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Michael A. Nielsen

Every grade has a fat kid in it. You know, the kid that walks the halls aimlessly at lunch break. He sits in the back of the classroom and doesn’t talk much, and everyone wonders why he isn’t on the football team. Well, our fat kid’s name was Billy, but we called him Sluggo.

Sluggo used to wear the same pants every day. We would joke and say it was because there wasn’t enough material in the world to make a second pair his size. We used to watch him eat at lunch time in the cafeteria and make pig noises when he was wolfing down his ham and cheese.

Sluggo was on the stage-crew. He used to pull the rope that would open the curtains to the stage. Benji Thomas said he volunteered for the job so he could be closer to the cheerleaders when they were on stage for pep rally’s. I guess the guy was somewhat human after all.

Well the reason I am telling you about Sluggo is because I want to share with you one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had.

When I was in tenth grade, my friends took it upon themselves to nominate me for class secretary. Not a very glamorous position to say the least, in fact, as time would tell, I made less of a name for myself by being the class secretary as I probably would just being the average Joe.

Anyway, as part of the voting process, an assembly was held, in which each of the students nominated for different positions would get up and give reasons why they should win. In my case, I was the only one nominated for the secretary position.

I remember when it was almost time for me to walk out on the stage. The assembly hall was packed with kids, each happy to be missing class and not caring why. The spotlights beat down on the stage, almost blinding you from the crowd. I decided I would use that to my advantage. I was eighth to go, after the nominees for president and vice president.

Six of them had already spoken, Jenny Hanks was out there now. From where I stood I could see her shaking slightly as she tried to blurt out some bull crap about having more peanut butter fingers at lunch and other such nonsense. I looked across the stage at Sluggo. He was intent on Jenny, eating up every lie she voiced. Just when I thought he was going to yell out "I Believe!" his face went blank and he turned and looked at me. I had never looked directly into his face and to tell you the truth, it scared me. I stared back.

He looked me up and down, as if he were measuring to see if he could swallow me whole. I guess when he figured he couldn’t, a huge frown spread across his lips. I looked over my shoulder to see if anyone else was there. Was he looking at me?

Next thing I know, he starts mouthing something to me. I wasn’t totally paying attention, so I motioned for him to repeat it. He began again. ‘Do you think I am fat?’

I couldn’t believe he had just asked that. Did I hear him correctly? Not knowing what to reply, I just shrugged and quickly averted my eyes back to Jenny. In just that brief amount of time, she had worked what seemed like a spell over the crowd. They were hootin’ and hollerin’ over everything she said. It was incredible stuff she was saying too. Stuff like, I will fight for more holidays, no hall passes, and math classes will not be required. I almost shouted my approval.

Well, just then, this hand totally falls on my shoulder and I turn to find Sluggo standing right behind me. I glanced over my shoulder just to confirm that he was really there, and not still standing on the other side of the stage.

"Listen." he said. "If you let me go out on stage and represent you, I guarantee that you will win." He had this total serious look on his face, like he was the hero in some big time drama production.

"Uh, Slu.... Billy." As I looked into his eyes, I realized that he had no clue I was the only candidate and for a brief moment I wondered what he would do on stage. I milled the idea around in my head and surprised both Sluggo and myself when I smiled, "Sure thing Bill, what do you need for me to do?"

We had probably two minutes until the end of Jenny’s time limit, and the way she was still going I figured she would use every last second. I watched Sluggo as he ran about backstage, pushing buttons and talking to someone up in the control box. He gave me this little piece of paper that had a few words scribbled on it. It was as if he had planned on doing this his whole life and was just waiting for some dumb bloke to agree.

Jenny was finishing up and the crowd began to cheer, I wondered if it was for the speech or her miniskirt. She picked up her notes and walked over to take a seat near the rest of the soon to be presidency. Vice Principle Blackman grabbed the microphone and spoke the dreaded words.

"We will now hear from Slate Walker, candidate for tenth grade secretary. Slate?"

I broke the curtain and began to walk to the podium. The lights took me a little off guard, I hadn’t been on stage all that often. I tested the mic with my index finger and looked out at the audience. From the left side I heard most of my close friends yelling out idiotic phrases and several coughs that sounded like ‘bulls**t’. It seemed like I already had their attention, little did they know what would follow next. I lifted up the crumpled paper that Sluggo had given me and began.

"I figure all I need is one vote to win this election, so does it really matter what I do up here?" I paused for a second to find if I really had the guts to do this.

Somebody shouted, "Take it off, Slate!"

"Well, I have something better than that planned. Without further adieu....." I stepped back from the pulpit to the side of the stage, just as the lights began to dim.

People started to scream and laugh and then suddenly a hush fell over the crowd as music began to pump from the speakers. I wondered what the heck I had got myself into. A spotlight suddenly beamed on the curtains, bright blue, almost sickening, and then he came out and my jaw dropped.

The crowd was astonished, I could actually hear them gasping for breath, they all sat staring at almost all of Sluggo’s three hundred pound body and I mean almost all. He had removed all his clothing save a purple and green speedo, and it looked as if he had rubbed baby oil all over his skin. His fat gut hung out what seemed like twelve inches and it was all slippery and white with big black hairs glistening in the light, and when he shook, a bowl full of jelly actually came to mind. He waddled to the edge of the stage, moving in time with the beat, my eyes began to fill with tears and I had a sudden pain in my chest. The crowd was stunned, their eyes watching Sluggo’s every move. He stopped very abruptly and opening that enormous mouth, he commenced to let out a yell. Not all at once, but a grumble that steadily increased until it shook the assembly hall. A yell that contained within it fifteen
years of defiance, fifteen years of being called a fat kid, fifteen years of huddling in the corners, not daring to make a sound, and then he stopped. The room was washed in silence. I began to choke. And then he did something that will go down in Judgefield High School history. In one graceful move he raised both hands into the air and rising on his toes he began to pirouette.

A freakin’ three hundred pound kid dancing ballet, his body all greased up and...... fat. He did one spin, then two, then three, his movement so fluid and in a way beautiful. And we all watched as if in a dream, a fantastic, hilarious, wet dream. And then, as quickly as he had started, he stopped and standing still, peered out into the crowd. I held my breath, the music stopped, the spotlight burned.

For a couple of moments, the audience seemed like the undead, not a word fell from their lips, and their big white eyes stared with pupils that wanted to burst. Then, on the fourth row, Jesse Hamil just stands up. He glared up at Sluggo and then turned to cast his gaze over the rest of the students. For what seemed hours, he held their attention, until raising his hands, he began to clap. A sea-full of emotion swept over the crowd. It was infectious, and I found myself catapulted into the frenzy as a roar burst from my throat. We were all on our feet, clapping and cheering and chanting Billy, Billy, Billy, over and over again. I turned to look at Bill as he stood bathed in blue light and a lump formed in my throat as I saw the tears begin to stream from his eyes. He brought both hands up, clenched in fists before him and let out this yell of triumph, his body shaking like a football player celebrating
after a monster run. And then, every last one of us in that room witnessed something we had never seen before in our lives. Bill smiled.

I like to think it was because of Billy Hatch that I won the election in such a landslide. I often talk to him about that assembly, his assembly. He laughs a lot and tells me that he should have run for president. I’ve never told him that his name was written in on at least two hundred of the ballots.

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