The Coven Coin 2: The Beautiful Corpse

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Doctor Jonathan Haynes sat in a wicker chair reading a medical journal. Occasionally he would raise his pale blue eyes to watch his sons play on the back lawn of their summer home. Like usual it was Jim dominating the action. He had the stronger personality of the two physically identical boys. He was the born leader of the twelve year old twins. The doctor removed his Panama and wiped the sweat from his brow with a neatly pressed handkerchief. Even the linen suit he wore felt uncomfortably warm this July afternoon. He wanted to remove his jacket but knew his wife would disapprove. It wasn’t proper for a man of his social standing to be seen in shirt sleeves. He loosened his tie and undid the top button of his crisp white collar hoping she wouldn’t notice. Mrs.Haynes appeared from the back door with two tall glasses of iced tea. She sat at the small table in a chair next to her husband. They exchanged smiles before he raised the glass to his lips. “Hmm, is that mint I taste?”

“Yes, I thought it would be refreshing in the heat.” The attractive woman flattened the creases from her lightweight cotton dress as she spoke. “It grows like a weed in the garden. It’s the only thing I can’t seem to kill.”

“Give it some time, Lily.” He saw the melancholy in her eyes. “All the ladies in Boston would be impressed by how well you’re adjusting to country life.”

She straightened her long, slender back. “One must adapt to one’s surroundings.”

The doctor patted her forearm, “That’s my girl”.

Lily put her hand on top of his, “John, do you have to go back to the hospital tomorrow?” She tried not to let her husband hear her lonely desperation. “The boys miss you so.”

“Dear, you know I’m starting the clinical trials. This is a critical time in my research.” Her face showed her disappointment. “We decided it was best for the children to live away from the city.” Lily nodded and smiled as she let go of his hand. Her children came first.

The maid came out of the house leading another family. She called to Mrs.Haynes. Lily turned. “Marian”, she exclaimed as she sprung to her feet. She talked more softly to her husband. “It’s Marian, Harry, and HarryJunior.” The doctor just sighed. She looked down at her husband. “Be nice, John. She’s my only sister and I won’t be estranged because you don’t like her husband. And fix your tie. You look like a stevedore.” Lily walked quickly toward her sister and welcomed her with a hug. “What a lovely surprise.” She then kissed her brother-in-law on the cheek. She put her hands on his broad shoulders and stretched to reach his rugged face. The big man had to lean down to eliminate the difference between them. Lily was always caught off guard by Harry’s size. Her own husband was just a few inches taller than her 5’ 4” height. She didn’t mind. While John’s size may not draw other’s attention, his matinee idol looks certainly did. “Harry, why don’t you join John? I’m sure he would rather talk to another man about important things, instead of listening to a woman’s silliness.”

“Daddy can I go play?” The younger version of the big man asked. The father deferred to the hostess.

“Of course, dear. The boys will be thrilled.” They watched the husky boy run toward his two cousins. “The heat doesn’t seem to bother them in the least.” Lily turned back to her sister. “Thank goodness you’re here. I was simply bored out of my mind. Let’s go inside to get out of the sun. You have to catch me up on what’s happening in the city.”

Harry tipped his hat, “Ladies.” The sisters walked into the house arm in arm. Harry went to the table on the lawn. His broad back cast a large shadow on John. “I see you’re enjoying the country life, doc.”

“Yes, nothing better than fresh air and sunshine.”

“If you ask me it’s too damn hot. Not as hot as in the city I guess, but still feels like a piece of Hades.” The big man removed his jacket and tossed it on an empty chair. He undid the button on the cuffs of his shirt before removing his tie. “Aren’t you warm in that monkey suit?” John looked to make sure his wife was out of sight. “I thought you were the man of the house; not Lily.” John loosened his tie again. “Come on, doc. You can do better than that.” John stood up and removed his jacket. Harry continued undressing until he was in his undershirt. The deeply scooped neck exposed the light coating of dark hair on his barrel chest. The narrow straps made his shoulders look wider and his trapezius muscles higher.

John kept his eyes on the bigger man as he unbuttoned his own shirt forgetting he wasn’t wearing an undershirt. The smaller man had a naturally athletic physique with a defined musculature that any athlete would want as his own. Even Harry with his greater mass and strength envied the beauty of John’s physique. Harry reached out and strummed the shorter man’s abdominal ridges. “You small guys always have such pretty little muscles.” John flexed his abs defensively under Harry’s thick fingers. Harry licked his lips, then looked up at John’s stunning face. He could see why the society ladies gushed over him. Harry pulled back his hand. John wrapped his shirt around his midriff. Harry sat in a chair. He looked out at the children playing as he pulled on his pant legs to make himself more comfortable. He then adjusted the large bulge at his crotch. He glanced over at John who quickly looked away.

John buttoned up his shirt partially before sitting down. He heard his sons calling for him. When his eyes focused on the scene, he saw HarryJr. pinning both boys to the ground. He had a knee on each of their chests making it impossible for them to get up. The twins were a year older than their larger and stronger cousin. “I think Harry plays a little rough for your boys. His friends in the city aren’t as…delicate.”

“Yes, city life can bring out the bully in some children.” John stood up, “Maybe I should stop them before some one gets hurt.”

“It certainly won’t be HJ.” The proud father said with a chuckle. “Don’t worry, doc. I’ll take care of it. You continue to enjoy the fresh air.” Harry got up and puffed out his thick chest, “It’s easier for someone like me to put fear into boys.” He walked toward the wrestlers. Before Junior could react, he felt himself being lifted into the air. His father held him up by the back of the shirt with one hand. Jim got to his feet and swung at his tormentor. Harry picked his nephew up in his other hand. He scolded them both showing no discomfort from holding the two boys several inches off the ground. The muscles in his arms, shoulders and back all swelled from the effort. John, who was watching intently, estimated the boys combined weight had to be at least two hundred pounds. The term brute force ran through his mind. Harry held up the boys for some time before gently setting them down. All three boys shook hands under Harry’s cold stare. Once satisfied, Harry walked back to John. He moved with the swagger of a confident man. He sat down and adjusted himself again taking more time than before. He was breathing hard. He rubbed his slightly rounded stomach, “I guess I could stand to lose a couple of pounds, heh doc? You’re lucky you’re so small. No matter what, you’ll always be as thin as a twig.”

John didn’t think of himself as a twig. But looking at his brother-in-law’s thick arms he understood why John’s thought he was. “You look in fairly good shape….for a banker.”

Harry laughed. “I haven’t done any athletics since…senior year college.” Harry sighed. “Has it really been that long?” He bent his arms to make his biceps harden. He moved his right hand to his left bicep. “I guess I haven’t lost very much size since then.” He noticed the doctor staring at his muscle. “I’ve always been what they call a big guy. It comes as naturally to me as being skinny does to you.”

The smaller man was curious. “May I?” John asked holding his hand above Harry’s upper arm. Harry nodded yes. John squeezed the big man’s bicep. “Could you flex it, please?” The doctor spoke as if examining a patient. Harry proudly did as he was asked. John poked and squeezed the unyielding limb for several seconds. “Amazing for someone who hasn’t exercised in years; you would expect more atrophy”, John said under his breathe. He had an earnest look on his face.

“Anything wrong doc?” Harry asked with a little concern.

“No, its fine…very solid.” John finally removed his hands from Harry. He could see the worry on his guest’s face. “Sorry, I wanted to feel a healthy muscle for a change. I was trying to freeze the memory in my mind as a point of reference. I spend so much time with my patients in the polio ward, I’ve lost some perspective.”

“Things getting worse at the hospital?” Harry rubbed his tired arm.

“We keep running out of beds. I’m beginning to think the new wing they’re building wouldn’t be big enough.” John watched the children play. “I’m glad Lily and the boys are spending the summer in Darton.” He turned to Harry. “Not that being out of Boston is any guarantee against contracting the disease.”

“I read the stories in the paper. Are we any closer to a cure?” Harry inquired.

“My research is on better treatments to aid recovery”, John took a deep breath, “but scientists around the world are working on cures and vaccines.”

Harry wiped his sweaty brow, “What kind of treatment?”

John switched into scientist mode, “I’m working on a way of regenerating nerves cells to correct the damage done by the disease. We extract healthy cells from the patient or a relative; and let them multiply in a nutrient rich solution. Then inject them into the patient’s effected body part, where they should continue to multiply and cure their paralysis.”

“Your use of the word should suggest things aren’t going as planned. Maybe you’re not as smart as every says you are, doc.” Harry found some delight in John’s failure. “Isn’t paralysis caused by weak muscles? It’s the muscles that aren’t working?”

“But it’s the nerves that control the muscles. No matter how big and strong, the muscle won’t move without the nerve telling it to do so.”

The realization changed Harry’s mood. He looked at the children playing without a care in the world. “I thought because we were so strong it wouldn’t happen to me or my son.”

John wondered if having stronger muscles could compensate for weaker nerves. He would have to work on a hypothesis when he got back to his lab. He watched his sons struggle to get an advantage against their bigger cousin. There was no denying HarryJr. was a strapping boy. “H.J. is certainly big for his age.”

Harry smiled, “Yeah, he’s a real chip off the block.”

To Lily’s delight, Marian and H.J. began to spend more and more time at the summer house. Often their visits lasted several days and nights. John didn’t mind because his wife was happier.
It had been a long week and John was looking forward to his two days of leisure. He left for Darton late one Friday evening. His eye lids got heavier with each passing mile. He felt relief as he pulled into the long driveway of his home. Before he reached the porch, Marian came running out. “It’s Jeffrey, he’s having trouble walking.”

John bolted into the house and up the stairs. He found Lily at Jeff’s bedside. The look on her face made John’s heart skip a beat. John sat on the bed and began his examination. Jeff winced as his father’s fingers dug into his thighs. “Aren’t you feeling well, son?” Jeff shook his head no. “Does that hurt?” The boy shook his head yes. The doctor put the back of his hand on Jeff’s forehead. “How long has he had a fever?”

“A couple of days. All the boys were feverish. We thought it was just a summer cold. Harry and Jim got better. They’re fine now. Last night Jeff said his neck and calves felt stiff. He got out of bed about hour ago and his legs gave out.” Lily explained very quickly. The loss of muscle control worried the polio specialist. John squeezed his wife’s hand and walked out of the room. Lily was right behind him. She closed the bedroom door.

John took a deep breath. “I want to take him to the clinic.” Lily fell into her husband’s arms unable to be stoic any longer.

Marian gasped, “What about HarryJunior…and Jim?”

John looked at his sister in law, “I’ll examine them, but I’m sure they’ll be fine. Most people have no permanent damage when exposed to the virus. It’s just a few that….” John stopped as Lily sobbed louder. “Hush my darling, there’s nothing you could have done. It’s in God’s hands.” He lifted her from his shoulder. “Pack some of his things.” Lily nodded and dried her tears before returning to the boys’ room.

“Is there anything I can do?” Marian asked. John shook his head no and walked into the master bedroom. He sat down in his wife’s sewing chair. His head was crowded with thoughts. He turned to see Jim standing in the doorway. John smiled, “Your mother tells me you haven’t been feeling well. How are you today?” He gestured for his son to come to him.

Jim walked to his father’s side. “I feel fine. Harry and I played outside most of the day. We were looking for buried treasure in the back garden.”

“That sounds like fun.” John ran his hands over the boy testing for soreness or fever. “Does it hurt anywhere…any stiffness?” Jim shook his head no. “Good, good.” He lifted his son onto his knee. “I’m taking Jeffrey to the hospital tonight.”

“Is he going to be all right?”

“I’ll do everything I can.” John answered as a doctor, not a father. He could see that wasn’t what the boy wanted to hear. He ran his hand down the back of his son’s head. “He’ll be fine.”

Jim opened his hand. A small piece of dark metal lay in his palm. It was shaped like a pie wedge. “This is the treasure I found today. A pirate must have dropped it in our yard a long time ago. I hid it from Harry so he won’t steal it. He’s really strong. I want Jeff to have it. It will bring him luck.”

John hugged his son. “That’s a good idea. Why don’t you give it to him now? We’ll be leaving soon. It may be awhile before you’ll see him again.” John watched his son leave to say goodbye to his twin brother. “Be a good boy and close the door for me.” Jim closed the door. Tears filled the father’s eyes.

A week passed and John rarely left his son’s hospital bed. Jeff’s symptoms started to subside. It was a good sign that Jeff had some feeling and control of his limbs. The fear of total paralysis was gone; but the concern of permanent damage to his legs persisted. Two more days passed and Jeff still felt weak. His muscles continued to wither. He had difficulty standing longer than a few minutes. He could only walk if someone helped him. John’s colleagues recommended leg braces and crutches to help Jeff get around.

John walked the hospital’s grounds thinking about his son’s condition. His nerve cell trials showed no promise. He needed to try something new. He lit a cigarette and sat on a bench in a small courtyard. His thoughts kept being interrupted by the construction of the new hospital wing. John focused on the construction crew. Most of the men wore undershirts on the warm summer day. John found the differences in the size and shape of the men’s arms intriguing. They all did the same type of work so you would think they would have similar muscular development. But some of the men’s arms were relatively thin; some had balls of defined muscle; and others had very thick, but smooth upper arms. His mind went back to the day in the back yard with his brother in law. Harry was like the men with very thick, smooth muscles. John was more like the men with the visible ball of muscle. It was more aesthetic but lacked the power of the bulkier version. His sons inherited his musculature as HarryJunior inherited his father’s. Again he wished Jeff had H.J.’s larger muscles. Maybe that would give him the additional strength to walk once more.

“John!” Lily called to her husband for the third time. When he saw her his mood brightened. They walked quickly into each other’s arms. “Is he any better today?”

John nodded his head no. “They want to send him home in braces.”

Lily read her husband’s face. “Don’t you agree?”

“It will be like giving up. He would probably need them for the rest of his life.” John could tell his wife didn’t want to hear the gloomy truth. “But Jeff’s special. He’s strong willed, like his mother.”

Lily patted her husband’s chest. “Is that your kind way of saying I’m stubborn, John?” She played with the back of her gathered hairdo. “Let’s go see our son. Marian’s nervous about being here. She should remember her son is perfectly healthy and just be thankful.”

Marian held a delicate lace handkerchief over her mouth as she watched the boys talk. She let out a sigh when she saw John and Lily approaching. “H.J., let’s get some fresh air.” She grabbed her son’s hand and tired to pull him away. The petite woman couldn’t move his bulk until he let her.

Lily brushed Jeffrey’s cheek with her hand. “I found your father outside, deep in thought as usual. He says you may be coming home soon.”

“Is that true, papa?” Jim got excited about the return of his favorite playmate.

John looked down at his family, “Possibly, in a few days…if Jeff gets stronger.”

“Yeah Jeff, get stronger so we can whip H.J.” The boy said without hesitation.

“James Montgomery Haynes, you sound like a street ruffian.” Lily looked to her husband for support, but he was holding back a chuckle.

Jim didn’t know why his mother was upset. “We like wrestling each other. But H.J. wins all the time and that’s no fun.”

“Now you know how I feel when you always beat me.” Jeff said.

The family talked for several minutes about nothing in particular. A frantic Marian entered the room with a limping H.J. “He cut himself when playing outside. I told him to stay away from the construction. I declare, he only listens to his father and ignores my every word.”

John went over to examine the wound. Harry’s pants were torn on the back of his thigh, just below his buttocks. The area was soaked with blood. “He will need stitches.” Marian gasped. Lily went to her side. John led Harry to a small room. Helping the 11 year old walk John realized they were practically the same height. He estimated the boy outweighed him too. He told H.J. to lie on the examining table. John lowered his patient’s pants and began to irrigate the wound. “It’s a clean cut. It must have been something very sharp.” H.J. didn’t feel like talking. John applied pressure with gauze to stop the bleeding. He was surprised by the thickness and firmness of the boy’s thigh. It equaled or surpassed his adult version. “It is deep into the muscle. Good thing you have lots to spare.” An idea instantly formed in the doctor’s mind. He told the boy to hold the bandage.

John ran up two flights of stairs to his laboratory. He grabbed a scalpel and a beaker of the nutrient solution he used to grow nerve cells. He returned to H.J. out of breath; more from excitement than from the exertion. He moved the boy’s hand away and dug into the exposed muscle with the razor sharp scalpel. H.J. cried out in pain. “Be a big boy for me, Harry. It will hurt only for a moment. There, all done.” The scientist placed the piece of muscle tissue into the beaker. He swirled it around to encourage it to absorb the elixir and grow.

The boy found little comfort in the doctor’s words. He wondered where is mother was. He tried to leave the table. John struggled to hold him down. He certainly was strong. Once H.J. was calm, John quickly stitched and bandaged the wound. He told H.J. to relax as he left to place the beaker into his lab’s incubator. The doctor returned to the examination room the second time at a slower pace and in a better mood. The patient was returned to his anxious mother. “He’s fine. He probably won’t even have a scar.” The women were glad of the news. The boys looked disappointed.

The next morning Dr.Haynes removed the beaker from the incubator. He was surprised by the amount the sample had grown. The muscle definitely grew at a greater rate than the nerve cells he had tested. He wondered if H.J.’s cells grew faster than a typical boy’s. He used enzymes to break the larger mass into a cellular muscle soup. It took the entire day to refine the solution. John hoped Jeff’s body would accept H.J’s cells since they were related. With the solution in a syringe, he walked down the deserted halls of the hospital to Jeff’s dark room. He closed the curtains for privacy. He woke his son and removed the boy’s covers. He told him everything was going to be okay, as he lifted his hospital gown. Jeff’s legs looked so thin compared to his cousins. John hesitated for only a moment before he inserted the needle into the front of the boy’s left thigh. The boy cringed. “Don’t watch, son.” Jeff turned his head to the side. John injected a measured portion of the solution deep into the muscle. He did the same to his right thigh. He asked Jeff to flip over onto his stomach. The doctor then shot the superior muscle cells into the boy’s buttocks and back of his thighs. It wasn’t until he stuck the needle in Jeff’s calves that the boy cried out. John finished the treatment. “There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

Jeff shook his head, “Will it make me stronger, daddy?”

“I hope so.”

“Bigger and stronger than H.J.?”

The father smiled down at the sickly child. “You should rest now.” Jeff closed his eyes. John rubbed the boy’s head for a few minutes before pushing back the curtains. With one last look John left the room.

As soon as he heard his father leave, Jeff opened his eyes. He looked out the window next to his bed. A shooting star raced across the night sky. Jeff got excited. He reached for something under his pillow. It was the treasure Jim gave him for good luck. He held the treasure tightly in his small hand, “I want to be stronger and have bigger muscles than H.J.” He squeezed the good luck piece harder. “Ouch!” Jeff opened his hand. The sharp metal had pierced his soft skin. A few drops of blood oozed out from a small cut in his palm. He moved the coin to his other hand and licked his wound clean before closing his eyes.

John checked on his son every hour. The boy slept, but was unusually restless. The sun was just rising when John noticed Jeff looked feverish. His hair and bedding were damp from perspiration. John felt his forehead. It was warm, very warm. In fact his whole body was warm. Suddenly the boy sat up in bed and cried out in pain, “It hurts, it hurts”. He started to kick his legs out from under the covers. He rubbed his calves. John put his hands on the boy’s legs to steady him. He could feel the muscles pulsating violently. Jeff thighs began to cramp. “Make it stop daddy, it hurts.” John dug his fingers into the gyrating tissue to massage the cramps away. As soon as his thighs relaxed, Jeff’s buttocks tightened painfully. John flipped his son over and pressed his fists into the fleshy mounds. The doctor could feel the small muscle fighting back before surrendering to the pressure. Jeff became quiet.

John gently picked Jeff up and rocked him in his arms. The boy started to shake. His torso tightened. He curled up into a ball holding his stomach. John pulled his son’s arms away and torn open his gown. John could actually see the boy’s abdominal muscles flexing out of control. It was like mice fighting under his skin. Jeff’s chest and neck muscles joined the revolt. Even his face became contorted as he lost control of his facial muscles. Jeff’ breathed heavily through his nose since he couldn’t open his mouth. Then Jeff’s back tightened forcing his shoulder blades into the mattress. Finally his arms and fingers stiffened. John thought he was having a seizure. This shouldn’t be happening. As quickly as it started it ended. Jeff went limp and sucked in air. John wiped the tears from Jeff’s face. Several uneventful minutes passed. John hoped the attacks had stopped. Exhausted, Jeff quickly fell back to sleep. John moved a chair next to the bed and sat down. He wasn’t going anywhere for the rest of the day.

Jeff woke in remarkably good spirits several hours later. Unlike his father, the boy looked well rested. He vaguely remembered the strange spasms. John examined him again. His legs had better muscle tone. Jeff said he felt fine except for being a little sore. John asked his son to try to walk. He did better than the day before. Jeff’s ability to walk for longer distances and durations increased exponentially with each passing hour. So much so he was sent home the next day without braces. Another week passed and it was as if Jeff had never been ill. His recuperation was so miraculous John tried the same muscle cell infusion on other patients. None had Jeff’s reaction or showed any change in their weakened condition. John abandoned the research. Jeff’s recovery must have been due to something else. Something he couldn’t deduce from the medical records.

It was Christmas morning and John was watching the boys play in the backyard from the comfort of the warm dining room. John sipped a too hot cup of coffee as he peered through the window. Small pockets of snow formed in the corner of the glass panes. Jeff was tormenting his twin. Time after time he would tackle Jim to the ground and make him eat snow. No matter what Jim did he couldn’t get the upper hand on his brother. John wondered when their roles reversed. When did Jeff become the dominant twin? He was about to put an end to the rough housing when he heard Harry’s booming voice in the living room. “Merry Christmas, Uncle John”, H.J. ran by on his way to the back door.

John smiled as he got out of the big boy’s way, “And a Merry Christmas to you, H.J.” He watched the boys greet each other by throwing snowballs. The brothers’ war ended at the appearance of their common enemy. United, they bombarded the intruder. H.J. made his way through the onslaught and tackled Jim to the ground. Jeff climbed on H.J.’s back and forced him off his brother. The two struggled until H.J. found himself on his back with Jeff in control. A smile formed on John’s face, “That’s my boy.”

“Merry Christmas”, Harry said entering the dining room. John returned the greeting looking away from the backyard battle for only a moment. Harry stood behind John and watched the boys over his shoulder. The twins were now in control of their former nemesis. Jim was feeding his cousin snow as Jeff held him down. H.J.’s displeasure at this change of events was obvious. His loud protest could clearly be heard by the men inside the house. His father didn’t seem too happy about it either.

John couldn’t help but smirk, “Looks like my boys play too rough for your son.”

Harry tried to downplay the situation. “Well, it’s two against one…and they’re older than H.J.”

“Of course, Harry.” John opened the window. “Jeff, Jim…it’s time to come inside.” The boys stood up freeing their captive. The twins ran toward the house with a victorious shout. H.J. trudged behind with slumped shoulders.

Several years passed and the sixteen year old Haynes twins were in the zenith of their youth. As they matured the boys became less and less similar in their appearance. Jeff was now several inches taller and broader in the shoulders than Jim. He was closer to H.J.’s size than his twin brother’s. They still had the same coloring and both were considered extremely handsome; like their father. But Jeff’s face was more angular. His sharp features and manly physique made him appear older than his actual years.

The boys, once inseparable, were spending less time together. Jim concentrated on school work and was the top scholar in his class. Jeff grades were fine, but that was mainly due to his ability to charm his teachers. He was easily the most popular boy in school. The only things that held his interest were girls and athletics. He lettered in several sports and could always be found amongst a swarm of female admirers.

In his junior year Jeff became friends with a classmate’s older brother. The fraternity man introduced the 16 year old to the college party scene. Jeff often slipped out of his bedroom window at night in direct defiance of his parents’ wishes. He would return in the wee hours of the morning. The odor of cigarettes, alcohol and perfume accompanied him. His clumsy reentry often woke Jim, with whom he shared the room. Once he made it to his bed, Jeff fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Jim had difficulty returning to his interrupted slumber due to Jeff’s loud snoring. This routine became a regular occurrence most weekends.

With the end of the school year near, the Haynes opened their summer home in Darton. Lily and John went ahead to supervise the staff. Jim and Jeff still had a week of classes so they stayed at Aunt Marian and Uncle Harry’s house. The guest bedroom on the third floor did not have an escape route and Jeff was trapped. He became moody and restless. The warm night air made things worse. He lied in bed and nervously shook his foot back and forth. The shaking made the bed squeak. There was only one full size bed in the room. The twins were expected to share; but the larger brother demanded more than his half. Jim found it easier to use the floor.

It was almost midnight when Jeff sighed and got out of bed. He needed something to calm his nerves. The bed’s squeaking kept Jim awake. He watched Jeff slip out the door wearing only his underwear. Jim thought his mother would be upset if she knew he was walking around her sister’s home almost naked. Jeff quietly went down to the first floor and into the study to search for some libations. Upstanding citizens hid their stash during the era of Prohibition. “What are you looking for Jeff?” The startled boy turned to find his Uncle standing in the doorway. After looking his well formed nephew up and down, the big man stepped into the room and closed the door behind him.

More than an hour passed when Jim was woken by Jeff falling into bed. He didn’t even bother to slip under the top sheet. Within seconds he was snoring. Jim sat up on the floor and thought about holding a pillow over his brother’s face to silence him. Jeff mumbled something and shifted his weight. In the moonlight, Jeff’s skin glowed like alabaster. He reminded Jim of the Greek statues pictured in his ArtHistory book. It was easy to see why every girl in school had a crush on him. Jeff mumbled again and slipped his hand inside his underwear to hold his manhood. He was always grabbing himself in that vulgar way. Maybe he couldn’t believe how big it was either. Jim hugged his pillow and sighed. Why did his twin have to be so good looking and well built? A better question was why didn’t he look exactly the same? Jeff’s face fell toward Jim. The smell the alcohol was unmistakable on his breathe. Jeff wondered how he got a drink without leaving the house.

The same thing happened the next night; but Jim noticed Jeff left precisely at 11:00 as if he had an appointment. He returned intoxicated an hour later. On the third night, Jim decided to find out what was going on. He waited a minute after Jeff to get up. He slipped on his robe and crept down the staircase. He heard muffled voices coming from the other side of the closed study door. Jeff bent down and peered through the key hole. He saw Jeff standing on the far side of the room with a drink in his hand. Uncle Harry walked up to him and offered Jeff a cigarette. The older man ran his hands over Jeff’s naked chest. He told the boy he liked the way he could make the muscles in the stomach grow hard. Harry caressed the hard bricks with a lustful intensity. Harry’s hand went south. Jeff’s reacted with a smirk, “Is there something else of mine you want to grow hard?” Harry went to his knees. He pulled down Jeff’s underwear. Jeff seemed uninterested in what Harry was doing at first. He continued to casually sip his drink and smoke his cigarette. Harry moved his head out of Jim’s line of sight. Jim saw another man’s erect penis for the first time. He had seen Jeff’ in an aroused state on many mornings, but it was always covered by his underwear or a blanket. It looked very different out in the open. His brother always teased him about being a runt. Maybe he was right.

Harry’s movements quickened and Jeff’s breathing became louder. He set the glass on a table and began to run his hands over this torso. He closed his eyes and began to moan softly. All of Jeff’s muscles suddenly contracted in rapid succession. Another minute passed before both men began to move. Harry got to his feet. Jeff pulled up his underwear and flopped down on the large leather sofa. Harry poured him another drink. Jeff untied the sash of his uncle’s robe. Harry closed the robe and said something Jim didn’t hear. Harry left the room. Jim scampered into the dark living room and watched his uncle ascend the staircase. Jim waited a few seconds before returning to his spot on the bedroom floor next to Jeff’s bed. Ten minutes passed before Jeff walked in. Soon he was sound asleep. Jim couldn’t stop replaying what he saw. He didn’t fully understand what had happened in the study, but he knew it didn’t seem right.

Four boys were at a secluded section of DartonLake enjoying the last days of summer vacation. After a rather rough chicken fight, they emerged from the cool water. All were nude. Jeff led the group as usual. “Make way for the victorious Haynes brothers.” Jim was behind him, followed by H.J. and a local boy, Steven.

“You just got lucky”, H.J. mumbled in his deep voice.

“Seems we’ve been lucky all summer, Har.” Jeff turned to face his beefy cousin. He had a confident smirk on his face. He poked his finger into H.J.’s broad chest. “Face it, the teams were evenly matched. You and I are about the same size, as is Jim and Steven. That means we are just stronger than you.” Jeff flexed his impressive arms. Harry looked away. He wanted to refute Jeff’s comments, but knew he couldn’t. Jeff chuckled and sat down on the ground.

“You’re nothing but a braggart”, Harry finally said from a safe distance. Harry had lost to his better looking relative in every physical contest over the past few years. Jeff was much faster and had better reflexes. He appeared lighter due to his lower body fat. He looked stronger because of his incredible definition. Every sinew, vein, and muscle was clearly visible under his clear, sun-kissed skin. His stomach was tight and divided into eight distinct bricks. He had no body hair except wispy, dark blonde tufts covering his underarms and ball sack. Harry’s arms, chest and thighs were just as thick as Jeff’s, but were featureless and appeared softer. His stomach was puffy and covered with a thin coat of dark hair like the rest of his brutish physique. Jeff even matched his impressive manhood. But Jeff’s appeared bigger because of his narrower hips and flatter waist. Harry sat down on the ground. “You’re older than me. Wait until we’re both college men, then we’ll see who’s stronger.”

Jim sat far away from his brother. It lessened the chance of being compared to him. Jim was looking forward to college too; but for different reasons. He wanted to get out from under his brother’s shadow. He knew girls would find him more attractive if Jeff wasn’t around. He had a defined, symmetrical body like Jeff; but no where near his size. He was both shorter and narrower. Jim’s face missed the mark too somehow. Jeff’s appearance was just more masculine due to his larger features and heavier beard. But unlike Harry’s dark facial hair, Jeff’s golden stubble could only be really seen in direct sunlight.

Steve sat next to Jeff. He idolized the athlete as did most boys in school. “Jeff, how many sports are you going to play in your senior year.”

“As many as I can. That’s what I do.” Jeff ran his hand over his sculpted torso to encourage the lake water to evaporate off his tight skin. “My Dad wants me to take up the javelin. He says I’ll be better than he was because of my greater height and shoulder width. He thinks I can make the Olympic team in ’32. Maybe become the first American to win a gold medal in the sport.” He leaned back onto his elbows and crossed his legs at the ankles. He pulled his large endowment out from between his thighs without thinking. His sausage like appendage rolled from his stomach to rest on his thigh. “I sure would like to go to California. The best looking girls live there; movie starlets and pin-up models as far as the eye can see. Who knows maybe I’ll get discovered and get put into the motion pictures?”

Steve believed it could happen, “Buster Crabbe and JohnnyWeissmuller have nothing on you.”

Jeff smirked, “Yeah, I’ll be the next DouglasFairbanks.” He jumped to his feet and moved as if a swashbuckler. Steve joined the mock fencing match. They heard giggles coming from the nearby bushes. Jeff looked over and saw several girls watching them. The other boys covered their exposed bodies with their hands; but not Jeff. He smiled and started to walk toward them. The girls screamed and ran away. “Hey, don’t go. Come join us. We won’t tell anyone.”

“You shouldn’t encourage their shameless behavior, Jeff”, Jim said in his usual disapproving tone.

“Girls know better than to come to this part of the lake.” Steve was obviously embarrassed by the situation.

“They’re just curious about us like we are about them.” Jeff sat down looking sad.

“Girls aren’t like boys. They don’t think about such things”, H.J. added.

“Oh, you’ll be surprised.” Jeff stretched out on the cool grass again. He put his hands behind his head making his lats flare and his biceps bulge. In the reclined position his stomach became flatter as it sunk below his rib cage. His package looked like a mountainous island in a sea of bronzed flesh.

Steve sat down so he faced him. “I knew it. You’ve been with a girl haven’t you?” He looked over the stud’s body, “Of course you have. Every girl in school swoons when you walk by.” He licked his lips. “Who was it? She must have been really beautiful. I bet she was a senior. Come on, tell us what it was like?”

Jeff smiled mischievously. He knew it wasn’t proper to discuss such things even amongst his peers. “You know I’m not a married man.”

H.J. scoffed, “Spill the beans, Haynes.”

Jeff sat up and looked at the boys. He could see they were eager to hear the sorted details. He chuckled. “There’s nothing to tell.” He then began to whistle with a glint in his eyes. They all expected Jeff would be the first among them to become a man. But they didn’t think it would happen before he graduated high school. That just wasn’t done by boys of upstanding families. Steve and Harry begged for information again; but Jeff only gave them a smile.

Jim didn’t want to hear any of it. He stood up and walked to the tree holding his clothes. “It must be almost supper time.”

The boys got dressed in silence. Jeff was the only one who didn’t bother putting on a shirt. He considered clothes a nuisance. Proper society didn’t approve of the boy walking around with a naked torso, nor did his mother. As soon as he walked in the door Lily put an end to his feeling of freedom. “Jeff where is your shirt?” He held it up. “Put it on, this is not a flop house.”

“Yes, ma’m.” He slipped on his tight shirt and began to button it.

“Speaking of clothes, I bought some new school outfits for you today. I put them in your room. I want you to try them on to make sure they fit. The way you are growing, I hope I bought the right sizes.”

The twins went upstairs and found the clothes neatly folded on their beds. They put on an off-white turtleneck sweater and brown herringbone trousers. The natural palette enhanced the boys’ summer coloring. There was a knock on the door. “May I come in?” Lily entered the room. She scrutinized Jim’s outfit carefully before putting her hands on his face, “You look more like your father every day.” She then moved on to Jeff. Her face showed concern. She pulled at the shoulder seams. “How’s the fit?”

Jeff lifted his arms. “It’s kind of tight. You didn’t get us the same size again did you?”

“No dear. I know to go one size larger in the shirt and six inches longer in the inseam for you.” She ran her hands over Jeff’s broader chest. “I guess I have to start buying you two sizes larger. I can’t believe how you’ve grown over the summer. I imagine you’ll only get bigger once you start participating in athletics again.” She looked down at the pants. The baggy style had enough room to accommodate his thicker thighs. But without underwear his larger package pushed out the fabric at the crotch. Lily put his hand behind her slender neck and smiled nervously. “The pants fit you…well. I’ll sew in a heavy lining to smooth things out a bit.”

Jim looked at his reflection. He then saw how differently Jeff looked in the same outfit. He hated wearing matching clothes. It only made comparing him to his brother easier for everyone. Their lingering eyes showed the preference for the bigger, more handsome twin. Most assumed Jeff was the older brother. They were shocked to find out they were twins. The shock was replaced by laughter. Then the part Jim hated the most; they apologized for laughing. Jim could see the pity in their eyes. Jim pulled off his sweater and threw it on the bed. “I’m not wearing matching outfits any more. We’re not children mother.” He grabbed the clothes he wore earlier and stormed out of the room. He changed his pants in the bathroom and ran out of the house.

Jeff peered through the dirty window of the tool shed. The small building stood in the far corner of the backyard. He saw Jim doing pull-ups using one of the small buildings exposed rafters. He opened the rickety door and entered the dusty space. The air was stagnant, warm and smelled of sweat. “So this is where you come to hide…very nice.”

Jim dropped to his feet and turned his back on his brother obviously annoyed by his presence. “What do you want?”

Jeff scanned the room. A broom handle with a paint can attached to each end rested on the ground. The cans were filled with small rocks. It appeared Jim had been using this space as a gym for awhile. Jeff put his large hands on the beam and began to do pull-ups. “How many can you do?”

Jim was still breathing heavy from his work out. He turned his head to watch his brother. The bigger twin seemed to be struggling. “About 20”, Jim said proudly as he wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand.

Jeff’s movements began to slow; but he made it to the fifteenth repetition. He let his arms straighten and repositioned his hands. His longer limbs made the movement more difficult. Jim hoped his bigger brother was too tired to continue. But Jeff clenched his square jaw and quickly did six more before letting go of the beam. “Twenty one, bested you again.” Jim’s face reddened in anger. He kept his back to his twin. “Damn, I’m out of breath. I’m not used to working that hard.” Jeff removed his shirt. Jeff pumped his swollen biceps to release the build up of lactic acid. With each pump they continued to grow to their full 18 inches. The ball of muscle was so defined it looked like it was lying on top of his arm instead of being part of it. “Damn, look at the size of them. I swear they get bigger every day.” Both boys couldn’t look away from the muscle display. “If I did that every day my arms would be bigger than my thighs.” He looked at his brother, “I wonder why your muscles are so small.” Jeff grabbed his brother’s firm 12” upper arm and squeezed it. “What a pipsqueak. You’ll never get past 16 pull ups with those pipe cleansers.” Jeff flexed his bicep in Jims’ face. “You need something like this.”

Jim tried to push his bigger brother away, but couldn’t. His body was as unmovable as a stone wall to him. “Just go away, Jeff.”

Jeff moved closer to his twin. “What’s wrong with you? You’ve always been moody, but lately it’s gotten out of hand.” Jim didn’t like being this close to his brother, especially when he was half naked. Jim tired to move away, but Jeff held out his arms to corner him. “You aren’t going anywhere until I get an answer.” Jim folded his arms and pouted. “Mom sent me to find you. She wants to know why you are acting like such a baby about the clothes she bought.” Jim’s eyes kept darting from Jeff’s face to his pumped up body. He didn’t want his brother to know how envious his was of his appearance. But Jeff could sense it. He got that same feeling from his team mates. Jeff smiled, “Could it be because I look better in them than you, runt?” Jeff playfully pushed his smaller twin. Jim’s anger took over and he started to throw punches wildly. After a few direct hits, Jeff had enough. He put Jim into a bear hug. Jeff widened his stance and flexed every muscle to immobilize Jim. The smaller boy could barely move. He was surrounded by huge, hard muscle. His face was buried in Jeff’s beefy chest. The more Jim struggled the more pressure Jeff applied. His pecs swelled larger in front of Jeff’s eyes.

“What are you going to do now, runt?” Jeff asked in a cocky tone. To further illustrate his superior strength, every few seconds Jeff would bend backwards to lift Jim off his feet. The movement caused Jim’s package to slide up and down Jeff’s firm thigh. “I’m so much stronger than you. My muscles are twice the size of yours.” He didn’t want to; but Jim could feel himself getting aroused. He began to panic. He pleaded to be set free. Jeff laughed, “Just like when we were little kids. You begging me to let you go.” Jim continued to struggle but he was running out of air. Like a powerful python, Jeff’s big arms tightened with Jim’s every exhale. Jim was feeling lightheaded. Jeff smiled, “You’re so small and weak. You’re helpless against me, aren’t you runt?” Jeff squeezed harder pulling Jim’s body into his more. He lifted him again. Jim’s was now at full staff. “Say uncle, runt.” Jim fought for enough air to whisper the word of surrender. Jeff finally let go of him. The tent in Jim’s pants drew his attention. Jeff was caught off guard at first, then started to laugh.

“Leave me alone.” Jim turned his back on Jeff, “I hate you.”

Jeff could see his brother was really upset. “Jimmy, I was only joking. Don’t be embarrassed. It happens sometimes to the guys I wrestle.” The bigger boy gently poked his brothers back, “It doesn’t mean anything runt.”

“Stop calling me that. I’m not a runt.”

“You are compared to me.” Jeff scratched his head, “By what I’ve just seen, I’m much bigger than you everywhere.”

“That’s because you’re some kind of…freak.” Jim snapped. “You’re too big.” Jim felt like a weight had been lifted. He took a deep breathe. “It’s not normal and you know it.” He finally said what he had been thinking for years.

The thought had crossed Jeff’s mind more than once. He noticed how differently he looked from the other boys in school. He had rationalized his appearance over the years. To him Jim was the family oddity. “You’re the freak of the family, not me. H.J. is almost as big as I am. That’s two against one. It’s not my fault you stopped growing.”

“Your head must be filled with muscles too. H.J. is our cousin not your brother. He gets his size from his father. I’m the same size as our father. How do you explain that?” Jim folded his arms defiantly.

“Hey, I look like Dad.” Jeff’s said without conviction. Jeff hated the smug look on Jim’s face. “You’re just jealous. You wish you were as big as me.” The look on Jim’s face changed. His eyes involuntarily went to Jeff’s crotch for only a second. Jeff grabbed his crotch. “All the pull ups in the world won’t make you bigger down here.”

“You are perverted, always grabbing yourself. Do you know how vulgar that is?”

Jeff scoffed, “I’m not the one getting a rise in my own brother’s arms. What does that say about you?”

Jim was furious again. He tired to get past Jeff. Jeff grabbed his arm to stop him. “Let me go or God help me, Jeff.”

“What? What are you going to do me runt?” Jeff said in a menacing tone.

He knew there was nothing he could physically do to his stronger brother. Jim’s eyes narrowed, “I know what you did with Uncle Harry in the study.”

Jeff let go of Jim’s arm. “Wwwhat do you think you know?” His confidence drained from him in an instant. Jim actually saw fear in Jeff’s eyes for the first time in years.

Jim wanted to tell him what he saw, but couldn’t say the words. It was too obscene. Jim looked away, “I know you drank spirits…and smoked cigarettes.”

The tension left Jeff’s face. He began to chuckle. Jim pushed his brother out of the way and left the shed. Jeff didn’t try to stop him. He yelled after Jim, “I better stop. I wouldn’t want it to stunt my growth.” Jim could hear Jeff’s deep laughter as he disappeared into the woods.

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