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Boy Who Wanted to be a Superhero, The
|My name is Dan. You might not believe the story I’m gonna tell you… but that’s okay. I know what happened and I can hardly believe it myself. There’s really no way I could prove any of it, and Timmy’s not around anymore, so… well, anyway… here’s the story and you can believe it or not, I don’t care.
It all started when I was fourteen years old and a young couple moved into the house across the street. They had a cute kid named Timmy who was four years old. The mother’s name was Gail and she was a really nice lady. I didn’t get to know her husband very well, and it was only a few months later that I found out they were having trouble with their marriage. Before a full year had passed, Timmy’s father had moved out and had filed for divorce. It was sad, because Gail was a really great person and now she had to switch to working full-time to make ends meet. Timmy was five now, and he had started kindergarten, so he needed a baby sitter in the afternoon until his mom got home from work. It was a good way for me to earn a little extra money during the school year.
Timmy was obsessed with comic book heroes. He had a box of old comics his father had given him and he was always bugging his mom for new comics when they went to a store. His favorite was Granite Man, and he liked to pretend he was Granite Man by running around the house holding the end of a bath towel around his neck so that it fluttered out behind him like a cape. I read the comics to him — some of them over and over — and Timmy told everyone that when he grew up he was going to be a super-hero. It was kind of cute, and everybody laughed.
One afternoon my mom dropped Timmy and me off at the mall. The kid was pretty patient while I shopped for some new clothes, so I told him I’d buy him a treat before we left. I expected him to run over to the toy store or maybe the candy shop, but on the way out of the department store Timmy suddenly stopped and pointed.
“There… I want that!” he yelled.
At first I didn’t see what he meant. He was pointing at a rack of children’s pajamas. Timmy ran right up and grabbed a package on the bottom of one of the shelves. It was the only one with a little gray color showing on the edge. When he handed it to me I saw it was a pair of Granite Man pajamas that looked just like the real Granite Man outfit. It was gray, with yellow “trunks” printed on the bottoms and a shield with a big yellow “G” on the chest. I couldn’t figure out how he had seen it, much less how he had known what it was.
“Are you sure this is what you want?” I asked.
“Yes!… Yes!… Yes-s-s-s!!!” he shouted, jumping up and down.
The cashier scanned the bar code and the register made a rude noise. She tried it again with the same result. After calling over the manager and checking where we had found it on the shelf, the manager just shrugged and told us we could have it for half the price of the others. That was fortunate, because I didn’t have enough money left over otherwise. So everything worked out just right, and Timmy got his Granite Man PJs.
Back at Timmy’s house he had to try them on right away. It was all I could do to keep him from tearing his clothes off in the car on the way home. There was a full-length mirror on the closet door in his bedroom, and Timmy liked to stand in front of it in his Granite Man outfit and admire his image. He really loved those PJs and wore them all the time at home, not just at bedtime. He even had his mom buy a yellow bath towel, to make a more realistic cape. I took off my wallet chain and used it to attach the towel around Timmy’s neck so he didn’t have to hold onto it. I didn’t get my chain back after that.
“I’m Granite Man!” Timmy would say, making his voice as low as possible. He would flex his muscles and pose. Of course, he didn’t have any muscles yet, but that didn’t stop him from flexing an arm in front of my face or puffing his chest and telling me to feel it. It was my job to act impressed and tell him how strong he was. This would satisfy him, and he would run off through the house holding his arms out in front of him and making whooshing noises as he pretended to fly.
It kind of surprised me that Timmy never seemed to tire of this game. He wanted to play Granite Man every day, and frankly, I got sick of it. But I got a break when Timmy went to live with his dad over the summer. Because of this, I hardly got to see him at all until the fall. I didn’t really have time to spend with Timmy anyway. The coach of the swim team got me a part-time job as a junior lifeguard and I had another job doing clean-up work at two local businesses.
When he started the first grade, Timmy was six and I had just turned sixteen. Timmy had grown up a little over the summer and was just as full of energy as ever. He could read a little bit now, and we would go through his box of old comics almost every day after school. He still put on those Granite Man pajamas and ran through the house. He filled them out a little tighter now, and the way the knit fabric stretched over his body looked pretty good, I thought. It almost looked like a real costume.
One day I was reading Timmy an old Granite Man comic that showed the team working out in their gymnasium. Granite Man was lifting weights and his sidekicks, Diamond Gal and the Quartz Kid were doing gymnastics on the rings and parallel bars. Timmy got really excited and asked me what they were doing. I told him that they were exercising to keep in shape. Timmy figured that this was what he needed to do to become a super-hero and get all muscular and strong like Granite Man. Once the idea got into his head, he was determined.
Timmy had seen that I had a set of weights in the corner of my bedroom. I’ll admit I didn’t use them as much as I should, but Timmy wanted me to teach him how to lift weights and get strong. So we started working out almost every day after school. Of course, Timmy could barely lift the bars without any weight on them at first, but he kept trying hard every day. The next week he showed me a new little set of plastic weights for kids that his dad had bought for him. Now Timmy could stay home and put on his Granite Man pajamas and go through all the exercises on the instructional poster that came with the weight set. Then he would stand in front of the mirror on his closet door and flex his muscles, looking hard for any sign of improvement.
The gymnastics thing took a little longer, but as usual Timmy was determined to get what he wanted. He wore his mom down until she arranged with his dad to pay for lessons at a private gymnastics school. The little kids his age started out with just some tumbling and stretching, but Timmy complained right away that he wanted to work out on the other equipment like the big boys. The instructors held off for a while, but even they got worn down by Timmy’s determination. After only a few lessons, Timmy was trying out the smaller practice parallel bars. Both his instructors and I were impressed by his ability and strength at such a young age. And Timmy had one other quality that was even more important for his success — he was completely confident and fearless. Even when he fell, he didn’t hesitate to try something again and again until he got it right. It was about this time when I realized that Timmy was a natural athlete, and he would probably use his natural strength and coordination to develop into something special.
By the time spring came around, Timmy had learned a few simple gymnastic routines. He told me he had outgrown his little plastic set of weights at home and he would sometimes ask if we could go to my bedroom and lift. It was strange to see a little six year old put iron plates onto each dumbbell and do curls with real weight. And he attacked his workouts like a demon. It was kind of spooky to see the mature attitude he took toward working out and developing his body. I thought it was for his gymnastics, but Timmy kept insisting that he was doing it to become a super-hero. He would always put on the Granite Man pajamas before he lifted weights, and he would flex in the mirror and talk to himself like Granite Man afterward. When he asked me to feel his muscles now, I didn’t have to pretend to be impressed. Timmy’s muscles had really firmed up and become stronger, and the fabric of those pajamas was starting to fit tighter over the body of a young boy athlete.
That summer I got my dream job at the country club as an assistant lifeguard. Even though I was still too skinny for my height, I felt cool sitting up there in the lifeguard’s chair. I wasn’t one of the fastest guys on the swimming team in high school, but I was good with kids and enjoyed my job and my boss told me I was one of the best lifeguards on his staff.
I probably saw Timmy even less that summer than the year before. So when fall came around and I resumed my job as his babysitter, it was a shock to see how much older Timmy looked now that he was a second-grader. I had worked out a little over the summer, mostly doing laps in the pool, but Timmy had obviously worked out a lot! The first thing he did when he saw me was pull up the sleeve of his tee shirt and flex his arm. My eyes just about popped out of my head when I saw a little ball of muscle rise up on his arm that looked about as hard as any teenager’s muscle! And when I felt it there was no doubt that Timmy was a lot stronger than he was last spring. I pinched and squeezed that solid little lump from every angle and told him his muscles were getting really hard. He just smiled and ran off to put on his favorite pajamas. When he called me into his room I found him flexing in front of the mirror, as usual. But this time I nearly fell down with shock! That pair of pajamas that fit him loosely as a five-year-old was now so tight that it clung to his seven-year-old body like a second skin. The sleeves and legs were several inches too short now, but the effect of seeing Timmy in that suit really did make him look like a miniature super-hero. He put his fists on his hips and stood with his feet apart just like Granite Man. Then he would tense his whole body and admire how his growing young muscles would bulge and stretch the material. I had to keep reminding myself that Timmy was only seven years old. He was bigger than a lot of ten year olds I knew from working at the pool over the summer. I put one hand on his shoulder and rubbed the other hand over his chest, sliding it across the yellow shield with the big “G” logo. Timmy threw back his shoulders and puffed out his chest a little more as he flexed his young pecs as tight as he could. I couldn’t believe how broad his chest had become, and my hand kept stroking the muscles as I tried to comprehend how much Timmy had transformed his body since I first met him. I got a little carried away squeezing his shoulder and stroking his chest, but Timmy didn’t seem to mind. He was proud to have bigger muscles than all the other boys his age at school, and he loved to show them off.
We still looked at comic books together, but now Timmy did more of the reading and I just helped a little. Things were a little different when he put on his “suit” and played Granite Man, however. Timmy used to just run around the house and battle “pretend” villains, but now he wanted me to play the bad guy and he would catch me. He was getting a lot more physical, and when he caught me and wrapped those strong little arms around my body he would pick me up and throw me to the ground like it was easy for him. I had to be careful when he pretended to throw punches and beat me up. He didn’t try to hit me, of course, but when I heard the rush of air as his fist flew in front of my face I realized that if Timmy made contact he could do real damage. I was still shocked whenever I grabbed him and felt how solid his body was… there was real strength in those young muscles now, and I was always surprised to discover how much trouble I had trying to hold him down when we wrestled.
Timmy was becoming a pretty good gymnast as well. His coaches entered him in a competition and put him in with the 10-12 year old boys because they didn’t have a division young enough for him. I heard he did really well, even though Timmy didn’t brag about it. Most of the judges didn’t even know he was three years too young to be in the competition. He sometimes did things around the house that showed off his gymnastic skills. He could not only do a handstand, but he could walk on his hands for long distances. Timmy told me he could do an “iron cross” on the rings and proved it by setting up two high-backed dining room chairs and assuming the position with outstretched arms as he bent his knees and lifted his feet off the floor. He held that pose for several seconds to show how strong he was. He also was quite flexible from his gymnastic training and could do the splits easily. I assumed he would go on to become an accomplished gymnast, but I was wrong.
The only thing that kept Timmy interested in gymnastics was that it was making him stronger. He still talked about becoming a super-hero, just like he did when he was five years old. He wanted to learn how to fight, and asked his mom if he could take karate lessons. She told him that she couldn’t afford it on top of his gymnastics, so he dropped the gymnastics and took up martial arts. His coaches were devastated, but Timmy was adamant. Knowing how to fight was more important for a super-hero, he said.
Timmy’s martial arts instructor said he was his most dedicated and hard-working new student. You could always tell when Timmy was out on the floor. His shouts were the loudest and his movements were the most vigorous and violent. He was faster than the other students his age, too. His punches and leg kicks were so fast they were a blur, and his fists and feet made whooshing noises as they flew through the air. Timmy was a natural at almost every sport he tried.
Timmy was still lifting weights, too, but he didn’t come over to my house to lift anymore. He convinced his dad that he had outgrown his little plastic dumbbell set and needed some real iron now, and his dad loaned him his own weight set complete with workout bench. Sometimes when he was real quiet and I wondered what he was doing, I would walk down the hall toward his room and hear the soft little grunts that told me he was lifting weights again. He liked to be alone now when he lifted weights, so I usually didn’t bother him. I figured it was something he did when he was feeling frustrated and wanted to let off a little steam, or maybe when he was feeling angry about his parent’s divorce.
Timmy was still putting on his Granite Man pajamas and pretending to be a super-hero. But playtime was becoming more and more violent as he started using his karate fighting skills when we played Granite Man vs. Bad Guy. He once threw a pretend punch to my gut and when I doubled over in mock pain he followed with a karate kick to the side of my head that laid me out flat. It was an accident — he didn’t mean to make contact — but I was really stunned for a moment and Timmy was concerned. He helped me up off the floor and scooped me up in his arms and carried me over to the sofa to lie down. I was still clearing my head when I realized what had just happened. Not only did Timmy almost knock me out with a kick that moved too fast for me to see, he lifted me up and carried me across the room like I weighed almost nothing! I blinked up at him and noticed the way his arms and shoulders were stretching out the material of his tight pajamas and wondered just how strong this seven-year-old kid was. For the first time I felt a little spooked by it all, and a little confused.
The school year was almost over when Timmy had his first martial arts competition. I went with his mom and watched Timmy defeat boy after boy in his age group throughout the afternoon. As he sat with us before his final bout, Timmy told me he was wearing his favorite pajama bottoms in place of underwear. He couldn’t wear the top because they all had to wear the special white robe for competition, but Timmy said he was going to be tough and strong in the final match, just like Granite Man. I looked at him taking deep breaths and calming himself before the competition. His big chest pushed open the front of the robe and revealed the swelling size of his surprisingly muscular young pecs. I wondered to myself how much weight he used now when he did bench presses. It must have been a lot to build that kind of muscle on such a young boy. His pecs even had some definition, with a split down the middle that showed off how the muscles were starting to build thickness. I was going to ask Gail what she thought about how muscular Timmy was becoming when they called his name over the P.A. system, and we started clapping and shouting as Timmy walked out onto the mat.
The boy Timmy was facing in the final match was supposedly eight years old, but I thought he looked at least nine and I wondered if his parents were lying about his age. He was clearly bigger than Timmy, but that didn’t intimidate our little Granite Man at all. When the match started, Timmy attacked like a lion, and the other boy was forced into defensive moves right away. Timmy made some mistakes and paid for his aggression sometimes, but overall he was making the most moves and scoring the most points. Ultimately, he wore the larger boy down and dominated the end of the match. You could see the exhaustion on the bigger boy’s face as he struggled just to hold his hands up, while every punch and every kick Timmy threw knocked his outmatched opponent to the ground. Finally, the referee waved his arms and called the match. He raised Timmy’s arm in victory and Gail and I went wild as the whole room cheered. Timmy came over and gave his mom and me a big hug before the trophy ceremony. His cheeks were flushed and he was breathing hard, and his robe was all undone and open in front. You could see all the perfect little squares of muscle in his stomach heaving and tightening as he panted, and his barrel chest was expanding bigger than ever as he drew in a few deep breaths. Timmy was not just an active little boy anymore… he was a top young athlete with the training, skills, and conditioning to be a winner. Watching him go back out to the center of the mat to receive his trophy, I started to look at Timmy in a new light. For the first time, I really admired and respected him for all he had accomplished, and yes, I even looked up to him as someone who had used hard work and determination to build himself into a champion. Timmy stood in the spotlight holding the trophy above his head while the crowd applauded and Gail took pictures. At that moment I was feeling very envious of Timmy and his athletic ability. His open robe showed off his strong upper body, which was glistening with sweat. He flashed them all the perfect smile of a confident young jock.
I knew things were going to be different that summer, but I didn’t know how much things were going to change. I graduated from high school and prepared to go on to college. My dad got a promotion and would soon be moving up to company headquarters in another state. Timmy’s dad married his live-in girlfriend. All this news seemed to hit Timmy kind of hard. I had been sort of a big brother to him over the years and now I was going away — perhaps for good. Timmy was starting to act sullen and moody, and his temper was flaring more often. I was made the assistant supervisor for the lifeguards, so I had to work even more hours that summer, especially weekends, and I found it hard to make any time for Timmy.
My job ended on Labor Day, and I didn’t have to be at college for another week, so I told Gail I would baby-sit Timmy on Friday and try to get him used to the idea of me leaving. Timmy was eight years old now, and I had just had my eighteenth birthday. I never got used to how fast Timmy was growing. Over just the last few months he had gotten taller and bigger, and even his features were taking on a more mature look. When he came home after school on Friday, I spread my arms to give him a hug, but he just said, “Hi!,” and ran off to the kitchen for a snack. I could sense that Timmy was going to be upset about me going off to college. He didn’t want to read comic books with me anymore… he read them to himself now. He was kind of cold and distant, and it made me sad. I tried to sit him down and explain things to him, but it didn’t go well. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but we ended up getting into an argument. Timmy ran off and I heard his bedroom door slam.
I gave him about half an hour and then went and knocked on his door. I heard the soft little grunts and the clink of iron plates that told me he was lifting weights again. I opened the door just as he was finishing a set and dropping the heavy weights to the floor. My mouth nearly hit the floor as well. Timmy was wearing that old pair of Granite Man pajamas, even though the legs and sleeves now barely covered his knees and elbows. The knit fabric was stretched to it’s absolute limit over the young athlete’s pumped muscles. Timmy was flushed and sweaty, and a few damp blond curls were plastered to the beads of perspiration on his forehead. He turned and stood looking at me with a blank expression. I couldn’t believe the physique on the little boy that stood right in front of me. Timmy’s bulging muscular shoulders looked almost as broad as my own, and his waist was tiny by comparison. I had never seen a V-taper like that on such a young kid. His chest muscles showed their thick, square shape as they pushed out the fabric and caused the shirt to pull up until it exposed the bottom half of his stomach. The neat little squares of muscle that made up Timmy’s abs were sharply defined around his belly button, and they looked hard even as he stood there relaxed. His thighs were so big they touched in the middle, even though his knees were a few inches apart. You could also see some definition in his quads through the straining fabric. The lower part of his legs were bare, so it was easy to see the width of his strong young calf muscles. But Timmy’s eight-year-old arms were just sensational! I admired the rippling cable-like muscles of his forearms before focusing my attention on the amazing thickness of his upper arms. With his arms just hanging loose at his sides, each biceps was like a thick ridge of muscle running from elbow to shoulder. And you could see the wider triceps muscle pushing out the gray fabric behind.
I took a deep breath and swallowed hard before I could say anything. In the past I’d been pretty cool and avoided giving him too much praise about his athletic body. But all that composure went out the window in an instant!
“Wow!!… Timmy!!… Look at you!!… Look at those muscles!!… You’re lookin’ huge, man!!” I sputtered.
Timmy didn’t smile or anything. He tightened his hands into fists and curled his arms up halfway a couple of times. His little-boy biceps knotted up into tight balls of muscle. The fabric was stretched so tight it actually changed color, becoming a lighter gray. I couldn’t resist… I walked up and grabbed his upper arm and gave it a squeeze. It was not just hard… it was shockingly hard! I just kept shaking my head in disbelief. There was no way a kid four or five years away from puberty could have muscles like that! I expected Timmy’s biceps to feel firm, but not as hard and dense as a rock!
“Man, how strong are you, dude?” I exclaimed. “I can’t believe what I’m feeling!”
Timmy jerked his arm away from me and took his super-hero stance, with his fists on his waist and his legs apart.
“I’m Granite Man!! Granite Man is the strongest man in the universe!!” he said. He made his voice as low as he could, talking from way down in his throat like he did when we played. “You don’t stand a chance against the power of Granite Man!” Timmy continued. “I’m going to capture you and take you off to jail!”
That was my cue to start running. I turned and headed out the door and down the hall. Timmy followed and tackled me by the ankles. I fell down flat and hit my chin on the carpet. Timmy jumped up and down on my butt with his bare feet. As I tried to scramble up I felt Timmy grab the rear waistband of my jeans with both hands and pull me up and back. I hollered as I felt myself being yanked all the way backward until I hit the floor again, this time banging the back of my head. Timmy jumped onto my stomach and I felt his toes dig into my tummy. I had fallen in the archway at the end of the hall, which was just narrow enough so that Timmy could extend his arms and place his hands flat against each wall.
“Try and get up!” he said.
I lifted my shoulders and tried to prop myself up on my elbows. Timmy tightened his hands against the walls and pressed down with his feet on my stomach. I groaned as I felt his heels digging deep into my abdomen. I looked up and saw his arm and shoulder muscles standing out in sharp relief as he pressed against the walls. He was grinning and gritting his teeth at the same time. He took a deep breath and I watched the big “G” on his chest grow as his chest expanded. Timmy exhaled and I watched his belly button narrow as his stomach muscles tightened. The V-shape of his torso was amazing! Then he flexed his legs and pressed down with his toes as his calf muscles began to contract. I couldn’t breathe as I felt the balls of his feet crushing my diaphragm. Timmy’s shoulders were really bulging now, and I became worried as I remembered how long he could hold the “iron cross” position when he demonstrated it to me last year.
“Okay, you got me… I give!” I said, but Timmy didn’t let up. I grabbed his ankles and tried to pull his feet off me, but they were digging too deep into my gut and his leg muscles just kept flexing harder! I ran my hands up to his calves and tried to bend his knees by pulling them forward, but his legs were as rigid as a steel beam! I looked up to see Timmy straining as he flexed every muscle by pushing out against the walls and down on my stomach at the same time. Then he looked down at me and smiled, knowing that he had me helpless. Timmy was clearly enjoying the feel of his strong young muscles as he worked them to the limit. By this time I was starting to panic and I badly needed to get some air. “Come on… I’m captured!” I sputtered. “Take me off to jail!”
Timmy made me groan some more as he tightened his leg muscles and crushed me with his feet again. “You need to be taught a lesson!” he said, in his super-hero voice. “Granite Man is going to crush you until you say you’ll never do bad things again!”
“Okay… okay!” I gasped. I had both hands wrapped around his calves and I felt them tighten again as he dug his toes deeper into my gut. I coughed and sputtered as I felt his young calf muscles flex into full hardness under my fingers. My insides felt like they were being squished down to the floor!
“Okay… what?” he growled, staring at me with an angry scowl on his face. I gulped a few shallow pants of air and tried to compose myself.
“Okay… I promise to… never do… bad things again.” I said, trying to remember exactly what he wanted me to say.
“That’s better!” Timmy declared. But he kept crushing my stomach a few more agonizing seconds before he jumped up in the air and landed a final hard blow to my aching gut. I grabbed my stomach and rolled on my side, panting to catch my breath. Timmy kept nudging his foot against my shoulder.
“Get up! I’m taking you off to jail now,” he said. I slowly got to my feet and headed for the living room. I needed to lie down on the sofa for awhile. “Hey, where do you think you’re going?” Timmy said, trying to cut me off.
I pushed him aside and went into the living room. “Leave me alone,” I said. “Game’s over.”
“Oh, no you don’t!” Timmy cried. He pulled the waistband of my jeans from behind again and I stumbled backward. While I was still off balance Timmy grabbed two handfuls of the front of my shirt and with a mighty heave he slammed my back hard against the wall. Then Timmy did something he’d never done to me before. He reared back with his right arm and gave his best karate yell as he threw a devastating punch deep into my aching gut. I doubled over with an agonizing groan and my knees buckled as I collapsed to the floor. Just at that moment I heard Gail’s voice.
“Timmy!… My God!… What are you doing?” she gasped. Timmy backed up and froze. Suddenly he wasn’t Granite Man anymore, he was just a little boy. I got to my knees and tried to speak.
“Are you all right, Dan?” Gail said, as she helped me up.
“I’m okay,” I said, but I was panting and I’m sure she could hear the pain in my voice. “We were just playing and it got a little rough, I guess.”
Timmy didn’t say anything. He just stood there like a statue.
“I don’t care what you were doing, Timmy knows better than to hit someone like that!” she cried. “You’re going off to bed right now, mister! And I’m not letting you wear your favorite pajamas either!” She made Timmy raise his hands up as she pulled his pajama tops off. It fit so tight that she had to go slow while he wiggled his beefy little torso loose. Gail grabbed Timmy’s bare shoulders and turned him to face me. “You apologize to Dan right this instant,” she demanded. Timmy stuck out his lower lip and stared at the floor. We waited in silence for several seconds.
“That’s all right,” I said. “I know he didn’t mean it.”
“No, it isn’t all right,” Gail insisted. “I think it’s time my son had a good old fashioned spanking.” She sat down and pulled Timmy over her knee. I felt like I should leave, but I figured she wanted me to witness the punishment. Gail pulled down the waistband of Timmy’s’ pajamas, exposing his bare bottom. She raised her hand and gave it a good slap. It made a loud smacking sound, but Timmy didn’t cry. His head was down nearly touching the floor, but I could see his face remain calm. Gail spanked him twice more, each time raising her hand higher, as if she realized she wasn’t causing him any pain yet. Timmy’s face stayed relaxed as his mother struck him a fourth and fifth time. Then he did something amazing. He put his hands behind his head and began to raise his shoulders until his back was parallel to the floor. I saw the muscles in his buttocks dimple as they flexed tight. Gail slammed her hand down again and I think I saw her wince as it made a higher pitched sound, like she was hitting something very hard.
“Hey, stop doing that!” she yelled. She placed her free hand between his shoulder blades and pushed down. Timmy’s shoulders dipped several inches before he resisted her. With a determined effort he slowly raised his back up again until it locked in place parallel to the floor. Gail continued to push down hard but she could not get him to budge. Timmy’s lower back muscles were standing out in two sharp ridges. The gluteus muscles of his buttocks were flexing hard with deep indentations on each side. Finally, in frustration, Gail raised her hand high and brought it down as hard as she could. She let out a little scream and a look of real pain came over her face as she realized her hand had hit something as hard as a rock. She pushed Timmy off her lap and grabbed her aching hand, trying to massage the pain out of it. I stood there open mouthed and swallowed hard, not knowing what to say and hardly believing what I saw. Timmy pulled up his pants and stood there with a frown on his face and his lip sticking out.
“That didn’t hurt a bit!” he whined, and I believed him. His eyes were dry and he never reacted at all to being hit. Timmy ran off to his room and left us there to marvel at what we’d just seen. Gail apologized to me and said she didn’t know what had come over her son.
“I have an idea,” I said. “My boss at the country club has a nice old farmhouse out in the country and he’s out of town for the weekend. I told him I’d stay there Saturday night and feed his dogs and look out for the place. Maybe Timmy would like to come along so we could spend the last night together before I have to leave for college on Sunday.”
At first Gail thought that was too much of a reward after his misbehavior, but she agreed when I said I needed some time to make Timmy understand why I had to leave. On Saturday afternoon, Timmy and I drove out to the farmhouse. He had a great time playing with the dogs and exploring around the property. After dinner, it was still light outside so I had Timmy go for a walk with me. I talked about going off to college and said we could write letters and talk on the phone if he wanted. Timmy was really quiet and I didn’t know if he was accepting all this or not. When we got back to the house, Timmy said he had a surprise for me and he ran back to his room. When he came out he was wearing the Granite Man pajamas again. I didn’t realize he had packed them in his bag. He wanted to play the game one more time.
I was a little reluctant after what had happened the last time. I told him it was getting late. But Timmy typically wouldn’t take no for an answer. He whipped out the yellow towel and clipped it around his shoulders. “I’m Granite Man!” he shouted, pointing at me, “and you’re going to be taught a lesson!” Timmy ran towards me and the chase was on. I used to be able to outrun him easily, but lately he was getting so fast that he could catch me quickly. I tried to outmaneuver him by darting through the house, changing directions quickly. He trapped me a couple of times and caught me, squeezing me in a bear hug a few seconds before letting me go so he could chase me again. A few seconds in a bear hug by Timmy was all it took to force the air out of your lungs. I began to worry that he didn’t know his own strength, and he might end up hurting me again. I didn’t have Gail to rescue me this time.
Timmy stopped chasing me and I realized that he was lying in wait for me somewhere. I rounded a corner and saw him leap off the back of the sofa and fly through the air at me. He tackled me by the shoulders and we fell to the floor. Timmy had me on my back and he put both of his hands around my neck. He was squeezing just hard enough to let me know he meant business, but I could see the muscles in his forearms bulge through the stretched material of his “suit.”
“Take it easy, Timmy,” I said. “You remember what happened last time.”
Timmy squeezed tighter and I felt his thumbs press into my windpipe. It made me gag. He laughed, then jumped up and ran off pretending to fly away. I figured the game was over, but I was wrong. Timmy kept jumping up on furniture and leaping off to tackle me to the ground. Every time he would wrap his hands around my throat and say, “I’ve got you again!” before letting me go. I quickly got tired of this and wanted to stop. Timmy kept attacking me, jumping off the kitchen table or the side of the stairway as I passed. Finally, I just sat down on the sofa and refused to play anymore. This made Timmy angry. He took off his towel and wrapped it around my throat from behind, tugging on it until my tongue came out of my throat as I started to choke. I tried pulling it loose, but he twisted the ends and poured on the pressure like he was tightening a screw. Timmy was giggling like he thought it was funny. I thrashed around with all my might until I finally pulled the towel out of his hands and was able to stand up. I loosened the towel and tossed it aside as I gasped for air. Timmy stood there with his hands on his hips and said he was going to take me off to jail. I knew Timmy thought he was just playing, but he was so strong, practically everything he did was dangerous. He could really hurt me without realizing it.
I kept telling Timmy to stop the game, but he didn’t listen. I was the bad guy and he was going to punish me. The game ended only when he said so. The fear and panic that I felt was real, even though the situation was incredible. Here I was, a high school graduate and one-time athlete in my own right, being terrorized by a little eight year old kid who was trained in gymnastics and karate and had a body that was pure muscle… and he thought it was all a game!
For some reason, I ran out the back door into the yard. The sun was just setting and the puffy clouds were all golden. Timmy caught me from behind and tackled me. He jumped on my butt and grabbed my wrists, pulling them up toward my shoulder blades. I couldn’t believe the strength in his arms as he muscled my wrists higher and higher. I groaned in pain and tried to resist, but he had me good.
“Do ya give up?” Timmy asked, and I said yes immediately. “Do ya promise to be good while I take you off to jail?” he said, and I agreed. We stood up and he held my hands together tight behind my back. He marched me toward an old animal hutch that was built next to the shed. It was a former pigeon or rabbit house or something — made of a simple wooden frame covered in chicken wire, about six by eight feet. The door was covered in chicken wire also, and closed with a hasp, but there was no padlock. Instead there was a stick wedged into the loop of the staple. Timmy pulled out the stick, opened the door and shoved me inside. He closed the door and replaced the stick, then pointed at me and gave me a very stern look. “You stay there!” he yelled. “You’ve been a very bad boy!”
I felt some relief that the game was over. Timmy went and got the dogs out of the shed and started playing with them in the yard. I wondered when I would be allowed out. It was starting to get dark. There was a hole cut in the door near the latch. I stuck my hand through and pulled out the stick. Timmy saw me and ran over, shouting, “No, you don’t!” I pushed open the door, but he pushed back. Incredibly, he was able to force me back inside, even though I leaned with all my weight against the door. Timmy’s toes dug into the turf and he drove with his legs and back until the door was shut again. Then he picked up the stick and replaced it in the latch. I saw him looking around the yard for something. He found a piece of metal rod near the shed. It looked like a two-foot piece of iron rebar. Timmy took out the stick and slipped the metal bar through the loop. Then he grabbed each end of the bar and raised his elbows high as he began to push down on the ends. I couldn’t believe what he was trying to do. He was actually trying to bend the bar to lock me in! I laughed when his feet left the ground without bending the rod.
“Is Granite Man having a little trouble?” I snickered.
Timmy dropped back down and scowled at me. He started scuffing his feet on the ground where the wooden frame met the soil. I looked down and saw that he had shoved his feet under the structure, locking them in place. Then he grabbed the ends of the bar again and began to push down with all his might. Timmy’s face became red and his arms were shaking as he pushed down on the two ends using maximum force. When the bar began to bend slightly my mind became a swirling mass of confusion. I kept thinking, this was impossible! Timmy’s grunts became louder as the bar continued to bend slowly. With each grunt the ends of the rod moved down another fraction of an inch.
I reached through the hole and grabbed Timmy’s arm. He ignored me and kept forcing the bar to bend slowly. When I felt the rippling muscles in his forearm I freaked out. “Jesus, Timmy!… How can you do this?” I yelled. “You’re bending solid metal!”
Timmy screwed up his face and poured on the pressure. His fists moved down steadily as the rod yielded to the amazing power of Timmy’s little arms. It was taking all the effort he could muster, but Timmy wouldn’t give up. I had seen that fire in his eyes before. He wasn’t going to stop until it was bent all the way.
When it was ninety degrees bent Timmy took a few heaving deep breaths, then shifted his elbows out wide and started to push the ends toward each other. His chest muscles were making the material bulge around the big yellow “G” as they flexed tighter and tighter. I was freaking out at the sight of such a little kid generating that much power. “No!!… NO!!…” I shouted. “Dude… you can’t be that strong!!” Timmy just grit his teeth and continued to fight that metal bar with everything he had. I ran my hand up his arm and gripped his biceps, which felt like a steel cable. “Oh my God!” I cried. “How can your muscles be this hard?… I’m feeling a lot of strength here, dude!” Against Timmy’s combined muscle and determination, the bar had no choice — it had to bend! But Timmy was straining harder than he ever had in his life, and this feat of strength required muscle he didn’t even know he had. The little boy closed his eyes and took a few more gasping breaths. He was digging deep down for some inner strength, and with a furious growl his trembling arms forced the ends of the bar closer and closer. I moved my hand to Timmy’s chest and tried to press my fingers into the swelling pecs. His flexing chest muscles were dense and hard. I curled my hand into a fist and thumped it a couple of times against his solid flesh. My knuckles bounced off Timmy’s stone hard pecs with a satisfying thud. “Jesus, Timmy!” I cried. “You’re body is like a brick wall! It’s awesome!!”
Timmy seemed to be inspired by my comments and increased his effort. He threw his head back and started to growl with his entire upper body flexed to the max. I saw the cords stand out in his neck as he strained. With a yell of triumph his trembling fists slowly moved the final few inches together until they touched.
My heart was pounding and I could hardly force myself to breathe! “My God! Timmy, you did it! I can’t believe you managed to bend that bar all the way! What a little stud!!” Timmy didn’t even seem to hear me. He wasn’t finished. He continued to twist that metal bar a bit more until the ends passed each other, forming a loop. Only then did he release the bar and step back, breathing heavily as he recovered and the red color began to drain from his face.
“That oughtta hold ya!” Timmy said, proud of what he was able to do. I frantically reached through the hole and grabbed the ends of the rod. I tugged at it myself but couldn’t get the bar to budge an inch. I was totally freaked! “This is unreal!” I yelled. “Timmy… how could you be strong enough to do this?… No little kid your age is!!… You’re only eight years old, for crissakes!!!”
Timmy looked at me seriously and made his voice as low as possible. “My name isn’t Timmy!” he shouted. “And I’m not a little kid! I’m Granite Man! Granite Man is the strongest man in the universe! Granite Man can do anything!”
Timmy took his super-hero stance with arms akimbo and feet shoulder-width apart. Then he slowly took a deep breath that expanded his chest impressively. As I watched the G-logo in the shield grow larger and larger on his chest, the fabric began to pull apart down the middle like a run in a woman’s stocking. The flaw ran from the collar down the length of his breastbone. Timmy held his breath and kept his chest expanded at maximum size. “Wanna see me flex my muscles?” he asked. Even before I could answer, Timmy began to flex his back muscles. You could see the boy grow “wings” as his lats flared out. This was too much for the fabric, and it started to tear at the top near the collar, opening a large hole. Finally, Timmy flexed his chest muscles, and his pecs swelled out with all their new pumped-up power. The material made a loud ripping noise as it burst open down the front, spreading wide to reveal the two halves of his flexing pecs where they met in the middle. I brought my trembling fingers to my mouth and let out a whimpering cry of shock.
If Timmy was upset at ripping his favorite pajamas, he didn’t show it. He seemed to know it was going to happen. I was staring in wonder and gasping as if I had just run a marathon. Timmy saw my wide-eyed confusion and smiled at me. “Granite Man’s muscles are bigger, harder, and stronger than anybody’s!” he said. “Watch this!” Then he raised his right arm and slowly began to flex it. That little mound of muscle began to swell up and tighten. When his arm was bent only ninety degrees, his young biceps was already peaking up higher than I’d ever seen. The stretching material just couldn’t contain it anymore — another run in the fabric started at the top of his biceps and made a ring halfway around the sleeve. As Timmy very slowly continued to move his fist toward his shoulder, you could see his amazing biceps contracting into a tighter and more fully rounded ball of muscle. He stopped when his forearm reached the 45-degree angle and his muscle was at maximum flex. “Lookit how big my muscle is!” Timmy bragged. “Do ya think I can make it bigger?” His fist was trembling as he grit his teeth and flexed his arm as tightly as possible. Timmy glared at his arm as if he we willing it to flex larger than it ever had before. I held my breath as I saw the look of extreme concentration on his face. Then, giving a little grunt, Timmy moved his fist down slightly and with a loud ripping noise his sleeve suddenly tore wide open. Timmy’s fully flexed biceps burst up through the shredded fabric like a little mountain of solid granite. It was the most incredible display of boy-muscle I had ever seen! My knees were trembling and I was making little moans of disbelief. I thrust my hand through the hole in the door and reached for Timmy’s arm. He stepped closer and kept his right arm flexed for me. “Feel how strong I am!” he commanded. I squeezed the bulge and felt its unbelievable hardness. I tried to comprehend the power I could feel in his arm, remembering how young Timmy was. I moved my fingers back and forth across the peak of the little rock-like mound and felt the smooth warm skin stretched tight over the bulging boy-muscle.
“Timmy, how did you get all this muscle? You can’t be stronger than me! It’s just not possible!” I couldn’t believe that an eight year old boy could have such strength! It was frightening to think how strong Timmy could become as he grew up. Some wild things were running through my head… like maybe he was some genetically gifted mutant that would be studied by scientists.
Suddenly, Timmy backed away and ran off. He grabbed both dogs by the collar and led them back to the shed for the night. The sky was darkening as twilight settled in. I watched Timmy walk into the house without looking back. I shouted at him for about ten minutes, but he didn’t reappear. I took one more shot at unbending the rod and quickly gave up on that idea. Kicking at the bottom of the chicken wire as hard as I could, it finally tore loose from the frame. A few more kicks and I was able to widen the hole until I could crawl under and escape.
I switched on the light and saw Timmy had removed his torn shirt and was lying face up on the sofa, asleep. I decided not to disturb him, so I tucked a pillow under his head and reached for a blanket at the foot of the sofa. When I pulled it up he squirmed and stretched a little without waking up. I put my hand on his broad chest and felt the rise and fall of his slow breathing. Even asleep, you could see and feel the strength in his little body. At age eight, Timmy had already become a powerful young athlete. I went off to bed thinking about the events of the last couple of days and tried to put them together in my head.
The next morning I woke up to find Timmy sitting cross legged in front of the TV watching Sunday morning cartoons with a huge bowl of cereal in his lap. I briefly admired the way his broad shoulders and back looked without a shirt before I made myself breakfast. I decided not to question Timmy about what happened last night, and he didn’t seem to want to talk much either. We took the dogs on a morning walk and made sure they had enough food and water to last until their masters returned that evening. Timmy and I quickly packed up and drove back to town. I had only a few hours left before catching my plane. Before leaving, I got down on my knees and said goodbye. It was the first time in quite a while that I’d seen tears in Timmy’s eyes. He gave me a big hug that took my breath away — of course — then he ran off into his house. I said my good-byes to Gail and that was it. I couldn’t have known it would be the last time I’d see Timmy.
College was exciting and fun and scary and different and difficult and… exhausting. My parents completed their move and it was strange to spend Thanksgiving at a new house in a new city. I sent Timmy a postcard and never got anything back. I tried calling his house once and left a message on the machine that wasn’t answered. I decided Timmy had moved on and maybe Gail wanted it that way.
I was glad to be rooming with Frank, a friend from high school. His mom sent packages of baked goodies that kept us going through our freshman year. She packed them with lots of crumpled newspaper, and Frank and I would spread them out on the floor and read the news from our home town. One day I smoothed out a front page and saw a picture of a horrible traffic accident. Above the charred remains of a mangled car wrapped around a pole, the caption said, “BOY HERO SAVES MOM FROM FLAMING WRECK.” Somehow I knew it was Gail and Timmy. I read under the picture how Gail crashed into a pole after she swerved to avoid a car that had run a red light. The front end caught on fire, but she was pinned under the steering wheel. Timmy managed to free his mother, then collapsed in the road and was rushed to the hospital as soon as the paramedics arrived. His condition was unknown. “Full story on page 3,” it said, but I searched frantically for page 3 without success.
I checked the date on the paper. It was several days old. I ran to the phone and dialed Gail’s number. A recorded message said my call could not be completed as dialed. I decided to call the newspaper and talk to the reporter. She assured me that Gail was all right and Timmy was recovering in the hospital. The reporter happened to be driving nearby and witnessed what happened right after the accident.
“When I got out of my car I saw little Timmy pulling frantically on the door handle without success, then he managed to force his fingers into the crack at the edge of the crumpled door and tugged with all of his might. The crowd was yelling at him to get away from the car because of the fire, but he didn’t listen. The door wrenched open a bit with a loud metallic groan, then it continued to move open inch by inch with more loud creaks and groans as that little kid kept tugging repeatedly with everything he had. We were all amazed at how strong he was, but no one was brave enough to go help him. Once the door was open wide enough, Timmy grabbed the steering wheel with both hands and pushed upward, forcing it away from his mother’s body. Then he grabbed her under the arms and pulled her to safety just as the flames engulfed the car.
“You know, it was a funny thing… I was there later when the tow truck drivers tried to force the door closed and they couldn’t do it. Two huge, muscular men, and they couldn’t get the door to budge. I took a closer look and saw a wave of little dents where Timmy’s fingers had grabbed the edge of the door. When I pointed them out and told the men about Timmy wrenching the door open they didn’t believe me. They also didn’t believe that Timmy had pushed up the steering wheel. It wasn’t one of those wheels that tilt, and they said no boy or man could force it up that way. But I could swear it happened just like I said. And you know what else? The paramedics tore open the boy’s shirt and he was wearing Granite Man underwear!”
“It wasn’t underwear,” I said. “Those were pajamas.” His mom must have sewn them up for him.
“Whatever…” she continued. “I thought it was cute the little kid was dressed like a super-hero.”
I’ve been trying to find out what happened to Timmy and Gail ever since. I made the long drive that weekend and tried to visit Timmy in the hospital, but he had checked out the day before. The nurse said the doctors were all amazed at how quickly Timmy had healed from his internal injuries. I went out to his house and peered in the window when no one answered the door. All the furniture was gone. It was as if they had just disappeared.
I’ve had a few dreams lately where I get into trouble and Timmy comes flying down out of the sky to rescue me. He tells me everything’s all right, then he flies off in his Granite Man pajamas, with the yellow towel flapping in the wind. I sometimes get a funny feeling when I see a flash of gray up among the clouds — was it a bird… or a plane… or something else? I used to tell Timmy he was the kind of kid who could grow up to become anything he wanted. But it really isn’t possible to will yourself to become a super-hero… is it?
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