The shower nozzle lay on the bathroom floor with several fragments of tile still attached.
Theodore had pulled it out in one of his finer moments of frustration. He had wrapped two hands around the metal shaft, applied leverage, and the thing had slid out of the wall like a knife out of butter. Hot water spurted from the gaping pipes.
He had been in the middle of taking a shower, which was one of the more difficult parts of the day for someone who was oversized.
Do not mistake the term in this instance: by oversized, I do not mean that our character is portly, corpulent or obese in the manner of carrying excess flesh. I mean only that when Theodore, or Big Ted as he was known around the workplace, comes walking at you down a sidewalk, you move. Into the road. Because the cars are less threatening.
And the only word that flashes like Hollywood lights in your mind is: BIG.
The bones in Theodore’s forearms were the width and weight of baseball bats. A basketball the circumference of his crown would not swoosh through the ring. His front teeth made ivory hunters take a second glance. He had always been large; he could not remember a time when he did not stand head and shoulders–and sometimes torso–above his classmates. At ten years of age, his mother took him clothes shopping in the men’s department.
This made life difficult for Theodore in some ways. Being the last passenger to squeeze onto a crowded carriage never made him feel much appreciated. Sailing was also a physically challenging endeavour, for the boat. He no longer attended the movies, or fancy restaurants. Taxis tended to avoid him.
Also, showering was a bitch. It wasn’t something you thought about, and when he and Marcie had moved into their home, they hadn’t thought to check that it had one of those modern detachable shower nozzles that you can move around so that it rinses your armpits and between your toes and behind your ears.
Today, Big Ted got sick. Sick of huddling under the nozzle just to get the spray in that little spot at the back of his head where he always missed some shampoo. Then he got angry, and destroyed the shower head. As he stumbled out of the bathroom he dragged the curtain with him too, just as a finishing flourish.
On wet feet, Theodore padded across the hallway, into the lounge room, leaving chocolate footprints on the ochre carpet. He slumped onto the threadbare couch, naked. It protested thinly under his impressive weight. He heaved a magnificent sigh, which shook the paintings a fraction, then rubbed his forehead tiredly. He was tired of feeling like a monster. He was tired of mothers clutching their toddlers away from him when he walked through the supermarket. He’d even tried wearing a t-shirt that said BFG in big friendly letters across the front. It hadn’t worked.
He wanted Marcie to come home so he could complain in her ear until he got tired of his own voice and she said, stop being silly, and call the repair man tomorrow. Yes, that was exactly something she would say.
Feeling stupid, Theodore turned on the TV, flicked through the channels, and turned it off again. He thought he’d better stop dripping into the sofa and put some clothes on. He got up (stooping so he wouldn’t bang his head on the ceiling), turned around, and let out a frightened yelp.
Two women stood in his living room. They were slender and small-boned and dressed entirely in strange, layered black and white garments. They looked perhaps forty or fifty. No wrinkles. He could tell them apart only by their hair: both had white hair, but one wore hers in a high bun, while the other had straight locks hanging to her shoulders.
“How did you get in?” said Theodore in a high-pitched voice, hastily seizing a knitted throw which he draped over his lower half.
“Through the window,” nodded the woman with the bun.
“But that was locked! And who on earth are you?”
“It wasn’t locked for us,” she replied, ignoring his question.
“Big Ted,” murmured the other, her gaze wandering down and then back up. “It’s good to meet you in the flesh again, after all these years.”
Theodore flushed scarlet. “Who are you?”
“I’m Wister, and this is Randella,” said the one with the bun, dismissively. “But you won’t remember us anyway. We’re here to fix up a mistake we made a long time ago.”
Randella was looking him up and down again, but this time like a trainer surveying a prize horse. “My, my. We did slip up with this one, didn’t we?”
“It was late, we’d had a long day of deliveries,” growled Wister. “The master should have excused us.”
“He let us off lightly,” Randella reminded her companion.
Theodore harrumphed. “Uh. I’m sorry. Can I ask you to please leave?”
Randella finally turned her examination from him to her fingernails, and shrugged. “All right. We can’t do anything about him now anyway. We’ll come back for the collection tomorrow.”
They kept talking to each other instead of answering him! It was infuriating.
“Get out!” Theodore found himself crying. “Out, you strange witchy women! I don’t know how you got into my house, but in this country’s books that’s breaking and entering. Now shoo! Off my property, and don’t come back!” He began to herd them towards the front door like chickens, and suddenly they were birds, two giant, long-legged storks with pointy orange bills and black and white feathers, and they pattered out onto his porch and were gone in a flurry of wings. They were in the air, and then they were two dots in the distant blue. Big Ted slammed the door and went to put his clothes on. Marcie would not believe the tale he had for her today.
The next day Theodore went to work. He worked in a warehouse, naturally, stacking boxes on trolleys, pushing said trolleys down endless aisles, lifting the boxes off the trolley and onto high shelves. He saved a lot of other warehouse men from climbing up and down ladders all day, and so they liked him.
At lunchtime, he sat on a crate with a Tupperware box of sandwiches (bacon, mustard and pickles) on one knee, and a clipboard on the other, adding up shipment figures. Contrary to appearances, he was quick with numbers and the manager sometimes asked him to double check the sums. Halfway down a row of figures, Wister and Randella appeared and told him it was time to go.
“Go?” repeated Ted. “Go? I’m not going anywhere. And how did you find me at my workplace? It’s illegal to follow someone against their will, you know.”
“We’ve come to take you home,” explained Wister impatiently. “You were never supposed to grow up here, you see. We made a huge mistake. It happens, once in a million babies. It’s inevitable when you operate a multi-planetary business.”
Theodore said warily, “Where is home? Is Marcie at home?”
“Who’s Marcie?” said Randella, pursing her lips.
“Marcie’s my wife.”
“Your wife! What is she like?”
Theodore pictured her in his mind’s eye. Marcie was, of course, big. She had lovely round shoulders and vast hips, and legs that stretched a mile. She ate like a horse. It made him laugh. Her hair was shining and brown, and she was most proud of it. She wasn’t beautiful to the world, but she was to him.
“Never mind,” Randella cut him off before he had even spoken. “The women in your homeland will be more suited to you than any Earth-spawned female could ever be. You will see. You’ll be happier there.”
“I don’t really want to go anywhere else…”
Wister said, “Sorry. It’s our job to fix up our mistakes.”
And she tossed a bucket of viscous liquid over him. It was golden and sticky like honey, and suddenly Big Ted realised he was no longer Big, that the world was growing faster and faster around him, and for the first time in his life he understood the feeling of being small. The storks stared down at him until he had stopped shrinking, and then Randella picked her up easily in her large orange beak. He felt his feet leave the ground–a sickening lurch, and they were airborne. Through the window, a blast of bright air. The warehouse diminished rapidly beneath them. The stratosphere was cold. Wister flapped alongside, chirping noises that somehow Ted understood as words. WE’LL BE THERE IN A FEW HOURS. SLEEP. YOU ARE TIRED.
Theodore tried to speak, but for some reason he could only make gurgling noises like a baby.
YOU CAN’T TALK YET. YOU SEE, YOU’RE ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES. YOU GET TO START LIFE ALL OVER AGAIN–THIS TIME IN THE RIGHT PLACE.