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Zuberi the Orphan
|I couldn't get Zuberi out of my mind for the rest of the day. Then that night I had an idea. We volunteers all took a four hour break after lunch, from about 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., during the hottest part of the day. Then we served dinner at 6:00 p.m. During the break, we went back to our housing, ate our lunch (which, thank God, was real American food) and hung out. I usually worked out in the afternoon. I had a little weight set in my unit and I had managed to stay in relatively good shape at 5' 10" and 160 pounds. My idea was to take Zuberi with me during the break to my unit. I would let him eat without fear of having his food taken by the bully brothers. He could take a shower and relax without fear of being bullied. Maybe he could add some weight to his skinny body. Maybe he could become a real boy again.
I explained my idea with the leader of our group after I told him what I had seen happening to Zuberi by the bully brothers. He readily agreed to my plan. The next day I watched as Zuberi had half of his breakfast taken. This time it was the 10 year old who grabbed Zuberi's cup out of his hand. Zuberi just looked at the body of the little boy and knew he would lose any fight to keep the food. The boy had muscles. He was way stronger than Zuberi. The boy looked at Zuberi as he wolfed down the food and said "You're such a fucking loser." The same thing happened at lunch, with Zuberi this time losing his food to the 15 year old. This boy was absolutely huge compared the Zuberi or to any of the other boys in the camp. He was one of the oldest boys and was the leader of the bully muscle boys. He ate by far the most food of anyone in the camp and all that food had turned into muscle on his body. He looked to be about 5' 7" tall and probably weighed 125 pounds. I know that doesn't sound very heavy, but he was a giant compared to the other kids in the camp. With ease, he jerked the food out of Zuberi's hand and gobbled it up. Zuberi watched the kidís bicep muscles flex as he raised the cup to his mouth and devoured the food. His shoulders were capped with muscle that twitched as he moved his arms. His pecs bulged out on his chest and his lats were thick and strong on his back. Zuberi looked down and saw his rock hard six pack abs flexing as he ate. The kid was packed with muscle and Zuberi had none. I could see a look of despair in Zuberi's eyes as he looked at this kid's body.
After lunch was over I came up to Zuberi and said "Come with me." He looked at me quizzically but he followed me to the van. I opened the door and said "Get in, Zuberi." He looked at me and said "How did you know my name?" I told him I had found out his name from our leader and that I wanted to help him. I apologized for causing him to get beat up by forcing the 13 year old to let him eat a whole breakfast. I told him I wanted to help him eat - to be away from the muscular kids who were taking his food. He looked at me like I was a God. He smiled so broadly I could see every one of his big white teeth.
We got to the compound and I brought him into my unit. He was the same height as me, 5' 10". He was pretty tall for a 14 year old but he was so skinny it was unbelievable. He was only wearing his dirty shorts, the only clothes he had. His skin was covered with dirt and sweat, but even under all that dirt you could see his bones pushing on his skin. I took him into the bathroom and turned on the shower. He looked at the water pouring out of the shower head. "Take a shower," I said. "Here's the soap. You gotta clean yourself up." He took off his shorts and jumped into the shower. He was smiling so broadly. I took his shorts into the kitchen and washed them in the sink. I had thought of getting him some new shorts, but then I realized that one of the muscular boys would take them away from him. So I washed his old shorts.
After about 10 minutes he emerged from the shower and I got a good look at all of him. He had some pubic hair above his penis, but his poor penis was shriveled up just like the rest of his flesh. He really had no flesh on his body. Just skin and bones. But his black skin was absolutely perfect -- not a blemish anywhere on his body. The water from the shower clung to his skin in beads. Even though he had some bruises on his body from the morningís beating, his skin looked radiant, glimmering in the light with beads of water. His face was actually very good looking, with a strong jaw and chin and wide cheekbones, even though there was hardly any flesh there. His hair was cut short and he had just a little pubic hair under his arms. "I never got this clean before," he said, looking at his body. "It feels so good." I nodded. "You look very good when you're clean," I said. And I really meant it.
I immediately handed him a cup of cereal. A whole cup, not a half a cup. And a glass of water. He wolfed down the cup so fast I couldn't believe it. I wanted to give him some more food right then, but I had read that some refugees had gotten violently sick after they had eaten large quantities of food after living on almost nothing. So I told Zuberi that I would give him another cup in an hour, but I didn't want him to get sick from eating too much so soon. He nodded his head, looking at the empty full cup of food he had just eaten. After a few days of giving him bigger portions of the grainy cereal he was used to, I was going to start giving him some meat and vegetables. He was going to go from 250 calories per day to 3,000 calories per day and his protein intake was going to increase by over 1,000 percent. But I didn't want to tell him that yet.
I brought the scale out of the bathroom and put it on the floor. "Let's see how much you weigh," I said. Zuberi got on the scale and the needle went to 80 pounds. "Geez," I said out loud. "You only weigh 80 pounds! I'm the same height as you and I weigh 160. I weigh twice as much as you do." Zuberi looked at my body and then at his skin and bones and nodded. "I'm really skinny," he said. "I used to be a normal boy. But when the rebels killed my parents I ran out to the grasslands and I got real skinny because there was no food to eat. Then I came to the camp and the big muscular boys take half my food every day. They take lots of kids' food. The muscular boys keep getting bigger and stronger and we weak skinny kids keep staying weak and skinny. It's just not fair." I nodded in agreement. "You're gonna have lots of food now," I said. Zuberi licked his lips and smiled.
I brought out my measuring tape to take Zuberi's body measurements. I wanted to see how much he would grow by eating more food. I was shocked at what I found. His chest only measured 29 inches and it was all bone. His upper arms were only 6-1/2 inches around. I could wrap my thumb and forefinger around his upper arm without any problem. His arm was like a little stick. Like a twig. His waist was 22 inches and his thigh was 12 inches. His neck and calves were both 8 inches. He sure was a stick boy. I noticed that his shoulders were quite a bit wider than his hips. His hips were quite narrow and his shoulders were fairly wide, but it was all bone. No flesh on this body. "We gotta put some meat on this body," I said. Zuberi nodded his head and said "Yeah, meat. Real meat." he said looking at his twig like arm.
I handed him another cup of food and a glass of water. He wolfed it down. "Wow," he said. "It feels so good to eat a whole cup!" Then he went over and looked at my weight set. "What are these?" he said. "Those are weights. You use them to build up your muscles. When you eat good food and use the weights, you can build big muscles." I pulled up my sleeve and flexed my arm. My bicep only measured 14 inches but it looked huge to Zuberi. "Wow!" he yelled. "You got big muscles!" He reached over and felt my bicep with his skinny hand. "Your muscle is so hard. It's big and it's hard. I bet you're real strong. Stronger than Kwame I bet. Kwame's the strongest kid in the camp." Now I knew the name of the 15 year old was Kwame. "Yeah, I'm probably stronger than him," I said, knowing that I weighed 160 and Kwame only weighed about 125. "Wow," said Zuberi, looking at my arm.
I had two 25 pound dumbbells on the floor. Zuberi reached down and tried to pick one of them up. But he couldn't budge it off the floor. He tried both hands but he was too weak to lift it at all. "I'm too weak," he said. "I could never lift weights. Weights are for guys with muscles, like you." I shook my head. "That's not true, Zuberi. You have to start with weights you can lift. Then when you get stronger you can add more weight. Here, watch." I stripped the plates off the dumbbells so only the little 2-1/2 pound bars were there. Then I said, "Okay, lift those." He reached down and lifted the little bar up with his right hand. "Hey, I can lift it!" he yelled. "Push it over your head," I said. He managed to get the bar up to his chest and he started to push. Slowly the bar went up almost all the way but then it stopped. I helped him raised the 2-1/2 pound bar another few inches until his arm was straight. "You did it!" I said, looking at his beaming face. He did another rep with his left arm, again with a little help from me. He also did a curl with each arm. I never saw an arm that had absolutely no flesh. Even when he was curling I was looking for a bicep but I couldn't see anything. Just bone. Nothing but bone. I had to help him a lot with the curls, but he managed to do one each with each arm. "I'm so tired," he said after two one arm presses and two one arm curls with a 2-1/2 pound bar. A total of four reps. He really did look exhausted. He was a total skeleton and because exhausted very quickly. "We'll do some more tomorrow," I said.
I handed him another cup of food and some water. It was his third cup in three hours, but he was handling it well. We watched TV for the last hour and Zuberi seemed very relaxed and happy. I was so glad I could help him like this. Before we went back to the camp, I gave him another cup and a half of food, which he again wolfed down. So in four hours he ate 4-1/2 cups of food, the same amount he would normally eat in three days at the camp. He put on his newly washed shorts and ran out to the van. He seemed like a new boy. At dinner, the other kids looked at him quizzically with his clean skin and his clean shorts. Zuberi just smiled. He didn't want to give away his secret. As usual, the 13 year old grabbed half of his food. Zuberi just looked at him and didn't say a thing.
The next day Zuberi leaped into the van after lunch. I could tell he could hardly wait to get to my unit. When we got there he said "I'm hungry. "I wanna eat lots of food." Obviously the increase in food yesterday had spurred his appetite. "How did you feel yesterday?" I asked. "Did you get sick after eating all that food?" He looked at me and laughed. "No, I felt great. The only thing was I had a huge shit this morning. I haven't shit that much in a long time." I laughed. "Well I guess your body was processing all that food pretty good. Let's see how much you weigh." He jumped on the scale and the needle jumped to 82 pounds. "Wow, you gained two pounds already. You're doin' great!" He smiled as he looked at his body in the mirror. He flexed his arms and I could swear I saw tiny fibers of muscle where there were none yesterday. "Look," he said. "I'm getting muscle." I smiled. "Yeah, you sure are Zuberi. You're getting muscle already." I handed him a cup and a half of food, 50% more than his portions yesterday. I also gave him some milk. He wolfed down the food and drank all the milk. "Tastes good," he said, looking at the milk. He went over and picked up the two 2-1/2 pound dumbbell bars, one with each hand. He seemed much more confident than yesterday. He lifted them up to his shoulders and then pressed them overhead. "Fantastic!" I yelled. I didn't have to help him at all. Then he lowered the bars to his shoulders and raised them up and down four more times before he got tired and put them on the floor. He did five reps when he couldn't even do one yesterday. He turned to me and smiled with a big broad grin. "I'm getting strong too," he said, very proud of what he had just done.
Zuberi seemed so eager and confident that I started him on a beginner's weight training course right then. Using the little dumbbell bars, he did bench presses, curls and and a rowing exercise. Then he used my pulley to do some lat pull downs and triceps press downs, using no weight added to the bar. Then he did some squats and toe raises, with no weight at all. He was able to so about eight or ten reps. I was impressed at his curls, because he couldn't even finish one rep yesterday and now he did ten all by himself. He smiled and flexed his arms. I reached over and felt his little biceps. They were tiny but they were there, and they felt really hard to my fingers after the six reps of curls. I could see them bulging every so slightly under his paper thin black skin. "They're gettin' big," I said. He looked at his bicep and said "Yeah!." Finally he tried to do some situps. He couldn't do any by himself, but I helped him and he did five with my help. He only did one set of each exercise. At the end of the workout he was exhausted. He drank some water and said "I'm hungry!"
I brought out a cup of his normal food, plus some chicken and some milk. He looked at the chicken. "I haven't had chicken since I was with my parents," he said longingly. He grabbed the chicken breast and tore it apart with his teeth, chewing furiously, downing the meat as fast as he could. "Eat more slowly," I said. "It's better for your body if you eat more slowly." He looked up and me and grinned. "Sorry," he said. "I always eat fast because I'm afraid some muscular kid is going to take my food away. Now I don't have to do that." He picked up another piece of chicken and chewed it up. His face was so gaunt that I could see all the muscles working as he chewed. He ate a quarter of a chicken and then I made him stop. "You can have more tomorrow. I don't want you to get sick." He rolled his eyes and then ate his cereal and the milk. "Feels so good to eat," he said, patting his skinny stomach.
He ate two more cup and a half portions of food, plus milk. He must have eaten more than a week's worth of his normal food in one afternoon. When I dropped him off at the camp, he seemed to walk taller and prouder. He kept his shoulders back. His head was high and his chin was up. At least mentally, he was beginning to think like a 14 year old boy. At dinner the 15 year old came to take his food. The boy looked at Zuberi with a strange look on his face. Maybe it was because Zuberi was standing tall. Or maybe it was because Zuberi was so clean. Or maybe he noticed a few muscles in Zuyberi's arms. Whatever it was, the muscular boy grabbed the food but he couldn't stop looking at Zuberi. Zuberi just looked back and smiled.
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