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|“Matt, you haf mail in ze office,” the heavily German-accented voice of my counselor brought me out of my daydream.
“Thanks, Henning,” I answered distantly, jumping down from the top bunk.
I cursed myself for wasting another afternoon in my cabin when I should have been in the practice huts with my trumpet. My mom was paying a lot of money for me to go to this summer-long music camp in Michigan. Not to mention, the big concerto competition was coming up and I was nowhere near ready. I had entered it for the experience, but now I was regretting it. It was a lot of work, and there was no chance that I’d even make it out of the second round.
“I bet it’s another one of those 20-page novel letters from your mom,” the pianist from Louisiana joked.
“I hope it’s a package from your grandmother,” said the theater major from Idaho. “I could use a few of those butter cookies of hers.” And then switching to a voice as if he were doing a commercial: “Ecstasy Cookies, an orgy in every bite.”
I chuckled as I headed out the door. At least, my cabin mates kept things lively.
It was a warm, breezy day as I walked across the field to the boy’s camp office. I had been dreaming of JP again. He had always been in my mind from the first time I met him nearly a year before, but ever since that day he looked at me after the graduation ceremony, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. Still unable to explain what had happened to me, I just couldn’t keep my mind on anything else, wondering what he was doing now. I imagined him working out, growing bigger and stronger for the coming school year. I pictured him hanging out with Ryan, cruising around in his brother’s new car.
I approached the mail window of the small wooden cabin that served as the office and requested the letter, half expecting it to have three stamps and my mom’s name in the return address. So you can guess my surprise when I saw whose address was at the top left corner instead: JP’s!
I had written to him, along with all my friends, telling him where I was, what I was doing, and asking him about his summer so far. I even jokingly ordered JP to stay out of trouble, still imposing my position of seniority on him. I just never expected to receive anything in response. My hands shaking, I eagerly tore open the envelope.
What’s up? It’s good to hear that you didn’t get lost up in those woods. I’m sure you’re having a great time with your trumpet playing and all. Of course I’ve been staying out of trouble this summer. It’s my brother who you should say that to! He is so cool! I’ve been hanging out with him all the time. He’s even been helping me work out and get bigger. And you can bet I am getting bigger! Actually, I think he might be getting jealous. Well anyway, see ya in August!
P.S. Good luck on the competition thing!
There it was. The kid had said it himself. JP was working out and was growing bigger. Now, I was even more excited to see him again. I kept asking myself the same questions over and over: How big was he getting? How strong was he now? All the possibilities raced though my head. Now I really couldn’t get him out of my mind.
A few weeks later, my summer vacation had come to an end. Two days after I flew back home, I found myself back at the good old high school in late August for marching band camp. Being now a junior and the best trumpet player in the school, I was appointed trumpet section leader, along with Hunter. Now we were the ones who taught the rookies how to march and boss all the others around.
The first time I saw JP that week, I was not surprised to see that, true to his word, he was a little bit bigger than I remembered him to be last year. I saw him from a distance coming up the hill and only recognized him from the bright green Packer shirt he so proudly sported the year before. However, that shirt was the only remnant from his freshman days.
Everything else on his body, from his shorts to his shoes, and even his hair, had changed completely. No doubt, a summer spent with Ryan made him more fashion conscious and he had revamped his entire wardrobe. Instead of the boyish bowl haircut, JP styled a short spiked do that not only made him look older for once, but also looked fantastic on him.
His 5 foot 7 frame was now about as tall as his neighbor friend with whom he drove to school. That meant he had grown about an inch or two over the summer, which was not a big surprise since he seemed to have been entering into his first growth spurt. When he got closer, I realized that his height wasn’t the only dimension that grew.
The Packer shirt that draped his shoulders so hugely a year ago, now fit him almost perfectly. His neck was noticeably wider than it was in June and it actually widened more when he moved his head back. His face was starting to look older, showing the acne that so many teenagers battle. In fact, all of JP had gotten more mature. His voice sounded a little deeper as well, no longer the squeaky sound of a child, but more of a lower teenage boy’s voice that cracked when he got excited; it started to fit his body. This was the 15-year-old JP Maloney: no longer a small, skinny freshman, but a growing, athletic sophomore.
As soon as he reached the top of the hill, he was surrounded by his classmates, all wanting to know how his summer had gone. They kept commenting on his new clothes, his new hair, his new look…and JP ate it all up. He was loving the spotlight.
Upon spotting me, JP immediately came over and grabbed my hand like all the cool guys in the school did. Apparently, he picked that up from his brother as well. I also couldn’t help noticing how the fibers of muscle in his forearm jumped when he did it. I gulped, thinking of what other muscles were underneath that Packer shirt.
“Nice haircut,” I said, unsure of how else to start a conversation.
“Thanks,” he replied. “Ryan said I needed a change. The style I had before was so lame.”
Even his manner of speaking was different, I noticed. It seemed a little more confident, as if he hadn’t already been sure of himself. I looked directly into his eyes…and that’s when it hit me again.
Although it didn’t hit me as hard as the first time, the dizziness was accompanied by a pit feeling deep down in my stomach. I felt drawn to him somehow, like he was telepathically calling to me. I know, it sounds like something from an X-Files episode, but I can’t think of any other way to explain it. Anyway, he didn’t seem to notice and kept on talking:
“It was the best summer of my life,” he went on. “I’ll tell you all about it later.”
I don’t know what would have happened if he had kept looking at me, but as soon as he looked away, the feeling began to subside. “See ya in practice,” he called before running into another group of friends. I was left standing there once again puzzled. It was like he had some kind of power over me.
On the second day of band camp, he and a friend of his were about ten minutes late. He always complained about his mom driving so slowly, so this happened a lot, but this year Hunter insisted that anyone who was late had to do push-ups: one push-up for each minute they were tardy. Therefore, JP and the other guy had to do ten push-ups. I made sure I saw this, hoping to get a glimpse of the muscle JP said he was going to add to his body.
“Maloney, Puckett,” Hunter ordered the two boys as if he were some kind of drill sergeant. “Drop and give me ten!”
The two boys immediately dropped down and started. The other kid, a sophomore like JP, did the first few fine, but after about the fifth one he started slowing down and was barely able to pump out the last few. There was an obvious look of fear and respect in his eyes. He had no inkling to disobey his physically dominant section leader.
JP, however, went down and started his ten with unbelievable speed. He was wearing a white T-shirt with sleeves that rode a little above his elbows, giving the hint of a possible bulge in his upper arm. Now that his muscles were being forced to attention, the fibers in his arms twitched like crazy. As he continued his textbook set of push-ups, his sleeves began sliding up his arm, revealing the slim contour of his triceps moving back and forth over the top.
But another thing that set JP strikingly apart from his classmate was his expression. Not only did he lack the fear in his eyes, but he actually was smiling throughout the entire exercise. It was as if he wanted to show off rather than simply obey Hunter.
As he reached the tenth push-up, he was still going at the same speed as his first one. Of course, being JP, he added on about five more, but they were also at the same speed and just as perfect as the first ten. He was just showing off. I was amazed at the kid's strength. It only seemed like he was getting stronger all the time. Finally, he got up and wiped his hands against each other to get the dirt off.
“That was nothing!” he said to me and grinned. “Would you like me to do a few more?”
Even if it wasn’t a rhetorical question, no one answered him. We were all a little stunned by what we saw. He held up his fist and clench for a second or two almost as if he was threatening me or something. As he did, the muscles in his forearm suddenly bulged and rippled and I caught a glimpse of the veins wrapping around his forearm. I knew that I was not dealing with the same JP I had known a year ago and that he was only going to get bigger and stronger.
Then he patted his chest and with an almost egotistical sneer, said, “Fell the burn, baby, feel the burn.”
The whole trumpet section was speechless, just standing there not knowing what to say next. No doubt, everyone was probably thinking the same thing:
“I guess you’ve been working out over the summer,”
but only Chrissy actually said it. Rather, it sounded more like a thought accidentally verbalized, her voice uttering the words so weakly, no one would have heard it if it hadn’t been so quiet. JP turned his head to look at her, his deep blue eyes locking onto hers.
“You bet I have,” he flaunted. Then without hesitation, he expertly whipped his T-shirt over his head to the audible gasp of the other trumpet players.
JP Maloney’s body was glorious. Over the course of only a couple of months, the boy had built his formerly wiry physique into one of perfect proportions found only on the most conditioned of male fitness models and athletes. His pecs were hard, slices of meat stretched tightly across his chest, an exquisite pair of nipples located in exactly the right spot at the bottom. His shoulders, two small striated melons, sat atop twin columns of fibrous arms, wrapped in veins, rippling with the smallest of movements. The kid had not a single ounce of body fat anywhere on him. Even his back resembled a picture in an anatomy textbook, every single little muscle clearly pronounced.
But nothing was more beautiful than his stomach. What was merely a hint of a washboard two months ago was now a full-blown six-pack: six immaculately carved sections of corrugated muscle, underscored seductively by a set of obliques that alluded to whatever treasure hid beneath his low-hanging shorts. It was this that made Chrissy practically lose herself.
“Oh my God,” she breathed.
“Go on,” JP urged, “you can touch them.”
Her hands immediately obeyed, caressing the boy’s magnificent torso as if they were guided by some unseen force. Her eyes, glazed over with lust, lifted dreamily to his as he smiled satisfyingly.
“I know you like it,” he whispered.
“Ok, enough,” Hunter, at the end of his rope, interrupted the couple. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Chrissy, still not taking her eyes off the boy wonder, hesitantly stepped back. This was not a moment she would ever forget, of that I was sure.
“And JP,” Hunter continued, trying to resume command of the group, “please put your shirt back on. It’s not that hot out today.”
“Ok,” the younger boy answered, an obvious hint of sarcasm in his tone.
Later that first week of band camp, we were all herded into the chorus room to get fitted for our uniforms. First, we were made to try on the uniform we had worn the previous year and if any alterations had to be made, they were recorded and new uniforms were issued. I had not grown much over the past year, so I was given the same jacket and the mother told me to just re-hem the pants to make them the inch longer.
However, JP's turn with his old uniform turned out to be a fiasco. I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between him and the band mom. She made him try the pants on first. Since he had grown about three inches since last season, his pants only went down to just above his ankles.
“My word,” the mom remarked, “you’ve been stretching your legs all summer.” She looked up at him and he shrugged, flashing a cute, boyish smile. “We’ll have to up you a few sizes.”
Next the mom had him try out his uniform jacket from the year before. He slipped it over his shoulders and tugged at it to get it to close. It wouldn’t. Instead, it just hung wide open. He looked up from the jacket and said to the mom in a sweet voice, “Uh, Mrs. Morgan.”
She turned around from the clothes rack and gave a little “tsk, tsk.” “You boys and your growth spurts.” She said. “I guess we’ll have to issue you a new jacket, too.” JP simply shrugged again. “Try this size.”
They exchanged jackets and JP pulled the larger one on. This one seemed to be a better fit, but when he attempted to zipper it up, it wouldn’t go higher than his breastbone. The mom tried, too, but she couldn’t do much better.
“It seems to be a little tight in the chest area,” she said a little less singly.
“In the shoulders, too,” chimed JP, grinning smugly.
“What did your mother feed you this summer?”
The third jacket’s size, however, finally agreed with JP’s body. The mom, wiping her brow, said, “I’ve never had so much trouble with a fitting like that.”
Later, I went over to him. I had to comment on the whole ordeal. “So what did your mom feed you this summer?” I know, it was corny, but it was the only opening line I could think of at the time.
“What? Oh, yeah,” he answered back, suddenly remembering what I was referring to. “That was kinda funny, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I went on more confidently now that the ice was broken. “The look on Mrs. Morgan’s face was priceless.”
“Obviously, I grew a little more than I thought I would this summer.” The sudden jump to the topic I was hoping to talk about startled me slightly. “I’ve been using my brother’s weight bench at home.”
“Oh yeah, you told me about that last year,” I exclaimed, feigning vague recollection.
“Well,” JP continued, “we’ve added a few more pieces of equipment down there since I’ve started working out.”
I gulped. This kid really was going to be a monster someday. “That must be awesome, having your brother as a lifting partner,” I commented.
“Yep, Ryan’s been using the bench for years, but my parents never would expand the gym because they didn’t think he was serious enough about it.” The glint in his eyes shone brightly. He obviously loved talking about his brother and himself. “But when I became interested in wrestling and started going downstairs and working out every night, they knew I was serious. Of course Ryan was a little jealous, but he’s going to college next year and they have a great weight room where he wants to go.” He smirked. “Besides, one of my goals in life is to beat my brother up someday. I figure I might as well get a head start.”
My heart skipped a beat. Somehow, I had the feeling that he wasn’t joking. I could picture JP growing big enough to give his hunky brother a run for his money in a fight.
“Well, you definitely have been having some success,” I observed, wincing at how dumb I sounded.
“122 and a half pounds,” JP beamed, more than ready to rattle off his latest stats. “I’ve gained over 20 pounds in the last year…and almost all of it was muscle.”
My heart skipped another beat. Almost all? It was probably more like entirely all.
“That’s pretty good,” I said, trying hard to be nonchalant.
“Pretty good?” he said, his face brightening. “That’s fuckin’ awesome. Check it out!”
JP pulled up his left shirt sleeve, raised his forearm and flexed his bicep. His bicep was considerably larger than it was only six months ago! It was bulging out of his arm, an arm that was now packed with a thin layer of well-defined muscle. Plus, there was a vein that ran down over his bicep. It was simply breathtaking. And to imagine this had all been created in less than a year!
“At the rate I’m going,” JP continued, “I’ll be at least Ryan’s size by my senior year.” I could only shake my head. “Damn, wait ‘til you see my brother.” His mouth formed a devilish grin. “You may think he was big last year, but that’s nothing compared to what he is now.”
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