The story begins with Grip, a young boy who inherited the name from his small-town bar ownin’, air-hockey playin’, dollar bill flingin’ uncle.

Grip’s dad died when Grip was a young man. Grip was adopted by his uncle, Grip Sr. Uncle Grip didn’t want his nephew / adopted son raised babysitters, so he purchased the local tavern (“Luke’s Bar and Grill and Karoake Haven”) where he slung mash for fifteen years, and converted the bar into both an arcade and a bar based on the idea from the chain, Dave and Buster’s. He fashioned the “Uncle Grip’s” (the bar/arcade/Saturday night after-hours strip club) after a dream he had involving this bar, some strippers, and a cheetah.

His business decisions were the difference between a Master’s and being a master. Since Grip didn’t give a fuck about school, he chose the path of least resistance. He knew what he knew. “I know what I know,” Grip would yell while flinging grimy, oil smudged dollar bills at the strippers.

Since the Uncle Grip’s place was in a small town full of tab-setters and cheapskates, he could only afford the discount games for his arcade. When a game achieves discount status, such as Tapper — a game where sole object is to sling as many beers down a bar as possible, and hope to catch all the empties slung back at you — Uncle Grip would “grip ’em up,” and add them to the collections. The walls of Uncle Grip’s bar were lined with such classic, and discounted, games, like Pop-a-Shot, Galaga, Whack-a-Mole, etc.

Lil’ Grip, as his family like to call him, was a bit of a local phenom. While Uncle Grip got his name from arm rasslin’, Lil’ Grip was into “The Claw.” Uncle Grip made sure that “The Claw” was one of his bar’s mainstays. It rarely got any looks after the novelty wore off  a month into its residency. However, Lil’ Grip took to it like “white on rice” – a phrase his entire family used all too frequently.

Lil’ Grip had a technique that rarely missed.

Uncle Grip went through hundreds of crappy stuffed animals, plastic watches, miscellaneous large-sized action figures, sunglasses, and a wide variety of other trinkets, that he had to force his nephew to employ the “catch and release” strategy. Uncle Grip didn’t have the time or money to refill the machine every week.

———————————-

Stan was not a friend to Grip, but he never saw himself as an enemy. Most seven-year-old hotshots have a “frenemy” or two, but those hotshots tend to recognize when they are being dickheads. Stan was not the perceptive type. Not only was Stan a “Claw” savant, much like LG, but Stan’s uncle was Big Steve Mulligan, the undeniable champion of Nintendo’s Tecmo Football within the 3 neighborhood radius. Under Big Steve’s tutelage, Stan became a student of the game. Although most seven-year-olds are playing much more advanced and updated versions of football on their PlayStations, Stan takes his level of Tecmo Bowl bravado to the level his uncle once had. Stan rarely talks about anything but his team. When he is playing, Stan speaks to his team as if the players are in front of him on the sideline.


“MartAAAYYY!!!”

The already small crowd hushed when Danny yelled his patented “MarTAY Moon Call”. It was each bro would holler when looking for the other bro at Grip’s. Danny’s was…obviously…”DanNAY!!!”

A douchebag douching call.

Marty was already elbow-deep into his conversation with Eddie, Marc, and a few other daytime drunkards. He raised left arm — middle phalanx at full mast — and kept on talking. He was doing, what some locals called, “Lighthousin'”: the term for presenting ones middle finger at full mast while completely extending arm at the shoulder, preferably when facing in the complete opposite of finger’s direction.

“Bullshit, I told him,” Marty says. “I called his bullshit. What did he really know? I personally know there is a total fucking difference between Seagal and Van Damme. And don’t even get me started on this whole, “Vin Diesel could kick his ass nowadays,” or “The Rock would fuck his world up in today’s world. Yeah! No shit! Duh-uh. I know, dude. Seagal is fucking old now. They don’t want to reverse time lines and look at how they would do when he – Seagal – was in his prime. Then what? Huh? I…Don’t… THINK…so! Unh Uh. Nope.


 

Inspire you?

Grip’s grandpa spoke to him from time to time. Herman died when Grip was 8, but Grip’s memories of his grandpa still popped up in random, real-moment experiences now — 15 years after.

I can’t inspire you, kid, Gramps rasped. You need to get out in the world and inspire yourself. Don’t make your life dependent upon what others say or think. Inspiration can be gathered from a buncha places, but inspiration don’t mean shit if it ain’t put into action. Inspire yourself, kid. Then inspire a buncha other folks down the line.

Grip looked into the latest additions in the pit. As usual, most of them sucked. There had to be bigger, better prizes to be clawed for outside of this dump.

Accept the past, Gramps interrupted. Embrace the present. Deal with the future then…not now. Now is already gone, kid. Make a goddamn choice.

———————————————————————————————————–

(convo between late-teens/early-twenties Grip and Lindsay – a girl he was attracted to as a kid even though she was a bit of a tomboy. She was even more attractive into adulthood.)

Grip walked into Manny’s with two boxes of vending refills. Sweat slid down the side of Grip’s neck. Obviously, Manny was still saving on electricity during the hottest fucking part of the afternoon.

“GRIPPPPPAAAHHHHH!”

Manny came from behind his unpainted, yet stained with various fluids, some from the bottle and others from places most would not want to know.

“Hey, Manny,” Grip’s voice scratchy from all his body’s hydration seeping from his pores. He cough-cleared his voice. “Is this how you can afford to make me doubles everytime?”

“What you mean, Grippa?,” Manny asked. “What you mean?”

Grip laid the box labeled “Hot Tamales / Mike & Ike” down on one of the pub tables. He put the “M&Ms” box in one of its companion stools.

“It’s goddamn hot in here, Manny,” Grip said, checking the his right rotator cuff and windmilling it around slowly in the air.

“Hot? This ain’t hot, my friend,” Manny laughed. “You come down to Mexico and I show you where it’s real hot. Hot? This ain’t fucking hot.”

Manny laughed and walked back behind the bar. “Here,” he said. “Come sit down for a second and tell me the latest news. You never come in here on Wendzdeez anymore. What gives, Grippa? Why you never come in here on Wendzdeez no more?”

 

Lindsay: Hey…Why didn’t you say hi to me the other day when we ran into each other.

Grip: Well, you didn’t seem to try that hard yourself. You are the one asking me about it. It obviously weighed more on your mind than mine.

Lindsay: Well, you were the one who seem to recognize me before I recognized you. Isn’t there a rule or something about that?

Grip: Sorry. How have you been? It’s been a long time, and you know how awkward it is when you see…Hold on…let me rephrase: I feel it is always awkward running into old acquaintances because the same shit is always asked and the atmosphere is usually weird and they always ask me about what I have been ‘UP’ to, and do I have any ‘KIDS’, and blah blah blah

Lindsay: I get it. So…what have you been UP to? (smile/smirk)

Grip: Not much (rubs his eyes with his right hand) as you can see. Delivering “Hot Tamales” to a goddamn Mexican every week.

Manny: I HEEEEERRD that, you son of bitch.

Manny flipped Grip off while still paying complete attention to the bar top poker game.

Grip: I’m sorry for not saying hi. It’s one of those things where I feel damned either way. It’s even more awkward to walk away and then to run down and apologize for not doing it in the first place, only to say the same stupid shit that every other one of these awkward…

Lindsay: Slow down, Quarterboy. Nothing to get worked up over. How you been?

Grip: Weird. But good.

Lindsay: Weird?

Grip: Still hung up on the first topic of discussion. Let’s put it to rest by just agreeing that I am weird.

Lindsay: Ok. Cool. And do you accept it? Embrace it?

Grip: Is acceptance the same as admittance?

Lindsay: Not really, but close. Baby steps .

 

(Work in progress)

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