first it was the thin mint melee...
The blowsy woman with the bottled red hair kept beating the smaller man with a box of Thin Mints. The man, the manager of the meat department, appeared close to tears as his large opponent sat on top of his thin body and continued the assault.
"Bill, isn't that Janice Perkins?"
"I think you're right, Judy," Bill replied, as spittle began to spew from the redhead's mouth. Janice Perkins was an assistant librarian at the Alvin public library. "I've never seen her so upset. Normally, she's just a kind, gentle woman." It was only a few days ago that the woman had set aside the latest Joe R. Lansdale for him. Tony, the store manager had just come on the scene and tried to pull Janice from the man; he got a fast-moving elbow slammed into his cheek for his efforts.
"Hey! Don't pick on that lady!" a voice cried out. Suddenly a can of peanuts bounced off Tony's head.
Suddenly it seems as everyone got involved. All sorts of products from the candy and snack aisle were thrown around. Punches were thrown, followed by more punches and a few kicks. Loreta Swann, the minister's wife, was trying to beat a pimply-faced teenager with a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips, seemingly unaware that potato chips made a poor weapon. The teenager countered with a knee to her stomach. A foil pack of juice drink burst as someone stepped on it and an elderly man slipped on the sugary liquid and landed on his posterior, knocking over a display of Good & Plenty. A young mother was using her shopping cart to ram people, swing it from left to right as her toddler swung back and forth in the child seat, laughing happily.
"We'd better get out of here, Bill" Judy said.
"You have never been more right, dear."
Leaving their cart behind, the two made their way to the exit. In the parking lot they could the sound of approaching sirens.
Judy said, "I wonder what started that."
Bill shrugged, thinking of the case of Dr. Pepper they had left in the cart.
"It is certainly out of character for quiet little Alvin."
Later that day, they heard that two persons, including Janice Perkins, had been arrested and seven persons had been treated for minor injuries. Leroy Decker, the meat manager, had been admitted to the hospital. The "Gentle" librarian had manged to stuff almost three-quarters of the battered thin mints box down his throat.
gators, we've got gators...
The next morning, Bill went for his morning run. The Texas air was sweet with the smell of spring. The sky was clear and the rising sun promised a good day.
Often when he ran, Bill would try to figure out where his next book was going. As he ran past the Dairy Queen, Bill knew that he had to have Sheriff Dan stop at the DQ in the next chapter. But would it be for a clue, or just for a tasty treat? Bill didn't know, but he never really knew where his books were going until he got there. His fingers on the keyboard seemed to do most of the plotting for him.
He jogged up the slight incline of Bowie Street. He heard a slight rustling from the empty lot on his right. Emerging from the tall weeds was an alligator, its jaws opened wide, heading right at him. It was followed by two more barreling right at him.
Bill was not a fast runner. He ran because he enjoyed it.
A motivated alligator can move pretty fast. It was useless to try to outrun the three beasts. Each gator was at least eight feet long. That's eight feet of hungry, angry motivation apiece.
Bill turned to face the crocodilians. He took a deep breath and ran at the charging monsters.
He swooped down, right hand along the pavement until it reached the under the jaw of the leading gator. His mighty right arm lifted, bringing the gator with it. His powerful left fist then collided with the gator's midsection and the beast flew through the air, landing some thirty yards away.
Bill quickly leaped, soaring over the two remaining gators. He landed behind them and, turning swiftly, grabbed each by the tail. The gators spun over his head like helicopter blades. He release one, then the other, and the two arced through the air to land near their companion. Defeat and fear registered in their lizards brains as the three began to lumber back into the tall weeds.
Bill brushed off some dirt on his sleeve as he looked around. No one in sight. Good. His secret was safe.
As he finished his run, he saw his neighbor, Si Nicklebury, reaching for the morning paper. "Be careful today, Si. There's gators about."
The old man looked confused. "Goiters?"
wherein the secret to his powers is revealed...
It all began on one hot day in the late Fifties when a gangly kid with Coke bottle glasses and a predilection for real Doctor Pepper (made with real sugar) was walking home in Mexia, Texas, enjoying his favorite drink while he ambled to the Crider manse.
Bill turned just in time to see his nemesis, Butchie LeFevre, the town bully, jostle his bottle of Doctor Pepper. The drink splashed in his face, clouded his glasses, and ran down his shirt. Bill came close to tears. He expected such a thing from Butchie and usually tried to avoid him, but on this day, when it was so hot and the Doctor Pepper was so refreshing, he had let his guard down.
It is not certain that the other thing had anything to do with what happened to Bill, but that day the sun experienced massive solar flares, spewing out some fairly esoteric atoms with the giant flame. In Mexia, there was a sudden blast of light, temporarily blinding Bill through his thick glasses. It is presumed that this powerful ray of light, connecting with the film of Doctor Pepper on Bill's glasses, then filtered through to his eyes and thus to his brain, was the source of Bill's powers. I muyst mention, however, that continued (and secret) government experiments to reproduce these exact circumstances have proved futile.
By the time Bill's sight returned, Butchie was already halfway down the block, laughing to himself...
And Bill had changed!
The slim lad had no idea that something had changed him. He felt only a desire to go home, change his shirt, wash up, and settle down to watch American Bandstand. In his rush, he slammed the front door behind him, tearing the door off its hinges and shattering the door frame.
"Golly! What happened?" he asked himself. Bill was confused.
His sister chanted, 'Billy's in trouble! Billy's in trouble!"
"Hush now, Francie. I didn't do that. It must have been a strong gust of wind." Bill tried to settle the door back in place. Failing, he thought that his sister might be right. He was in trouble. His parents, however, did not blame Bill but were mystified as to what had happened. The wind explanation seemed implausible, as did Bill's brother's theory that it could have been wild boars.
From that day, Bill became more and more aware of his powers. He had super-strength. His brain power increased significantly. He could play the guitar -- not well, but much better than before. He still was not a speedy runner. For reasons of his own Bill hid his new powers from his family and his friends. (In retrospect, Bill admitted that he was extraordinarily shy in his younger days.) Bill also vowed to use his powers only for good and never use them to harm any living thing.
Over the next few years, Bill quietly used his powers to fulfill that vow. Numerous people and pets were rescued, often anonymously. Two small burglaries were foiled. A toddler who wandered away from home was found. Dead cars and trucks were pushed to the breakdown lane. Bill's grades, never that bad, improved. Becoming more confident, Bill's circle of friends widened. There was the train wreck with the chemical spill. Then there was the church picnic where Bill's anonymity was erased.
The picnic was well underway when the driver of an eighteen-wheel truck suffered a fatal heart attack and the truck began to hurtle toward the crown. Luckily, Bill was on hand. He leaped in front of the truck, stretched out his arms, and his mighty thews managed to stop the eighteen-wheeler. This happened while the pastor was saying grace, so most of those attending the picnic had their heads bowed and did not see Bill in action, but a few had. Bill said the truck's front wheels must have hit a hole in the ground or a ditch and stopped before it was able to hit him. Rumors began. Most people didn't believe them, but there were a few who kept repeating them.
Somehow the rumors spread and reached a secret government agency, which investigated and then approached Bill clandestinely. That was how Bill began to work for the government, embarking on sporadic secret missions that required his special talents. Eventually Bill led an elite team of troubleshooters that included the following agents:
- Seepy, a mathematical genius who actually believed his code name derived from his initials, C. P., although others knew better;
- Ivy, a military strategist whose code name actually was derived from his initials;
- Hack, a cab driver and former race car and stunt driver who had a need for speed and action;
- and Lawton, an expert lock picker; no door is a barrier to his skill.
Together they form the BIGFOOT Squad, a crack team of experts occasionally called from their day jobs to meet deadly threats all over the world. They gave themselves the name because both Hack and Lawton have big feet (Hack, a size 12, and Lawton, a size 13) and BIGFOOT sounded much better than BIGFEET.
Little did Bill realize that the BIGFOOT Squad would be called on the day he encountered the angry alligators on his morning run.
will the persecution never end?
After exchanging somewhat confused pleasantries with Mr. Nicklebury, Bill jogged up his driveway where Judy awaited holding a cup of coffee for him. "You have a visitor, Bill."
"Oh?" Bill took the cup.
"I left him the back yard, eating bugs." One thing that could be said about Judy, nothing phased her.
Bill made his way to the back.
"Billsss!" The creature was well over seven-foot tall, with brownish-green scales, five rows of sharp teeth, a tongue that could flick out eighteen inches or more, and a musk that could stop the hordes from Taras Bulba in their tracks. It finished chewing on a June bug. "Mys old friendsss!" The reptile stretched out its arms and sheathed its claws to embrace Bill.
"Sss-gak! It's good to see you! What brought you to Texas?"
"Sads story, Billss. Us need your help. Lisstens to mys tale of woes. Us gives Peru updates."
A little bit of explanation is needed here. Several years earlier. Bill and the BIGFOOT Squad were summoned to Peru to investigate some mysterious (and possibly catastrophic) events. Eventually they found themselves in the steep, hidden tunnels under the ancient city of Manchu Piccu, which led them to the Grssnck, the underground kingdom of the Reptile-Men. This ancient race had successfully hid in peace from man for thousands of years. A small number of the scientifically advanced Reptile-Men, under the leadership of the mad manicurist Ptth-ths, had decided that they should rule the surface of the planet, enjoying the warmth of the sun rather than the heat of and underground volcano that had sustained the Grssnck for millennia. The Bigfoot squad had easily overcome the rebels, thus saving Grssnck from being bombed out of existence easily-reactive American government of that time, earning the undying friendship of Grssnck's king, Sss-gak. The most difficult task Bill and his friends faced was to extricate Seepy from the clutches of one of Sss-gak's offspring, Sss-grl, who had fallen in love with Seepy. The fact that the Reptile-Men were all hermaphrodites confused things further.
Nonetheless, with the rebels imprisoned in Grssnck, Bill and Sss-gak became fast friends, exchanging postcards and best holiday wishes. Bill unfailingly received a Christmas card every year from Sss-gak while he sent Blsskna greetings to the reptile king on that holy holiday; often Bill would include and old paperback, knowing how much Sss-gak enjoyed westerns. How those various messages passed from one to the other is a highly classified government secret.
Due to obvious circumstances, Bill and Sss-gak's friendship was limited to correspondence only. Since their original encounter, the two had never met face-to-face. Until now. Something very dire must have happened!
Bill slowly settled himself in a lawn chair. "Tell me."
"Ptth-ths has escaped! And, dear Billss, he has vowed vengeances on yous and the Uniting Statess! I haves come to warns youss! Pluss theres iss the dangerss of yous preisdentss whos secretly tweetss bombss droppings on Peru very soons!"
Just then, a picnic table exploded in a bright flash of destruction!
Dang it! Bill thought, as he grabbed his reptilian friend and dropped to the ground. That's the third table destroyed this month. Judy is going to kill me. I really should try to keep my address secret. Bill had often been the target of disgruntled madmen, criminals, and deposed rulers.
Bill turned to where the blast had come from and caught a glimpse of a scaly, disfigured barbed tail disappearing around a fence. "That's Ptth-ths! I'd recognize that tail anywhere!" Bill cried.
Judy stood by the back door. "Not another table, Bill!"
if that's the case, sir, you're free to go...
Bill took after the reptilian rebel but by the time he got to the street, Ptth-ths had disappeared.
Returning to his back yard, Bill helped dust off Sss-gak. "Are you okay, my friend?"
"Yess, Bills. I fears Ptth-ths will make goods on his threatss. Yous in dangers, Bills."
"Don't worry about that. I can take care of myself. Have you any idea what Ptth-thk will try next?"
The Grssnck king slowly turned bluish -- an indication of reptilian fear and worry. "Ssadlys, Ptth-ths escapeds with the mosts dire weapons. The Agrreso-Rays. This weaponss can make anyones aggresives, evens mens, Grssnckies, and animalss!" Is mosts dangerouss!"
"That may explain the Thin Mint melee last night and the alligators this morning. Ptth-ths must be stopped before he can cause real damage! Come, my friend, let me call the BIGFOOT Squad!"
Sss-gak put a scaly appendage on Bill's arm. "There iss nos times! Ptth-ths wills act fasts! Firsts Alvins, thens Americas!"
"You're right! Let's go!"
When they got to the street, Si Nicklebury was beating a neighbor's car with a shovel. "Tried to leave the neighborhood without waving hello, did you!" Thump! Thump! The shovel pounded two more times. You need some manners you young whippersnapper!" Inside the car, a young pimple-faced teen was quivering with fear. Bill recognized the youth as Jared, the boy who had delivered the morning paper until he had handed the route to his younger brother two years ago.
A police car had pulled up and Officer Opie got out. He took the shovel from the old man. "What's going on?"
Si ranted, "This ungracious thug was about to leave the neighborhood without waving hello! Damned discourteous, I say!" He tried to get the shovel back from the policeman. "Plus, I think he's been on my lawn!"
There nothing more sacred to an Alviner than his lawn. Officer Opie put his arm around Si Nicklebury. "Si, let's go into the house and see is we can work this thing out." He turned to the boy, "Jared, you'd better move on. And watch out for other people's lawn in the future!"
Jared, who had wet himself during the attack, said "Yessir," and drove off.
"I bet that Aggreso-Ray hit poor old Si," Bill said.
texas leads with whey...
Bill began to search the town. He had no weapons save his great strength and intelligence; he felt his guitar playing ability would not be of use in this hunt. Sss-gak, because of his distinct appearance, went back to Bill's to avoid being seen. He spent the rest of the day eating bugs in the back yards and politely refusing Judy's offers for a nice glass of sweet tea.
Where would Ptth-ths hide? Someplace dark and warm, Bill figured, but where?
Quickly, he discounted some of the most likely places. Alberta Frick's Museum of Mold? No, too many visitors this time of day. The dugout at the Nolan Ryan Baseball-eum. No, again too many people. The Alvin nuclear power plant. No, it had been closed and sealed since what has been termed "that unfortunate event." The Toyotathon? No, the large reptile could not fit behind the wheel.
A Cheese World truck rode past Bill. Cheese World! The newest and biggest business in Alvin! Home of the world's largest cheese wheel! And home of the biggest vat of whey in the country (and perhaps the world; North Korea has claimed to have the biggest vat of whey but refuses to allow inspectors to verify the claim)! Whey, of course, is the protein-rich liquid by-product of cheese making. The production of whey demanded a warm environment.
The adventure thus ended quickly. Outside the giant Cheese World building, there were two large doors, one marked "Cheese enter," the other, "Enter this whey." Bill took the latter door, only to met a sizzling blast blast that bored a two-foot hole to his right.
"Do not moves, my enemies! I wantss to enjoys this momentss!" Ptth-ths approach Bill carefully. Placing the muzzle of his ray gun to Bill's head, the reptile rebel led him to the center of a large room dominated by the maybe world's largest vat of whey.
"Yous to dies slowlys, awfullys!" Ptth-ths came close to chortling, something reptiles are not adept of doing.
"Bill! Move quickly!" The sound startled Ptth-ths enough that Bill was able to scurry away from him. There, the left of the large vat, stood Judy with her hands on a large lever. Dainty as she was, Judy managed to pull the lever. The vat tilted. Gallons of whey began to spill, rushing to the reptile and washing over him.
Suddenly, Sss-gak was next to his drenched enemy, binding him with rope. Sss-gak was wearing (tightly) one of Bill's trench coats and an old porkpie hat, a outfit that did little to disguise him.
"Is wills take hims backs to Grssnck. Hes will never escapess agains! Iss promisess! Thank yous, Billss!"
Bill put his arms around Judy. "Don't thank me, Sss-gak. Thank Judy. She's my secret weapon and the very best part of me."
Judy looked up at Bill, "And don't you forget it, Bucko."