Arm's Race by Anne Stone

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SUMMARY: rms Race (2004) is a look at what a kid's playground life will be when superpowers are readily available and the bullies get into an arms race to see which kid's powers can triumph over the others. Our hero comes up with a very creative solution.

My mom had this weird belief that kids needed to grow up in their own bodies in order to form a strong identity. When H. M. Woodruff came to our town, we watched the lines from across the street, knowing that we were doomed.

Mark decided to go against his mother, see H. M. Woodruff, and showed me the money he had saved up.

"What is she going to do?" he asked as we stood there, mouth agape at his nerve. "She's not going to waste good money to turn me back again. She'll get used to it. I mean, she did the same thing and she's still got all her tattoos, not to mention about a thousand holes in her face from all the piercings."

I ran into the house and my mom was watching some show on cooking that let you be in the cook so that you would learn by doing rather than by getting lectured at.

"That's right, Maggie," the show said. "See how the dough feels now?"

I knew better than to interrupt, the show wasn't cheap, but I felt that any moment waiting was a minute more for me to back out. I was so terrified that I couldn't feel a thing. If she got mad at me all my terror would whip to her and she was safer than the others were--she probably wouldn't kill me, just ground me.

"Mom!"

"Jake--oh damn it all! You've made me ruin the pizza."

I stood like a rabbit in the cross hairs.

She emerged from the cook and took on normal coloring and wiped her hands on her apron.

"Well, what's so important that you had to ruin dinner?"

"I have to go. Mark's going. All the other kids are in line."

"I told you, Jake. I told you and told you. Your father told you. You have perfectly good eyes, perfectly good arms and legs--why no child could be as perfect as you are. I'm not going to pay for you to mess that up. And what happens next month when some other fad comes along. This month it'll be laser eyes, next month it'll be adamantine claws--I'll not have some superhero wandering around my house blowing things up just because he needs the practice. You need to know who Jake is before you get into this crap."

I nodded. I mean that's the oldest strategy in the world: just keep nodding. Don't tell her, "yeah, yeah, I know all that, but what am I supposed to do? I'm going to get lasered and clawed and blown up now every day I can't return the favor." Moms never understand.

By the end of the first week it was pretty clear. Teachers wouldn't let them use their super powers in class and if they were caught on the playground they were put in detention, but so what? I swear, adults must think kids are really stupid. Come on now, the more restrictions you put on a group of kids, the more challenge there is to getting around them. Even I knew that.

By the end of the second week here were two of us who weren't competing to see who could do the most damage. They got Billy by the backstop.

I was buried under the hedges that lined the perimeter of the playground, our new hell. Billy didn't have any trouble with his parent's morality: they were just poor. Billy couldn't run fast enough any longer.

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