Copyright 1999 W. Bruce Cameron
When I was a spindly, spoke-like teenage boy, with thighs and wrists of equal diameter and every rib on display in my frail torso, my one goal in life was to gain weight. I poured through the muscle man advertisements in the back of my comic books, nearly sobbing with empathy as the 98 pound weakling got sand kicked in his face and his girlfriend taken away by a guy who looked like his nickname was probably "Bulk." I saved my money and sent off for devices which would (the ads warned) pack the muscles on so quickly I would soon be forced to purchase a whole new wardrobe.
My favorite of these contraptions was the Killer Karate Krusher, a hoop of steel with dangling springs into which the fingers of one hand were inserted and flexed. After just six weeks, I was promised, my forearms would become so Killer Karate powerful I would be able to rip tennis balls in half.
After six weeks my arms were so sore I could barely turn a doorknob, and the tennis balls of America were losing no sleep fearing for their safety. Then a new toy arrived in the mail: the Bazooka Bull, a flexible rod of iron held in front of the chest and compressed like an unyielding accordion. The goal was pectoral muscles the size of continents, but on only my third day I was unable to contain the thing and it sprang right out of my hands and into the mirror, shattering the glass and earning the Bazooka Bull a place on my mother's list of banned articles.
Eventually I put away all the high-tech devices and began lifting weights, straining and grunting as I struggled to heave a solid steel bar over my head. The family dog used to sit in my room and watch me nearly topple over with effort, most likely thinking that my species would probably soon be losing its place atop the food chain. While I labored, I recited a list of girls who would supposedly find me attractive next time they saw me. "Mary," I'd groan. "Susie. Brenda. Trudy." What I should have said was, "None."
I repeated repetitions a thousand times and nothing resembling a muscle erupted anywhere. I stood in front of the mirror, scowled a Killer Karate scowl, and flexed my bicep with all my will power. The resulting bulge was due more to the movement of bone under skin than any protruding muscle.
During this time my mother aided my social popularity by purchasing clothes several sizes too large for me, under the theory I would grow into them. You know the style of pants teenage boys wear today, with a waistband a full ten inches larger than their waists? Well, I INVENTED that look, or at least my mother did, along with shirts whose sleeves could be used as mittens and shoes with four inches of rubber bumper protecting the toes. I looked like the incredible shrinking seventh grader.
My final effort was the Miracle Muscle Maker Milkshake, a concoction which promised to have patented Molecules of Muscle Maker in every sip. Well, "sip" is probably the wrong word, in that the stuff was thicker than setting cement and could only be sucked out of the glass by using all of my cheek muscles. It tasted like I was attempting to drink my parents' Rambler station wagon.
Apparently the patented molecules had never encountered anything like my bird-like metabolism, for after two months of a glass of sludge after every meal, all I could show for my efforts was that I had apparently lost the ability to have a bowel movement.
Now, a few decades later, when I can gain eight pounds watching a single basketball game, I wish I could go back in time and talk to that stringy pre-teen. "Son," I would tell him, "you will succeed beyond your wildest dreams."
Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1999
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