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Chapter 1. Fat No More

REM cover Arthur Woodbury was fat, quite fat, and the nickname he hated most of all, the one that made his ears hot, was Biscuit Butt. He hated being Biscuit Butt more than he hated being Arty Farty, or Jelly Belly, or Fat Boy, or even the dreaded Goodyear. Mean but true, because as everybody knew, Goodyear was a blimp.

And so on his eleventh birthday (yes, he ate the whole cake) the human blimp named Arthur Woodbury made a decision that would change not only his life, but the fate of the whole world, and ultimately the entire universe, and many other universes, too.

Arthur decided he would be fat no more. Somehow he would get thin. Gloriously, triumphantly thin. So thin he would amaze his friends.

Except that, strictly speaking, he had no friends. Not even one. Not the kind of friend who would let him eat every single piece of his birthday cake and suck the frosting from all eleven candles. The only friends he had were the kind you ate, like sugar-coated cupcakes or nut-filled candy bars or double-scoop chocolate-chip ice-cream cones.

Arthur lived with his mother and his mother lived with her mother, and so the three of them lived together in the kind of stupefying silence that was only broken by the creak of the refrigerator door.
  Creak, a cold pork chop
  Creak, that plate of barbecued chicken wings.
  Creak, more biscuits.
  It had to stop, Arthur decided. And the truly wonderful thing, the fantastically amazing thing was this: he didn't have to stop eating. He didn't have to go on a diet. He didn't have to exercise.
  All he had to do was sleep.

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That's what the ad promised on the back page of the comic book. For a mere nine dollars and ninety-nine cents Arthur could go to sleep fat and awaken thin.

He'd sent for it weeks and weeks ago and pretty much given up hope - rooked again by those cheesy comic books - when the package arrived exactly on his eleventh birthday.

"Oh," his mother had said, sounding just a little surprised. "Someone sent you a birthday present, isn't that nice?"

Arthur agreed that it was very nice indeed. He neglected to mention that he had sent himself the present, because sometimes the less mothers know, the better.

Not that Arthur's mom was a bad mother. Exactly the reverse was true. She was as good as a mother could be, considering that Arthur's dad had died before he was born, and he had no father to teach him important stuff like baseball and nightcrawlers and how to pick your nose without getting caught.

Arthur's mom tried hard, but sometimes she had no idea what her son was thinking, or why the only thing that made him happy was food, more food. Endless supplies of food, glorious food.

"Did you have a nice birthday, dear?" she asked. "Was the cake big enough?"

But Arthur didn't answer because he wasn't listening. He was thinking about his new miracle weight-loss device. If only it would work! If only he really could go to sleep fat and wake up thin!

On the way out of the kitchen Arthur snagged six Oreo cookies and slipped them into his pocket. Just for luck. Then he headed down the cellar stairs into the deep dark basement.

And his life, and the world, and the universe would never be the same again.