High schooler Alex Johnson suddenly finds himself a muscle teen titan, thanks to a strange genetic treatment his late father gave him to save his life as an infant. As a shy, often awkward young man with Aspergers, can he adjust to now being likely the biggest, strongest man alive? Perhaps ever? Fortunately, Alex has a hot new boyfriend to stand by him as he tries to navigate quickly changing relationships with his friends. What Alex and Ryan don’t know is that their lives are about to take an ominous turn. Will Alex be able to take the bull by the horns?
I’d made a couple of grocery runs to the market at Olsen’s Corner, and the cavernous trunk was a major asset, because I went through groceries fast.
We set out for town, and within about fifteen minutes we were on the outskirts.
“Where should we go for tires?” I asked.
“Where else? Sears,” Farley answered.
I headed for the Mall of Antioch, slogan: It’s All at the Mall, and soon I pulled the old cab into the parking lot of Sears Auto Center.
My stepdad Phil is the manager, but he didn’t seem to be around, and I didn’t see his Lincoln in the parking lot. We walked up to the counter.
“Hi, Randy,” I said.
Randy looked up from the computer and took a moment to process what he was seeing.
“Can I help you?” he said after a brief pause.
“Randy, it’s me, Alex,” I said.
“Um, okay,” he said. He turned back to his computer.
“Last name?” Randy said, looking at the screen.
“Alex Johnson, Phil’s stepson,” I said, trying to keep any note of exasperation out of my voice.
Randy typed a few characters then stopped. After staring at the screen for a few more seconds, he looked up at me.
“I had a growth spurt.” I pulled out my wallet.
“Look,” I said, “here’s my license. Just take all the information off of that. I need to buy a set of tires.”
With an occasional distrustful glance in my direction, he entered the information. I told him what kind of car I had and he entered that also.
“All we have in that size are light truck tires,” he said.
“That’s perfect!” Farley said.
“When will Phil be back?” I asked.
“Oh, he just went to drop off a customer,” Randy answered.
That was good. That meant when he got back we could use his employee discount. I turned over the keys and we went to the waiting room.
The waiting room only had cheap plastic stacking chairs, so it looked like I’d be waiting standing up. I decided to take a walk through the mall.
Not unexpectedly, I attracted attention. Since my last growth spurt, I’d ordered more suitable clothing over the internet. Even so, I was mostly limited to tees and athletic shorts. The tees were for massively obese people. While they fit okay around the chest, I still had to cut off the sleeves to be comfortable. Celia took in the bottom half of the shirts to make them more V-shaped so that they looked less like a circus tent.
I was learning to take the attention in stride. While there were people that would laugh and others that would simply stare, they seemed to be good-natured. The last couple of weeks with Ryan telling me how amazing I was certainly didn’t hurt.
I stopped in at the Big and Tall shop, and of course, they remembered me. I thought I’d progressed beyond anything they had to offer, but they actually had polo shirts and rugby shirts in my size. This was good to know, because when I went back to school I’d need to start thinking about winter clothes. I bought a couple of shirts and then I decided to get an ice cream cone.
At the ice cream store I walked up to the counter and the girl was wiping down the work area. She turned around to face me.
“Oh, my god,” she said, immediately clapping her hand over her mouth with a startled giggle. “I’m sorry,” she said with a nervous smile. “May I help you?”
“That’s okay, I get that a lot,” I said. “I’d like a triple scoop cone, please. Chocolate chip.”
“Coming right up,” she said, apparently recovered from the surprise.
“Whoa, what have they been feeding you, buddy?”
I looked down at the counter to my left where another employee, a young man this time, was looking up at me.
“Pretty much everything,” I said as I took my cone.
“Dude, you’re not kidding,” he said with awe. “How much do you weigh?”
“Danny!” the girl said.
“That’s okay. About six-seventy-five.”
“Whoa,” was all he said.
I headed back to the Auto Center, contentedly eating my ice cream. When I got there I saw the car was still on the lift and Phil hadn’t returned. Through the window, I saw Farley reading a magazine.
Rather than go back inside and just stand around, I went across the parking lot and sat down on the side of a concrete planter under a tree.
I was enjoying the last of my cone when I thought I heard a slight rustle in the bushes behind me. Suddenly I felt a sharp jab in the back of my neck, like a bee sting. I instantly reached back with my hand, but I didn’t feel anything. I brought my hand back and examined my fingers. They had the merest trace of blood on them. I reached back a second time and now my fingers definitely had a drop of blood. I stood up to look around. I could easily see over the bushes, but I didn’t see anyone or anything. I chalked it up to a bug bite.