My New Pal
The first time I saw him, I was sitting on the front porch of my parents' summer cottage. It was hot as hell outside, but the porch was shaded by a big pine tree, so it wasn't too bad. Besides, it was cooler than inside the cottage, which had no air conditioning. I was done with college for the summer, and my parents weren't coming down till the middle of August, so I had the place to myself for awhile.
I'd just gotten back from a jog at the beach, and was sitting there drinking a MaxWhey drink when I saw this kid on the front sidewalk. He kept walking back and forth past the cottage, and as he did, he was pretending to be playing the drums with his hands. The funny thing was, he actually had a pair of drumsticks in his hands. He looked like he was about 20 years old, and was wearing a knit cap with red hair sticking out around the bottom, a white tee shirt with an old vest, baggy cargo pants that looked about 6 inches too long for him. He was kind of a chubby kid. Well, chubby might be too harsh. Stocky or husky might be closer. I could see by the way his tee shirt hugged his gut fat that he was not in great shape, but he looked like a heavyset kid that carried his weight well, since the rest of him looked pretty thick and solid.
By about the fifth time he passed by the house, I yelled out to him. "You need help finding something?"
He stopped drumming and looked up, surprised to see someone on the porch.
"Nah," he said, "I'm just waiting on my sister. She's visiting the old lady that lives down the block," he said, pointing with a drumstick.
"Oh, okay. Do you wanna come up here and wait in the shade?" I asked him. It was close to 90 degrees already, and the sun was beating down on him out on the pavement.
"Yeah?", he asked. "Sure, man, that'd be great." He came up to the porch, put both drumsticks in one hand, and reached out with the other hand to shake. "My name's Tommy."
"Joe," I said, as we shook. His hand was big and chubby. Again, maybe not so much chubby as beefy, and more solid than I'd expected, and he had really thick wrists. As he stepped up on the porch, I realized that we were about the same height at 5'11". He was heavy enough that the old porch floorboards creaked under his weight, which I guessed to be about 220. "Have a seat," I said.
"Thanks, Joe," he said, as he plopped down into an old wicker chair, that also creaked under his weight. "It's nice up here," he said as he looked around and wiped some sweat off his brow.
"You want some water or something?"
"Nah, I'm good," he said. "My sister volunteers to read to old people during the summer. She'll probably only be about a half hour or so." He sat his drumsticks down on the side table.
"And you just wait for her on the street while she does this?"
Tommy laughed, and said, "Not usually. Her car was in the shop, so I gave her a ride today. I figured I'd practice my drumming skills, like you saw."
"Are you in a band?"
"Yeah, for about six months now. Problem is lately, when we're playing, my forearms swell up and start to ache like crazy. They burn like they're on fire, but I can't stop in the middle of a set, so I just keep going and force myself thru the pain, and just about the point where I think I can't take it anymore, I go into a zone, where the pain is still there, but it's almost like pleasure too. And once the set is done, my forearms have veins all over them. They look sorta like yours, only a lot more veiny."
"I'm dieting down for a bodybuilding show next month," I said, looking down at my forearms. "It makes the veins stand out pretty good. I don't really see that many on yours."
"Watch," he said. He put his forearms out, his palms up, onto the arms of the wicker chair. The underside of his forearms just looked thick and white to me, no veins showing. In fact, I couldn't even see much muscle. But then, he balled his thick hands into fist and clenched them. His forearms looked like they turned to stone, and the thick belly of them bulged out big as bowling pins. He clenched his fists harder and harder, and the skin under his fingers turned white, even as the rest of his thick palms grew redder and redder. His forearms swelled with gnarly ropes of muscle, and then the veins began to pop up. Slowly at first, but then, it was like a magic trick.
"Jesus," I said, mesmerized.
"I know....keep watching." And he clenched and unclenched his fists. More veins popped up. Then he leaned forward, let his arms hang down, and shook out his hands. I could see his fores turning redder as blood engorged them. They swelled even fuller. "Let's compare," he said, holding out his left arm. I put my arm next to his. He had four times more veins then I had, snaking all over the belly of his fores, and they looked thicker and harder than mine. His forearm was half again as big as mine, too.
"Dude," I said, standing up.
"I know, freaky, right? Yours looks kinda stringy, Joe, you dieting too much?" he asked sincerely.
"No, it's what I gotta do to get these," I said, lifting my tee shirt to show my abs, which I admit I did partly to repair my ego after seeing his insane fores. My abs, I knew, he could not match.
"Holy smokes, Joe, you got that Situation dude beat with those suckers."
Grinning, I flexed them harder. Then I pinched the skin on them and moved it back and forth. It was tight as cellophane over my stomach.
"Man," said Tommy, "you could cut diamonds with that gut. You're so skinny!"
"I prefer 'shredded' to skinny, man," I said sort of defensively.
"Oh, sorry, Joe. You are definitely shredded then. How much you weigh?"
"I'm at 195 right now, want to get to 185 for the show."
"You wanna lose ten more pounds?? Man, you'll blow away in a stiff wind!"
"Well, it's a natural show, so none of the guys are that big." I said, again somewhat defensively. "How much do you weigh?"
"I'm around 235 right now, but I seem to keep gaining," he said sort of sheepishly, and it made me feel bad for asking. "And I'm getting clumsier too. The other day I ripped a doorknob right out of a door at my house. My Pops was like 'Goddamit, Tommy, first you eat me outta house and home, and now you're tearing the place apart'."
"Is that your dad?"
"Naw, I live with my grandpa, I call him Pops. He's a retired Marine, and he acts all rough and tough, but he showed me how to replace the doorknob. I kinda wanted to see if I could crush it though, but I knew he'd get mad."
"You think you could have crushed the doorknob?"
"Yeah, I think so. I've always been pretty strong, but the past 6 months, seems like I've gotten stronger.
"What was the doorknob made of?
"Brass." Tommy was looking at his right hand, and rolling his thick fingers back and forth. It made me swallow hard to think that he could have dented in a brass doorknob with that hand.
"Wait here a second," I said, heading inside. I came back out with my gym bag, and dropped it onto the porch. I opened it up and started looking thru it.
"What are you looking for?" Tommy asked.
"I have a pair of handgrips in here I want you to try."
"Nah, man, that's okay. Pops gave me a pair about 3 months ago. I crushed the handles on them first time I tried it. He just shook his head and walked away."
"Seriously?" I said, looking up at him. "What were the handles made of?"
"Okay, these should be better," I said, pulling out my pair from the gym bag. "These are called Captains of Crush, and are made of heavy metal." I handed it over to him. He played with it in his hand, looking it over, and I realized as his fingers engulfed the gripper, that his hand was way bigger than mine.
"How many times can you do it?" he asked me, working the gripper deeper into his grip.
"This one is a number 3, and they only go up to 4, so it's real hard to close. I can get 10 to 15reps with the number 2, and about 3 or 4 with this one." I failed to mention to him that I have to cheat a little by either pressing it against my leg, or using a little help from my other hand.
Tommy lifted the grippers up toward his face, and looked at it. Then he started to squeeze. "Oh yeah, these are definitely harder than the ones my Pops gave me," he said.
"See, I told you."
Then he tapped the ends together. And held it there. "Wow," he said, "this feels awesome!" Then he opened up the grippers and tapped them closed again. And again. Soon he was tapping it closed fast as a pair of castanets. I counted 30 reps before he stopped. Then he tossed the grippers to his left hand, and did 30 reps with it. Then he tossed them down into the wicker chair, and started rolling his fists around as we both stared at his fores.
"Joe, man, I feel like I could bend steel with my bare hands right now!"
"Fuck, Tommy, I have no doubt." My heart was pounding a mile a minute at such a display of grip strength.
"My forearms are like two gigantic hardons, they're so freakishly swollen! You should feel them!"
"Tommy, geezus..." I could see that he was chubbing up in his pants, and so was I.
"You got those numbers 4's around? I wanna crush them!"
"Shit man, I wish I did! I got a weight set out back we could use. How often you lift?"
"I never have," he said, without looking away from his bloated fores.
My god, how could that be? "Tommy, how old are you?"
"I just turned 18 last week."
"You want to learn how to lift?"
"You know, I never thought I would, but now I got an ache inside to try it out."
As I looked at the big kid flexing his forearms on my porch, I realized that he had broader shoulders than I did, and thru his tee, his delts looked rounded and solid. Maybe a lot of it was fat. Maybe it wasn't. What would happen if he started training hard?
"Come on, bro, let's go out back and I'll show you," I said.
"Heck yeah, bro," he said, putting his big heavy forearm across my shoulders as we headed inside. My knees almost buckled from the weight of it. "I'm sure glad I came up here today."
"Me too, man. Me too."
To be continued