“I can concoct a special smoothie for you to help you quickly gain enough weight to outweigh Berenice," Melvin said. "Then you’ll have your title back and you’ll get to stay at Caldini’s forever.”
And suddenly, as if he had delivered the solution to a long-sought-after puzzle, a wash of light streamed over her face. She enclosed his small body in her two massive hands and gave him a squeeze that almost crushed his tiny lungs. “Melvin, you are brilliant!”
Caldini had explained to Olga that she would be housed until the end of the week, until she was to permanently leave the premises. Meanwhile, Berenice the Behemoth was an even greater success than Olga had been. The papers were bustling with stories of the public’s sheer amazement at unprecedented human capacities. People came in from hundreds of countries just to see her. And with each hour of success that Berenice had, Olga continued to fume with rage. This meant that Melvin had to work quickly. He was up late into the morning, swirling beakers, flipping through the pages of his medical journals in the amber candlelight, tasting and remixing, writing copious notes. Until the next morning he presented Olga with a beaker filled with an electric green liquid.
“Drink this. If my calculations are correct, it will make you gain up to two hundred pounds in just one night!”
“Oh, thank you Melvin, thank you!” And she snatched the beaker from his hands and guzzled the contents like a ravenous hippo.
Melvin had a hard time sleeping that night. He had wondered if the whole thing would work, and if it did, how revered he would be in the medical community. But if it didn’t, if it had somehow killed Olga, how miserable and wretched his conscience would be. He never admitted to feeling jealous of Olga’s fame, but he did wonder what it would feel like to be loved and recognized by a wide, respecting community rather than a public of peanut-throwing critics. If he succeeded, he would undoubtedly be hired by any practice he liked, regardless of his short stature. He would go down in history from Melvin the Miniature to Melvin Garland, Medical Doctor. He and Olga would live together in a small village and have many perfect children. The world would wonder how such a small man managed to have such a beautiful wife, and how he had magically transformed her overnight. He smiled peacefully as he dreamed.
The next morning, Olga opened her eyes and felt strange. She felt her lungs expanding fully, as if they were no longer pressurized by inches of fat and skin. She felt a tremendous new agility and energy, like she had been a happy, buoyant child again. She got up with surprising ease from her bed, walked over to the mirror, and seeing herself, screamed.
Melvin was awoken immediately by the scream, which echoed fiercely throughout the tent, and beyond. His small heart began beating very quickly as he ran to her. “What is it darling? Olga?”
She turned around and he saw her. His body filled with warmth and he began to tremble as he beheld her, in full stature, gleaming. She was another woman entirely. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen. It was as if her shell of blubber had melted away to reveal a perfect, golden core. Her cheeks were raised toward the sky, her arms long and elegant, her lips thin and fair. The hideous larva had transformed into a breathtaking butterfly.
And the butterfly screamed, “What have you done to me!”
She began to cry. And her tears were not tears of joy at her newfound beauty, but tears of rage. Melvin couldn’t understand. He had done it. He had figured out the world’s greatest diet elixir, and here Olga was, crying and crying that she was finally, miraculously, beautiful.
“Olga, why are you crying?”
“What have you done to me?” She repeated, more solemnly now, behind her sobs.
“I couldn’t let you gain any more weight. You were going to die. Now we can live the life we’ve always dreamed of, get out of this freak show and have a family. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
But her sobs grew so great that Melvin’s joy of his own success quickly faded to pity and fear for Olga’s transformation. She was so loud that she stirred the other performers from their sleep. After a few minutes of sobbing, Caldini came bursting through the tent with a flourish, his face flushed with pink. Caldini informed them that Berenice the Behemoth had been committed to the hospital and due to die any day now, and that Olga was to reclaim her title as the fattest woman in the world. “Where is Olga?” Caldini said. “ I must tell her! My business depends on it!”
Melvin gestured sadly to the woman by the mirror.
“That’s Olga,” said Melvin. “That’s your Olga the Oaf.”
Caldini was silent, and took in her silhouette from afar, stepping back in shock at the sight of the woman. “That’s not Olga,” he said, then whispered to himself, “That is a beautiful stranger.” At this, Olga turned, dewy-eyed, to see him. Caldini walked over to her slowly as she sniffled in her tears and looked into his warm eyes. Caldini brought his hand to his mouth as he observed her from every angle, like a new species of Olga. His face drained from pink back to cream. He grasped her newly slender hands in his and smiled brightly. She smiled back, letting out a delicate hiccup. “It’s true,” Olga said. “Look what Melvin has done to me.”
Upon hearing her voice, it was at last beyond a doubt.
Caldini cried, “Can it be, that inside such a hideous creature can lie such precious beauty?”
Revenues had never been as high at Caldini’s after Berenice had passed away. In fact, now the business was once again plummeting to its defeat. With health crazes going mad across the country, and no more fat ladies in sight, Caldini decided to nix the freak show business entirely and take Olga as his wife. She accepted and they had three children together. Melvin was despaired. Although he had succeeded at making the world’s greatest diet elixir and was hired by the finest hospital in the country as lead dietician, he could not bear to imagine Olga and Caldini living together, neither of whom would ever again be called “Freak.”