The truth behind Puskás Akadémia FC - How Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán stole a legend, built a stadium in his backyard and guided his team to Europe
The 2019/2020 season of the Hungary’s National Football League (NB1) – being one of the first leagues to restart play - came to an end on 27 June. If a casual observer (for whatever reason) decides to check out the final standings, he would be not surprised at the first two positions: record-champion Ferencváros defended their title, while regional powerhouse Fehérvár (Videoton) came in second. However, the third place team,Puskás Akadémia FCmight seem unusual and one could think that there is a story behind that. Is there a team named after Ferenc Puskás? Did some academy youths make an incredible run for the Europa League qualification? Well, the observer is right, there is a story behind all this, but it’s absolutely not a fun story. It’s a story about how one powerful man’s obsession with football stole a legend, misused state funds and killed the spirit of Hungarian football.(Warning: this is a long story, feel free to scroll down for a tl;dr. Also, I strongly advise checking out the links, those images are worth seeing). Naturally, political influence in football has been present ever since the dawn of the sport and we know of numerous state leaders who felt confident enough to use their influence to ensure the successful development of their favored clubs – Caucescu’s FC Olt Scornicesti and Erdogan’s Basaksehir are well-known examples of such attempts. However, I fear that very few of the readers are aware of the fact that Puskás Akadémia FC is nothing but Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán’s grandiose project for establishing his hometown’s club as one of the country’s top teams. Considering that Orbán managed to achieve this goal using state funds in an EU member democracy in the 2000s, one might even say that it might be one of the most impressive attempts of cheating your way through Football Manager in real life. Now that Puskás Akadémia FC escaped the desolate football scene of Hungary and is getting ready for the European takeover, I feel that it’s high time to tell its true story.
Part 1: Part time striker, part time PM
Our story begins in 1999 when the 36-year-old striker Viktor Orbán (recently elected as the country’s Prime Minister) was signed by the sixth-tier side of Felcsút FC residing in rural Fejér County. It might sound surprising that an active politician would consider such a side job, but given that Orbán has been playing competitive low-level football throughout his whole life and has always been known as a keen football enthusiast, people seemed to be okay with his choice for a hobby. Orbán spent most of his childhood in the village of Felcsút (population: 1,800), so it seemed only natural that he would join the team after one of his old-time acquaintances became team president there. Orbán’s arrival to the club seemed to work like a charm as Felcsút FC immediately earned a promotion to the fifth league. The Prime Minister’s busy program did not allow him to attend every training session and game but Orbán did make an effort to contribute as much as possible on the field – there is a report of a government meeting being postponed as Orbán was unavailable due to attending Felcsút FC’s spring training camp. The 2001/2002 season brought another breakthrough for the side as Felcsút was promoted to the national level of the football pyramid after being crowned the champion of Fejér County. Sadly enough for Orbán, he suffered a defeat on another pitch – his party lost the 2002 election and Orbán was forced to move to an opposition role. No matter what happened on the political playing field, Orbán would not abandon his club. Just before the 2002 elections, Felcsút was surprisingly appointed as one of the regional youth development centers by the Hungarian FA. Orbán continued contributing on the field as well (he had more spare time after all) but his off-the-field efforts provided much more value for the team as he used his political influence to convince right-wing businessmen that they should definitely get sponsorship deals done with the fourth-division village team. Club management was able to transform the influx of funds into on-field success: Felcsút FC was promoted to the third division in 2004 and achievedpromotion to the second division in 2005. Although these new horizons required a skill level that an aging ex-PM is not likely to possess, Orbán regularly played as a late game sub and even appeared in cup games against actual professional opponents. The now-42-year old Orbán did not want to face the challenge of the second division, so he retired in 2005 – but this did not stop him from temping as an assistant coach when the head coach was sacked in the middle of the 2005-2006 season. Success on the playing field did not translate to political success: Orbán lost the elections once again in 2006. However, this was only a temporary loss: the ruling party committed blunder after blunder and by early 2007 it became absolutely obvious that Orbán would be able return to power in 2010. Now confident in his political future, Orbán opted for the acceleration of football development in Felcsút – by late 2007 he took over the presidency of the club to take matters in his own hands. Sponsors seeking to gain favor with the soon-to-be PM were swarming Felcsút FC, so the club was able to stand very strong in an era where financial stability was a very rare sight in the Hungarian football scene, accumulating three medals (but no promotion) between 2007 and 2009. On the other hand, Orbán realized the value of youth development as well, and started a local foundation for this purpose back in 2004 that gathered funds for the establishment a boarding school-like football academy. The academy opened its doors in September 2006 (only the second of such institutions in the country) and Orbán immediately took upon the challenge of finding an appropriate name for the academy. He went on to visit the now very sick Ferenc Puskás in the hospital to discuss using his name, but as Puskás’ medical situation was deteriorating rapidly, communication attempts were futile. Luckily enough Puskás’ wife (and soon to be widow) was able to act on his incapable husband’s behalf and approved the naming deal in a contract. According to the statement, naming rights were granted without compensation, as “Puskás would have certainly loved what’s happening down in Felcsút”. However, there was much more to the contract: Puskás’ trademark was handed to a sports journalist friend of Orbán (György Szöllősi, also acting communications director of the academy) who promised a hefty annual return for the family (and also a 45% share of the revenue for himself). Ferenc Puskás eventually died on 17 November 2006 and on 26 November 2006 the football academy was named after him: Puskás Academy was born. Orbán shared his vision of the whole organization after the opening ceremony: “It’s unreasonable to think that Felcsút should have a team in the top division. We should not flatter ourselves, our players and our supporters with this dream. Our long term ambition is the creation of a stable second division team that excels in youth development and provides opportunity for the talents of the future.” Let’s leave that there.
Part 2: No stadium left behind
Orbán became PM once again in April 2010 after a landslide victory that pretty much granted him unlimited power. He chased lots of political agendas but one of his policies was rock solid: he would revive sports (and especially football) that was left to bleed out by the previous governments. The football situation in 2010 was quite dire: while the national team has actually made some progress in the recent years and has reached the 42nd position in the world rankings, football infrastructure was in a catastrophic state. Teams were playing in rusty stadiums built in the communist era, club finances were a mess, youth teams couldn’t find training grounds and the league was plagued by violent fan groups and lackluster attendance figures (3100 average spectators per game in the 2009/2010 season). Orbán – aided by the FA backed by business actors very interested in making him happy – saw the future in the total rebuild of the football infrastructure. Vast amounts of state development funds were invested into the football construction industry that warmly welcomed corruption, cost escalation and shady procurement deals. In the end, money triumphed: over the last decade, new stadiums sprung out from nothing all over the country, dozens of new academies opened and pitches for youth development appeared on practically every corner. The final piece of the stadium renovation program was the completion of the new national stadium, Puskás Aréna in 2019 (estimated cost: 575 million EUR). Orbán commemorated this historic moment with a celebratory video on his social media that features a majestic shot of Orbán modestly kicking a CGI ball from his office to the new stadium. Obviously, Orbán understood that infrastructure alone won’t suffice. He believed in the idea that successful clubs are the cornerstone of a strong national side as these clubs would compete in a high quality national league (and in international tournaments) that would require a constant influx of youth players developed by the clubs themselves. However, Orbán was not really keen on sharing the state’s infinite wealth with private club owners who failed to invest in their clubs between 2002 and 2010. The club ownership takeover was not that challenging as previous owners were usually happy to cut their losses, and soon enough most clubs came under Orbán’s influence. Some clubs were integrated deep into Orbán’s reach (Ferencváros and MTK Budapest club presidents are high ranking officials of Orbán’s party) while in other cases, indirect control was deemed sufficient (Diósgyőri VTK was purchased by a businessman as an attempt to display loyalty to Orbán). Pouring taxpayer money into infrastructure (stadium) projects is relatively easy: after all, we are basically talking about overpriced government construction projects, there’s nothing new there. On the other hand, allocating funds to clubs that should be operating on a competitive market is certainly a tougher nut to crack. The obvious solutions were implemented: the state media massively overpaid for broadcasting rights and the national sports betting agency also pays a hefty sum to the FA, allowing for a redistribution of considerable amounts. However, given that the income side of Hungarian clubs was basically non-existent (match day income is negligible, the failed youth development system does not sell players), an even more radical solution was desperately needed. Also, there was definite interest in the development of a tool that would allow for differentiation between clubs (as in the few remaining non-government affiliated clubs should not receive extra money). The solution came in 2011: the so-called TAO (“társasági adó”= corporate tax) system was introduced, granting significant tax deductions for companies if they offered a portion of their profits to sports clubs – however, in theory, funds acquired through TAO can be only used for youth development and infrastructure purposes. Soon enough, it became apparent that state authorities were not exactly interested in the enforcement of these restrictions, so some very basic creative accounting measures enabled clubs to use this income for anything they wanted to. Companies were naturally keen on cutting their tax burdens and scoring goodwill with the government, so TAO money immediately skyrocketed. Opportunistic party strongmen used their influence to convince local business groups to invest in the local clubs, enabling for the meteoric rise of multiple unknown provincial teams (Mezőkövesd [pop: 16,000], Kisvárda [pop: 16,000], Balmazújváros [pop: 17,000]) into the first division. Although it’s not the main subject of this piece, I feel inclined to show you the actual results of Orbán’s grandiose football reform. While we do have our beautiful stadiums, we don’t exactly get them filled – league attendance has stagnated around 3000 spectators per game throughout the whole decade. We couldn’t really move forward with our national team either: Hungary lost 10 positions in the FIFA World Rankings throughout Orbán’s ten years. On the other hand, the level of league has somewhat improved – Videoton and Ferencváros reached the Europa League group stage in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Too bad that the Instat-based top team of 2019/2020 Hungarian league consists of 10 foreigners and only 1 Hungarian: the goalkeeper.
Part 3: Small place, big game!
As seen in the previous chapter, Orbán did have a strong interest in the improvement of the football situation Hungary, but we shouldn’t forget that his deepest interest and true loyalty laid in the wellbeing of Felcsút and its academy. Now that Orbán had limitless means to see to the advancement of his beloved club, he got to work immediately. Orbán handed over formal club management duties to his friend / protégé / middleman / businessman Lőrinc Mészáros in 2010, but no questions would ever arise of who is actually calling the shots. First of all, no club can exist without a proper stadium. Although in 2011 Orbán explicitly stated that “Felcsút does not need a stadium as stadiums belong to cities”, no one was really surprised in 2012 when the construction of the Felcsút stadium was announced. Orbán was generous enough to donate the lands just in front of his summer home in the village for the project, locating the entrance a mere ten meters away from his residence. Construction works for the stunningly aesthetic 3,800-seater arena (in a village of 1,800 people) started in April 2012 and were completed in April 2014, making Felcsút’s arena the second new stadium of Orbán’s gigantic stadium revival program. The estimated budget of the construction was 120 million EUR (31,500 EUR / seat) was financed by the Puskás Academy who explicitly stated that they did not use government funds for the project. Technically, this statement is absolutely true as the construction was financed through the TAO money offered by the numerous companies looking for tax deduction and Orbán’s goodwill. However, technically, this means that the country’s budget was decreased by 120 million EUR unrealized tax revenue. Naturally, the gargantuan football stadium looks ridiculously out of place in the small village, but there’s really no other way to ensure that your favorite team’s stadium is within 20 seconds of walking distance from your home. Obviously, a proper club should also have some glorious history. Felcsút was seriously lagging behind on this matter as though Felcsút FC was founded in 1931, it spent its pre-Orbán history in the uninspiring world of the 5th-7th leagues of the country. Luckily enough, Orbán had already secured Puskás’ naming rights and they were not afraid to use it, so Felcsút FC was renamed to Puskás Academy FC in 2009. The stadium name was a little bit problematic as the Hungarian national stadium in Budapest had sadly had the dibs on Puskás’ name, so they had to settle with Puskás’ Spanish nickname, resulting in the inauguration of the Pancho Arena. But why stop here? Orbán’s sports media strongman György Szöllősi acted upon the contract with Puskás’ widow and transferred all Puskás’ personal memorabilia (medals, jerseys, correspondence) to the most suitable place of all: a remote village in which Puskás never even set foot in. While the off-field issues were getting resolved, Orbán’s attention shifted to another important area: the actual game of football. Although academy players started to graduate from 2008 on, it very soon became painfully obvious that the academy program couldn’t really maintain even a second division side for now. In 2009, Orbán reached an agreement with nearby Videoton’s owner that effectively transformed Felcsút FC into Videoton’s second team under the name of Videoton – Puskás Akadémia FC. The mutually beneficent agreement would allow Videoton to give valuable playing time to squad players while it could also serve as a skipping step for Puskás Academy’s fresh graduates to a first league team. The collaboration resulted in two mid-table finishes and a bronze medal in the second division in the following three seasons that wasn’t really impressive compared to Felcsút FC’s standalone seasons. It seemed that the mixture of reserve Videoton players and academy youth was simply not enough for promotion, and although Orbán had assured the public multiple times that his Felcsút project was not aiming for the top flight, very telling changes arose after the 2011/2012 season. Felcsút terminated the Videoton cooperation deal and used the rapidly accumulating TAO funds to recruit experienced players for the now independently operating Puskás Academy FC (PAFC). The new directive worked almost too well: PAFC won its division with a 10 point lead in its first standalone year which meant that they would have to appear in the first league prior to the completion of their brand-new Pancho Arena. Too bad that this glorious result had almost nothing to do with the academy - only two players were academy graduates of the side’s regular starting XI. Orbán did not let himself bothered with the ridiculousness of an academy team with virtually no academy players being promoted to the first division as he stated that “a marathon runner shouldn’t need to explain why the other runners were much slower than him”. Orbán also displayed a rare burst of modesty as he added that “his team’s right place is not in the first league, and they will soon be overtaken by other, better sides”. The promotion of PAFC to the first division made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. Supporter groups were united in hatred all along the league and not surprisingly, away fans almost always outnumbered the home side at PAFC’s temporary home at Videoton’s Sóstói Stadium (demolished and rebuilt in its full glory since then). One of the teams, however, possessed an extraordinary degree of anger against PAFC: supporters of Budapest Honvéd – the only Hungarian team in which Ferenc Puskás played – felt especially awkward about the transfer of their club legend’s heritage to Felcsút. Tensions spiked at the PAFC – Honvéd game when home security forced Honvéd supporters to remove the “Puskás” part of their traditional “Puskás – Kispest – Hungary” banner – the team answered the insult with style as they secured a 4-0 victory supported by fans chanting “you can’t buy legends”. Despite Orbán’s prognosis, other better sides did not rush to overtake his team, so PAFC, now residing in their brand new Pancho Arena, came through with a 14th and a 10th place in their first two seasons. Naturally, conspiracy theories began to formulate, speculating that government-friendly owners would certainly not be motivated to give their best against PAFC. However, as the league size was reduced to 12 for the 2015/2016 season, PAFC found themselves in a dire situation just before the final round: they needed a win and needed rival Vasas to lose against MTK in order to avoid relegation. PAFC’s draw seemed to be unlucky as they faced their arch-enemy Honvéd at home, but Honvéd displayed an absolute lackluster effort – fueling conspiracy theories – and lost the fixture 2 to 1 against a home side featuring four academy players. Vasas, however, did not disappoint, their 2-0 victory resulted in PAFC’s elimination and a very relaxed sigh all over the football community. PAFC’s relegation seemed to be in accordance with Orbán’s 2013 statement, so public opinion supposed for a while that Orbán’s project came to a halting point and the Academy would go on to actually field academy players in the second division (especially as rostering foreign players was prohibited in the lower leagues). However, if you have read through this point, you know better than to expect Orbán to retreat – obviously, PAFC came back with a bang. With a ballsy move, PAFC didn’t even sell their foreign players, they just loaned them across the league, promising them that they would be able to return next year to the newly promoted team. The promise was kept as PAFC went into another shopping spree of experienced players (easily convincing lots of them to choose the second division instead of the first) and easily won the second league. Orbán – now aware of his negligence – opted for the doubling the team’s budget,making PAFC the third most well-founded club in the whole country (only coming short to his friend’s Videoton and his party minion’s Ferencváros). With an actual yearly influx from TAO money in the ballpark of 30-40 million EUR, PAFC management had to really work wonders in creative accounting in order to make their money look somewhat legitimate. The books were now full of ridiculous items like:
Construction of a new tea kitchen for youth players for 650,000 EUR
Employment of a 45 person “cleaning and maintenance staff” for the academy.
Naturally, in the country of no consequences, absolutely nothing happened: PAFC went on with its spending and signed 35 foreigners between 2017 and 2020. They did so because they could not hope to field a winning team in the first league consisting of academy players, despite the fact that Puskás Academy has been literally drowning in money since 2007. This seems to somewhat contradict Orbán’s 2013 promise, stating that “Puskás Academy will graduate two or three players to major European leagues each year”. To be fair, there have been players who managed to emerge to Europe (well, exactly two of them: Roland Sallai plays at Freiburg, László Kleinheisler played at Werder Bremen) but most academy graduates don’t even have the slightest the chance to make their own academy’s pro team as it’s full of foreigners and more experienced players drawn for other teams’ programs. Despite their unlimited funding, PAFC could not put up a top-tier performance in their first two years back in the first division, finishing 6th and 7th in the 12-team league. Many speculated that the lack of support, motivation and even a clear team mission did not allow for chemistry to develop within the multinational and multi-generational locker room. Consistency was also a rare sight on the coaching side: club management was absolutely impatient with coaches who were very easily released after a single bad spell and there were talks of on-field micromanagement request coming from as high as Orbán. Even so, their breakthrough came dangerously close in 2018 as PAFC performed consistently well in the cup fixtures and managed to reach the final. Their opponent, Újpest played an incredibly fierce game and after a 2-2 draw, they managed to defeat PAFC in the shootout. Football fans sighed in relief throughout the country as ecstatic Újpest supporters verbally teased a visibly upset Orbán in his VIP lounge about his loss. Obviously, we could only delay the inevitable. While this year’s PAFC side seemed to be more consistent than its predecessors, it seemed that they won’t be able to get close to the podium - they were far behind the obvious league winner duo of Ferencváros and Videoton and were trailing third-place Mezőkövesd 6 points just before the pandemic break. However, both Mezőkövesd and PAFC’s close rivals DVTK and Honvéd fall flat after the restart while PAFC was able to maintain its good form due to its quality roster depth. PAFC overtook Mezőkövesd after the second-to-last round as Mezőkövesd lost to the later relegated Debrecen side. (Mezőkövesd coach Attila Kuttor was fined harshly because of his post-game comments on how the FA wants PAFC to finish third.) PAFC faced Honvéd in the last round once again, and as Honvéd came up with its usual lackluster effort, PAFC secured an effortless win, confidently claiming the third place. PAFC celebrated their success in a nearly empty stadium, however neither Orbán, nor Mészáros (club owner, Orbán’s protégé, now 4th richest man of Hungary) seemed to worry about that. While Orbán high-fived with his peers in the VIP lounge, Mészáros was given the opportunity to award the bronze medals (and for some reason, a trophy) to the players dressed up in the incredibly cringe worthy T-shirts that say “Small place, big game!”. Big game, indeed: in the 2019/2020 season, foreign players’ share of the teams playing time was 43.6% while academy graduates contributed only 17.9%. On Sunday evening, less than 24 hours after PAFC’s glorious success, György Szöllősi, now editor-in-chief of Hungary’s only sports newspaper (purchased by Orbán’s affiliates a few years back) published an editorial on the site, stating that “the soccer rebuild in Felcsút became the motor and symbol of the revitalization of sport throughout the whole country”. Well, Szöllősi is exactly right: Felcsút did became a symbol, but a symbol of something entirely different. Felcsút became a symbol of corruption, inefficiency, lies and the colossal waste of money. But, hey, at least we know now: you only need to spend 200 million EUR (total budget of PAFC and its academy in the 2011-2020 period) if you want to have a Europa League team in your backyard. Good to know!
Epilogue: What's in the future?
As there is no foreseeable chance for political change to happen Hungary (Orbán effortlessly secured qualified majority in 2014 and 2018, and is projected to do so in 2022 as well), PAFC’s future seems to be as bright as it gets. Although consensus opinion now seems to assume that Orbán does not intend to interfere with the Ferencváros – Videoton hegemony, we can never be really sure about the exact limits of his greed. One could also argue that entering the European theater serves as a prime opportunity for making splashy transfers who could be the cornerstones of a side challenging the league title. However, as all political systems are deemed to fall, eventually Orbán’s regime will come apart. Whoever will take upon the helm after Orbán, they will certainly begin with cutting back on the one item on Orbán’s agenda that never had popular support: limitless football spending. Puskás Academy, having next to zero market revenue, will not be able to survive without the state’s life support, so the club will fold very shortly. The abandoned, rotting stadium in Felcsút will serve as a memento of a powerful man who could not understand the true spirit of football. But let’s get back to present day, as we have more pressing issues coming up soon: PAFC will play their first European match in the First qualifying round of the Europa League on 27 August. We don’t have a date for the draw yet, but soon enough, a team unaware of the whole situation will be selected to face the beast. I hope that maybe one of their players does some research and maybe reads this very article for inspiration. I hope that the supporters of this club get in touch with Honvéd fans who would be eager to provide them with some tips on appropriate chants. I hope that other teams gets drawn as the home team so Orbán wouldn’t get the pleasure of walking to his stadium for an international match. But most importantly, I very much hope that this team obliterates PAFC and wipes them off the face of the earth. 5-0 will suffice, thank you. And if this team fails to do that, we don’t have to worry yet. Due to our shitty league coefficient, PAFC would need to win four fixtures in a row. And that – if there’s any justice in this world – is a thing that can’t, that won’t happen. Ball don’t lie – if I may say. TL,DR Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán redirected some 200 million EUR of taxpayer money over 10 years to fuel his ambition of raising a competitive football team in his hometown of 1,800 people. He built a 3,800-seater stadium in his backyard, expropriated football legend Ferenc Puskás’ trademarks and heritage and built up a football league where almost all clubs are owned by his trustees. His team, Puskás Akadémia FC was originally intended to be a development ground for youth players graduating from Orbán’s football academy, but eventually the team became more and more result-orianted. Finally, a roster full of foreign and non-academy players came through and finished third in the league, releasing this abomination of a team to the European football theatre. Please, knock them out asap!
OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – BAR FIGHT? NOT WITH DOC BIONICFINGERS! Part one.
That reminds me of a story. I’m going cooped-up crazy. Shacky-wacky. Hotel doldrums have set in. Yes, I know. Es and I just got back from a resounding tour of a shipbreaking yard in India. Flew way above First Class. Never had to even touch our luggage. ♫Oh, what fun it is to charter flights. Limos all the way. Hey! ♫. But, the hotel bars here are paling quickly. Quiet. Too quiet. Same old, dull, dazed, and dormant crowd. The Expat population in Dubai is dwindling mightily. The COVID craziness is a madness that is taking a heavy toll. Everything’s shut down. Everyone’s staying at home. I’m almost nostalgic for a good old Dubai 35 car pile-up and traffic jam. Es sees that I’m in a quandary. She had quite a few friends here in Dubai. The ones I had have all left due to cratering oil prices or they’re what’s considered an ‘essential employee’, and thus unavailable. “ROCK! QUIT YOUR PACING!” Es says in her most inimitable manner. “YOU’RE MAKING ME CRAZY!” “A thousand pardons, my darling. But, Boditek. I suffer! Klytus, I’m bored. Bored out of my fucking mind. I can only write so much on the Precambrian Hydrocarbon reservoirs of Eastern Siberia. Television’s a bust, there’s no Netflix, even Pirate Bay is blocked here, and I’m going spare!” I whimper. “Go then. Begone with thee. Go find a dark bar and grab a seat on Mahogany Ridge. You need a night off. Just take your fingers with so you won’t scare the locals. And be home before they open the borders. We want to be first in line when that happens” she says. “By your command!”, I say, grab her around the waist, give her a spin, a quick smooch on the cheek, and pat on the backside before I hit the stairs in our suite in a flat-out gallop to retrieve my now charged digits from their charging port on my nightstand. A few minutes later… Stately, plump Dr. Rocknocker came from the stairhead bearing three incredibly expensive technologically-derived Kevlar-ed digits. He was clad in his finest Desert Fox chino shorts, freshly cleaned and oiled field boots, a new pair of jade Merino Rannoch Luxury Country Socks, best new Hawaiian drinking shirt, a Blasting technician T-shirt and black, recently blocked, Stetson. He was so full of himself, that he actually stopped talking about his own self in the narrative in the third person. “Esme? Darling? I’m off!” I say with a lilt in my voice and a cheeseburger in my pocket. But that’s another story. “You’re off, all right”, Es chuckles. “Now Rock, remember. This is the first time in a long time I’m letting you off the chain, out unsupervised among the general population. Don’t break anyone if you can avoid it and even if someone needs a quick killing, remember, you’re on vacation. OK?” “Oh, my dear!” I chuckle and snicker, “You know me. I wouldn’t kill anyone here in Dubai. There’s no money in it.” “Still. Best behavior?” She admonishes. “I can’t guarantee anything, but I will try,” I reply. “Pinkie promise?” she requests. Damn. One of the few fingers of which left I have a natural set. Now I can’t say that it was just a Kevlar-coated contract. “But of course”, I say as we entwine pinkies. Hers nice, clean, and pink; mine keloidal, gnarled, and scarred. Yeah, it about makes me retch. But Es sort of enjoys these silly things now and again. I’m waiting in the hotel bar for my cab to arrive. I have a quick Long Island Iced Tea or three before I hit the streets. I’ve got this weird hankering for a sports bar. Don’t know why. I hate football, i.e., soccer, cricket, and those other weird forms of ball chasing they call sports over here. But I yearn to be in a bar full of leather, hewn wood, and smoke. Attended by the smell of manly men drinking as they see fit. In Dubai? Fat chance. I ask my driver, who has just arrived, and who will be with me all night; if he minds me smoking, having a drink in a plain brown wrapper, and if he knows of a decent sports bar in Dubai. No. Nope. Quantum Sports Bar. “It’s sort of pricey”, he tells me. My driver for the duration is one Roy Toisuta, an Indonesian chap who looks like he fell off a charm bracelet. In reality, I could make up three of him. But he’s affable, quick on the gas and bound to be a boon companion. He is wiry in that whipsaw sort of kill-you-with-a-paperclip-1000-different-ways sort of manner. Like the human personification of a gaunt wolverine. We’ll get along famously. He tells me he doesn’t drink for whatever reason. He announces that he would wait for me out in the car while I go in and do whatever one does in a Sports Bar in Dubai for a few hours. “Look, Roy”, I say, “I’m on retainer. C’mon in and I’ll buy you dinner and all the coffee, tea, or fizz water you could want. I just need someone non-judgmental. See, I have this affliction. I’m an alcohol-fueled carbon-based organism. I tend to drink a lot, but only to excess. You have any sort of problem with that?” “Well, Rock”, he says, “As long as we’re being honest, I have no problem. The way I see it, the more you drink, the looser your wallet becomes.” “I don’t suppose you’d care to lay a small wager on that conclusion?” I ask, leerily in that strange way I have that makes Komodo Dragons gulp in disbelief. “I’ll bet, after what you told me about your recent confinement, that I’ll be dragging and/or carrying you out of the bar tonight. “ he snickers, dreaming of my very loose wallet and its contents. “You’re going to be tying one on, I can see that.” “You can see me. But you can’t see my past” I think. “Well, you’re not drinking, so what’s in it for me if I win?” I ask. “A free driver for the next week?” he asks. “Want to make it a month? I’m really, really thirsty.” I sneer. “Make it a fortnight.”, he laughs. “Easiest money I’ve ever made. I can barely hold you back.” “Deal”, as we shake hands. He notices my gloves for the first time. “What’s that all about?” he asks. “Industrial accident years ago. Not terribly pretty.” I say. “Oh. OK. Ready to go?” He asks. “Gentlemen”, I announce, “Forward. Drink!” Roy accepts a cigar from one of my travel pocket humidors and we walk up to the entrance. “You be who?” asks the doorman. “Well, my good man, I am the Motherfucking Pro from Dover, and this is my able-bodied companion, Kato”, I say in my most affected Elliott Gould imitation. “What?” he asks trying to corral at least two functioning synapses. “Pardons. I’m Dr. Rocknocker and this is my trusty driver, Roy.” I continue. “Ah. What? Hmm? Who?” was the response. “Oh, I am sorry. Which word confused you?” I asked, most deferentially. “You trying to be smart?” he asks. “Well, I reckoned that at least one of us should,” I replied. He sat there and fumbled with that reply like a nun in a warm bathtub fumbles with a bar of soap. You know the type, she has hope in her soul… As he struggles to come up with an answer, I offer him a cigar the likes of which I’m certain he’s never seen outside of a Hollywoo movie. “Here, my good man. My card.” I say as I hand over a large example of the perfection of the tobacconist’s art. He gratefully accepts the cigar and removes the rope barrier. “Have yourself a good time, gents.” He says. “Oh. We intend to”, I reply. “Ever need anything, just ask for Sandeep” the towering Nepali remarks with a smile. “Thanks. Have a night yourself…”, I reply and stuff another cigar in his shirt pocket for later. He grins wide as Dubai Creek and just as brown. He shoots me a wide smile and a universal thumbs-up sign. “Best to make friends rather than antagonize the locals”, I muse. “You’re an odd bird, Doctor Rocknocker.” Roy chortles. “Roy, it’s just ‘Rock’, OK? It’ll save both time and cuts down on CO2 exhalations. And I’m all for protecting the environment.” I smiled back. Roy chewed on that one for most the rest of the night. The Sports Bar was quiet. Fairly empty, with probably more wait-persons than patrons. One particularly buxom specimen of the female side of the equation welcomed us in an overtly and obviously affected mien. She wanted to show us to a table that was within the sphere of her waitressy influence. “No, thank you”, I said as I spied acres and acres of glistening unoccupied Mahogany with tens of unoccupied seats that both faced the long bar and the several large-screen televisions there. Seemingly bereft of people to wait and prey upon, she ignored us roundly. To her financial detriment as we would all find out during the course of the evening. I chose a likely looking seat at the bar and Roy joined me, cautiously, a seat or two away. “I don’t bite, Roy”, I said. “Social distancing”, he replied. “Ah. Well, I have a fully functional immune system as well as the hardest working liver in the galaxy. I assure you I’m in no way communicable.” I replied, slightly miffed. “Besides, after that cab ride here, whatever ætiology I have, you have as well, and vice versa.” He scooted over one seat but shuttled that seat back to the right about 15 more centimeters. “Some folks just don’t like their personal space invaded”, I surmised. I pulled out one of my cigar cases, a cutter, lighter, and a stack of currencies that I was going to try and get rid of that night. I had freshly minted UK Pounds, Euros of many nations, Indian Rupees, Russian Rubles, Japanese Yen, Chinese Renmimbi, some Uzbek Som, Afghani Afghans, Argentinian Pesos, down under Ozzian Dollarydoos, Mongolian Tugriks, Omani Rials, a few Samoan Tālā, and a bunch of US dollars. How I ended up with that last group remains a mystery. Roy goggled at the stack of weirdly colored and weirdly wonderful currencies of many nations. “Sorry, Roy”, I said, “No Indonesian rupiah. Haven’t been to Jakarta in a long time.” “What the hell are those weird ones there?” he asked. “Which ones?” I chuckled back. It was at that time our reverie was broken. The bartender, one Zac O'Madden, an Irish national currently working for the hotel to which this bar is attached, interrupts our nascent debauch and asks for our drink orders. “Not so fast there!” I say. “Introductions first. We’re not savages here.” Zac chuckles. “You’re obviously American.” “Вы уверены в этом? [Are you certain of that?]”, I say in return. Zac just stands there and laughs. “Та үнэхээр итгэлтэй байна уу? [Are you really certain?]” I ask in Mongolian. “Ĉu vi vere certas? Bạn có thực sự chắc chắn?” “You’re as Russian or whatever that was as I am Kenyan. Now I know it. You’re American.” He says assuredly. “And you have this nasty habit of being correct. I’m Dr. Rocknocker, call me Rock. This slight but solid fellow to my right is Roy, late of Jakarta and Krakatoa, actually west of Java.” I snicker. “And I am Zac O’Madden, of Dublin and points east. Nice to meet you all. What can I get for you?” he asks. After we shake hands in a very manly, indeed, manner, I ask Roy what is his pleasure. “A tall club soda with a twist of lime, on the rocks.” He replies offhandedly. “You’ve done this before”, I observe rather unnecessarily. “Zac, Roy gets what he wants tonight, my tab. I’ll have a Sazerac, hold the sugar. Actually several. You see, on the flight over, I sat through another showing of ’Live and Let Die’, and now I miss Mardi Gras, New Orleans, and Pat O’Brien’s. But I don’t like sweet drinks.” “Coming right up”, Zac says with a well-practiced swish of his bar rag. “Oh, but I’m not finished. I’d also like a beer chaser. A pint of…ah, do you have a beer menu?” I ask, looking down the long row of tappers. “Coming up”, he says, and races off to find me one. A few minutes later he returns with my cocktail, Roy’s fizz water, and a bar beer menu. I raise my glass to Zac and then to Roy. We clink and I say, “I like this guy. And I like this bar. We’re going to have us a large night.” I drain my unsweet Sazerac in one go. Hey. I was thirsty. Needs a scootch more absinthe I observe. Roy and Zac just sort of stare, wide-eyed, as I peruse the beer menu. Nice menu, nice diversity. Oh, very nice. “I’ll have the Asahi Kuronama Black if you don’t mind. Plus another Sazerac, a bit more absinthe if you please. You see, I have this genetic condition I need to keep in balance.” I grinned. Zac looked at me like I had some sort of adverse medical condition. “You OK, Rock?” he asked most earnestly. “Look, Zac, I just met you and you’re a hell of a tarbender, far be it from me to tell you your job, but you see, there is this…” I said, trailing off. “Yes?” His was a look of genuine concern. The genuine concern he won’t own that pile of currency on the bar in front of me by the end of the night. “Yeah. Genetics dealt me a weird hand. See. I’m an ethanol-fueled carbon-based organism…” Roy just rolled his eyes. Zac looked puzzled. “Yeah, I require alcohol in good-tasting and heroic amounts on a regular basis. I also have to smoke huge, black cigars in order to moderate the bioreactor.” I smiled, as I leaned back and fired up a heater. Zac looked at me. Chewed over what I said for a moment or two. He shrugged his shoulders, grabbed my empty glass, and said, “OK, whatever. Round two in moments.” Roy went to ask me something, thought better of it, and just leaned over and grabbed my Zippo from Irkutsk. He looked at the cameo-relief silver and amber city crest attached to the lighter, flipped it open, and tried firing up his cigar. “They draw better if you cut the end first,” I said, absently; and not looking, just hand him my V-cutter. Zac returns with a new Sazerac, a chilled bottle of Asahi Kuronama Black, a tall pilsner glass, and a new club soda for Roy. I puffed my cigar, drained another Sazerac in one go, tried the Japanese black beer, and found it to my liking. I leaned back to observe what sort of sports carnage they were observing on the big screens. Roy just looked at me with wide eyes but said nothing. The evening wore on. After a couple or twelve more Sazeracs, I decided it was time to teach Zac the finer points of mixology via premium vodka, bubbly citrus, ice, and lime wheels. I also found that they had a stock of Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844, from China. “PBR!”, I almost yelled, “Holy wow! I grew up on the stuff.” “Not this stuff, Rock”, Zac said, “Look at the price. We only got a small amount due to a shipping error. It’s not sold outside of China normally.” It was UAE 165 per bottle, about US$45, and worth every dirham. Zak was amazed when I told him to go ahead and have one on Roy and me. “Really, Rock?”, Zac exclaimed. “The usual buggers here are so tight, they hum when the wind blows. Hardly anyone buys me a drink. Except for you Americans. Finest kind.” “That’s me. An international ambassador of amity and alcohol,”, I say and toast in his general direction. “Crack tubes!” Roy was getting tired as a newt. Evidently not drinking, listening to old war stories, and watching recorded US Football games due to the COVID lack of anything live, can take its toll as well. I’m going strong as I’m asking Zac to explain what the fuck cricket is all about. “So, let me get this straight,” I say, ordering another double cocktail and a couple of PBR chasers for Zac and myself. “The guy on the mound runs up and pitches to the guy dressed in the body armor. He uses a bent 2x4 to defend the wicket, which, if I recall correctly, can be sticky. Then he keeps the aliens from stealing the stumps and burning them to ashes in Australia...” “God”, Zac exclaims, “You’re fucking hopeless.” “Everything I know about cricket I learned from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the galaxy.” I smiled proudly. “That was rather obvious…” Zac sheeshed. He left to attend to another patron, a loud and woozy Kiwi. I looked at the source of all the bad noise and in my inattention, just clicked my full beer glass. I inadvertently violated Rule #1 and spilled a small soupçon of expensive, imported beer onto my left hand. “Whoops!”, I said and stripped off my sodden left-hand glove. I used Zac’s bar towel to sop up the bar and dry my techno-digits. Roy looked not only at my ‘whoops’, but goggled my Japanese one-off, so far, electro-fingers. “Rock. What the hell, man. I mean, what the fuck. Are those for real?” he asked. “Yeah, they are a new prototype and I’m the lab rat.”, I said, waggling them and seeing that something as mundane a beer spill could never possibly injure them. By this time, Zac wanders back, sees I’ve used his bar rag, and looks at my hand for real for the first time. “What the fuck, Rocko? You some sort of cyborg?” he asks. “By definition; yes, I am. And my grandfather used to call me that. Thanks.”, I replied. “But, yeah, I’m an alcohol-fueled one at that,” I say, tapping and pointing rather pointedly at my currently unpopulated cocktail glass. Zac returns with a reload. He and Roy demand to know the whole story. “If you must pry…” I say. “Oh, we must, we must”, they reply in unison. So, I regale them with the tale of the Siberian rig. The blowout, fire, and the moderately overzealous Russian FNG. “Rock, I don’t know if that’s true, but by your appearance, it has to be. Let me buy you a drink.” Zac says. Roy asks for a Molson Light. “Roy! You old fraud.” I said. “I usually don’t drink. But after that story, I think I need something cold, wet, and with a little punch.” He said, staring at my hand. “Then you’ve chosen well”, as I down another Rocknocker, sip at my PBR and snip a new cigar. “Rock, can I ask you a question?” Roy asks. Zac is polishing our spot at the bar insistently. I think he has a question or two as well. “Sure. Go nuts.” I reply, puffing on my new cigar and sipping this lovely amber 1844 brew. He crouches conspiratorially and asks in a low sotto voce: “Is that why you drink as you do? To dull the pain? From the accident. That’s it, right? Isn’t it?” Roy asks, almost genuinely concerned. I laughed loud and long. I chuckled, snorted, and had to calm myself with gulps of my beer and cocktail. “Roy, Roy, Roy…I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m from Baja Canada originally. I’m a multiply-degreed petroleum geologist. I’ve lived and worked in Russia for many, many years. And, as I’ve said, I’m an ethanol-fueled organism. Quadruple perfect storm. My fingers don’t hurt. Or they might, I have no idea. I don’t even know where hell they are.” I laughed at my own witty repartee. Roy actually paled some. He took a long draught of his anemic beer and just stared at me. Zac had disappeared. He presently returned with a bottle of Beluga Gold Line Vodka. “Rock, after that, this one’s for you. On the house.” He said. “Only if you will join me. And let me pay for yours.” I said. Zac agrees. The shnozzled Kiwi from previous in the narrative staggers by and hears the tag-end of our conversation. He leans over to grab the expensive bottle of vodka and says “Don’t mind if I do.” “None for you, asshole. You’re lucky I let you stay here waiting on a cab” Zac growls, and grabs the bottle away. The Kiwi looks at Zac. He looks at Roy. Then he looks at me, my drinks, cigar, and the smaller pile of currency on the bar. He may have been loaded, but something swam upstream against his internal current of booze and made him decide that right now, discretion was the better part of valor. He toddled unsteadily away. “Asswipe”, Zac spits, “He’s here every other month. He pays for his drinks, but he can’t hold them. Never once tips or buys a round. General asshole. Still, management won’t let me toss nor ban him.” “Some people”, I distastefully agreed and poured Zac and myself a healthy double-tot of the fine, smooth, and icy vodka. “I weep for our species sometimes.” I insisted Zac join me. I asked Roy if he’d like a taste. “Thanks, Rock. But you’ve already been too much of a bad influence on me.” he smiled, and tipped his almost empty pilsner glass. “OK, no pressure. I may drink like a school of belugas, but if someone else doesn’t want to, I respect that all day long. Still, the offer stands.” I continue. “I’ll think about it, Rock. I’m still not over how you can just sit there and joke about your cybernetic fingers and how you got them. I’d…I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it. “ he shudders. “Want to see the scar on my leg where I got shot with a .45? Or the scar on my coconut from a hunk of falling ice on a drilling rig?” I asked. “Fuck no!”, Roy almost screams. “What the hell. You held together by scar tissue?” ”That. Baling wire and Duct Tape.” I laughed, “And people wonder why I drink.” “I thought so!” Roy exclaimed. “I drink because I chose to. I can stop anytime. In fact, I stopped smoking and drinking once; by nothing more than sheer force of will.” I said proudly. “Really?” Roy asked. “Yep”, I replied, “It was the worst 45 minutes of my life.” To be continued…
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THE GOLDEN AGE by Brfan Jessica Green parked her car on the garage, grabbed her gym back from the back seat and entered her house "Guys! I'm home!" Being the mother of three, the last six or so months had been the greatest in her past few years. Now at 41, she felt like she was finally able to take care of herself once again. A former cheerleader captain, Jessica fell in love with a promising tennis player and ended up pregnant right after their marriage, nineteen years ago. Nick, her husband, was already on the professional circuit and spent most of the year traveling around the world, playing tournaments and doing advertisement for a big clothing company and some other sponsors. He made a lot of money, and that meant Jessica could stay home and raise their children. After Brad, the oldest, who now was 18 and a senior in high school, Jessica gave birth to two girls: Hope, who now was 15, and Monica, the youngest at 10 years old. After each pregnancy, Jessica felt like she kept some of the baby weight on her. When Monica was two, Jessica had gained over 20 pounds since her first baby. What once was a tight, fit body of a cheerleader now looked a lot like a high class suburban mother whose biggest exercise was load and unload the soccer van once in a while. Yeah, they had money, but Jessica wanted her old body back. It wasn't until last year, when she felt like her mom duties could be relieved, that she put up a plan. First, she dieted. With the help of her husband's nutritionist, Jessica dropped over 15 pounds of weight. She knew she had lost both fat and muscle mass, but she had to begin from somewhere. Then entered the plastic surgeries. Boobs and liposuction. Now it's been six months since she hired a personal trainer and started working out. She was loving it. After so much time, finally her abs were flat and firm, and there wasn't excessive skin under her arms wiggling around when she raised them. She was back at the same weight she had when she left college, and although she knew she wasn't as fit as before, at least now she could wear a sleeveless night gown and own it. She found Brad in the kitchen, watching some tennis match on his iPad. Her oldest son, though not a pro-level talented, tried to follow his father's steps. She kissed him and went straight to her bathroom, to take a shower. On the way, she passed through Hope's bedroom. She saw her daughter rehearsing some choreographed movements. That's her cheerleader girl. Proudly, she watched Hope for a while, before moving on. She found Monica lying in her bed, watching TV. She kissed the youngster in the forehead and entered her bathroom. Later, during dinner, Jessica asked about her kids day. She was expecting some pretty standard teen responses, and that's what she's got from Brad, anyway. Hope, however, looked a bit frustrated "What is it, Hope?" "Oh, nothing, really, Mom" "I know it's not nothing. Tell me, honey" "Oh, well. We've been trying this move in practice for a few weeks now, and I'm supposed to be the base of some sort of pyramid. Thing is a have to hold this other girl standing on my hands and throw her up, but I haven't been able to do it. Coach says I need to get stronger shoulders. You think I could join you in the gym sometime?" "Oh, well, sure honey. But from what I understand, it's not just a shoulder thing. You might need to work your whole upper body you know" Brad, who wasn't paying much attention to the chat, suddenly stopped chewing his food and lowered his eyes, but it was clear that the topic brought his attention back to the table. Monica jumped in the conversation "Mom, is Hope going to have muscles?" Jessica laughed at her younger daughter. She was very smart and perceptive, always making commentaries that didn't reminded 10 years old words "Well, baby, technically she and all of us already have muscles, you see. What your sister wants is for hers to be stronger. But why do you ask?" "Oh, the other day I was at our TV room and somebody forgot the TV on. There was a show on about these women who get really big and strong. I just thought that's what Hope wanted to be" Jessica thought about female bodybuilders. That's something that always caught her eye when she was younger. In the 80's it wasn't exactly socially accepted, so she never really considered it. But she remembered how she loved catching a TV show or a magazine with Cory Everson's picture on it, or Rachel Mclish. "Well Mon. I don't think that's exactly the idea Hope has, but if it was, I'd be more than happy helping her. You see, I'd be very happy to help any of you achieve your goals. In fact" Jessica sounded nostalgic "When I was Brad's age, I did have a few muscles on display, you know" That was true. Even though she didn't exactly tried, Jessica had nice genetics and she did work out a lot with her cheerleading team. She was what someone could call of a jock in her days. "Here, let me find some old pictures to show you" She was now very excited with the topic and went to pic up some old photo album. Brad was livid, he had completely abandoned his food and looked lost. Jessica came back shortly holding two pictures of her. In the first she was in her cheerleading uniform with another girl. They were both with one hand up holding the pompons, and the other on their hip. What caught the eye though was their legs. On the tip of their toes and with extended legs, one could see their bulging quad muscles not covered by their skirts. On the other picture, all the girls from the squad looked like they were in some party, and they were all flexing their biceps to the camera. Not that any of them had huge guns, but some girls did have small plumps of muscles showing off. Jessica's were one of the biggest, and her biceps did look very hard. "See? Back in the day you mom had some guns" She told proudly to her offspring "wow mom!" Hope was the first to speak "You looked awesome! look at your legs!" "Yeah, I was very proud of them. I had some hard quads, you know" "And look, Brad!" Monica spoke "Mom had strong arms too!" She pointed to the group flexing photo "Yeah, sure" Brad tried to sound uninterested "oh, C'mon Son. Don't you think your mom was buff?" Jessica giggled with her own joke "Sure, mom. Whatever. Can I be excused?" Brad stood up and left "What's with him?" Hope asked "Don't know. Teenagers, I guess" Jessica didn't had second thoughts on her son's behavior. She was now excited about an idea that had popped into her mind "So, girls. What do you think? Should mom get those muscles again?" "Yeah! Sure! You'd look great adding some muscle, mom" Hope talked her up "Yeah! I bet I'll have the buffest mom in school" Monica added Jessica smiled. Maybe she could ask for her trainer for a routine to build up a couple pounds of muscle. --- Chapter 2 It's been three months since Jessica discussed a new training program with her coach, Kate. Alongside with her new workouts, Jessica made adjustments to her diet, adding more protein based meals and gave up on alcohol completely. Her husband didn't say much on the few times they got together on these three months about it, but probably because Jessica didn't tell him her true intentions. She knew he was on the sunset of his pro career and soon would be home for good. He had maybe one or two more years on tour, and the truth is she didn't know how he would react on her plans. So, for now, she just decided to do this without having to justify herself. Besides, she wasn't even sure of how far she would go, although after a few weeks, as soon as she saw some changes on her body, she already knew this might go the whole distance. That day she and Kate went together to the gym and Jessica brought her trainer into her home. Kate had become one of her closest friends lately, and the one person that knew Jessica's desire was to get more muscular. Even though there was an age gap of nearly 18 years, Jessica felt like she could count on her 23 year old coach. They were chatting in the kitchen when Brad entered the room "... and don't forget, Jess. The next weeks we will be focusing a lot on your upper body. I want you to build it up a little so we can work on some more advanced exercises... Oh, hello Brad! How are you?" Brad stopped dead the second he saw Kate and his mom. He had a major crush on her. He followed her in social media, and loved how comfortable the young woman was on posting some sexy pictures. Kate was a former gymnast who now worked as a personal trainer and competed in bodybuilding contests on the bikini category, meaning she was always in gym outfits, great shape and with a perennial tanned skin. That combination did wonders in a teenagers mind. "I... I'm fine. Sorry to bother you. Just want some water" Brad kept his eyes down the whole time "Here son, let me get that for you" Jessica picked up a glass from the cabinet, filled it with ice water and was on her way to hand it to Brad when she bumped in one of the dog's toys, spilling the water over her t-shirt. Immediately, the white fabric, all wet, glued itself to Jessica's body, revealing the slim waist she was very proud of. Not giving any second thoughts, Jessica stripped down from her wet t-shirt, picked up a towel and started drying herself out. She was wearing a pink sports bra and while she dried herself she involuntarily contracted her abs while patting it with the towel. Although very mild, the sudden abdominal flexing was able to show a visible six pack. Brad's eyes grew wide "W-wow mom... your-your abs are..." "Yeah! Your mom has some nice abs, uh, Brad? Show him, Jess" Jessica then flexed her abs deliberately, making the divisions on the muscles more prominent and visible. Kate patted her abs "Some six pack, huh? What do you think of it, Brad? Brad?" The boy had disappeared "Where did he go? He didn't even got his water" Kate asked "Oh, hormones, I guess, right?" For the first time Jessica considered what might be happening with Brad. Still, she didn't give much thinking to it "So, upper body? Great. I want that V shape you promised me, Kate!" "Oh, you'll get it, Jess" The women giggled and continued their chatting --- Chapter 3 It was Christmas time at the Greens. Jessica's two sisters and their families had flew in for the Holidays. Jessica looked at herself in the mirror. She was wearing a red dress, made of wool, tight on her fit body. The dress was a sleeveless, and had a strap that went around her neck and hid her cleavage completely. As Jessica made a knot behind her neck, she smiled as she noted the trap muscles standing shyly out. She loved that part on her. Jessica picked up a pearl necklace and put it on. She looked at herself and smiled. Her body had changed over the last 10 months. Yet still shy, the muscles she had been working on were starting to show themselves, and this dress accentuated that. Her shoulders were larger than they were a year ago, and now you could see the gap between her deltoids and the muscles in her arms. It's not like it was a huge mark or anything, but there was something there even for the untrained eye to see. Her torso was now wider, and the dress, being made exclusively for her, gave up the V shape of her upper body. Jessica stepped into the living room and suddenly noticed that they would have to move the dining table over to the middle of the room to fit two extra chairs. She asked for help and her sister and her husband came in. Kathy and Aaron were the regular American family. They lived in Alabama where Aaron had been transferred 5 years ago, and they had a 6 year old, Dylan. Completely forgetting that the table was made of pure marble and very heavy, Jessica stood in one end of the table and grabbed it with both her hands, waiting for the coupe to help them. Aaron grabbed the other end and Kathy held it in the middle "Alright guys. One, two, three!" Jessica gave a big pull and lifted her end of the table from the ground. Aaron did the same, but couldn't hold his grip and before they could start moving the table, let go. "Whew, this is heavy" "Kathy, help Aaron on that corner, will you?" Jessica wasn't even thinking of what this meant, but Aaron was suddenly aware of what was happening here. He remained silent as his wife paired up with him and, this time they moved the table about one meter, where it should be. As they were carrying the table, Dylan came running into the room and, looking at the image of both his parents carrying one end of the table while his aunt alone was on the other end, stopped and screamed "Mommy! Mommy! Look at Aunt Jess' muscles!" The couple looked across the table and were shocked by the view. The effort of the lifting made Jessica's shoulder veins, who normally were secluded, become visible, as the definition on her shoulder muscles increased. But what caught everyone's eyes were her biceps, that semi flexed holding the table looked prominent and very hard. As they dropped the table down, Kathy remarked "Wow, Jess. Dylan is right! You look really buff, you know? When did this happened?" Flattered by the comments, Jessica answered smiling "Oh, well... I've been doing some heavy lifting at the gym... I guess it's paying off, right?" Jessica noticed that Aaron was dead serious "And what does Nick think about it?" "I guess he didn't had much to say about it. In fact, I'm not even sure if he noticed" Jessica giggled "Well, I'm sure he wouldn't like it, you know" "Oh Aaron, shut up" Kathy stepped in "Don't mind it, Jess. He's just jealous his arms don't look like yours" Later, while everybody else were chatting and chanting in the living room, Jessica went into the kitchen to make sure everything was good. She had just checked the sauces when Aaron entered the kitchen and closed the door behind them "So, Jessica" "Oh, hey Aaron. Can I help you with something?" "About earlier..." "Oh, relax. I'm not offended. It's alright" Jessica, naively though Aaron had come over to apologize "What? Oh, you got it wrong. You see, you made quite an impression on Dylan." "Yeah?" "Yeah, He can't stop bragging about Aunt Jess' big muscles. And the thing is... I don't like my son talking about your muscles" "Well, I suppose he can't talk about your muscles" Jessica sensed Aaron's envy and anger, but he had to deal with this. She wouldn't take this bullshit from her brother in law "What the hell does that mean?" Aaron's voice gave away the frustration "Oh, C'mon Aaron. Do I have to spell it out? Ok, here it is: You couldn't hold your end of the table alone, while I was holding mine. Everybody who was there saw my biceps bulging while yours were crying for help. Your kid saw it. Deal with it" "Oh, so now miss I-have-time-to-go-to-the-gym-everyday thinks she's something else? Thinks she is Wonder Woman?" Jessica sighed. She knew where this was going. She and Aaron never got along, but they tolerated themselves. Truth is Aaron never got over the fact that Jessica's husband made a lot of money playing tennis and was a celebrity, while he had been relegated to work in some auto parts company. But she had no time to keep arguing with him. She had a party to attend "Well, not sure if Wonder Woman, but I'm clearly stronger than you. If you want to, I can prove it to you" She said placing her elbow on the kitchen counter, challenging him to an armwrestle. As Aaron looked down at Jessica's arm, he noticed that even unflexed, it was kind of thick. Her shoulder was large and round, and the vein that had popped up earlier didn't bother to disappear. In fact, it rolled down from her shoulder, going around the inner head of her bicep and entering her forearm, which he noticed looked thick and striated. His sister in law did have an imposing arm, but he was to proud to turn her down. He grabbed her hand and placed his elbow down "Alright?" She counted "1-2-3-Go!" Jessica pressed with all she got, and in less than 10 seconds Aaron's hand was crushed on the counter "You-you cheated! You started before the count!" Aaron was running out of excuses Jessica felt anger for the first time. Years of living among sports and competitions made her hate a sore loser. And that's what her brother in law was "Alright, then. Let's go again. This time you count, ok?" She grabbed his hand again and waited for the count. She did foresee what was about to happen. Before Aaron hit the 'go' he had already started pushing, but she was prepared for it. Jessica held him steady for about 30 seconds, concentrated in making him out of excuses and admitting she was stronger. Aaron pushed and pushed. At a certain point, he even grabbed the counter's edge with his other hand for some leverage, but Jessica's arm remained still. She then began pushing, bringing his arm slowly to the counter. When it touched the surface, she held his hand pressed against it for a few moments, looking him in the eye. There were tears there. She finally let him go, feeling sorry for him "I'm... I'm sorry Jess... you... you're really strong" "Thank you Aaron. Yes, I'm stronger than you, but that doesn't mean anything. Your son can look up to you for so many reasons. It's ok if he admires muscles and strength in someone else. It doesn't mean he doesn't love you" "Y-yes... you're right. I'm sorry" "It's okay. Now, I've worked really hard to have these" Jessica flexed both her biceps. The peaked mount of muscle popped out proudly "So please promise me you will respect that. There's a lot of effort built in here" "Wow... they look hard... can.. Can I?" Aaron's voice was squeaky "Sure, go ahead" Aaron placed his hand and coped Jessica's bicep. They weren't huge, but they felt very hard. He tried to squeeze them, but they didn't budge an inch. Jessica smiled "Rock hard, right?" --- Chapter 4 Months had gone by since Christmas, and as they entered the spring, Jessica felt like she had blossomed too. What at first could only be noticed by someone with a trained eye was now visible for everyone. Jessica's body had changed drastically over the last 15 months or so. Not only she added 25 pounds, but her body composition went from mostly fat to almost no fat whatsoever. Nick, her husband, being away a lot in the circuit never said anything, but Jessica could tell from when they met that he was very satisfied with her new self. Nick spent a lot of time grabbing and feeling her legs, which now were hard and defined, shaped like a teardrop. Sex was great between them. There was, however, a problem in their household regarding Jessica's muscles. Brad, her oldest son, were spending less and less time around her, specially when she was wearing clothes that exposed her muscular body. She knew what was happening. It was clear that Brad had a fetish on muscular women and was having a hard time dealing with the fact that his mom was one of them. In two months Brad was leaving for College, and she felt like she and her son had drifted apart. She considered dropping out of gym, but the fact is she never felt better about herself than she did now. She wasn't just able to give up on her muscles. So she had to find another way of reconnecting with him. One day, when she had just arrived from the gym and was checking herself out in the mirror, trying some bodybuilding poses, she heard Brad's car entering the garage. She knew her daughter's were out, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Not bothering changing clothes, she went downstairs and intercepted Brad as he was trying to go up to his room. Jessica stood two steps up on the stairway, blocking his passage. With her hands on her hips, she had just came back from an insane shoulders and chest workout, and she looked swollen and huge. "Oh, hey mom" Brad kept his eyes down as he tried to walk past her. Jessica didn't move "Brad, come here with me. sit. We need to talk" she said, pointing at the living room's couch "Does it has to be now? I have s..." "Yes. It has to be now" Jessica's tone and figure didn't give any margin to arguments. Brad turned around and sat on the couch. "Look at me" She demanded "I am looking at you, mom" Brad said, although he kept his eyes staring hard at her feet "Brad, look at me" Brad raised his eyes and his jaw dropped. The whole scene was mesmerizing. His mother was standing in front of him, her hands on her hips, a whit sports bra and very tight blue biker shorts that hugged her muscular body very firmly. The sunlight, entering from a window behind her gave her a divine glare. Her bulging arms, her V shaped torso, her defined abdominal wall and her strong looking trunk sized quads made Brad lose his voice. Jessica looked like a Goddess, a celestial being sent from Above. "Now talk to me, son" She continued "I know what you are feeling" "What-what do you m..?" Brad's reply was interrupted by Jessica's action. She extended her right leg, expanding her quads and making them tremble from the effort at the same time as she lifted her right arm and contracted her biceps as hard as she could, causing them to raise and expand. "My muscles turn you on, right?" There was no denying, Brad was sure. Her mother knew it. He hid his face and whispered, embarassed "Yes" "Well, son. We are gonna have to talk about it" She relaxed her pose and sat down beside him "I assume this began much earlier than when I started to grow, right?" "Yes" "Well... what is it about muscles that turn you on, Brad?" Brad looked his mother in the eyes. She noticed tears on the corner of them "I... I don't know, mom" "Try to verbalize it. It might help. What is it? Is it the strength? The size?" "I.. I guess it's a bit of both. You know... It's like, I look at them and think 'wow, look at her biceps, her pecs. I bet she is really strong. Stronger than me. I bet she could beat me if she wanted to'. And it's not like I want to be beaten, but the idea that a woman could do that to me is... arousing" "I see" Jessica was genuinely interested. This talk might help her win her son back, but would also help her understand the mind of some men who approached her in gym or even on the streets "And, it's like... the muscles and the strength they boost each other, for me. I mean, yes there are some women who are really strong, but if their body isn't fit and muscular, it's not that nice. And some women who have muscular bodies but are small and I know I'm stronger than them also.. I mean, it's good, but it's not the same." "Hum... ok... but... what is it with me, then? You have no idea if I'm stronger than you" "Well, in your case... I'm really torn here, mom. You see, first, I'm afraid of finding out how strong you are. I mean, your muscles already make me feel funny, and I am pretty sure they are not just for showing. But if I ever find out how strong you really are, and if you are stronger than me... well, I'm not sure if can contain myself of feeling aroused. And it's just wrong to feel aroused by your mother" Jessica looked at her son. God, how she loved him. There he was, opening up his deepest secret to her. She did a great job raising that young man "I understand. Brad. But I don't want us to be apart as we have been this last year. It's killing me" "It's killing me too, mom" They hugged. Brad felt how broad Jessica's back were. He felt the muscle lumps on it. He broke the hug "So, I guess we better never talk about what I can or can't do, strength wise, right?" "Yeah, I think it's for the best, mom" "And can you find it in you the strength to keep us close?" "I'll give my best" "Thanks, son. But... here's an idea. Maybe this will help you make peace with yourself. You like big boobs, right?" They were way past the point where they could be ashamed of the conversation "Yes, but.. why?" "Well, I doubt that if I had big boobies you would have trouble looking at me or hugging, me. You know why is that? I believe that you wouldn't feel aroused by my boobies cause you can actually see other nice breasts anywhere you look. It's like a common thing. Muscles, however, aren't. You don't bump into a muscular girl on school or pretty much anywhere." "Yeah, so...? Not sure where this is going" "Don't you see. You probably feel uncomfortable with my muscles. Not with you mother's muscles. Probably in your subconscious all you see is a muscular woman that you want to find out more about her strength. That is a trigger for you. However, you conscious mind keeps reminding you that this muscular woman is your mother, and you cannot feel that way about her. And that's why you are in conflict. Am I making sense?" "Yeah, I guess you are, mom" "So, do you think that can help you? I mean, if you ever feel bad about looking at me, remind you that that's just your subconscious talking. You, Brad Green, is a very correct young man, who doesn't have an Edipus complex" "Yeah, maybe you're right" "Good. Love you, son" Jessica stood up and walked away "Hey, mom" She turned around "Yeah" "So... this muscular woman who is not my mother... how strong is she?" "Well... what do you want to know?" "I don't know.... bench press? I maxed out at 205 yesterday" Brad lied, he knew his best was 185. "Hum... she is a bit stronger than you than... she maxed out at 235" Jessica lied too. She could go 245. For reps --- Chapter 5 Jessica lied down by the pool and smiled. Things were going great again. Her oldest son had recently left to college, but her actions prior to his leaving seemed to have relieved his guilt towards his feelings. In a way, the idea that it wasn't her mother's body, but a woman's body that attracted him made him feel more comfortable in her presence. He still avoided hugging her or even touching her, but at least they talked. And now, a year away might do good to him. Her husband had recently announced that this was his last year in the pro circuit, which meant that six months from now they would be together more often. As she spread the tanning lotion over her hard body, she thought about the decision she had made almost two years ago, and the commitment to herself it led. Almost two years of religiously scheduled workouts, the weight increases, the diet, the resting. It had all payed off. Keeping her knee extended, Jessica flexed her hip, causing her leg to rise from the resting chair. She admired the size and definition on her thighs. She hadn't had a body like that in years 'Heck, I guess I never had a body like this' she thought to herself. She followed the line of her sartorium up until it met with the fabric of her Brazilian bikini. The muscle hardness created a gap between the fabric and the continuity of her muscle, large enough to run a finger through it. Smoothly placing her index on that gap, she slid it towards her abdomen, feeling it hardness and the smoothness of her skin. She grinned as she though of it. There was a very thin layer of skin, and beneath it, a very thick layer of muscle. Even the veins coming from her loins running up towards her belly button were now visible. Jessica had lost track of time while she kept caressing her own body, and almost fell from the chair when her two younger daughters came out running. "Hey mom! What are you doing?" Hope, the 17 cheerleader asked "Oh, just tanning a little bit, darling." "Cool, can I join you?" "Sure" "Oh, I'm going for a swim, alright, mom?" Monica, the youngster said "Go ahead, honey. Just put on some sunscreen first, ok?" Jessica kept watching her kid play around for a while. It wasn't a good five minutes when she noticed Hope was staring at her. More specifically at her arms. "What is it, honey?" Jessica extended and twisted her arm looking for something Hope might be looking at, like a bug or a spot. The movement caused her triceps to explode into a horseshoe shaped mount of muscle. Even Jessica was a bit amazed by it's shape and hardness. She had worked hard to get them, it's true, but she was impressed nevertheless. "Mom..." Hope started, as if she was looking for the right words "Yeah?" "How is it?" "How is what?" "You know... being... being strong as you are" Jessica looked at her, not exactly understanding what she was asking "What do you mean, Hope?" "Well.. I was wondering... it must feel good you know... being muscular and all" "Well, I suppose it does... but why do you ask?" "I was wondering... if maybe... I could join you someday... to.. to workout with you" Jessica suddenly understood what Hope was asking. She wanted in her world. Jessica smiled "Well, honey... I suppose so..." Jessica considered the idea of her prodigal daughter becoming as muscular as her "Why do you want it?" Hope blushed "Mom... I... I look how you look. I want to look like that. That... powerful" "Well, it's not just about the looks, you know. You have to be really devoted to get like this. But I'm sure you know it." "I, know. I know" Hope couldn't help herself "Can you show me?" Jessica again didn't quite understand her daughter's question. She thought she wanted to see her flexing or something, so she raised both her arms, turned her back to her daughter and did a rear double bicep pose. Jessica smiled when she heard Hope's gasp of awe. She knew what her daughter was staring at. Jessica had wide lats, muscular and protruded traps and back muscles, and powerful looking biceps, almost 15 inches. She turned herself to her daughter again "So, what do you think?" "My God, mom.. you look huge" "Thank you, honey. I've worked really hard to look like this" "And... how strong you are, mom? Can you show me?" Jessica looked around "How much do you think Monica weights?" "I don't know... 80, 90?" "Good" Jessica looked at her younger daughter "Mon, come here please" Monica got out of the water and stood in front of her mother "What is it, mom?" "Can you keep your body very tight, and hold your own arms, as if you were hugging yourself?" "Well, yeah, but why?" "Just trust me" As Monica stood in the position Jessica asked, the older woman grabbed her young daughter, placing one hand on her arm and the other between her knees. "Ok, now hold tight" As soon as she got a good grip, Jessica flexed her elbows, lifting her daughter as if she was e barbell made for working her biceps out. She did 5 solid reps before placing her daughter back on the floor. Her biceps looked huge, and their veins dilated from the exercise. Hope was speechless. Monica couldn't stop screaming "Wow! Mom, you're the best! Now do something with her!" Jessica looked at Hope and came up with an idea. She got on the floor in a pushup position "Lay down on my back, Hope" Still mesmerized, she obeyed. "Now hold on tight" Jessica ordered as she proceeded the pushups. "ok, now grab on my neck" Jessica asked Hope as she got back to the standing position. Hope did as asked. "Put your legs around my waist" Hope obliged once again Extending her arms, Jessica invited Monica to her lap "C'mon, girl" The youngster hopped on. With the weight of both her daughters, Jessica squatted a few times. She smiled as she felt her legs burning. If someone entered the pool area now, it would be some vision. Jessica walked near the pool, still holding both girls. She dropped Monica onto the water, and before Hope could do anything, Jessica grabbed her by the arm and threw her too. Waiting for them both to look at her, she pronounced "Winner, and still undefeated... Super Mom!" Jessica proceeded with a crab flex, causing her traps and pectoral muscles to explode into life. She did feel like having superpowers --- Chapter 6 Jessica got off from her husband and layed on the bed. It's been a while now she wasn't feeling completely satisfied with the sex. Yes, Nick was good in bed and he turned her on, but the fact is she had so much energy and stamina that it seemed he always was worn off before her. And, to be honest with herself, it didn't seem like he was into her new, hard body as she would expect. On top of that, Jessica had plateaued on her training for about two months now. She tried to improve her nutrition, had been taking supplements and never skipped a session, but she seemed to have reached her limit. It frustrated her. She wanted to get bigger. More shredded. She knew what she had to do. She had considered it for a while now, but it looked like that if she got any bigger, her relationship would only get worse. She had to pick between her biceps and her husband's cock. Sophie's choice in a very weird way, she thought to herself. "Babe?" She asked trying to find her way into Nick's chest "Yeah, honey?" "Do you like me?" She rested her head on his chest. Nick had ended his pro tennis career a couple months ago, but he still had a nice body. Still, Jessica couldn't help but notice her pectoral muscles were bigger than his "What are you talking about? I love you, you know it" "Yeah, but... do you like my body?" She had to ask Nick took a while to answer this one. Yes, he absolutely loved the fact that Jessica started taking care of her body, that she toned up and even found out that he had no problem with her building up some muscle. What bothered him was the fact that Jessica grew stronger and stronger, and had clearly surpassed him a while ago now. It hurt his male ego. And it was clear that it had been getting in between them, at least in sex "Yeah, baby, I like it, but..." Jessica was anxious "But what?" "Well, you see... I love that you hard and defined... but... why is it that you want to be so.... big?" "Big? I'm not that big, you know. You weight nearly 20 pounds more than me..." "Yeah, well, I'm almost a foot taller than you too" "So, you don't like that I'm muscular?" "It's not that, Jess... but, but.... I need to understand... why" Jessica rolled over Nick. Putting both her hands beside his body, she raised her torso, while letting her lower body over his naked body. With her arms fully extended her triceps were very prominent and defined. She knew that must be intimidating to her husband. Her round, fibered shoulders were contracted as well, giving her a large frame. Nick couldn't help but break the stare and look at Jessica's muscles. "Well, Nick.. it all started with some training, you know, to get back to my old self. But after a while, I noticed the changes in my body. And I liked what I saw. I was able to do things I never could, like lifting heavy weights, curling and actually seeing a bit of muscle working. Then, as I progressed, I started getting compliments from people at the gym, stares at the grocery shop... and it got into me. You see, For over 20 years I've always been the wife of that famous tennis player. Now, I finally am known by me. I'm the muscle girl from the gym. I'm the buff mom. It's like I've finally have something of my own, my own identity" Nick didn't know what to say. He always took for granted that Jessica was happy being 'Mrs. Green'. Jessica continued "All of our kids were always all about their athlete dad. Now, Hope actually looks up to me. Monica has fun watching me grunting and flexing as if I'm some superhero. God, even Brad... admires what I am. It makes me feel special" "Wow, babe... I had no idea..." "I know you didn't. And I don't blame you. But the fact is that my self esteem grew with my biceps and my pecs, you know?" Jessica mad her pectoral muscles bounce up and down, inches away from Nick's face Nick felt hypnotized by the image. Jessica had had breast implants years before, but now her cleavage was made mostly of that hard rock, dancing muscle. By instinct, he moved his hands to her solid butt. Nick grabbed her gluten and noticed once again how hard and full they were. Feeling his vibe and realizing for the first time that her muscles were in fact turning her husband on, Jessica got on her knees with Nick under her. She placed his hands on her powerful, trunk sized thighs, and slid her hands through her solid six pack. "You see, I like when all my girl friends can't stop talking about how they wanted to have abs like mine... and I can't help but feeling a bit.. well.. self assured when I know that my abs are better than any women in the neighborhood... that younger girls would kill for quads like mine..." Jessica felt Nick's dick hardening. She continued "And Babe... I gotta tell you... it feels so good when a young cocky little man stares at my biceps" Jessica raised both her arms and did a double bicep pose. Her baseballs exploded into iron balls, peaked and vascularized. "And when I flex them, like this, they feel embarrassed that I'm bigger than them..." Nick sat on the bad and grabbed her arms "My God... they are so hard, Jess..." "Yes.. yes they are..." Jessica felt Nick's cock harder than it's ever been in years. She let him into her and they fucked. Nick went off quickly, but this time Jessica didn't bother. For the first time in long she knew it had happened because she had turner him on real good "Do you like my body, Nick? Do you like my muscles?" She asked him again "Yes. God, yes! I love how hard and big and strong you are, Babe! Thank you for showing me that!" "Oh Babe... I'm so happy to hear it..." Jessica smiled and saw her opportunity "Cause... I'm getting bigger" "What? How?" "Well... I'm gonna use it. But don't worry. I'll do it the right way. And... I promise you, you'll love my body even more when I outweight you" "Yes... yes I will" (...)
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