by David Lubar
I would have enjoyed the assembly a lot more if I wasn't sitting next to Augie
Blockner. He's the biggest kid in our school, and he liked to make sure everyone
knew it. When I took my seat, he poked me in the arm and said, "Hey, shrimp."
Okay -- I'm short for my age. But I'm not so short I'd be mistaken for seafood. I
looked over at him and said, "Hi." It was the safest thing to do. If I ignored him,
he'd get mean. If I tried some sort of wise-guy answer, he'd get even meaner.
Luckily, the assembly started before Augie could think of some way to make my
life miserable. The program was actually pretty cool. They had five real football
players on stage. These guys made Augie look like -- well, they made him look
like he made me look. That's how big they were.
They talked about stuff like studying hard and staying in school. It wasn't really a
message I needed to hear. I did okay in school, and I didn't have any plans to drop
out of seventh grade to enter a life of crime.
They also talked about eating good food, and paying attention to nutrition. The
biggest player in the group held up a sack of oranges in one hand and a head of
lettuce in the other.
"This is what your body needs."
Another guy lifted a two-liter bottle of cola. "This isn't what you need."
The third guy showed us a picture of a cow. "Balanced meals are important," he
I zoned out as they went over all the food groups. I knew that stuff. They also
warned us about steroids and all that stuff.
"Kids," one of the players said, picking up a small bottle of clear liquid, "this will
do all sorts of evil things to your body. It just isn't worth it."
"Your young bodies are still growing and changing," another of the player said.
"There's no telling how much this stuff could mess you up."
When the assembly ended, I realized I'd survived 45 minutes sitting right next to
Augie. For the first time in my life, I was actually eager to get back to my class.
Before I could stand, Augie grabbed my shoulder and said, "Come on. Let's meet
He pointed to the stage. "Let's sneak back there and meet the players. I've never
met a real football star."
"But we'll get in trouble." I didn't feel like spending the next week in after-school
detention, or writing a three-page essay.
Augie tightened his grip enough to let me know I'd find myself in even more
trouble -- or at least, more painful trouble -- if I didn't do what he wanted.
"Why do you care if I come?"
"I might need a distraction."
I didn't like the sound of that. I could picture him ripping my arm off and batting
me to the ground with it. Then he could stroll past the teachers who were busy
trying to stop the spurting blood. As I was imagining various ways I could be used
as a distraction, Augie dragged me out the side exit and down the hall to the door
that led back-stage.
After we slipped in without getting caught, I relaxed a bit. It would be amazing to
see the players face to face -- okay, face to bellybutton -- even if I got in trouble
later. Maybe this would turn out all right. It would definitely be cool to get an
Except, there was nobody there. The players must have headed out the instant the
assembly ended. Oh boy -- Augie was going to be unhappy about that. But at least
it meant I'd be able to get to my class quickly enough to avoid trouble.
"Hey, wait," Augie said. He lumbered over to the far corner of the room, where all
the music stands had been shoved. "Someone forgot a bag. Cool. Maybe there's a
football or something in there."
Augie slid a large canvas bag out from under a folding chair. He unzipped it and
started pulling stuff out. I wanted to tell him to stop, but I was pretty happy he was
He tossed out a bunch of clothes, and some posters like the ones that they'd put up
in the classrooms.
"Anything interesting?" I guess I was sort of curious.
He shook his head. "Nothing good." He started to pull his hand out, then reached
in again. "Wait. What's this?"
He pulled out a small bottle. There was one word on the label, right beneath where
his thumb curled around it. GROWTH. Augie looked at it the way a starving kid
looks at a whole pepperoni pizza.
"Be careful," I said. 'You don't know what's in there. And you don't know how
much to take. You're a lot smaller --"
"I'm what?" Augie said. "Are you calling me small?"
I managed to gulp and say, "No," at the same time. It hurt my throat. I'd just
wanted to warn him that the right dose might depend on how much he weighed.
Augie unscrewed the cap and raised the bottle to his lips. I had a tough decision to
make. I could try to talk him out of it, and maybe get hurt. Or just keep my mouth
shut. One bottle couldn't do all that much harm, could it? It was a pretty small
bottle, and he was a pretty big kid.
Yeah, it could do a whole lot of harm. It could be super concentrated. For all we
knew, there might be 100 doses.
I walked over and grabbed Augie's arm. "Stop!" It was like grabbing a fence post.
Augie stared at me the way I'd stare at a chihuahua that was tugging at me sneaker
laces. "What are you doing?"
"Don't drink it. You don't know what'll happen. They're all grown up already.
This stuff is for them. You're still growing normally. Why mess with that?"
A strange expressions flashed across Augie's face. I could almost see him thinking.
I shuddered as he nodded. "Yeah. You're right. I'm growing. But you're not. You
need this more than I do." His grin was pure evil now.
"Why don't we share it?" I couldn't believe my mind was still working well
enough to find a way to stall him. Half the bottle would do less damage to me than
a whole bottle.
"Not a bad idea." Augie drank down his share of the liquid. Then he wiped his
mouth with his sleeve.
I tried to spin away, but he grabbed my jaw with his free hand. "Open wide."
As he moved the bottle toward my mouth, I kicked him in the shin as hard as I
could. I think he was more startled than hurt. Either way, the kick was enough
loosen his grip. I raced for the door. Augie was right behind me. Just when I was
about to grab the knob, I felt myself rise into the air. Augie had me by the back of
He turned his wrist so I was facing him. "You're gonna suffer now, shrimp," he
I braced myself for a flood of pain. Then I started to move away from Augie.
Which made no sense, since I was dangling from his grip like a cheap sweater on a
clothes hook. But I was definitely moving. Somehow, my body was inching away
I looked around for an explanation. When I found it, I was even happier that I
hadn't drank any of that liquid.
Augie's arm was getting longer. The growth stuff was working. I was also moving
higher. I guess his legs were growing, too. Everything was growing.
No. Not everything.
That's the second thing I realized. As I watched his fingers curl around the bottle
and his arm extend from his sleeve, I knew it wasn't his whole body that was
reacting to the stuff he drank. Not his flesh, veins, or muscles. It was just his bones.
Augie wasn't all that smart, but I guess he knew something was wrong. And I
guess he forgot all about me, because he let go of my neck. I dropped from his grip
and hit the ground hard, but I was happy to be free, and really happy that I hadn't
taken a swig of that liquid.
He was staring at his hands now, as his fingers grew even longer. He still had the
bottle. When his thumb shifted, I saw another word above GROWTH. I guess I
already knew what it was. BONE. Yeah, Augie hadn't found the football guys
growth formula. He'd found one for bone growth.
His bones were sure growing.
His head was swelling, too. The flesh stretched tight on his face as his skull got
bigger. He looked like one of those really old celebrities who'd made too many
visits to the plastic surgeon.
When he opened his mouth to scream, I noticed that even his teeth were growing.
Well, I guess Augie got his wish. He was a lot bigger. But the growth seemed to
have stopped, now. It's good for him he didn't drink the whole bottle. I don't think
his skin could have stretched that far without tearing. He was pretty much pushed
to the limit. I shuddered at the thought of his bones bursting through his flesh.
He was still staring at his hands, but I don't think he was seeing anything right
now. I was pretty sure he was numbed by the shock.
"Augie? Hey, Augie?" I didn't bother to add, "Are you okay?" because that would
have been one of the top ten stupidest questions of all time.
He didn't answer me.
"I'll go get the nurse," I said. It was the only thing I could think to do. Not that it
would help much. I opened the door, then stopped and went back. I pried the bottle
from his hand, found the cap, screwed it back on, and put the bottle in my pocket.
The stuff was obviously dangerous. But what if I just took one drop? Yeah, one
little drop at a time. Just enough to make me grow a little bit. That would work. I
knew I could handle it. I was a lot smarter than Augie. And one day, I'd be just as