The old carnival fortune-telling machine sat quietly in the corner of the antique store collecting dust. Tiny couldn’t help himself as he walked over to it to get a better look.
He was wasting some time before dinner and found the store the perfect place to help him. The old thing reminded him of the one from the movie, ‘Big,’ a childhood favorite of his.
Now Tiny, whose real name was Theodore, was anything but tiny. That was jus’ his nickname from the neighborhood.
He had always been big. In fact, he held a certain amount of pride in the fact that at one time he had been the largest baby ever born in San Diego County.
That prideful fact became shattered one day in middle-school when he asked Betty Jo Johnson to go to the Winter Ball with him. She turned him down flat, calling him fat in the process.
It had never occurred to Tiny that he was fat, so he decided then and there to use his ungainly size to his advantage. He played center all four-years on the varsity football squad, took home trophies and metals in wrestling, and couldn’t be moved once he set himself over home plate in baseball.
And though he never asked another girl out to a dance, he made certain he attended every one. Furthermore, he made certain that all the ‘wallflowers’ hugging the walls had at least one dance throughout the night.
But now, Tiny was approaching 29-years-old and his mind moved from the things that had been to the things he needed to fulfill his life. He had even begun casually dating a young woman from his work place and he hoped the relationship might blossom into something greater.
They were planning to go dancing Tuesday night. It was something he was really looking forwards to doing with Patricia as he had something special in mind.
He fished a nickel from his pant pocket and slipped in the slot. Instantly, the machine banged to life, the puppet head moving back and forth, lights flashing from one side of the glass both to the other, before a voice spoke, “Make a wish, but don’t be frivolous, don’t stammer like a fish, make it marvelous.”
Chuckling at the bad rhyme, Tiny knew in an instant what he would wish for, silly or not, “I wish to weigh-less.”
The wooden frame trembled and vibrated, the puppet’s head turned to-and-fro and the lights flashed in rapid succession before the voice rumble out: Your wish is my command, but be where you stay, because like the sand, you might blow away.”
The machine dinged loudly and small orange card drop from a slot below where Tiny had fed his nickel. On it were the same words, that as Tiny read them, felt that oddly, they were some sort of warning.
He slipped the card in his back pocket, looked at his watch and headed out the door. He stopped at Wendy’s, where he purchased a Triple, with everything, a baked potato – again with everything, two large fries, an extra-large coke and an extra-large Frost, all to go.
Since he didn’t live very far away, Tiny began working on the Frosty, finishing it before he pulled into his parking spot at his apartment complex. Feeling famished, he hurried up the walkway and in his residence.
Three bites of the burger later he felt as if he were too full to take another bite. “Must have been that Frosty that done it,” he said as he put his dinner in the refrigerator anticipating eating it for breakfast.
Being an early riser, Tiny turned in after a few minutes of the national news and slightly before night set in. As usual, he was sound asleep with in minutes of his head hitting his pillow.
“What a wild dream that was,” Tiny smiled as he rolled over to turn off his bedside alarm. That’s when he discovered what he thought to be a dream, was actually a waking nightmare.
He screamed involuntarily as he floated along his ceiling, far above the bed. His mind raced in horrified panic, trying to comprehend what was happening.
It took him a few minutes to calm down and begin to reason out his situation. He saw the orange card on his nightstand and understood instantly that the old machine misunderstood his wish to weigh less as a request to be weightless.
Though the situation remained irrational, he knew he had to find away to get to his cell phone, also on the nightstand. He also knew that there was but one person in the world he could depend on to help him in any situation – Bugg.
It took several attempts, that included putting foot through the drywall, but Tiny managed to force his body to aim in a downward trajectory, where he was able to grab his device, before he quickly shot back up towards the ceiling.
Tiny hit his speed dial and waited for his grade school friend to answer. “Hey, Bugg,” he said trying not to sound to panicked, “I’m in a real situation here at my apartment. No, no, nothing like that. But I do need your help.”
He had no place to put his phone on his person as he’d gone to bed naked. Now he had to figure out how to get some clothes on before Bugg arrived.
It didn’t take long for him to realize that if he were careful and moved with deliberate slowness, he could walk on the ceiling almost as if he were walking on his carpet. This made life a little easier as he was able to reach his dresser and pull on a pair of pajama bottoms.
He learned that he could easily reach the shelf in front of his kitchen sink and that this would be a good place to set his cell phone or anything else he might need while he free floated about his apartment. He thought about the rest of the burger and the cold fries in the fridge and concluded he wasn’t hungry at the moment.
“Later,” he promised himself.
Soon a rapping sound came from his front door. He peeked through the peep-hole, happy to see Bugg’s eye looking back at him through the hole, so he opened the door.
Tiny drifted away from the door as Bugg stood there, mouth agape, speechless. Suddenly the lanky and skinny Bugg shook his head and screeched, “What the…”
“I’ll explain,” Tiny interrupted, “but for now we need to find a way for me to get my feet on the ground.”
“How can I help with that – I don’t know anything about stuff like this,” Bugg complained.
“Neither do I, but I’m learning as I go,” Tiny countered.
It didn’t take very long for the pair to devise a plan, wherein Bugg would pull the lighter-than-air Tiny down to the floor, maneuver his bulk to his recliner, then tying him down. It was only a temporary fix, but it would do for the while.
Minutes later, Bugg offered up the idea of buying a weighed-vest from the local sporting good store. Tiny agreed and asked that he also purchase several ankle weights and a pair of weighted shoes, size eight-and-a-half.
As soon as Bugg left, Tiny, who had Bugg retrieve his phone from the sink shelf tapped the speed dial button for work. “Yeah,” he said, “I’m not doing good this morning so I’m not coming into work today.”
With that out-of-the-way, Tiny had the rest of the day to figure out how to resolve his weightlessness. As he sat, tied to his chair, he grew more and more nervous the longer Bugg was gone.
In less than two-hours, Bugg returned, carrying several heavy boxes. The first thing Tiny wanted to try were the weighted-shoes.
As soon as they were on, he untied the rope holding him to the chair. Much to his surprise, while he floated to an erect position, he didn’t lose contact with the floor and bounce into the ceiling.
That happened as he took his first step in his new shoes. He slammed into the ceiling so hard that he put his head completely through the drywall material.
It was obvious that he would need a bit more weight to maintain his ability to walk across the room. “Let me put a couple of those ankle weights on.”
Tiny’s stability increased and for the first time since waking in this peculiar predicament, he took a step without leaving the floor. He stood there for several seconds unable to decided if he wanted to shout for joy or cry out of happiness.
He spent the rest of the day working on actions that he usually took for granted, using the toilet, bathing and even getting dressed. While the weighted shoes and ankle weights worked to hold him down, they didn’t necessarily make easy getting rudimentary activities completed.
After struggling all day Monday with his weightlessness, he decided to brave it and go to work. Besides, it was Tuesday and he had date with Patricia.
All day long Tiny carried on as if things were normal with him. He did everything he could to maintain his routine and since he felt lighter-than-air he discovered he had gotten more work done than ever before.
Patricia and he sat outside at a nearby picnic table and ate lunch together, talking and laughing. “I haven’t been dancing in a long time,” she told him.
After work, Tiny raced home to begin the process of getting ready for that night’s date. Though somewhat nervous, he managed to get washed and dressed in record time and even had time to relax for an hour before he was to pick up Patricia.
It was a wonderful evening. Tiny had danced better than he’d ever danced in his life, with the evening being made better by the fact he was doing so with the woman he loved.
All to soon the night ended, and at midnight he pulled his car to the side of the curb in front of her home. And like a gentleman he walked her to the door to see her in safely.
However this time he had a surprise as they stood facing one another on her porch steps. He reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a small box, before getting down on one knee.
Patricia immediately began crying. At first Tiny thought they were tears of happiness, but soon he realized they were tears of anguish.
Though he’d not asked her to marry him yet, Patricia said, “You’re a sweet guy and all that, but I’m jus’ not ready to be married to one man for the rest of my life.”
“Oh,” Tiny said, trying to sound brave, “I understand.” He really didn’t understand and his bravery only extended so far.
He kissed her gently on the cheek and stood by as she walked through her front door. With a sigh, he placed the small box on the ‘Welcome’ mat for her to find in the morning.
After all it held an item that he didn’t really have any use for and besides Tiny concluded, “I bought it for her.”
Hands stuffed in his pants pockets, Tiny wandered down the narrow walk way to his car. By then tears had begun slipping down his cheeks and he found himself desiring to be alone in an isolated place.
Tiny drove to the edge of town, to an open field where he could look up at the millions of stars and dream. But this early morning he didn’t want to dream, he wanted to fix his shattered heart.
Unable to sit or to lie down, Tiny stood motionless, staring up at the Milky Way, hot tears rolling down his face. He looked down at the toes of his weighted shoes as they protruded from under his pant cuffs.
He knelt and undid the ankle weights, followed by the shoes, and slipped them off. Quietly and quickly Tiny rose from the ground, disappearing into the vastness of the darkened sky.