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Emmet's Getting Strong
|“Sweetheart. Stop that and come join us at the dinner table.”
I was on the floor, doing pushups. I had done two hundred and seventeen pushups today, and I was determined to get to three hundred before I went to sleep tonight.
“Just a minute, Mom. I’m almost to two twenty-five... “
“Come on, Emmet. We have guests.”
two hundred twenty-two, two hundred twenty-three, two hundred twenty-four, two hundred twenty-five
“Yes!” I got up and shook my arms out. “What’s for dinner?”
Two years ago, I was able to do all of fifteen pushups in a day. Last week, I did two hundred seventy-five in increments of twenty-five, fifteen, ten, and five. Adding a few more each session, I was excited and driven to increase my strength and my stamina. I secretly wanted to be a kind of superman.
I stretched and looked around the table. Mr. and Mrs. Hoffmann, friends of my parents, and their son, Joey, were staring at me in a way that made me feel sort of funny and great at the same time. I was huffing and smiling big. “I’m starving.”
“What are you weighing these days, Emmet?” Mr. Hoffmann was asking, pounding me on the shoulder and squeezing it hard as I sat at my place next to him. “You going out for football this year?”
“167 lbs., sir. Rock solid.” I answered, flexxing my arm and shoulder for him, and I felt his fingers pop out of my flesh as I made it impenetrable. He squeezed a couple more times but could not make a dent.
“Holy shit!” The texture of my shoulder shocked him, and I felt myself popping wood under the table.
“Jerry!” Mrs. Hoffmann admonished her husband. “Mouth!”
“Honey, feel this kid’s muscle!” Mr. Hoffmann was practically in tears. “I’ve never felt anything so hard in my life!”
“Maybe after dinner, sweetie. I think Margaret would like to serve dinner now.”
I am hyperaware of the effects my body has on other people as I develop. I notice certain people hardly seem to notice at all, and just treat me like normal. Sometimes, some of those same people might be a little distracted if they catch me in, say, a t-shirt that’s too small, or at the pool without a shirt, since, in normal clothes, I guess, I do look kind of regular. Well, except for my neck, which is actually wider than my face when I shove my shoulders down and forward. And my face is pretty lean. So I do look like a jock. But you can’t really tell how bulgey my muscles are when I wear regular clothes. Not unless you feel ‘em. Anyway, sometimes, even when I'm all exposed, there are some people who don't seem to be affected by it.
Then there are people like Mr. Hoffmann and his son, Joe.
“Pass the potatoes, please.”
“Emmet, honey. Tell Joey what you're training for.” Mom was sawing elegantly into her tenderloin and shooting glances at Dad, who had just spilled a little dressing on the tablecloth. I looked across the table at Joey Hoffmann. Joey is a pretty shy kid, with these intense blue eyes and these long eyelashes and this really dark tan. He was staring down at his plate, but I had caught him sneaking glances at me all night. He was like his dad: he had that sense about muscle: Even if it was covered up, he knew it was there, and he knew he had an intense attraction for it. While Mr. Hoffmann dealt with it by being very loud and forward, in a clumsy and obvious way, Joey did the opposite. He tried to play it cool. He’d barely said a word all night, and he noticably kept his eyes averted whenever I was around. “Joe, “ my mother decided to answer for me since I was busy masticating meat. “Emmet wants to do five hundred pushups in a row.”
“Oh my God, Emmet!” Joe’s dad was erupting again. “That’s incredible!” A little bit of bread roll flew out of his mouth and landed on the table by my water glass.
“Jerry!” Mrs. Hoffman tried to reign him in. “Please swallow your food before talking. I’m pleading with you.”
Mr. Hoffmann finished his mouthful of salad before speaking again. “Emmet, show Joe your muscle.” He looked hungrily at my arm, unabashedly waiting for me to roll up my sleeve. Joe looked up at me for the briefest moment and then back at his dinner, turning his smooth dark cheek deep red.
“How ‘bout after dinner, Mr. Hoffman. I need to feed this muscle first.”
“Joe here’s been working out too, Emmet. Tell him, Joe. He did fifteen pushups this morning.”
“Dad!” Joe lit up with an angry glare at his indiscreet father.
“That’s a great start, Joe, really. “ I said. “That’s all I could do when I was in seventh grade. “
Joey Hoffmann looked me in the eye for the first time all night. “And you can do two hundred and twenty-five now?”
“Not all at once. I break it up into sets of 25 or so. I’m gonna do 300 in all today.”
Joe’s mouth fell open and he closed it quick. He blushed again and his eyes opened wide as he looked back down at his plate. I could practically feel his arousal from across the table, and it was feeding my own. I played it cool, though, and just kept eating.
“A little more, please?” I offered my plate to Dad, who threw another slab of steak on my plate.
“You really pack it in, don’t you, Emmet?” Mr. Hoffmann seemed to be unable to control himself. It was awkward and extremely hot at the same time. “I guess you’ve got to feed the machine.”
“That’s right, Mr. Hoffmann. I’m feeding the machine.”
After dinner, Joe and I headed up to my room while our parents retired to the patio for drinks and whatever crap it is they talk about. When we were out of earshot of the Hoffmanns and my mom and dad, Joe finally opened up. “Man, my Dad is a complete fool. I’m sorry Emmet.” “Joey, man. He’s just being who he is. He just gets a little excited is all. No biggie.” “Well, it kind of creeps me out. I did start doing some excercises at home this year, but whenever he starts talking about it he just won’t shut up, and it makes me wish he didn’t know what I’m doing. It’s like he steals the enthusiasm I have right out of me.” “What kind of workout are you doing? Do you mind me asking?” “No. Actually, I kind of wanted to talk to you, because I really want to get strong like you. I do about 15 pushups and 15 situps every morning before school.” “And that’s it?” “Yeah. Pretty much. I want to get a chin-up bar.” “I’ve got a chin-up bar.” I nod over to my closet door, and Joey looks over at it. “How many can you do?” He looks me up and down when he asks, and something about the way he takes me in gets me boned again. “I can do 40 over a day, but I have to do them 10 at a time.” “Show me.” “Well, it’s a push-up day, today. So I probably won’t be able to do very many. I’ve got seventyfive more push-ups to go.” “Well, what’s stopping you?” The kid was raring to see me in action. Suddenly, I felt strong and ready to show him. “Alright. Count ‘em out for me. I’m at 226.” I got in position, palms on the floor in front of me, toes behind me. Back straight. I dipped my chest down and grazed the floor before straightening out my arms again. Joe counted out while I pressed out an easy 15, and then I slowed way down. “Two hundred forty-one. C’mon, Emmet. Two hundred forty-two. Stay strong, man. Two hundred forty-three.” I shook my head, about to collapse, and I looked up at Joey. He was looking at me with the most encouraging look. “C’mon, Emmet. Just two more.” I dipped down and my triceps were on fire, trembling. “Two hundred forty-four. You can do this, man. Give me one more.” He was a natural. I dug in for my last rep, willing my arms not to collapse. I touched the floor with my chest and paused. I inhaled and pushed, but I did not move. My arms were wobbling fiercely, and I felt weak. And then Joey Hoffmann got down on his hands and knees and whispered in my ear “pushhhhh”, and my arms stopped wobbling, I found some last store of strength, and somehow, I got to the top of my repetition. “Two hundred forty-five! Good work, buddy! Only 55 more to go.”
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