By David Perlmutter
“BUNT! Get back here, you little CREEP!”
Flingel Bunt had paused in his running down the street, deliberately, in order to catch his breath. But he knew now that he had to continue his frantic running as soon as he heard the voice behind him. For that voice, at least to him, carried the promise of instant, severe injury- perhaps even death- if she ever caught up with him.
Flingel had the misfortune of being what is largely considered to be the lowest form of life among his teenage peers- a high school freshman. But, if that was not enough to humble and humiliate him, there existed other physical and social handicaps that served to limit his social advancement among his peer group. There was, first of all, the fact that he was an immigrant, along with his parents, from the Grand Duchy of Upper Whatchicalistan, a very unnoticeable pimple on the face of Europe . And the residents of Upper Whatchicalistan had two very unfortunate drawbacks that limited their social and romantic prospects pretty much to themselves and to the exclusion of foreigners: namely, that all of them spoke with a prominent accent, and a stutter, besides, and none ever rose above the height of five feet, even as adults.
What had caused his current predicament, however, had nothing to do with his small stature, his accent or his stutter. It was namely that he had, purely by accident, earned the enmity of Marcia Klein, unquestionably the biggest and meanest girl at the high school that they both attended. And now, blind with hatred and passionate Red Bull-fueled rage, she was coming after him to tear him apart.
Standing nearly seven feet tall without the aid of shoes, Marcia Klein was a formidable presence at the school she and Bunt both attended. A formidable basketball and volleyball player because of her height and her aggressive nature, Marcia had the unfortunate habit of taking her unused aggression out on other students whenever the need or the desire arose in her. This occurred remarkably often, off campus, seeing as the school had a strict “no violence” policy that students like Marcia didn’t want to violate on pain of immediate expulsion. Marcia’s favorite targets were the smaller, weaker and underprivileged children of the immigrants of the northern Ontario city they lived in. Being an ardent nationalist, she felt that immigrants, regardless of how legitimately they had entered Canada, they were not somehow “deserving” of the advantages given to “real” Canadians like herself and that they needed to be “punished” for “trespassing” on Canadian turf. This, in spite of the fact that her own bloodline, on both sides, was three generations removed from Eastern European Jewry.
In any event, the incident that now caused Flingel to flee for his life from Marcia’s wrath can be much more simply described than the background information I have apparently wasted time dumping on the reader. They happened to be standing behind each other in line in the cafeteria, and Flingel, his natural clumsiness asserting itself even within the closed quarters of the line, accidentally tripped and spilt the contents of his tray, with great, elephantine clumsiness and a surprisingly high arcing throw….
….onto Marcia’s head.
After the initial scream, the initial sensations of hot and cold on her body, and the pain had faded, there was dead silence in the cafeteria as everyone became aware of what had just happened. Then Marcia uttered a vicious, lion-like roar and, cursing very audibly under her breath, threw Flingel’s now-empty soup bowl and salad plate off of her body. Slowly, she turned, and, step by step, she backed Flingel out of the lineup as she came closer and closer towards him.
“YOU!” she shouted, pointing an accusing finger at him as he visibly flinched. “YOU did this to me! YOU ruined my brand-new outfit! And YOU are going to PAY for it, do you understand? YOU WILL PAY FOR IT!”
Not yet fully understanding Canadian idiomatic language, and believing that Marcia specifically wanted not to take physical revenge on him but have him actually pay money to replace her outfit, Flingel felt in his jacket pocket for his wallet. He hoped he had the sum required to placate her, as was the custom in his country when someone was supposed to pay to replace a damaged good owned by someone else. But what was considered to be a noble deed in Upper Whatchicalistan was something that appeared to be something else entirely in Canada. Flingel guessed this when he heard Marcia’s cruel, vicious laughter in response to this potential gesture of atonement and friendship.
“What the hell are you doing?” she snapped. “I don’t want your money!”
“But…” he stuttered, “you just told me that I was to pay for damaging your….”
He did not finish that sentence, because Marcia had placed one of her hands around his neck, choking him. She had done this because the cafeteria and the gymnasium, in response to a protest movement that Marcia had led, were the two places on campus that were exempt from the “no violence” policy, being that the original wording of the policy had also included the sports beloved by Marcia, as well as the treasured but endangered ritual of the “food fight” which she and other like minded students were determined to keep protected. However, what Flingel had done was not covered under this policy. He had, by even accidentally dropping his food on Marcia, insulted her, and she now demanded satisfaction from him for this. Continuing to hold her grip on his neck, she threw him down into a chair and bent menacingly over him to let him know the unofficial code of the school she ruled, in case, as she assumed, he was unaware of it.
“Listen, Mr. Tiny Wimp!” she snapped in his face. “I’ve never seen you around this place before, so you must be fresh off the boat! Therefore, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Marcia Klein….”
Again, Flingel misunderstood the Canadian lingo. He stood up and proudly offered her his hand in the tradition of his country.
“My name is Flingel Bunt,” he said, “and I am pleased to make your acquaintance….”
“SHUT UP!” She knocked his hand away from hers and sat him back down in the chair. “I don’t give a damn about who you are or where you come from…”
“Upper Whatchicalistan,” he supplied.
“I said SHUT UP!” This time she slapped him loudly in the face. “Now, listen carefully, you little runty idiot! You have soiled my name and my reputation with your cheap theatrical antics, and you will pay for doing that immediately! Not by paying me money! Oh, no! When I say you will pay for something, you will pay for it with your life!”
“You will kill me?” he said, aghast. “Because I merely tripped and hurt you purely by accident?”
“You wouldn’t have hurt me if you and whoever you came with on whatever banana boat you headed in here on…”
“It was on a plane that I came here!”
“Okay, THAT’S IT, Mr. Smart Mouth! I was gonna wait until after school to beat you up, but I don’t feel like waiting now! Even if I get a detention out of this, I’ll tear you apart right now!”
She moved in on him, but he was too fast for her. As she approached, he got out of his chair, and moved it into her flight path. She tripped over it, but got her feet back immediately. But by then he was already fleeing the cafeteria- and the school.
“YOU LITTLE BASTARD!” she shouted loud enough for everyone in the school to hear. “I’ll kill you if it’s the last thing I do!”
Now Flingel was truly “in a jam”, as the Canadian idiomatic language would have put it. As fast as he could run, he soon discovered that his need to stop and catch his breath had cost him plenty of time and distance. For he now heard the ponderous steps of his tormentor in the distance, seemingly shaking the Earth itself as she ran forward in his direction. Then, with sweat dripping down her face and bare arms, he saw Marcia herself closing on him!
“You better start running again if you want to live, Bunt!” she advised him sagely and viciously from the distance as she approached him. “’Cause if I ever catch up with you….”
He took her advice.
Fortunately for him, just as he turned the next corner, came the edifice that would provide his salvation. At least temporarily. And then it would evolve into an even greater problem than the one he had now.
It was a small shop, not unlike any other of the small shops in this small retail area of this small Canadian city. But there was one exception that immediately caught his eye.
Below the English words on the sign were words written in the native language of Upper Whatchicalistan!
A countryman! He or she would certainly understand my current predicament, Flingel thought. And perhaps try to help me.
So he rushed into the shop and closed the door….
…where he was immediately greeted by the shop owner, Paff Bumm, who recognized a fellow resident of Upper Whatchicalistan whenever he saw one. Bumm embraced Flingel tightly for a moment before Flingel found the right words in the native tongue of the land to let the older man release his grip on him. As it turned out, as serendipity so often works its magic in stories of this kind, Paff Bumm was exactly the man who could help Flingel Bunt out of his current predicament, and in a way that the younger resident of the country could never have believed.
Paff Bumm, many years Flingel’s senior, had been an itinerant peddler for many years in Upper Whatchicalistan before suddenly striking it rich in a lottery drawing and making his way to Canada. There he soon discovered that it was possible to make a small fortune selling the immigrants of the country the very products and services they had seemingly, forcibly, forsaken when they were often abruptly forced to abandon their citizenship in the Grand Duchy. This immigration took many forms, from voluntarily achieving the astronomically high fees required for an emigration permit to being forcibly shot out of a cannon across the border by the hostile and vicious police of the Duchy. Bumm had only just escaped this fate himself with the aid of his lottery victory, and he had vowed to aid his fellow countrymen of the Duchy in any way possible. So, even if the lad was unable to pay him or was unable to aid him with services in return for what he was to be given, Paff Bumm was determined to rescue the unfortunate Flingel from whatever situation seemed to be troubling him at the moment.
After he had embraced Flingel, and after the young man had rushed to the door and bolted it before who or whatever was following him managed to trace his noticeable hereditary body odor- produced by all residents of Upper Whatchicallistan when they are fearful or perturbed- to the entrance of the shop, Paff Bumm calmly enquired about what, exactly, was troubling the lad. Flingel told the man in his native tongue, making numerous uncomplimentary remarks about the rudeness and arrogance of Marcia Klein along the way to emphasize her role as the villain of the story. When the rambling narrative Flingel had conceived, which served to enhance his own callowness and victimization at Marcia’s hands even more severely than that with which this chronicler has already seen fit to depict it, concluded, Paff Bumm held up his hands to stop Flingel from speaking any further and motioned him to come forward to the shop counter behind which he now stood.
“Young man,” said Paff Bumm in Upper Whatchicallistanese, “I believe that here, within the walls of my shop, a solution exists to exactly the problem which presently troubles you.”
“You believe so?” said Flingel Bunt.
“I do,” replied Paff Bumm. He pointed down to the interior of the shop counter, in which a glass display case protected the most sacred and valuable of the trinkets Paff Bumm had smuggled in daily from his associates back in the Grand Duchy, in illegal circumvention of the rules and access taxes. Particularly, Paff Bumm pointed to a tall bottle made of green glass directly in the center of the display case.
“You are familiar with the legend of the giant Dunderbeck,” asked Paff Bumm, “who, supposedly, in 1731, aided the forces of Upper Whatchicallistan in their victory over the Knockleworts at Carnassus, correct?”
“I am,” said Flingel Bunt. Knowing their history, especially since so much of their land had now been conquered and subsumed by outside political forces, was a point of pride for the residents of the Grand Duchy, and Flingel took pride that he knew as much about it as anyone could, given the limitations given to the study of Upper Whatchicallistan history in Canada. (Or any kind of history, for that matter.)
“And,” continued Paff Bumm, “you are also aware of the fact that the giant Dunderbeck achieved his formidable height through consuming a particularly potent type of wine found only in the Sprechen Sie Deutsch mountains and bottled in green glass to keep its flavor both potent and manageable upon its needed consumption, correct?”
“Also correct,” said Flingel Bunt. “But, good shopkeeper, before we continue, I must be made aware of how, in fact, this historical event and the detritus related to it are of concern to me?”
“Always it must be about you, you young people!” said Paff Bumm dismissively. “Very well. I will tell you. The giant Dunderbeck, as you know, consumed this bottle of wine and ended up growing considerably larger than any living being. It was a slow process of growth, but eventually he grew big enough to be higher than even the sky itself! In this way, he defeated the Knockleworts before tragedy struck. He ended up growing too large for the Earth to contain him and he fell off into space, never to be seen again.”
“But, again I say,” said Flingel Bunt, “what does any of this have to do with me?”
“Fool, it has everything to do with you!” said Paff Bumm. “For it is one of the very bottles of the Dunderbeck growth formula bottled in the Sprechen Sie Deutsch mountains themselves which I now possess! And it is from that very bottle that you will drink in order for you to grow large enough to gain revenge upon your tormentor!”
“You will allow me to grow large enough to evade Marcia Klein and force her to retract any and all statements she made about killing me and other more remote but thinly veiled threats of the kind?” said Flingel Bunt.
“Did I not say that?”
“Yes, you did. But I still wish to know how…”
“Foolish child! Have you not ever seen your mother and father partake of the Hunkadunk wine during the New Year’s celebration, a tradition brought over from the Grand Duchy itself?”
“Yes. But being only fourteen years of age, I have not yet achieved the legal adulthood required for me to consume such an alcoholic beverage…”
Paff Bumm growled loudly to interrupt him, in the process removing the bottle from its glass enclosure. For a moment, it appeared as if his patience with Flingel had evaporated, and that the boy was going to receive a spectacular blow on the head with it. But, in actuality, that was not the case. Paff Bumm merely took out a silver canteen and poured a shot of the beverage into it. Placing the cap back on the canteen, he placed it directly into the boy’s hand. Flingel was about to drink from it when Paff Bumm abruptly stopped him.
“Do not partake of the wine inside my establishment, fool!” said the shopkeeper. “Even a small sip of the Sprechen Sie Deutsch mountain wine is enough to create gigantism in human beings and other creatures on an intolerable scale. A single drop will make you as large as an elephant, and further sips will only increase the size of your body until the very Earth itself will no longer support you. I urge for you to use extreme caution in the application of the liquid, for it is unknown to the extent of which it is capable of altering…”
It was at this point that Marcia Klein, having spotted Flingel crossing the street to Paff Bumm’s establishment, and having been delayed as long as the narrative permits by traffic and other niceties, finally reached the locked door of the shop. Unable to open it the traditional way, she pounded on the door and threw her weight against it to attempt to open it with force.
“I see you in there, Bunt!” she shouted. “Come out of there so I can give you what you deserve from me!”
Looking at the door, Flingel’s heart began beating rapidly once again, for he knew he would be in trouble if Marcia caught him.
“I am afraid I must leave you now,” said Flingel Bunt, and he made a rapid dash for the exit, canteen in hand.
Waiting until he was unseen and undisturbed in back of the shop, Flingel opened the canteen and took a sip of the mountain wine.
Within seconds, he grew.
And he grew.
And he grew.
Now he was no longer simply five feet tall. He was now, in fact, ten feet tall, making him much bigger than Marcia Klein.
So now it was merely a matter of time before Marcia took wind of the fact that he was behind the store, and ran towards him….
…and stopped in her tracks.
She screamed very loudly, hurting his ears, and she began backing away from him. Then she began running away from him.
Flingel was delighted in his victory. He had not only managed to outwit Marcia, but he had made it possible that he would never have to be bothered by her again.
Unfortunately, Flingel’s mind was constrained by the beliefs of his homeland, which suggested that girls, unlike boys, were not accustomed to the use of mental cunning to gain what they wanted. Such an attribute did not lend itself to a description of Marcia Klein.
Now unable to gain her revenge on Flingel Bunt, Marcia decided to do the next best thing: get Paff Bumm. She had seen him pouring the wine into the canteen, and so his guilt in turning Flingel into a freak able to combat her easily was certain. Opening the now unbolted door, forcefully, she confronted the proprietor of the shop with all the force capable in her large frame.
“You are…needing something?” the man said, in his very halting English.
“Yes, I am “needing” something!” Marcia growled, all preliminaries thrown away. “I know you and that little chump Flingel Bunt were just in cahoots right now to get him bigger than I am so I couldn’t give him the lesson that he needs to learn from me! Well, it’s not going to work. You either give me whatever it is you used to turn him into that ten foot monstrosity or else I will destroy you as easily as I was going to destroy him!”
Because Paff Bumm’s English was much more limited than his native tongue, he was unable to explain to Marcia the history of the guilty beverage nor the side effects related to it. All he was able to say was:
“It was…the wine.”
“The wine, eh?” said Marcia. “I’ll take that!” And before he could say anything, she had slapped a $20 bill, far less than the item was actually worth, on the counter and was quickly out of the shop, leaving Paff Bumm to moan out his sorrows on the glass counter to an empty room.
Once outside the shop, Marcia uncorked the bottle and took an enormous swallow from it. Then she began to grow:
Now she was twice as big as Flingel, and he knew it. Still standing behind the shop, he tried to get away, but she grabbed him with an iron grip and held him aloft in front of her.
“Let this be a lesson to you, you brat!” the now Brobdingnagian Marcia shouted to her suddenly humbled companion. “Nobody tries to one-up Marcia Klein by making himself bigger than her. Y’hear? NOBODY!”
Even with the force of her voice and body rattling him, Flingel was still able to lift the canteen to his lips and drink. And then he grew:
To THIRTY FEET!
He was about to advance on Marcia and crush her, when she slugged back another shot of the wine, and grew:
To FORTY FEET!
She saw him trying to sneak another drink from his canteen and kicked it away.
“Oh no, you don’t!” she said. “You and I are going to settle this- here and now!”
“If it must be said and done,” declared Flingel, “so it must be said and done!”
“SHUT UP AND FIGHT, you WIMP!” Marcia barked as she slapped him across the face and down to the Earth. Finally enraged, after holding things in for so long, he tackled her, and the fight was on.
And so it was that the city had its own private version of a Godzilla movie climax, minus the actors in bodysuits, as Flingel and Marcia battled each other in giant form through the streets of town. They punched, kicked and wrestled each other, ripped off signs and lampposts to serve as weapons, and did the various other things monsters generally do to each other in the context of monster movies. But the advantage remained with Marcia. She was the athlete of the pair, as well as the stronger and angrier one. It was her actions that inflicted crippling pain on Flingel Bunt, worse than he had ever felt in his life, and also her actions that caused the downtown core of the city to suddenly resemble nothing less than the fallout from an atomic bomb.
Eventually Flingel was able to find his canteen among the rubble and take another drink. But Marcia was ready for him after he did so.
“Trying to get an edge again, huh?” she said. “Well, you just bought yourself more hurt, buddy!”
But after they finished drinking, the wine was gone. Just as well, because there was nowhere else for them to go. They were standing on the edge of the Earth itself!
“You idiot!” Marcia growled at Flingel. “This is all your fault! If you hadn’t started taking that dumb old growth wine, I never would have followed you, and we wouldn’t have caused all this damage. I am so going to kill….YOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUU!”
And, with that final dramatic shout, Marcia Klein slipped off the slippery face of the Earth and into the great empty maw of space itself.
Flingel Bunt, being smaller than Marcia, managed to keep his grip and his confidence. For, unlike Marcia, he knew that the wine’s effects were temporary, and that if he hung on long enough, they would wear off.