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|The most important day in the life of me, Evan Walker, came when I was in the eighth grade. I was sitting in the bleachers of my junior high gym attending a pep rally for the football team, enduring the silly cheerleader routines, when some boys came out to do a sketch. Seth, Ryan and Travis were the coolest trio in my class. My friend Fred called them the �Stud Boys�. Good-looking and athletic, they had a cocky walk and attitude and received respect from the other kids. For the pep rally, they were pretending to be pro wrestlers being interviewed by a smaller boy with a stupid-looking bald wig and moustache. Seth, Ryan and Travis wore robes and shouted into the microphone, bad-mouthing our school�s opponent and gesturing wildly as the students cheered. For the finale, the three boys stripped off their robes and began flexing and posing their muscles in tight swim suits as the crowd went wild. Baby oil highlighted their defined physiques. My underwear started feeling really tight. That wasn�t unusual � sometimes I had that tight feeling all day at school � but at that moment it was so uncomfortable it was painful. I tried to soothe it with my hand as I watched the three toughest guys in my class show off their lean, muscular bodies. Seth�s biceps bulged impressively into hard peaks of power, and he turned slowly to show everyone as he pumped his arms again and again. Ryan placed his hands flat against the side of his hips with his elbows wide, flashing a big smile as he rippled his pecs and abs into full hardness. Travis hit a lat spread, showing off the V-shape of his upper body and tensing his nice thigh muscles. The girls were screaming and many of the boys whistled loudly. The spotlight stayed on the three boys as they continued to flex, hitting pose after pose. Their taut muscles bulged impressively, the veins popping under their smooth, glistening skin. The students were in such a frenzy that they stomped their feet on the bleachers, rocking the whole gym. The coach was already moving in to regain control of the pep rally when Ryan turned around and bent over, wiggling his ass for the audience, then suddenly yanked his trunks down, exposing his muscular butt as the �interviewer� pretended to be shocked and stepped in front to block the view. The coach and two other teachers dragged the buff trio out the gym doors as they kept on flexing and shouting, staying in character. At some point during all of this I felt a powerful shiver surge up my spine. As my mind went dizzy for a moment I gasped for air and felt a wet stickiness in my crotch. When the pep rally ended, I walked home wondering if I had burst something inside me. I rushed to my room and undressed in front of the mirror, hoping I would not have to be taken to the doctor and explain what happened. Although the white goo looked like pus it did not feel or smell like it, and somehow I decided everything would be okay.
I looked at my own body in the mirror and sighed. The seventh- to ninth-grade boys in my junior high covered a wide range of physical maturity. From twelve-year-olds with formless, childlike bodies to a few fifteen-year-olds who had mature physiques that rippled with muscles. The Stud Boys must have been about the same age as me, but they already had the kind of muscular hardbodies that I desperately wanted to develop. I did some flexing of my own and was frustrated with the display in the mirror. I resolved to start exercising right then and there to see if I could get rid of my layer of baby fat and build some real muscle. I didn�t have any weights or anything so I improvised. The clothes rod in my closet was sturdy enough for me to do chin-ups on. I piled some books on two high-backed chairs so that I could do dips between them. I didn�t need any equipment to start doing sit-ups and push-ups. I used my calendar to keep track of how many reps I could do. I couldn�t do many at first, but I wrote the numbers down anyway. This encouraged me to exercise each day, so I could fill in each date square with my progress. When I got a little stronger I took some concrete blocks we had behind our garage and made a crude barbell by putting an old broomstick through the holes.
I didn�t know it at first, but more than my attitude changed that day in the gym. My body was changing too, as evidenced by my unexpected �discharge�. Before too long I was seeing some results from my exercise program. And I wasn�t just getting stronger, I was looking stronger, too. My muscles were starting to take shape, and I was really encouraged now when I looked in the mirror.
I got up the nerve to ask my dad for a real set of weights for Christmas. I felt a little embarrassed, letting him know I was interested in bodybuilding, but he seemed to think it was a good idea. In fact, he totally surprised me by buying me a membership in the local gym and paying extra for a month of private lessons with the personal trainer to get me started. I learned a lot about nutrition and diet and which supplements would help me get big and muscular fast. I was real enthusiastic and would have been in the gym every day, if the trainer hadn�t stressed the importance of rest between workouts.
Everyone at the gym was amazed at how the poundages I used were going up-up-up every week. I was proud of the fact that I could give up junk food and eat more of the healthy stuff. My mom was happy too. I ended up spending most of my allowance on vitamins and supplements, but it was okay because I could tell they were really helping me to pack on the lean muscle weight I wanted so much. Before long I was seeing some real muscle bulge up strong and hard when I flexed in front of my mirror. I had broad shoulders, V-shaped lats, defined pecs and abs, strong legs, and most importantly of all, biceps that bulged up thick and hard. My trainer was teasing me about getting muscular so fast. He said he wished he had taken a �before� picture when I walked in the day after Christmas because no one would believe I was the same person now. In a little over two months I had transformed my body. It was the best feeling in the world. I had become addicted to bodybuilding.
Throughout all this I didn�t tell anyone at school about my new passion for working out � not even my best friend, Fred. I was careful to wear loose fitting clothing, and since it was winter, it was easy to keep covered with bulky sweaters and layers of shirts. The kids in my gym class might have noticed the changes in my body, but I tried to keep a low profile, even there. I had plans for my official �coming out�. Our family was going to Palm Springs for spring vacation and I insisted we stay at a hotel with a good gym. I was going to stick to my strict diet, do an early morning run for aerobics, hit the gym for a couple of hours, spend the afternoons soaking up the sun by the pool to get the deepest tan I could, and then surprise the kids at school when I came back all bronzed and buff.
The first morning back after spring vacation, I took a tank top out of my drawer and put it on. I had never worn anything that revealing to school before. I dropped to the floor and did some quick push-ups. A few months before I would have had trouble just doing ten � now I cranked out fifty in less than a minute and still didn�t get a full �pump�. I stood in front of the mirror and checked myself out. I loved how my new tan stood out against the light yellow tank top. My shoulders looked great and the veins in my arms were standing out nicely after the push-ups. My pecs were clearly outlined by the snug-fitting shirt and when I drew in my breath you could even see the cuts in my abs through the tight fabric. I let out a big sigh and felt my heart pounding in my chest. It was Judgement Day.
When I saw Fred I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head. He had expected the tan, but he was blown away by my new muscular look. Fred kept grabbing my arm and squeezing it in disbelief as he complimented me on my build, so I finally made a fist and flexed my arm properly for him. He just about wet his pants when he saw the hard-bulging ball of muscle my biceps made. He squeezed it � or at least, he tried to � and his jaw dropped open so wide I thought it was going to lock in place. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good about myself, and throughout the day Fred was showing me off to everyone we knew and making me flex for them. I loved seeing their eyes bug out and letting them feel my newly buff, gym-hardened muscles.
I had to buy more tank tops and sleeveless �muscle� shirts to wear to school. Before, I would never have worn things like that to class � now, I didn�t want to wear anything else. I started wearing shorts and sandals, too, because I loved to show off how great my tanned legs looked when I pulled up my shorts and flexed my thighs. It was a new world for me, and I was enjoying it. But I didn�t realize how much things would change until a few days later.
I was eating lunch with Fred in the cafeteria when it happened. Someone tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around to see Seth and his two buddies Ryan and Travis. �Come with us,� was all Seth said, then they turned and started walking away. I looked at Fred and shrugged. I had about ten seconds to make up my mind whether or not to go with them. Curiosity got the best of me and I left Fred at the table and trotted after the Stud Boys. They led me down to the boy�s locker room under the gym. We walked up to a locked door and Seth pulled out a shiny brass key, let us in, and locked the door behind us. We were in an equipment storage room, with rows of shelves stacked floor to ceiling with jerseys, pads, bats, helmets, and just about everything else a sports team needs. We moved back behind the last row of shelves where we wouldn�t be seen if anyone else came into the room. This was their secret meeting place.
�You�ve been nominated to join the BBC � that�s us,� said Seth. The other two nodded seriously. �It stands for Buff Biceps Club, and I�m the president. You can be eligible to join if you pass the entrance test.�
I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Seth reached down and grabbed a solid hex dumbbell from the bottom shelf. The number �25� was stamped on it. He put it in my right hand.
�Now, let�s see how many one-arm curls you can do with that weight.�
I began to pump out curls as the three watched me intently. It was heavy, but nothing my strong arm couldn�t handle. I was so nervous I wasn�t even counting. I just kept pulling the weight up time after time and looking at their eyes and wondering how much longer I would have to keep it up before they told me it was enough. My arm started to get really tired, but the adrenaline was flowing and I was determined not to give up. Seth noticed I�d started to slow down a little and he said, �That�s enough,� and took the dumbbell.
�Okay, you pass the strength test,� Seth said. �But there�s one more test you have to pass. This is the �Buff� Biceps Club. We don�t want no fatso lard-asses. You have to be a lean, mean, muscle machine. So you have to flex for us so we can certify that your biceps is hard enough to qualify you for membership.�
I swallowed hard and raised my right arm and flexed. Seth wrapped his fingers around the bulge and gave it a good squeeze. Then he stepped back and Travis came forward and did the same thing. I was flexing my hardest while trying to keep cool and not show any strain. Finally, Ryan stepped up and put his hand on my biceps. First he tried to pinch and knead the muscle with his fingers, then he stretched his thumb down under my triceps and curled the tops of his fingers firmly over my bulging biceps. Ryan squeezed it once, then squeezed it again harder, then gripped it with so much force that I felt tears well up in my eyes. He clenched his jaw and stared at me with a slight smile on his face as he poured on the pressure. I kept flexing as hard as I could, but his fingers were starting to dig into my flesh. The muscles of his forearms were rippling as the veins began to stand out in his arm. I bit my lower lip and tried to flex even harder, but Ryan kept his cool smile as he continued to crush my biceps with his strong fingers. It was as if he were daring me to cry out or complain.
�That�s enough, Ryan,� Seth said. Ryan�s nostrils flared and he held his vice-like grip another few seconds before letting go. I wanted to remain cool and tough, but without even thinking I grabbed my arm and started massaging it right away. I felt a small tear run down my cheek. Ryan�s smug little smile grew a little bigger.
�Okay, let�s vote,� Seth said. He held out his fist with his thumb pointing up and Travis did the same. Ryan hesitated for a moment, then signaled thumbs-down.
�What�s the matter with you, Ryan?� Seth said. �He�s got all the qualifications.�
�I didn�t think he passed the hardness test, okay?� Ryan complained. �I have a right to my opinion. I think right now he�s just a pumped-up wannabe. He doesn�t have the guts or the attitude to hang with us.�
�Well, you�re outvoted, so he�s in,� Seth said.
�Not so fast,� Ryan interrupted. �He still has to pass the initiation.�
�Yeah, right, you�re not an official member yet,� Seth agreed. �It�s a three-day initiation, and here�s the first test: you have to wear a tight, long-sleeved shirt to school tomorrow. When we meet here at noon, you�ll have to show us that you can rip your sleeve just by flexing your biceps.�
I looked at Seth and frowned. �How can I be sure I can do that?� I asked.
�That�s your problem,� Ryan laughed. He nudged Travis and they started walking towards the door.
�Don�t worry, I can help you out,� Seth whispered. �Do you have a really tight shirt?�
I thought a moment and shook my head.
�Okay, let�s see what we have here.�
On one shelf there were some white long-sleeved undershirts designed to be worn under uniforms on cold days. Seth found one that was clearly too small for me and pulled it out.
�This will fit you like a second skin, if you can pull it on without ripping out the seams. Take a pocket knife or something and make a little slit in the right sleeve exactly in the middle of your biceps. Try not to do any flexing all morning � in fact, try not to bend your right arm at all if you can help it, or you�ll blow it out before you get here.�
Seth slammed the shirt into my chest, and I grabbed it. Then he patted me on the shoulder and led me to the door, unlocked it, and stuck his head out to see if all was clear. After we were out he quickly re-locked the door and held up the key.
�You�ll get one of your own after you pass the three-day initiation. Then you�ll be one of us.�
Seth smiled at me and I smiled back. My heart was still pounding. Wait �till I tell Fred I�m going to be one of the Stud Boys!
Fred didn�t seem as impressed as I was at the news. In fact, he looked at me as if I had lost my mind.
�Are you crazy, Evan?� he gasped. �Those guys are a bunch of creeps. They think they rule the whole school. You won�t find bigger jerks anywhere. They�re always picking on other kids or making fun of them. They order guys around and expect them to do whatever they say or they�ll probably beat �em up or something.�
The bell rang signaling the end of lunch period. We had five minutes to get to class.
�You�re just saying that because you�re jealous,� I said, as we walked down the hall. �They don�t seem like such bad guys to me. Maybe Ryan�s a little stuck-up, but Seth was really nice to me.�
�Nice to you, sure,� Fred agreed, opening his locker. �You�re a Stud Boy yourself now. Mr. Muscles is finding out what it�s like to be admired and respected for his body. And you like it, don�t you, Evan?� He pulled out his backpack and slammed the door shut.
I didn�t like the tone of his voice. Fred was getting on my nerves. For once, somebody in this school likes me besides him, and he�s getting all huffy and jealous.
�Well, if it bothers you so much why don�t you go find yourself another wimpy friend and you can complain to each other all day about how pathetic you are,� I said. I didn�t intend to sound so mean, but I guess it came out that way. Fred just snorted and headed off to his class.
��and it wouldn�t hurt you to try going to the gym yourself, you know!� I yelled after him. Fred kept right on going but several other people turned and looked at me. I just smiled at them as I felt a blush warm my cheeks.
It was hell trying to squirm into that damn shirt the next morning. I almost gave up twice, then found I could hardly breathe when I finally managed to get the shirt completely on. I looked in the mirror and laughed. The sleeves were halfway up my forearms. There was a two-inch gap between the bottom of the shirt and the top of my shorts. But the fabric was a sheer white nylon that really did fit like a second skin. The effect was quite startling � like a super-hero suit or something. Last year you couldn�t have paid me enough money to force me to wear something like that to school. Now I was feeling kind of cool. I looked in the kitchen for a steak knife to slit the sleeve. Holding the knife up to the front of my biceps, I tried to nick the fabric without cutting into my own flesh. It was difficult, using my left hand. As soon as the knife pierced the material, the little slit started to spread open forming a gaping hole that threatened to keep tearing wider. I had to peel the shirt off as quick as I could. Then I got a needle and some white thread and put one stitch in the middle of the slit to hold it together. The worst part was crawling back into that super-tight shirt again. When I was finished, I checked it out in the mirror. If you didn�t look too closely, you couldn�t even tell the slit was there.
All in all, I thought the shirt looked pretty sexy! I couldn�t resist raising my left arm and giving a little flex. It looked really hot to see the biceps muscle push up and stretch the fabric to the absolute limit. I almost felt like I could tear it open without any cut. I resisted the urge to keep pumping my arm to see if I could do it, and went off to school. I had to endure the looks and whistles I got from some of the other students. I couldn�t give them a flex, anyway, or the shirt might just explode off my body! I took little shallow breaths and hoped the side seams would hold. I didn�t see Fred around anywhere that morning. Maybe he was sick. A couple of my teachers gave me a funny look when they saw what I was wearing in class, but I didn�t care. I was so excited thinking about noontime, when I would get to do my thing.
Right on time, Seth and the others found me and led me back down to the meeting place. Seth even remarked about how good the shirt looked on my body, and he held out his hand and ran his fingers across my chest. There�s something about feeling firm muscles beneath tightly stretched fabric that got my nipples hard instantly. And when my nipples got hard in that shirt, believe me, everyone noticed!
�We better get started, or else he�s gonna rip open his shorts before he rips open his shirt!� Travis laughed.
�I should have known the boy would be queer,� Ryan sneered.
�Shut up, Ryan,� Seth complained. �Okay, you ready, Evan?� Let �er rip!�
I held up my right arm, fully extended, and started bending it slowly. The fabric already felt so tight on my skin that when my biceps started flexing it was thrilling to feel the pressure build. I hadn�t even raised my fist to the ninety-degree point when I could see two little circles of skin where the slit was pulling open around the stitch holding it together. As soon as my fist started coming downward, the thread snapped and the slit burst wide open. I flexed all the way and the hole kept tearing wider and wider, making a great ripping noise, until my hard-flexed biceps was fully revealed, bursting through in all its naked glory. I was so excited that I kept flexing really hard, and although my arm wasn�t pumped, my biceps looked like it was peaking up higher than ever. It was a fantastic feeling!
�Wow, that was great!� Seth said. �Okay, you passed the first initiation test. Now for the next test��
�Wait a minute,� Ryan interrupted. �That sleeve was already slit. I saw it.�
�Come on, Ryan,� Seth argued. �His biceps did most of the ripping. We all used a little help to get started.�
�I didn�t,� Ryan insisted. �When we did the test I ripped my sleeve using just my biceps.� He pulled up the sleeve of his tee-shirt and flexed his arm. My jaw dropped when I saw the ball of pure rock that bulged up on his arm! Ryan�s biceps was way larger than it had been at the pep rally last fall. He was like some kind of eighth-grade muscle god or something! I wanted to reach out and grab that bulge and squeeze it as hard as he had squeezed mine the day before. Just to feel a muscle that looked that solid would be amazing!
�I�m still gonna give thumbs up,� said Seth, and he held up his thumb. Ryan turned his down, and we all looked at Travis.
�I don�t know,� Travis hedged, shooting a quick glance at Ryan. �Lemme see you try it with the other arm.�
Seth noticed the panic in my eyes when I looked at him and swallowed hard. I had already flexed my left arm in the mirror that morning and the sleeve didn�t rip. Seth gave me a nod, so I knew I�d have to give it another try. I raised my left arm and flexed it real slow, feeling the resistance as the fabric reached its maximum stretch. When I reached full flex the material was all tight and smooth and shiny across the top of my biceps, but it held together. I started to feel beads of sweat break out on my forehead. I grit my teeth and tried to flex that muscle as hard as I could. My arm was trembling, and the biceps was bulging up like a little mountain, but the shirt didn�t rip.
�Try pumping it a few times,� Seth said.
I unflexed my arm and drew it up again slowly. I tried to concentrate harder this time and flex like I�d never flexed before. The muscle was bulging up proudly, but the sleeve did not give way. I pumped my arm one more time and hoped for the best. All this flexing and pumping was sending new blood into the muscle, I guess, because the sleeve felt tighter than ever. The fabric was stretched so thin that I could see the flesh color showing through. I screwed up my face and squeezed my fist as tight as I could. The separation in the fabric was small at first, like a ragged little pinhole on top of my bulging biceps. But seeing it gave me new energy, and my biceps grew just enough to start a rip, then swelled a bit more as I turned my wrist. The sleeve split wide open with a satisfying ripping sound, and my biceps surged through the hole showing a pumped vein snaking over the tightly flexed muscle.
�You da man!� Seth cheered. �I knew you could do it! The next test should be a piece of cake after that. You have to get one of your teachers to feel your biceps. It�s not as easy as it sounds. You can�t just catch them in the hall or walk up to their desk before class. You have to make them come over to your desk during class and give your flexed biceps a squeeze. Plus, one of us has to be there to witness it. And it has to be before our noon meeting tomorrow.�
I felt that sinking feeling again. After we left the room, Seth took my elbow and whispered in my ear.
�You�re in Mr. Hibbler�s class with Travis, right? He�s kind of a geek. Maybe he�d like to feel the muscle of a buff young teenage stud. Travis can be your witness.� He looked at my tattered shirt with the sleeves peeling away from my upper arms. �You�d better go change into your good shirt.�
�Change�?� I said. Seth just laughed and led me back into the equipment room.
I went to afternoon classes wearing a �borrowed� baseball jersey. Mr. Hibbler taught our final period math class. I liked him because he was pretty good at using humor to get through to his students. He let us have the last ten minutes of class time to start working on our assigned problems. I turned around and saw Travis sitting in his usual spot at the back of the room.
�Mr. Hibbler, can you help me out with this problem?� I asked. He was grading papers, but he told me he�d be right there. Travis came up and put his hand on my back.
�That doesn�t count,� he whispered. �You can�t use some other excuse to get him to come over. You have to flex your arm and ask him to come over just to feel your biceps.� He gave me another pat and returned to the back of the room.
�Never mind, Mr. Hibbler,� I said. �I think I figured it out.� He smiled at me and returned to his papers. I let a few more minutes pass, but time was running out. I decided to go for broke. �Mr. Hibbler, do you think my muscles have gotten bigger since I�ve started working out?� He looked up and I pulled up my sleeve and flexed for him.
�You�re lookin� pretty buff, Evan,� he smiled. �You�d better watch out, or the girls will be all over you.� Some of the students around me giggled, and I blushed. Mr. Hibbler went back to his papers. The clock ticked away. It was now or never. I rolled my sleeve up to my shoulder so that it stayed there and flexed my arm again.
�Feel it, Mr. Hibbler!� I said. Several students put down their pencils and were looking at me now. Mr. Hibbler gave me a bemused look. I kept my arm flexed tight. �Please� I just want you to feel it for me.� Several of the students were snickering. I felt my face turning red. One of the girls said, �I�ll feel it for you,� and there was general laughter. Mr. Hibbler asked me if I had finished my problems. I glanced at the clock. Only two minutes left.
�Please, ple-e-e-e-ze!� I begged. �I�ll never ask you for anything again.� By now, Mr. Hibbler was getting suspicious. He knew I usually didn�t act like this. I think he was more curious than anything else. He got up from his chair and walked over to my desk.
�How come you�re such a show-off all of a sudden?� Mr. Hibbler said. �I didn�t think you were the kind of student who had to flex his muscles to get attention.�
The other kids were watching us now as they started putting their books in their backpacks. They knew the final bell was about to ring. One minute left.
�I started getting into bodybuilding a few months ago. I�d just like you to feel my biceps and give me your opinion� please?� I tried to sound sincere without being demanding. I�d been holding my arm flexed for a long time, so I pumped it once to stretch out the muscle before flexing it hard again. I looked at my biceps, then back up at Mr. Hibbler with a pleading look on my face.
�You don�t need me to tell you how you�re doing. Everyone here can see you�re looking good. I�m sure all your friends are impressed by your improvement. I think it�s fine you want to build up your body� I can think of a few other students who could use you for inspiration.� He shot a glance at Larry, the fat kid in the desk next to mine. Larry wrinkled his nose in disgust, and Mr. Hibbler laughed. Thirty seconds left.
�Just give it a quick squeeze, okay?� I said. �Humor me.�
Mr. Hibbler gave me a quick little smile, then suddenly reached out and put his fingers on my biceps. I was so nervous and excited I nearly jumped out of my chair when the bell rang. Mr. Hibbler laughed and said, �Very nice,� as he gave my arm a little squeeze. Then, seeing my obvious relief, he gave me a questioning look. Travis came up and put a hand on my shoulder.
�That�s a pretty good muscle, isn�t it, Mr. Hibbler?� Travis said, smiling.
�Did you put him up to this, Travis?� the teacher asked.
�I don�t know what you�re talking about, Mr. Hibbler,� he replied innocently.
�I should have known. Take care of yourself, Evan. Don�t let this jokester pull a fast one on you.� Mr. Hibbler winked at me and returned to his desk.
Travis gave me a friendly pat on the back. �Only one more test, guy. See you tomorrow at noon.�
After Travis left, one of the other students who had been lingering stopped by my desk on his way out and asked if he could feel my arm. I said, �Sure!� and flexed for him. He felt my biceps and said, �Wow!� then he thanked me. He actually thanked me! It made me feel good inside. Then another boy and a couple of girls came up and took turns feeling my arm. I wasn�t embarrassed flexing in front of strangers anymore. I was really starting to enjoy this.
The next day the Stud Boys met me in the cafeteria as usual, but we didn�t bother going off to the meeting room. They just sat down next to me and shot a dirty look at Fred, who quietly picked up his lunch tray and moved to another table. I felt sorry for Fred, but I figured he shouldn�t mind giving us a little privacy for a few minutes. He�s getting to be a little too sensitive about these things lately, if you ask me. Seth told me for the final test I had to beat a ninth-grader in arm wrestling. The catch was, my opponent had to be an athlete who had earned a letter in some team sport � no wimps allowed. Plus, it couldn�t be someone smaller than me. For example, I couldn�t find the smallest lightweight on the wrestling team and put his arm down. Ryan said the guy had to weigh more than I did. The idea was to prove that I had a stronger arm than most guys in school, even the older athletes.
�This is the best time to do it, right here in the cafeteria,� Ryan said. He looked around and pointed to a nearby table. �How about that guy? I think he�s on the basketball team. Probably has sticks for arms.�
I looked over and saw a lanky blond kid wearing a letterman�s jacket. He had wire-rimmed glasses and was reading a textbook while he ate his sack lunch. There was no one else around him. Ryan headed in the boy�s direction and the rest of us followed. My stomach was churning.
�Hi! What�s your name?� Ryan said.
The boy looked up, eyeing us suspiciously as he finished the last bite of his sandwich. �Dennis,� he said.
Ryan grabbed my arm and pulled me forward. �Well, Dennis, I�ve got a friend here named Evan who is learning how to arm wrestle, and he�d like to challenge you to a little contest.�
Dennis looked me up and down while he licked his fingers clean. �You want to arm wrestle me?� he asked.
�Sure� um� I guess��
Ryan added, �He thinks he can beat you!�
I winced at that, but Dennis didn�t react. He was staring at my arm. I was wearing my usual tank top, so I had nothing to hide. �Okay, why not?� Dennis said, and he flipped his book closed. Then he stood up to remove his jacket. I was distressed to see how tall he was. Dennis wasn�t just bigger than me� he was way bigger than me. I worried that he had too much of a weight advantage. But how could I back down now?
When I saw him with his jacket removed, my churning stomach started doing flip-flops. Dennis was wearing a black sleeveless �muscle� tee-shirt underneath. Those sure weren�t sticks hanging from his shoulders! His long, pale arms were rippling with muscle and laced with blue veins. He sat back down and confidently put his right elbow on the table, with his open hand ready to receive my grip. I sat down opposite him and put my elbow in place next to his. His forearm was longer than mine, which gave him a leverage advantage, and his hand was bigger than mine, which gave him a grip advantage. As we locked hands I saw his biceps jump up, showing off the cleanest split I had ever seen between the two heads of the muscle. His biceps made a rounded ball when it flexed. I felt the strong grip of his hand when he squeezed and knew I was in trouble. Dennis was going to be tough.
Seth gripped our two hands in his, then released them as he shouted, �Go!� I tried to get the jump on Dennis, looking for any advantage, but his arm wouldn�t move. We struggled at a standstill for several seconds. The only evidence of our strain was the bulging muscles in our arms and the slight trembling of our tightly-gripped hands. I kept trying to give a burst of power to get his arm to move a little, but he matched my strength completely. Behind me I heard Seth say, �C�mon, Evan!� I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on using all my strength. I thought I felt Dennis� arm move a little, but in the next second it was right back in the neutral position. Man, this guy was strong!
I stared at our straining arms as the struggle went on and on. I was spending a lot of energy getting nowhere, and I began to wonder how long my arm could hold out if this became a marathon. I looked up at Dennis to see if he was showing any sign of tiring and was shocked to see an expression of complete calm on his face! I was starting to sweat bullets and this guy was acting like it was easy for him! Then he did something that completely blew my mind. He grabbed his half-eaten apple with his left hand and took a big bite, munching away and wiping a dribble of juice off his chin with the back of his hand. I was panting like a stevedore and he was eating an apple, for crissakes!
Dennis took a few more bites to finish the apple, finally tossing it aside. Then he hunched his shoulders forward a bit and seemed to get a more serious look on his face. That�s when I felt him squeeze my hand painfully and twist my wrist toward him. I was helpless to stop it. He just increased the power in his arm and began slowly moving my hand down toward the table. His biceps was bulging like a rock and the veins on his forearm were really popping now. Dennis was in complete control and he seemed to enjoy the look on my face as he moved my arm down ever-so-slowly, bit by bit. I let out a groan of frustration. I knew I was done for.
I looked up and saw Ryan standing behind Dennis. He was smiling. He beckoned to Travis, who came and stood beside him. I was still struggling furiously, but my arm was halfway down now. Ryan nudged Travis in the ribs with his elbow and the two of them snickered. Then he whispered something to Travis behind his cupped hand and they laughed harder. Something in my brain finally clicked. I had been set up! How could I have been so stupid! I had let Ryan pick my opponent, when I knew he wanted me to fail! I thought about how this might cost me my chance to prove I belonged in the BBC. I was mad at Ryan, and I was mad at myself. If I lost now, all the hard work I had put in at the gym, and the tests I had already passed, would be thrown away. I would be a failure. I stared into Ryan�s eyes and felt the anger boil up in me. He stood there with that simpering smile on his face and all I wanted to do at that moment was strangle him!
I didn�t realize it at first, but my sudden surge in adrenaline was having quite an effect on my arm. In response to my growing anger, my biceps was bulging up with new power. Without realizing it, I had already moved Dennis� arm halfway back up toward the neutral position! I looked at Dennis and saw his eyes widen in surprise. That gave me even more renewed energy. I tried to concentrate on how much I was going to enjoy it when I saw the look on Ryan�s face after I won. It helped me to focus my strength and will my arm to keep moving. When our hands moved past the neutral position, I knew I had Dennis beaten already. You could see it in his eyes. I thought about how they had tried to play me for the fool. It kept my anger going. When Dennis� arm started moving down I heard him grunt and felt him lose some of his strength, as if he had reached his limit. It was going to be easy now, so I took my time and made him suffer a little, just like he had tried to do with me. �I�m sorry I didn�t make you choke on that apple, you bastard!� I thought to myself. It gave me the final burst of adrenaline I needed to slam his hand down with a satisfying thud. Just so there was no doubt, I held his arm down on the table a good five seconds before I released it.
Dennis let out a big sigh and looked mortified as he laid his head on his defeated arm and closed his eyes. Ryan looked like his dog had just died. Travis gave me a little smile and a nod, and Seth grabbed my shoulders from behind and shook them hard.
�You did it, man! You�re one of us now!� he said.
Now it was my turn to give Ryan a smug little smile. I raised my right arm and flexed it proudly for him, turning my head to admire the way my fully-pumped biceps raised into an awesome-looking peak. I tightened my flex a bit more and saw the definition in my chiseled biceps grow even harder as a new vein popped up beneath the tanned skin. My arm was pumped like never before � it looked super-tough and really hot! I couldn�t resist running my left hand over the muscle and enjoying how big and solid it felt. I was still flushed from my adrenaline rush, and as I pumped my arm once I could feel a real surge of power in my biceps. It felt so-o-o-o good! Even Dennis was staring admiringly at my biceps now, and there was a look of respect in his eyes for the arm that had put his down with authority, even after it looked like all hope was lost. The big ninth-grade jock just got a first-hand taste of the true depth of my new strength. I can�t tell you how satisfying it was to assert my domination over the guy who was supposed to eliminate me from the club! I had more than earned my rightful place in the BBC today, and everyone there knew it.
Several other students had gathered around and were checking me out. I kept flexing my victorious biceps with confidence and enjoyed the feeling of power it gave me. I could see the envy in some of their eyes. Things were different now. I was someone who could demand respect. And I was going to get it, now that I was in the club and my reputation was about to spread throughout the school. No one was going to mess with Evan Walker anymore!
I locked eyes with Ryan and pointed to my flexed arm. He nodded, then flashed me a thumbs-up and turned to leave with Travis. That gesture made my victory complete. Maybe I had won him over after all. I finally lowered my arm and stood up. A few kids came up to me and tried to cop a feel of my arm. Dennis quietly picked up his stuff and slunk away without a word. Seth clapped me on the shoulder and told me to be at the equipment room at noon tomorrow. �I�ll be there!� I said, then I thrust both hands in the air and let out a whoop. Heads turned all around the cafeteria, but I didn�t care. Man, what a rush!
The ceremony was short and sweet. Seth had a key to the equipment room made for me and he tied it to a loop of blue ribbon that he hung around my neck like a medal. They each shook my hand and welcomed me officially into the club. I think I appreciated Ryan�s congratulations the most. More than ever I wanted us to be friends. As a full-fledged member of the BBC, my life was about to change. These three boys were my new best buddies, and we would be spending time together sharing our common interest in muscle. I thought back to that pep rally last fall, and how I would have given anything to be admired and respected like these three guys. Well, now I was one of them, although I could hardly believe it myself. I was the happiest guy in school.
I waited for Fred at my locker after school, as usual, but he didn�t show up. I wanted to show him my key and tell him all about getting into the club. Later I saw him walking home about a half-block ahead and jogged to catch up with him. I guess he already knew about my success.
�Hey, just because I�m going to be spending my noon hour with those other guys doesn�t mean we can�t still walk home together,� I said.
�What�s the point?� muttered Fred, staring straight ahead. �You�ve got plenty of other friends now.�
�Hey, I don�t tell you not to go out and get new friends! It�s not my fault you�re not popular. Jeez, get a life!�
�I will� and it looks like you already have.� He stepped up the pace of his walking and tried to leave me behind.
I gave up trying to talk to him and took another way home. When we were the two geeks, Fred was my best friend. Now that I�ve tried to better myself, he�s all bent out of shape. Well, screw him! I don�t need him anymore, anyway.
I�m in the BBC!
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