Toby Wilson is a child from Antler, Texas whose life changes in one summer. Toby lives with his parents until his mother runs off to Nashville, Tennessee to become a singer. Toby and his friend Cal McKnight meet a chubby weirdo named Zachary Beavers who has no parents or friends. Zachary is deemed "The Fattest Boy Ever", and spends most of his time in a trailer while he works for the circus. When Zachary is abandoned by the person who is supposed to be watching him to look for new additions to their circus, Toby and Cal get to know Zachary. Eventually they all become good friends.
Wayne is Cal's brother who normally takes them out for snow cones until he is recruited into the Vietnam war and dies. While Cal is grieving the loss of his brother, Toby and Zachary help him cope. Instead of attending Wayne's funeral, Toby takes Zachary somewhere in his father's truck; however they end up stranded in the middle of nowhere.