They called it an extraordinary phenomenon.
A regular Hercules, Dr. Rabinowitz on 3rd street claimed. Frankie was born with the capabilities of lifting objects 100 times heavier than his body weight. Super strength, as the kids would say. His mother said Hail Mary in Italian ten times a day and cried, as if her son was some kind of devil. She constantly scolded him out of fear of his destructiveness. “Don’t touch that!” and “Don’t touch anything!” and “Don’t you dare touch the baby!”
He was a toddler. And his strength was something unexplainable, something that should remain a secret. If he pressed his hand into wall too hard, the wall would crack. Toys, if not handled gently, would be crushed or broken into pieces. Even the metal handle of his bicycle was indented with his fingertips. He couldn’t control this, even as he got older, his power grew more dangerous. On the kindergarten playground, he pushed a kid out of the sandbox and cracked his rib. When he was seven years old, he threw a baseball and it landed three blocks away and through a car windshield.
He couldn’t touch anything. He wasn’t safe.
When his sister, Camilla, was an infant, Frankie would hold his small hands behind his back and peek into her crib. He was afraid of breaking her too.
His father owned a deli under the train tracks, Berardi’s Deli. Behind it was a dead patch of grass they called a backyard. And above it was a shoe box apartment they called a home. His father wore a stained apron as he sat on the sidewalk’s edge, smelling like fennel seed and sweat. He smoked a cigarette and watched the kids in the street play. Frankie, now a small boy with small hands, sat beside him.
“Pops, why can’t I play with them?” The boy asked, watching the kids play stickball. “I promise I’ll be good. I won’t hit so hard. Honest.”
His father gave him a side glance, taking a long drag and rubbing his stubbled chin. “Last time, you knocked a kid out.”
He looked down at his small hands, discouraged “I-I didn’t mean to, Pops, he was….”
“Your mother with have a heart attack if she finds out you hurt someone else with your…” Trailing off, he stood up and stomped his cigarette out. The few remaining embers in the curb fizzled into the cement. “Don’t let nobody see you doing that. You hear me?” He warned. Frankie’s eyes wandered to the window to the apartment above the deli, where his mother, with tired eyes, looked out.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, Camilla.” He said, looking down at his feet as they walked home from high school one crisp autumn afternoon. His black hair fell into a perfect greased curl.
“Sure it is,” His sister grinned, holding her biology textbook in her arms. “You love baseball.”
“Watchin’ baseball, sure. Not playin’ it,” He shrugged, still unsure “Pop’s will be mad. And Ma’s gonna be in hysterics if she finds out.”
She nudged him with her elbow. Her long wool skirt matched her mint green sweater. “Come on, don’t worry about that stuff, Frankie, you’d be amazing and you know it.”
Frankie sighed, shoving his hands in his Letterman jacket. A chill blew between them. A police siren blared in the distance. The sun was setting, burning orange and gold.
“What if I hurt someone?”
“What if you only hit home runs?” She countered with a laugh.
“I’m serious, Camilla,” He grabbed her arm lightly, as if he was holding a feather. They stood on the street corner across from their family’s deli. “I can’t control this. Someone’s gonna get hurt.”
“You can control it. You don’t have to be scared. You’re strong… super strong, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can do something good with it.” The sirens grew louder.
As they crossed the street, a car screeched around the corner, being tailed by red and blue flashing lights. A police chase. Frankie was in the middle of the street, frozen for a moment. Camilla screamed, pulling at his hand. “Frankie, move!” He wouldn’t budge. He didn’t want to be scared anymore. The car barreled towards him. He pushed his sister out of the way, and braced for impact, with an arched back and outstretched arms.
The car slammed into Frankie, metal crushed against his chest, pushing him back a couple of feet. His sneakers skid against the pavement. The vehicle was stopped completely, with three bewildered robbers wearing ski masks sitting inside. The next day, the headline in the newspaper dubbed him “The Brawn Man of Brooklyn”.
Hello Writer bees! I’ve been feeling gross this week. For the record, it’s not COVID. While I’ve been under the weather, the Mister and I have been on a nostalgia trip, revisiting shows and movies from our childhoods. High School Musical One and Two were involved. Since I love that nostalgia feeling, it seemed fitting to share this short story I wrote back in 2017. Back when I was a newbie writer. Hope you enjoy!