The Big Boy

As I was driving in work the night shift this evening I saw something that I haven’t seen in a very long time.

I had just pulled off I 20/59 where it runs through downtown Birmingham and just before it gets to the dreaded “Malfunction Junction”. Anyone from Birmingham knows what I’m talking about. I pulled down to 17th street and stopped at a red light, waiting to turn. Across the street there was a construction site and a huge crane that stretched a hundred or so feet into the sky. On top of that crane was a platform that had a couple of big, heavy duty metal containers on it…the kind that would be loaded onto a flat car for a train. He was standing on top of that.

The Big Boy.

You know who the Big Boy is. He’s the smiling mascot for a giant hamburger that has been passed around to various restaurant chains for decades. He’s probably most recognizable if you’ve seen the Austin Powers movies. Dr. Evil used him has a spaceship.

As I sat there in my car and looked up at him, smiling with a gigantic Santa cap waving in the cold wind, I smiled. He has been the subject of a lot of laughing in my family over the years.
When I was a little kid I was absolutely terrified of the Big Boy.

The story all stems from something that happened to me when I was about three or four years old. This would have been circa 1980 or 81. We were living in Columbus, Mississippi at the time. My dad was in the Air Force and my brother was a baby.

I can only remember two things about living in Columbus. One was that there was an orange replica of the Statue of Liberty in the middle of town. The other was that we went to a church where the pastor didn’t care for children very much.

At least, he didn’t care for me.

It might have had something to do with the handful of times that his services were interrupted by things that I did. Like the time I got stuck crawling through the opening in the back of a rocking chair in the nursery and the attendant had to go get my dad out of church to come free me.

That’s another story.

We had what is commonly referred to as “children’s church” on Sunday nights. This was when all the children would go down to the basement of the church and have a separate service. We would sing, play some games, hear a Bible story, and possibly get a snack. It allowed the adults to pay attention to the pastor without interruption and it kept us from being incredibly bored by “big church”.

One night the pastor announced that there would be a special guest for children’s church. The big doors in the back of the room opened and a monster walked inside.

He had feet nearly as big as my entire body. He was wearing a pair of red and white checkered overalls. And is head…

His head was not from this world.

He had hair as black as sin. His mouth was frozen in a grin that looked like he was happy about the absolute horror that was shooting like ice through my veins. His huge, round, eyes devoid of any semblance of a soul pierced my heart like a red-hot dagger.

The Big Boy was the stuff of nightmares…and he was grinning at me.

I screamed.

When I tell you that I screamed I don’t mean that I let out a little yelp and then cried like little kids tend to when they’re being shy. I mean that I let out a yell that would make a banshee get goose bumps on the back of her neck.

I made the Wray name proud that day. My ancestor, Faye, was one of the screaming greats.
The church was full of laughing, smiling children and parents looking on with joy. And there was one little boy that was screaming like someone had just set his shoelaces on fire and he was trying to put them out with a bucket of ants.

My dad picked me up as quick as he could and ran out of the sanctuary as the Big Boy led the rest of the children down to the church basement to have a party. I got a lot calmer once I was out of the room. My parents explained to me that the Big Boy was just a costume and that there was a very nice man inside. He went to our church and I saw him all the time. Wouldn’t I like to go to children’s church and have fun with all the other boys and girls?

I said that I would and they took me down stairs. I could hear all the other kids laughing and playing and singing. I felt better. This was going to be fun.

My dad opened the door to the room they were in. I saw all the other kids. I took a few steps inside and looked to my left.

The demon was staring at me.

I screamed.

This time they heard it in China.

The Big Boy came out into the hall with my parents. He reached up and grabbed hold of his own head. He decapitated himself right in front of me.

That didn’t make the screaming stop.

When he removed his head, I saw a man that I knew inside the shell of the Big Boy’s body. He was smiling. He told me it was okay. He wasn’t going to hurt me.

“Do you want to come inside?” he asked.

“Will you leave the head off?” I replied.

“No,” he said. “I can’t do that.”

“Then no,” I said. He put the head back on. I screamed. We went home.

After that day, I was teased whenever we saw a picture of the Big Boy. Then my parents told the story to my wife and kids. The teasing continues.

It’s okay. It’s a pretty funny story.

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