Charge, The


By Chip Masterson

I needed to earn a little money for the prom, that's why I accepted the job to babysit the Henderson brat. I never had much money and my girlfriend refused to go in my restored Cougar, which was in the shop anyway. I can't work because it interfered with football practice, and my training. A football scholarship is the only way I'm going to college. So this would be a little seed money toward a limo.

My charge, Danny Henderson, is twelve going on six. He's always been a brat and nobody would sit for him, that's why the money was good. The Hendersons would be gone until after midnight so I knew I'd be bored stiff. When I got there he was already in his pjs so I got some chicken from the fridge and turned on HBO. It was Friday, so nothing was on.

Danny sauntered in and threw down a newspaper. He'd done the crossword puzzle, even the French clues. "Those are supposed to be kind of tough," I said.

"They are if you're a doofus." He started dribbling a basketball. In the house. Even though his technique was remarkable for a kid, I told him to knock it off.

"I'm bored," he said with a yawn. "You wanna arm wrestle?"

"I'll break your puny little arm, you punk." I flexed my 18- incher as proof. I didn't need to roll up the sleeve, the hard mound of my peak pushed it back. At 16 I could bench 315; I was up to 400 this year.

"Aw, c'mon. I'm bored." He stretched, and pulled off his pajama top. I was impressed, though I didn't show it. Looks like he'd been doing his calisthenics in PE. You could see all the muscles on his torso, and his arms were pretty decent too. Not like mine, though. I'd worked years on mine.

He lay down on the carpet on his stomach, his right hand held up in the air. "Please?"

"Alright, kid, if it'll make ya happy." I got down and he grinned with glee, and banged his feet on the floor. "Let's go."

I put my hand in his, looked him in the eye and said "Go." He little arm tensed up. He HAD been doing his pull-ups. "How many pull-ups you do, kid?"

"Oh, about a hundred. Each arm." He squeezed his hand harder so I squeezed back, just to remind the little liar who's boss. "Is that the best you can do?" he asked.

He looked up into my face with such insolence that I gave up being nice. I tensed my forearm to bring him down, but found I couldn't. He must have seen the look of surprise on my face because he grinned in a sort of "what's the matter?" way.

I doubled my effort. Nothing. I looked over to see if there was a trick, something he was bracing against, but his torso was bare and there was nothing in the carpet. The muscles of his back worked and he squeezed hard enough that I winced involuntarily. "How much you bench?" he asked.

"450," I said, by my voice was tense with the effort. I didn't understand. My big tanned bicep bulged but it couldn't budge him I looked at his bicep and it was round and hard and seemed to have pumped up phenomenally.

"I did 450 last year. This year it's closer to six. Each arm."

"Liar!" I said, and gave it all I had. My was back ached and my bicep began to tremble. His was cool and smooth. He tightened his grip and I could see the split as a head formed on his muscle.

"I'm bored," he said, and yawned. He took my arm halfway down.

I couldn't help but panic. Sweat broke out all over my face. He couldn't be beating me! No one in the whole school could beat me, and he was only in the fucking sixth grade! I lost my pride and grabbed his hand with my free hand, and pulled. That brought us back to the middle. "Ho, hum" he said. I yelped in pain as he slammed BOTH my hands to the ground. He wouldn't let go, either. I struggled to keep from crying with the pain, and he giggled.

"What do you want, you freak?" I raged at him.

"I want to kill you," he said, crushing my thick fingers. "But first I want to see you try to run away." With that he let me go.

Furious, I sprung up and gave him a Tai Kwon Do kick to the chest. He staggered back a little but the shock traveled up my leg. I looked around for something, anything to hit him with, and took the basketball. With all my might I hurled it at him. He caught it in one hand! My mouth fell open as he reared back to return the volley, his bicep now a shocking baseball, but then he put his other hand on it. And squeezed. The sides of the ball flattened and for a moment it held this oval shape. He brought it to against chest, where his mounting pecs further dented it. All at once it exploded open, a huge rip tearing straight up it. "Next?" he said, dropping flattened ball.

I ran into the kitchen. Grabbing the biggest iron frying pan I could find I swung it. "Stay away from me!"

"Come on, do your worst." He walked closer. I hit him in the head with the pan and he went down. Or so I thought.

I ran into the garage and found a thick steel chain and an open combination lock. I ran back in, pulled his sinewy arms behind him and wrapped the chain around his wrist four or five times. I set the padlock tight and caught my breath. I could explain later. My girlfriend had dropped me off so I grabbed the keys to Mrs. Henderson's ancient Buick and went back to the garage. I walked up to the door when I heard him laughing.

"Wait, before you go, I want to show you something." He hadn't been knocked out by that blow, though his head had dented the iron pan. Fuck the door, I thought, I'm getting out of here. I climbed in the Buick and stuck the keys in. And looked in the mirror.

His chest had broken into amazing striations, and it too had pumped up. His shoulders looked like melons and his triceps were huge for a kid. With a grimace he jerked himself free as a steel link zinged into the wall. "One more thing. This?" He pointed at the lock. "Uh-uh." He closed those wiry fingers around the lock and squeezed. Metal crumpled as his fist took it in, and he worked his fingers so that twisted bits of steel fell onto the pavement. I turned the key and gunned the engine.

Nothing happened. I didn't move. I checked the parking brake and then a horrible feeling hit me in the stomach just as the wheels spun in a high, angry whine. The bumper groaned where he held it. I gunned the motor but the tires just burned, this kid was out muscling the car! With a laugh he let me fly through the door. I skidded onto the street and took off, turning left, then left again. I rubbed my punished bicep.

Then I saw him walking toward me down the middle of the street. I skidded to a stop: how had he gotten there? I swung that boat around and turned the corner, then turned away from where he had been. At the next intersection he was there again! I turned away from him, then out of the housing tract. But he was there! I raced into an industrial area, and every time I turned, he was one step ahead of me. I turned again and saw him in the rear view mirror, then he blurred as he sped away from me. My mouth hung open.

At last I came to a dead end by a factory, and heard him walking behind me, swinging that chain he broke with his bare hands and whistling. He hadn't chased me: he herded me. I left the car and ducked into the old tool and die plant.

Once inside I found the main fuse box and threw the power on. Light sputtered and an electrical hum filled the air. I hid behind a stack of crates and saw him slide the huge steel door open, slam it shut behind him, and with his had still behind his back deform the steel to seal it shut. "I can hear you whimpering," he called.

I bolted and hid behind a die press. He followed, and walked into it. He looked around with a "what is this?" look that was too fake. I thought of the end of "The Terminator" and found the switch. I turned that fucker on.

He stood there, watching me, doing that come-on thing with his fingers. Then he sat down with those thin, brawny arms over his head. The die press reached him and I looked at the pressure gauge. It read 1000 lbs per square inch. It continued to read that as it got lower. He ducked his head a little so that it hit is shoulders. And stopped. His biceps ballooned as the pressure gauge rose. 1500 lbs. 1750. 2000 pounds per square fucking inch and it hadn't moved a centimeter. I looked back at him and saw him straighten his head up beneath the rising press. "HAVE I GOT YOUR ATTENTION?" he yelled. His face was filled with joyous determination, exulting in this test of muscle versus machine.

At 3000 lbs the press began to whine, the supports creak. He was pushing it back up, his arms tense and hard and thick. Once it was back overhead his lats flared out to twice the width of his rib cage, which was expanding as he sucked in huge lungfuls of air. At 3500 lbs the press started to hiss, and he started to stand up. The electrical whine built and the lights dimmed as the industrial machine drank in energy to crush a 12 year old boy. The hydraulic hoses broke loose and writhed against the wall with the backed-up pressure that had nowhere to go so long as Danny kept exerting his kid muscle power. The gauge went red at 4000 lbs and he was in a squatting posture, his massive chest heaving and a smile on his face. With a high-pitched scream he rose to his full height, driving the screaming pistons up into themselves. The control panel burst into flames, the pressure gauge cracked, and Danny impossibly went up on his toes, and pressed the driving force back from his palms with his fingertips.

`YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! KID MUSCLE!" he screamed as the machine blew out above him. The hydraulic system ripped loose, spewing fluids into the fire that now threatened to destroy the plant. This kid could destroy us all, I thought as I found a fire extinguisher and put out the flames. The kid walked over and I stood before him, terrified.

"I have to find a new place to play, that was the last one. When I was ten my father let me pull down the hydro lifts at an abandoned garage until I broke them. Then we came here." He held out his hand. Tentatively I took it, preparing to wince. But he only shook it.

"I'm not really going to kill you. I was just joking." He laughed. "I'm going to have you babysit all the time from now on." He walked back to the door and unbent the metal to let us out. He looked back over his pumped shoulder and said. "My parents always let me have what I want. Race you home?"

I knew I'd already lost. •

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