad," and his second class was near the front in another building across a lawn. He blinked in the bright September sun, catching the salty scent of the sea a mile away in Capitola, and reached his room with minutes to spare. There were lots of empty desks, but Tiger Tanaka was already seated, his binder open, a pen in hand like a stereotypical smart Asian kid.
This was a class that Brandon had wanted, one of his two electives, but he stopped outside to catch his breath and watch the rowdy stream of teens. A lot of the dudes were showing skin, their shirts unbuttoned carelessly, though never accidentally. Brandon unbuttoned his own all the way, revealing his dangerous Tommy jeans and several inches of skater shorts.
Brandon turned as a boy approached, worming his way through the bustling bodies. "Yo, Troy. Wuttup?"
Brandon Williams and Troy Durrant had met each other in kindergarten. They had cruised their skates a million miles and always dreamed of surfing someday. They had shared a lot of their Wonder Years and had a thousand adventures together, like getting drunk at ten years old and passing out on Santa Cruz Beach. They had finally awakened just after dark to find their shoes and shirts were gone! Also Brandon's Tommy jeans, leaving him only tightey-whities. Then they had seen a Latino boy who seemed to be wearing Brandon's gear. They had chased him across an acre of sand and brought him down like a pair of lions, ripping off his jeans and shirt -- like trying to skin a tiger alive -- before realizing those weren't Brandon's clothes! Luckily, Troy still had some cash, and the kid was persuaded to sell his things... after they'd chilled him out a bit.
But this summer hadn't been the same: Troy had gotten a surfboard, but had also developed a passion for weights... which Brandon found terminally boring. Troy looked cool with his new definition; but Brandon got tired of watching him "work" while having to make admiring comments and feel him up like a sweaty pony in some perverted petting zoo. The gain of Troy's summer was now on display in a tight T-shirt and loose jean-shorts. His hair was buzzed and golden-brown, his eyes a brilliant indigo. His face was a Calvin model's, but looking a little confused.
"Where the hell's World History, man? This mookin' map is retarded!"
Brandon took a casual pose and leaned against a locker. "Chill out, dawg. I'll hook you up."
Troy cocked his head. "Who you been hangin' with... 'homey'?" Then he laughed. "You look like Shaun in The Partridge Family with all that 1970s hair. Don't make a total fool of yourself, especially on the first day of school. I know you're a hopeless nerd but nobody else does... yet."
"Thanks, I needed that." Brandon pointed to the quad. "History's down in front of that building, right across from the office. And the teacher's totally cool. Didn't give any homework today."
Troy looked relieved. "Thanks. The fat old cow in English class is givin' it out with a bullet! Tale Of Two Cities, first chapter tonight!"
"Been there, done that," said Brandon. "Back in seventh grade. ...'Tis a far, far better thing...'"
"You should have stayed in private school." Troy glanced around at the swarming kids. "Compared to these losers you're college level. ...Speaking of which, can you help with my homework tonight?"
"When have I not?"
"Sucks we only got P.E. together."
"You can beat me at hoops as usual."
"Have to do that in your driveway tonight. It's football season, remember?"
Brandon groaned. "I hate football."
"You keep forgetting, retard, this isn't your preppy school anymore. You don't have a choice what you do in P.E."
"It wasn't a prep school, dork. But, that ostensibly sucks."
Troy punched Brandon's shoulder. "Welcome to public education, where everything ostensibly sucks."
"You could see your counselor and switch to one of my electives."
Troy laughed. "You think these counselors actually counsel? And writing's your thing, I can't write shit." Then he gave Brandon a scoping. "You should have gotten in shape this summer. Used my weights and buffed your bod. Your tummy still looks like a pot-bellied kid's. Suck it in, dork... no, wait, leave it out."
"Huh?" said Brandon. "Like, make up your mind."
"Girls, dweeb! Three o'clock. You make me look ostensibly good."
Two girls went by, and not in a hurry. One was blond, tanned and cute, in a T-shirt, jeans, and big leather sandals. Brandon felt like he'd seen her before but couldn't remember where. She seemed to give him the ghost of a glance, and maybe a spook of a smile.
Then a black dude sauntered past, maybe fourteen and buff as a brick. He was clad in big-jeans at maximum sag, while a wife-beater clung like a coat of paint to six-pack abs and high-jutting pecs. Brandon gave Troy a nudge. "Deflate, little guy, he's out of your league."
"It's natural with them," muttered Troy, gazing after the midnight god. "You check his pecs? ...Way out to here!"
"Cool, but I don't wanna marry him, Troy."
"I gotta get a shirt like that."
"It's not the shirt, boy-wonder. It's what's inside that counts."
Troy pulled up his shirt. "So, how do I look?"
"I assume you want some stroking, and hopefully the verbal kind?"
Troy gazed after the black boy again. "And it's natural with them!"
"You said that already."
"Did you check out the blond babe checking me out?"
"I think she was looking at me."
"In your dreams!"
"I can hardly wait."
"...Oh. S’up, Bosco?" Brandon asked, as the chubby surfer dude appeared. "Sure aren't those lucky cutoffs."
"Oh. Heh." Bosco gave his jeans a tug, and Brandon noted that, just like Travis, the rear belt loop was broken from always being pulled. It was one of those details writers observed.
Bosco held out his schedule. "You know where this is? I'm all confused."
Brandon's eyebrows arched. "You have Creative Writing?"
"Guess so. Heh. They got my records all skeezed up. Like, I ain't on their I.B.M. or somethin'. So, I got two electives that wasn't full."
"Well, this is one of 'em, man," said Brandon. "But we still got a couple of minutes."
"I better go in. I'll save you a seat. I'm totally lost in space today."
Troy had been staring at Bosco. "Shit!" he said after Bosco left. "You know who that is?"
"You retard! That's the Bosco Donatello! He was on the cover of Pipeline, man! The Endless Summer special in June. Don't you ever read anything except those stupid fantasy books?"
"He was in Pipe?"
"On the freakin' cover, dork! He won that big Hawaiian thing. The Pacific Surfing Championship."
"He said he'd been to Hawaii." Brandon glanced into the classroom where Bosco now sprawled in a desk. "You sure that's him?"
Troy snorted. "You sure you're not brain-dead? He's the only fat kid I ever saw with his picture on a magazine cover, except for anti-obesity stuff."
"I'd call him more chubby than fat."
"On whose rating scale?" Troy jerked his jaw toward a Latino boy, one of the pair from History class. "'Chubby' compared to that tub of lard?"
"Shut up, dork!" hissed Brandon.
Troy only shrugged. "He probably doesn't speak English."
"Hey, Troy, you're really a mook sometimes. Ever hear of hate speech?"
"Hey,” said Troy. "People can't help being other colors, but nobody has to be fat."
"Nobody has to hate, either."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Like, who died and made you God? Like, to judge anybody? But, I guess they don't judge surfing skills by how much somebody weighs."
Troy glanced through the doorway at Bosco. "He'd look cool if he lost forty pounds. Maybe he can surf like a pro, but he'll never get a movie deal or do any gear commercials unless he loses a lot of weight."
"He doesn't seem sad about it."
"You know him now?"
"Want me to get you his autograph?"
"Hell, yeah! ...Wish I had that magazine. He could sign the cover to me. ...You got any other classes with him? I'll call mom and get her to bring it. Maybe we can meet him at lunch."
"I already met him. We're doing lunch."
"Cool!" Troy looked up at the hallway clock. "But I only got two minutes. How the hell can I call her now?"
Brandon wiggled out of his pack. "You can use this if you kiss my ass."
"Looks too much like your face. ...You got a new phone?"
"Mom's idea,” said Brandon. “This one has a panic button direct to 911. So I'll be 'safe' in public school."
Troy snatched the phone and flipped it open, but then his eyes narrowed in sudden disgust. "Shit, Brandon! Check that out!"
"Yo, Brandon," said Travis, lumbering up like an earthquake in Jell-O, puffing like a steam locomotive, and sweating like an ebony pony who'd galloped ten miles though a desert.
Ignoring Troy, who stupidly stood with the phone to his ear, Brandon smiled and offered a hand. Travis gave him the shake again, so fast it looked like Brandon knew it. "Bro, you lost?" asked Brandon.
"Nah, dawg. I never get lost. Always got my course laid out. Shortest distance between two points. ...You got this writin' class, too?"
Brandon was surprised... a black kid taking a writing class? "Hey, man, I'm sorry. I could have come with you, like, taken your back."
Travis laughed. "I'm way too fat to get shoved. Besides, I shove back. An’ I’m black so I might have a gun."
"Bosco got this class, too. He's already inside."
"Surprised he didn't get lost again."
Troy stepped away to plead with his mom.
"We should check our schedules," said Brandon. "See what else we have together."
"P.E. next period?" said Travis.
"Yeah. ...And Health and Science in fourth after lunch."
"An' Math in sixth."
"Oh," said Brandon. "This is Troy. He's calling his mom. Troy, this is Travis."
"S'up, man?" said Travis.
Troy barely nodded. "Not much."
"Bosco's saving a seat," said Brandon.
"Cool," said Travis, "I'll save you one."
Troy closed the phone after Travis left. "She's bringing it."
"Is she pissed?" asked Brandon.
"Nothing terminal. She's picking me up after school anyhow. Dentist appointment. ...Who the hell is that black blubber tub?"
"You can't be serious! He'd need one as big as a garbage barge! And he'd raise the ocean level like another freakin' tsunami."
"Actually he's a Beastworld prince. Panther genes, of course."
Troy made a face. "That's totally disgusting! He's so fat he can hardly walk! His parents should be put in jail for letting him get like that! There's an obesity epidemic!"
"That's a retarded thing to say 'cause 'obesity' isn't catching so it can't be an epidemic. But I guess it's supposed to scare me as much as terrorism."
"Maybe it is terrorism," said Troy. "Like, how can America protect itself if kids get too fat to join the Army?"
"Then we couldn't make wars for oil."
Troy scowled. "We couldn't fight sand-niggers, either."
"Watch your mookin' mouth, dork! Or you're gonna need protection!" Brandon quickly glanced around, noting several chubby dudes, but no one black or Middle-Eastern.
Troy shook his head. "Why are you always defending fatties?"
"The mook are you talking about?" said Brandon. "Because I don't like you dissing people?"
"Fat people should be dissed."
"Haters should," said Brandon. "But I've taken your back a few times. Like when you got jumped on the beach for dissing a fat little kid. ...With two big brothers defending him."
"Aw, they were Vallies. Fat-ass Vallies."
"Who almost put you on your skinny ass."
"Hey, I'm not skinny!"
Brandon shrugged. "I've got one fat friend. And you're right, I'll defend him."
Troy glanced into the classroom again, where Travis was struggling to put on a desk. "Looks like you made two more today. Fat people shouldn't have any friends. Being rejected might make them lose weight."
"You're really a total mook sometimes."
"You said that already. ...And aren't you getting a little too old for role-playing games anymore? I do my surfing for real these days."
Brandon laughed. "Graduate from the grommets yet? Or, still riding down at the sewer plant?"
Troy looked at the clock. "See you at lunch. ...With Donatello!" Bells went off along the hall. "Shit! I'm late!"
"I'm not. See?" Brandon stepped casually into the room as Troy took off at the speed of light.
Brandon had been prepared for P.E. like a going to a dentist, expecting to suffer in various ways but hoping to come out alive. He definitely wasn't a wussy, with muscles, a tan, and a few basic moves, but he'd never liked organized sports or dealing with grownups who forced kids to "play."
His private school had given kids choices, as if they really had minds of their own and should be encouraged to use them. Soccer had been a popular sport, along with Greek Dodge or basketball if you wanted or needed to be on a team. But there was also a swimming pool, and kids could play computer games, or spend recess in the library if they didn't feel up for a sweat.
He wasn't shy about dressing down; he'd been stripping for gym in sixth-grade, while most public schools didn't make kids get naked until a year or so later. He wasn't a nudist or anything weird, but his mother had always professed a belief that human bodies were beautiful, and the family had gone to the Free Beach a lot until Brandon had reached his teens. He still swam naked at home, along with his older brother and Troy, so being bare-assed among other bare asses wasn't anything new.
Except now he was one of the smaller asses.
In second period he’d been surprised to find his Writing teacher was black. But, Mr. Jakarta had six published novels along with a couple of story collections, which made him mega-qualified. Mr. Jakarta was thirty-something, slenderly built, mahogany-skinned, with sable braids that swept his shoulders. He'd asked the class if they'd done any writing during their summer vacation. Most of the kids had looked confused... was this some sort of sneaky-ass test?
But Brandon had passed in a trio of stories about the adventures of two mutant boys who'd escaped from a secret laboratory. They'd been injected with animal genes -- those of lions and tigers from Earth combined with beasts from other dimensions -- as part of an evil experiment to spawn a race of worker slaves. The story took place on Beastworld, a mostly uninhabited planet of sunny blue oceans and tropical islands. The project hadn't been going well: some of the beast-boys were turning out wild... like the pair who'd escaped from the Beastmaster's lab. These were the heroes, Bucky and Beast, and their quest was to bring down the evil Beastmaster and set all the mutant kids free. The stories were part of a graphic novel; the book that Brandon planned to write as soon as he found an illustrator.
Tiger Tanaka had turned in a tale, though Asians were always smart: but Travis had also brought a story, surprising Brandon even more. Some of the kids had taken the course in hopes of getting an easy A, while a few, like Bosco, had only been added to fill an empty desk. Travis, Tiger and Brandon were the only ones who'd written that summer, except for a shy chubby girl who wrote poems. A few of the dudes had smirked at them as if they had done something nerdy; but Bosco had managed to stay awake, and had even made a few notes... on Brandon's paper with Brandon's pen.
It seemed like an inspiring class, and Brandon was still elevated by that as he waited in front of the gym. Then a whistle blew and somebody roared in a voice like the evil Beastmaster’s.
Brandon's brother had warned him that Coach Kleghorn was a retarded goon with hair everywhere except on his head... and he hadn’t exaggerated much. The boys were bellowed into the gym, a vast and echoing cavern that reeked of sweat and sour old socks while broiling under mercury lights on a day that was already hot. Brandon saw air-conditioner ducts, but maybe the school was green? Boys began to lose their shirts, and Brandon unbuttoned his own. The coach bulled his way to a line of bleachers, mounted to pose like Mussolini, flipped open a clipboard and bellowed out names.
The boys were ranked alphabetically, putting Brandon in back with Travis, while Bosco was forced to the front of the lines to stand with Troy Durrant. Brandon was amused to see that Troy was too shy to talk to Bosco.
Also in front was the muscled black boy who Troy and Brandon had seen in the hall. He nodded to Travis as if they were friends, which Brandon supposed was natural... the only black kids in the house. The dude looked like an anatomy model with every tight muscle starkly defined; and Troy kept giving him envious glances, obviously wanting to take off his shirt, but bashful at being so underdeveloped compared to the ebony god. The black dude didn't seem to care about the awesome shape he was in: his posture was appallingly sloppy, his six-pack stomach thrust carelessly out, while his paving stone pecs would have sagged if they could. He only peeled off his snowy wife-beater when the heat of the lights and the bodies around him had risen to nearly volcanic extremes.
Brandon murmured to Travis, "I guess Bosco's locker won't be near ours."
Another boy gave him a smile. "Your homie can trade with somebody."
If Travis White was the world's fattest kid, this dude rated second prize, his belly pouring out of his shirt and hanging halfway to his knees. Brandon had tagged him as being Latino -- coppery-brown with long raven hair -- but his name was Danny Little-Wing.
"Yeah," said Danny, when Brandon asked the logical question. "I crack whenever I see those stickers on somebody's Beamer or SUV. 'Native Californian,' my ass!"
Brandon's mother had one on her Saab. "Are you a Senior?" he asked.
"I freakin' wish," said Danny. "Then I'd be out of this suckhole next year. Just a lowly Sophomore, dude."
"Former buffalo soldier," said Travis, reaching past Brandon to shake Danny's hand. Brandon felt like a skinny third-grader squished between the two mammoth dudes and almost engulfed in their bellies.
Danny shrugged an enormous shoulder. "Guess it wasn't your idea to help the white man slaughter the red man. There used to be a bounty on us; twenty bucks a head... dead."
Travis smiled. "I won't bore y'all with the slavery thing."
"Um," said Brandon, trying to breathe and feeling strangely embarrassed again as when first seeing Travis’s belly thrusting out from under his shirt. "I didn't do it. But, I know I benefitted from it."
Travis chuckled. "That's more than most white people ever admit."
"It's a start, anyway," said Danny, then stepped back a pace, allowing Brandon to breathe again. "Sorry, man. I don't even know where I stop anymore and the rest of the world begins."
Coach blew a blast on his whistle. "Shut up back there! ...Oh. Little-Wing. You want the Special Eds this period? It's extra credit and you could use it."
Snickers rippled the ranks of boys: everyone knew that "Special" wasn't.
Danny shrugged. "Sure. Why not? I've even got opposable thumbs."
Coach snapped his clipboard shut like a bite. "Line up for your locker assignments! Through that door over there! And everyone dresses down! And you will take showers today! ... You! What?"
Bosco had his hand up. "Dude," he said. "I can't dress down."
"You're not that fat!" bellowed the coach, drawing a few more snickers and laughs as the other boys bustled away.
"Huh?" said Bosco. "Nah. I mean, like I can't 'cause..."
"Don't be a damn little girl!" roared Coach as if that was the ultimate insult.
And that was a stupid thing to say, considering Bosco's hoodie was open, displaying his belly and bobby boy-breasts; but Brandon had noticed a couple of kids -- the marshmallow dude in the 51 shirt, and another boy standing beside him -- who were looking a little scared. It was like they had known this moment would come, but maybe they'd hoped for a pardon? The other boy wasn't chubby or fat: he looked normal enough, though sort of small.
"Huh?" said Bosco again. "Nah. Hey, coach-dude. Like, what happened is..."
"Listen up!" bellowed Coach, ignoring Bosco. "Special Eds! See Little Wing! Over there in the red T-shirt!"
Somebody laughed. "Red tee-pee, more like it!"
Most of the boys were already in line at the double doors to the locker room -- Troy gave Brandon a hurry-up wave -- leaving Danny, Travis, and seven others alone in the sweltering gym. Four dudes were fat to different degrees -- disregarding Danny and Travis -- the Latino boy from History class, the dude in the Area 51 shirt, and chubby Bosco Donatello. There was also a boy in a grimy old tee that might have been urban camouflage... or may have once been white. He seemed to have swallowed a basketball, though he wasn't fat anywhere else. Beside him stood the little dude, who looked eleven and ready to cry; and also the muscular ebony boy. Brandon had lingered with Travis -- the line was in alphabetical order so he had plenty of time -- and Bosco came ambling over.
"Is Coach a skeeze, or what?" he grumbled. "I was only tryin' to tell the trog I left my gym clothes at the beach.”
Danny Little-Wing laughed. "They got loaners. But I hope you've had all your shots." He studied Bosco and smiled. "Boys with innies can ride the wind."
Bosco looked down at his chest. "Huh?"
"My grandfather told me that," said Danny, patting his own enormous breasts. "I got 'em, too. But, you don't have to be Special, dude. You're not fat enough to be obese."
"What's obese?" asked Bosco, as if he'd never heard the word.
"Dangerously overweight," said Brandon.
The brown boy gave him a glare. He was rolly and loose with a mop of black hair, and jiggled all over whenever he moved. "'Dangerous' to who?" he demanded. Then he stepped to Brandon. "The hell you doin' here, skinny-ass?" He gave Brandon a scoping and narrowed his eyes. "Don't I know you from somewhere?"
Brandon was more surprised than scared -- he'd been called many things but never skinny -- and studied the boy in return. The dude looked a little familiar, and it wasn't from History class. Brandon noticed a gang tattoo across his chubby knuckles. "I... don't think so, man."
"'Chubby compared to that tub of lard'? ...'Probably doesn't speak English'? That ring any bells in your head, amigo?"
"...Oh," said Brandon. "...But, hey, man, I didn't say that."
Danny stepped to the brown boy. "Peace-out, bro."
"Yeah," added Travis, putting a hand on Brandon's shoulder. "This here's my dawg."
"Wuttup?" asked the muscular black dude, ambling over to stand with Travis. He straightened his sloppy posture a bit like a lazy panther coming alert.
"My cousin Kelvin," said Travis to Brandon.
"Hey," said Brandon, taking the boy's offered hand and doing the shake that Travis had taught him.
"Wait a minute," the brown boy said. "I do know you!"
Brandon checked the dude's face again... and suddenly saw it smaller and younger snarling at him in the dark. It was the boy from Santa Cruz Beach... the kid who Brandon and Troy had skinned!
"...Oh," said Brandon. "I... um... still got those Tommys we bought from you."
The dude cocked his head for a moment, then looked down and jiggled his belly, which avalanced over his jeans. "I don't think they fit me no more. Besides, you paid for 'em, man." Then he laughed. "An' twice what they was worth."
"I'm really sorry about that," said Brandon.
"Guess we all look alike to you, huh?"
"No, man. I got my clothes stolen. I told you after."
The boy snorted. "Yeah, after. ...Hey, man! You got any clue what that felt like? Gettin' chased by you guys in the dark an’ havin' my clothes ripped off?"
"...I guess not too cool."
"Like, what you think I was thinkin', man? I thought you were gonna rape me or somethin'. An' it had to be one of us, huh? Like, white dudes wouldn't have rolled you, huh?"
"I'm sorry, man. What else can I say?"
The boy shrugged. "Aw. That was four years ago." He smiled. "An' it was kinda funny. ...After. I'm Carlos."
"Brandon," said Brandon, shaking the boy's chubby gang-tatted hand.
Travis was looking curious, but Bosco asked: "How do I get obese, dudes?"
Everyone cracked, except the Area 51 kid. The small boy had edged to Brandon's side, maybe to offer more backup. He didn't look "Special" to Brandon -- curly brown hair, an elf-like face, and the hint of a little-kid tummy -- though way too young for high school. His T-shirt hung down past his knees like a dress.
A wiry boy came trotting up with a battered clipboard and a tarnished brass whistle. "Coach said to give you these, Danny." He looked around at the other dudes. "P.E. sucks! I wouldn't mind being Special."
"Hey, Ralph," said Danny. "So, get fat and hang with us."
"I might just do that. ...Later, dudes."
"Anybody want a whistle?" asked Danny. When no one answered he tossed it away clattering over the floor. "Don't need no stinkin' whistles." He turned to Bosco again. "'Obese' is the latest hate-speak, dude. Like nigger, beaner, honkey... or wop." He grinned and patted his chest. "Or blanket-ass. It's something haters and health-nazis call you." He pointed to the locker room doors where the other boys were waiting in line. "There's a dude who's fatter than you... chubbier, anyway. I wouldn't call him obese, but lots of haters would."
"I'm obese," said the 51 kid.
Danny gave him a thoughtful look. "Only if you wanna be."
"I think I'm just fat," said Bosco. "There's nothin' dangerous about me."
"I'd call you chubby," said Brandon. "If I had to describe you by weight."
"Me too," said the boy in the camouflage tee, whose belly seemed to be seeking escape.
Brandon gave him a scoping... maybe that was a basketball under his straining shirt? The dude's skater jeans were years out of date -- Skunks with a black-and-white stripe down the sides -- and he wore them so low that his sneaks were hidden beneath their tumble of cuffs. His hair was a thatch of unruly straw, and his eyes were as green as a cat's. "Hey, man," said Brandon. "I've seen you down at the Boardwalk."
Carlos laughed. "Did he jack a pair of your Tommys, too?"
"Give it a funeral," said Brandon. He faced the basketball-bellied boy. "You work at Captain Softee. Killer chocolate dip."
"Yeah," said the dude. He grinned and grasped his spherical tummy as if preparing to make a shot. "I'm quality-control."
"I must have bought a hundred from you. They totally rock," said Brandon.
"We got that much in common," said Carlos.
"Don't forget the Tommy jeans."
"No offense," said the pot-bellied boy. "But a lotta dudes look like you at the beach."
"Tell me about it," said Carlos. "Can't tell one blond from another."
The pot-bellied boy was studying Brandon. "I kinda remember your hair. ...Oh yeah! You’re Tommy’s bud. I'm Zach."
"Brandon," said Brandon.
"What's all this Tommy shit?" asked Danny.
"A friend of mine, not the jeans," said Brandon.
"Yo, Zach," said Travis. "My folks got Neptune's Fish 'N Chips. Under the coaster by Corn Dog Cavern."
"Oh yeah," said Zach. "Best fish 'n chips on the 'walk, man. But I'm way down at the other end. Between Pelican Pizza an' Buccaneer Burger."
"Your joint kicks ass," said Carlos to Travis. He slapped his belly, making it wobble. "This ain't all burrito blubber."
"You work at the Boardwalk, too?" asked Travis.
"Nah. But, I hang there a lot. My dad's a mechanic, fixes the rides. An' mom works in the nurse’s office."
"Sorry, Zach," said Danny. "You're not fat enough to be obese. Surfer-dude is borderline on the fat-hater scale, but even Coach wouldn’t call you obese. An' it's football season, remember, so he needs a few heavyweight orcs."
"I got asthma," said Zach.
"Yeah? How bad?"
"How bad does it gotta be?"
Danny smiled. "Sounds bad enough." He opened the clipboard and scribbled something. "Bring me a note tomorrow an' make it look like it's from a doctor." Then he turned to the small elvish boy. "What's your dysfunction, little big man?"
The kid looked down at his huge puppy feet encased in sneaks like cartoon shoes. "I'm just... little." Then he added quickly, "Normal little, but... little."
The other boys had moved together like a convention of bellies, except for the Area 51 kid. "Okay," said Danny. "But you're gonna need a note for somethin'. An' it can't just be for being little."
"Like, what?" the little dude asked.
"Asthma?" Zach suggested.
"Too many kids got asthma," said Danny. "Try bronchitis, it's easy to fake. Just cough like you're gonna spew sometimes whenever Coach is around."
"Cool," said the boy. "How do you spell it?"
"I'll write it down, bring me a note, and make it look like it’s from a doctor."
"What's your name?" asked Travis.
"Yo, T-Rex." Travis shook hands with the little dude.
"How old are you, man?" asked Kelvin.
"Thirteen. I skipped eighth grade."
Danny turned to Kelvin and whistled. "You're gonna need a major excuse if you wanna be a Special!"
"I gots a heart problem," said Kelvin, his posture gone sloppy again. "I ain't supposed to run."
Travis smiled. "We'll bring you a real doctor's note."
"Um?" asked Brandon. "How did you get all those muscles, Kelvin? A friend of mine worked out all summer but he never got as ripped as you."
Kelvin shrugged. "Come with the package, I guess."
"He eats like a garbage-disposal," said Travis. "Laziest fool on the planet, too."
The 51 kid spoke again: "Do obese people have get naked?"
"It's part of the ritual," said Danny. "Making kids get naked seems to fulfill some deep adult need."
"But, I'm obese and I hate it."
"Well, shit!" said Travis. "You're with your brothers. I show you 'obese' with a bullet!" He stripped off his shirt.
"That's my cuz," said Kelvin, leaning on Travis's blubbery shoulder.
Everyone looked awed. As Brandon had already noted, Travis was really too fat to wear clothes. The rolls of his waist were so enormous, and his belly hung down so far in front that his jeans were secured around his thighs by a punker studded leather belt that had to have come from a Big and Tall store. His gigantic bottom was almost bare, and his breasts were massive midnight moons, their nipples the size of soda can tops.
"Are you dangerous, man?" asked Rex.
Kelvin laughed. "Just don't try an’ pet him when he’s eatin’."
"I can't get naked!" howled the 51 kid. "I don't want people to see I'm obese!"
"You really are obese," said Travis. "The most dangerous kind, which is in your mind. What's your name? ...Though I don't think I care."
"Jason Gray. I'm on a diet. In a month or so I'll be okay."
"I went on a diet once," said Danny. "But I'm all better now."
"What's wrong with you, Jason?" asked Bosco.
"I told you! I'm obese!"
Danny frowned. "I think we shall tire of that word fairly soon."
"Hey, Jason," said Brandon, feeling left out. "Everyone puts on little weight over summer vacation." He patted his tummy. "See? I did."
"I know I did," laughed Zach.
"I should have exercised," sighed Jason. "And dieted a way lot more. My mom's always telling me to."
"Then it's all your fault you're obese," said Danny. Then he added a little more kindly, "Trade lockers with someone and shower with us." He smiled. "Down in the Pig Pen. We got your back. Like Travis said, we're brothers here."
"...Well," said Jason. "Maybe until I lose some weight."
Rex laughed. "I'll take it, I sure as hell need it!"
Brandon glanced to the locker room doorway: the line was getting shorter. He wasn't sure why he said the next thing; maybe because he liked these dudes. He pictured them all together, laughing and getting to know each other while he had to play a retarded game. And yet it seemed to go deeper than that: all his life he'd done what he wanted, gone where he wanted, been who he wanted -- but here was something he couldn't do just because of his weight. ...Or, actually, the lack of it. "So, what does it take to be Special?" he asked.
"Bein’ obese, I guess," said Bosco.
Jason flared, "Why would you wanna be obese? You think it's funny or something?"
"I'm starting to think you're funny," said Brandon.
"Try asthma," said Zach.
"Or bronchitis," said Rex.
"It can't be anything major," said Danny. "Then you'd be Physically Challenged. There's a separate class and a teacher for that."
Brandon considered. "What about a back problem?"
"You have one?"
"I used to. And it might flare up."
"You'll need a note. Make it look real." Danny wrote Brandon's name on the clipboard. "Bosco, you'll need a note, too."
"What should be wrong with me?" Bosco asked.
Brandon laughed. "You have an allergic reaction to anal-retentive morons."
Bosco grinned. "What he said."
"How about epileptic?" said Danny.
"You mean like havin' spaz attacks?"
"How about cataleptic?" said Brandon. "That means you fall asleep a lot and don’t know where you are."
Bosco grinned like a beaver. "Yeah that's me all over."
Danny wrote on the clipboard. "Those kinds of things are always good 'cause Coach doesn't know what they mean. Welcome to the blubber club."
"So, what do we do?" asked Bosco.
"Walk laps, what else," said Danny. "Unless it's raining. Then we sit on the bleachers in here and watch the skinnies play B-ball. Or sometimes old sports movies. We saw Field Of Dreams six times last winter. Think you can handle that much pressure?"
"Do we have to take off our shirts?" asked Jason.
Everyone groaned. Zach stripped out of his camouflage tee, revealing an amazing belly, almost perfectly spherical, though his chest was fairly muscular.
"Wicked!" said Rex. "How long did it take you to get like that?"
"Three months of dippin' softee cones an' eatin' all the rejects."
"How do you mook-up a softee?" asked Brandon.
"It’s hard but I practice."
"My mom looked like that for awhile," said Carlos. "Before she had my little sister."
Brandon felt strangely embarrassed again, seemingly surrounded by bellies, and took off his shirt, displaying his Bugs Bunny tummy, which wasn't very impressive. Then Rex pulled off his tent-like tee, revealing a featureless little-boy body as pink and white as a Caucasian baby's. He turned to Jason. "Lose it, dude!" he ordered. "Or everybody will think you're a puss!"
"That's not fair!" cried Jason.
"Yo, Jason," said Carlos. "In a month you won't have to hang with us. You gonna get skinny, remember?"
"Um?" said Brandon to Danny. "How does the grading system work? I'm trying to maintain a B-plus average."
Danny smiled. "I'm goin' to college, too. Learn the ways of the white man and take back California."
"You can take it back from us," said Carlos. "After we take it back."
"It's mostly up to me," said Danny. "Walk laps on the track and you'll get a B-plus." He glanced at Jason. "Don't lose your shirt and I'll give you a D. Don't take showers, and you'll get an F. ...A big obese F."
"Do Specials ever get A's?" asked Rex. “I gotta overachieve."
"It's theoretically possible, but Coach hates giving A's to fat kids. He calls it rewarding failure. You could volunteer for towel-boy. But in your case I wouldn't advise it. No offense, but you're too cute."
"I have that problem, too."
"You could be our runner, man. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is foxing off to the candy machines and keeping everybody supplied."
Jason said, "I'm not supposed to eat candy."
Danny rolled his eyes. "Nobody's gonna make you."
"But, if I don't will you give me an F?"
Danny glanced at Brandon. "You're right, he is funny... in a sad sort of way."
"And obese," said Zach.
"Yo, Danny?" asked Travis. "What about the swimmin’ pool? I need to work on my tan."
"I need to start," said snowy-white Rex.
Carlos groaned. "Why is havin' a tan so cool, unless you was born with one?"
Danny shook his head. "That's only for the swim team. Besides, there's no supervision."
"Oh yeah," said Travis. "Like we gonna sink?"
Danny shrugged. "Fat kids aren't supposed to have fun. It seems to fulfill some deep hater need.”
The afternoon air was sticky and hot, a steamy stew of seashore scents, as Brandon came up the sidewalk and stopped in front of his house. He'd lost his shirt at the bus stop, and his coppery body was shiny with sweat. The ocean lay glassy across the street below the thirty-foot sandstone cliffs. It was emerald-green along the shore and shaded to indigo-blue farther out. The swells were nothing but slow-rolling humps, stirring the beds of golden kelp as they whispered in over the reefs. The sky was clear and cloudless; the sea lions out on their own little rock seemed too sleepy to bark; and even the seagulls were lost in space, nodding in rows on the white wooden rails that lined this part of West Cliff Drive.
An occasional middle-aged jogger plodded the shimmering asphalt path that followed the edge of the cliffs. They looked out of place in this slumbering scene, panting, puffing, pouring sweat, as if running from something that rode on their shoulders. Maybe, thought Brandon poetically, they were trying to run away from time, as if they thought they couldn't be caught as long as they kept running.
A dozen surfers were out off the Point beyond the sea lion rock. Of course there weren't any waves today, but they were still astride their boards in a place where nothing could catch them. Maybe not even time. Some had their suits peeled down to their waists; and Brandon pictured armored knights at rest upon their battle steeds. ...Another world he would never be part of.
He studied the peaceful sunlit scene and tried to recall the angry sea that crashed and roared in winter storms, hurling waves against the cliffs and flinging spray across the street that rattled his window glass. It seemed like a whole different universe now. Or maybe another time.
The sleepy smell of summer lawns mingled with the salty sea, and flowers bloomed along the block in brick-lined beds and redwood borders, adding sweetness to the mix like breathing cotton candy fumes. A mower grazed the grass next door in Tommy Turner's big front yard. Its driver was a barefoot boy with shaggy chocolate-colored hair and skin as tan as Brandon's. He was twelve with anime eyes and a cheerful chubby chipmunk face. His body was composed of rolls beginning on top with a double-chin, then rolls of chub squeezed under his arms. His chest was a pair of bobby balloons that looked about ready to pop and rolled upon another roll that rolled upon a rolly belly that overflowed his cutoff jeans and rolled into his lap. The Turners had a swimming pool but Tommy lived in Brandon's; and Brandon's room belonged to him by right of occupation.
Brandon scanned his own front lawn... he should have mowed it yesterday. Tommy saw him, grinned and waved, shifted gears, raised the blades, and drove the mower up the walk. The John Deere could have plowed a farm, shiny green and dangerous, the baddest mower on the block and everybody knew it. Tommy cut the engine and suburban silence settled.
"What's up, Brandon?"
Brandon let his tummy out: he'd kept sucked while walking home... as if the neighbors gave a shit about his BMI. He scanned the rolly boy and smiled. "Dudes with innies can ride the wind."
Tommy switched off his I-pod and pulled the buds out of his ears. "Zot?"
"An Indian dude said that today."
"Did he have innies, too?"
"Yeah. And so does another dude."
Tommy cupped one of his breasts with a hand, regarding its innie nipple. "They're pretty rare. ...You sure he was an Indian?"
"His name is Danny Little-Wing."
"What tribe?" asked Tommy.
"Said he was an Ohlone."
"I read about them in fourth-grade," said Tommy. "This used to be their land, but I thought they were extinct."
"Guess the strong survived."
"Is he fat?"
"With a bullet!" Brandon spread his arms.
"Cool! A lot of Indians are. There's a dude in Arizona who saw our site last week. He's thirteen an' a Papago, an' they get mookin' huge!" Tommy spread his own arms wide. "We traded pics the other night." He pulled a bottle from a holder. "Here, cool off a little, man. It's hotter than Beastworld with both suns out."
"Thanks," said Brandon. "But Diet Coke gives me headaches."
"Same here," said Tommy. "But it's real Coke on the under."
Brandon took a long, sweet swig and gave the bottle back. "Your mom got you on another diet?"
Tommy made a pukey face. "This one's based on grapefruit... retch! I been orderin' dinner from Deli Web." He slapped his belly, making it wobble. "I always gain weight on a diet."
"You'd think your mom would figure that out and leave your bod alone."
"Tell me about it." Tommy drank some Coke and burped. "But I'll survive. Breakfast with you, lunch at school, an' then McDees an' Deli Web."
"Do you gain weight on purpose?" asked Brandon. "Like, to get revenge or something? I saw this TV show one time..."
"Not no more, but I used to." Tommy grinned. "You mean you never noticed? I'd eat everything in your house."
"When did you stop doing that?"
"Bite me, Bucky. Da Beast need lots of energy."
Brandon scanned the boy again. "You got a lot fatter this summer, huh?"
"You never noticed that either? Almost twenty pounds." Tommy hoisted his belly blubber. "Can't even button my cutoffs no more.”
"Well, I see you every day."
"I know what you mean," said Tommy. "It's like seein' your grandma at Christmas, an' all of a sudden she got really old." He studied Brandon's tummy. "You put on some weight yourself. Looks good on ya, Bucky."
Brandon glanced down. "My old jeans were getting tight. These are bigger, another inch."
Tommy reached to Brandon's jeans and tugged them down a little more. "Give it room to hang, dude. It's da cool fat look, unbuttoned, unzipped an’ sag to the max."
Brandon smiled. "Some people would say it's only cool if you don't have to look that way. Like, being born with a tan."
Tommy giggled. "Speakin' of which, I got another offer today. People drive by an' see me mowin' an' think I'm a Mexican kid. I oughta start a business." He patted the side of the tractor. "She'll do almost ten on the street. I could drive anywhere in town. Rode her to McDee's yesterday."
"You sure got brown this summer," said Brandon. "But, why would you wanna work? You get a good allowance."
Tommy frowned. "Mom cut it down to forty a week. She thinks I'm spendin' it all on food. Like, I don't buy anything else."
Brandon looked down at his tummy again. "Guess I did gain a little. But, hey, it was summertime, man. And I had a big lunch at school today so it's kinda sticking out if I let it."
"Why wouldn’t you let it? Feels good bein' stuffed."
"Yeah, sort of... careless,” said Brandon. “And the food was actually edible."
"Yeah? What was it?"
"Burgers, burritos. Tamale pie. Pizza, meatloaf and other cool stuff. They have some deadly desserts, too... pies, cakes, and ice cream."
"You ate all that for lunch?" said Tommy. "That's my kinda happy meal."
"'Course I didn't eat all that. I was kickin' with some other dudes and saw what they were having. ...Um... so, how do you feel, Tommy?"
"Being fat, duh."
Tommy leaned back and pounded his chest, looking like an earthquake in Jell-O. "Me Da Beast!" He suddenly leaped from the tractor and slammed his bulk into Brandon, crashing Brandon down on the lawn and pinning him on his back. "How does that feel, Bucky-boy?"
"Hey!" gasped Brandon. "C'mon, get off! I can't breathe under here!"
Tommy sat up on Brandon's chest as if astride a surfboard, his belly bulging in Brandon's face, its navel leaking silver sweat. "Is Da Beast cool?"
"Yeah, the coolest. C'mon, get off!"
"Does Da Beast rule on Beastworld?"
"Yeah! Will you get off me, man!"
"Are you a mook?"
"Bucky knows Da Beast's one weakness!"
"Okay, okay! Don't tickle!" Tommy started to get off, but Brandon grasped his mass of belly, shaping it into a ball of blubber and suddenly broke out laughing.
Tommy cocked his head. “What’s funny?”
“I think I got it.”
“My belly?” said Tommy. “It’s cool, huh? Play with it all you want.”
“I mean the symbolism.”
Tommy grinned and gripped his belly, rounding it even more. “Yeah, it’s very Freudian.”
Brandon laughed again. “Like, yours is bigger than mine.”
“A lot bigger! An’ now it’s in your face.”
“Or just sticking out,” said Brandon. “Like, from under somebody’s shirt. Like, it’s too big to be contained. And the way some fat dudes walk, leaning way back with it... thrusting out.”
“Like I do,” said Tommy. “Freudian symbolism 101, even if I don’t think about it.”
Brandon added, recalling Danny Little-Wing and being trapped between him and Travis, “Or bumping or pressing against you. That’s why I felt embarrassed today, a couple of times. ...Maybe even threatened.”
“It’s mostly subconscious,” said Tommy. “At least for kids my age, but it disturbs a lot of fat-haters even if they don’t know why.” He rolled off and got to his feet, leaning way back to balance his belly, his back bowed into a drastic curve, and tugging his cutoffs up a little below the bulging rolls of his waist, though the moons of his bottom were still half bare and just as tan as the rest of him.
Brandon sucked air. "I never knew you weighed so much!”
"Back when I was little an' didn't wanna do somethin', I just sat down on the floor. No way could mom get me up."
"I believe it," panted Brandon. "Makes me think of Sitting Bull. He must of been an awesome dude to get a name like that."
"Like, picture a sitting bull."
"So, how are you paying the Deli Web van if you only get forty a week now?"
"Plastic, duh," said Tommy, leaning against the tractor. "Mom's got so many she can't keep track." He snagged the bottle and gulped some Coke then offered the bottle to Brandon. "I meet 'em out in the driveway so mom don't know what's goin' on."
Brandon killed the last of the soda then pillowed his head on his arms. "You're bitchin', Beast."
"You'd bitch too if your mom was tryin' to starve you."
"No, man, it's an expression. It means you’re kickin' cool."
"I never heard it before," said Tommy.
"You're boss, too."
"Mookin' right! Bitchin'. Boss. That’s me all over."
"So, it never bothers you? Being fat? Don't you get dissed?"
Tommy laughed. "Twenty-four-seven. But, you oughta know that already. Or don't you listen when we go out? 'Specially with no shirts."
"Guess I just tune it out," said Brandon. "Haters say shit to me, too. Like, homo, hippie, and... retch... golfer."
"I don't listen neither,” said Tommy. “You gotta accept that some people hate an’ they’re the ones mooked-up, not you. Otherwise you'd go totally postal an' do a Columbine."
"So, how was your first day of school this year?"
Tommy spread his arms. "Da Beast lives. Ta-da!"
"Lots of other fat kids there?"
Tommy plopped down on the grass beside Brandon. "Actually more than last year, even with all the health-nazi shit. An' some are really cool. You can always tell a cool fat dude by how he wears his jeans."
"I noticed that today. I call it the careless look. The mookie dudes try to wear 'em way up. Sorta like old golfers."
"That's a major mookie, man."
"How about cool fat girls?"
Tommy smiled. "Lots of fat girls are smart, which is cool with me."
"What about P.E.?"
"Usual mookshit, walkin' laps. Like, that's gonna make fat kids lose weight! That's as stupid as all them TV commercials sayin' to go out an' play for an hour every day." Tommy gave Brandon a thoughtful look. "We never talked about fat before."
"Is that cool?"
"It's about time! I only been fat for twelve years." Tommy jiggled his blubber. "An' I'm the coolest kind of fat. Like Mexican kids, an' Indians, real soft an' rolly."
"Yeah," said Brandon. "I guess if you're gonna be fat, you should really look the part."
"Def," agreed Tommy. "'Course, if you're just starting to get fat, like during summer vacation, it mostly goes to your belly first. I call it the basketball look."
"Like Zach at the Boardwalk?"
"I didn't know you knew Zach."
"He's in my P.E. class this year. But, we bought a million cones from him. He remembered you."
"I usually go an' hang with him when you an' Troy are doin' stuff. He lets me run the place sometimes. I'm boss at dippin' softees."
"You ever mook 'em up?"
"That's pretty hard to do."
Brandon sighed. "Seems like all I've been doing with Troy this summer is watching him lift his mookin' weights."
"That's gotta be mookie."
"But, he is gettin' muscles."
"Yeah," agreed Brandon. "But, he's also getting a hater ‘tude. Like, muscles make him better."
"Better than who?" asked Tommy.
"Than anybody without them."
"I got muscles," said Tommy, flexing a chub-padded arm. "They just don't show."
"I noticed that," said Brandon. "Like when you jumped on me. ...You think Troy looks cool?"
Tommy shrugged. "If you like muscles that show, I guess. But, lookin' cool an' bein' cool don't always come in the same kinda bod."
"I've noticed that, too,” agreed Brandon. “So, how come you've never been shy, Tommy? Like, you never wear a shirt."
"Maybe 'cause you never dissed me."
"Couldn't have just been that."
Tommy smiled. "You were the first friend I ever had. An' always the best. ...I have to kill you now."
"So, you think being fat is cool?"
"You just said I was... an' boss an' bitchin'."
"I didn't mean because you're fat."
"But if I wasn't fat I'd be somebody else. An' maybe a mook or a hater. Like, if you had muscles you might be Troy."
"Hey, I have muscles!"
"Yeah. But your brain is in better shape."
"You think Troy's a hater?" asked Brandon.
"I think he's been takin' hater lessons. Ever since he got them weights."
"Dumb-bells, an' they're workin'."
"Guess you know a lot about fat."
"More than a Master's, less than a Ph.D.” Tommy stretched out on the grass beside Brandon and pillowed his head on his arms. “So, what's it like in your school?"
“Public school is like one size fits all, which doesn't really fit anyone. And now I'm one of the smallest dudes instead of one of the biggest."
"Da Beast not have dat problem yet. ...Get your writing class?"
"Yeah, and it's totally boss. Makes up for all the mookie shit."
"You gonna take a swim?" asked Tommy. "I'm just about done with the lawn."
"How much Da Beast charge for mowing Bucky's?"
"Five an' a beer."
"Deal." Brandon got up and brushed back his hair. "I'll be in the pool."
Tommy climbed back on the tractor and plugged the buds in his ears. "For you, senor, I will mow like the wind."
CLICK PHAT ACCEPTANCE 2 IN THE NAVIGATION BAR