A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
I spent four weeks away at camp this summer, which is part of the reason I have not been blogging. I had a colossal amount of laundry. So much so, that I had to wear the only clean t-shirt I had left, which was probably two sizes too small. I wore black jeans and this skin tight deep v-neck that said Oxford University on it. I looked a bit metro and felt very uncomfortable. But what’s great about the Laundromat; it is a JUDGE-FREE zone.
The Laundromat was beaming. It was early for me, around 9 p.m., so there were many families at the Lost Sock. After throwing my clothes in the wash, I sat down with my giant Sony headphones and was very cognizant of how ridiculous I looked. I turn my music up and closed my eyes for a few minutes and then decided to kill some time.
I walked over to the claw game, one of those games where you try to move a really loose and weak three pronged claw over giant stuffed animals. I noticed Scrat from Ice age with his big long snout and believed deeply in my soul that I needed to win the claw game.
I’m not big into animated movies. I get a lot of grief for this, but Disney/Pixar type movies just don’t tickle my fancy. But there is one exception. The original Ice Age kills me every time. I really wanted to win Scrat.
As I put my coins in, a little chubby Latino kid walked over and began to watch me. After my first failure, he just stared at me, and eventually I looked at him and asked him his name. Our convo went something like this.
“My name is Miguel.”
“What’s up Miguel. I am going to win Scrat for you.”
“Can I try?”
“No. I am an expert, trust me.”
After spending $4 to no avail, I looked at Miguel and said, “Sorry, bro.”
He left and sat down in a chair with his head down. I felt terrible.
I went over to my laundry which was on the spin cycle, and I pulled out my cell phone to look up movie times for Ice Age 4. A few minutes went by when I can feel a presence very close to me. I look up and see Miguel staring straight at me, nearly 2 feet from my face.
“Do you have any more quarters?”
“Yes, here, have a handful.” I then preceded to hand him a pretend handful of imaginary quarters. He grinned, and then gave me a look of disapproval.
“I know we can win. I have a plan.” He said with determination.
Those words were all I needed. I felt a burst of adrenaline and excitement run through my body. Miguel and I were going to win this thing if it’s the last thing I ever did. I went over the coin machine and dropped a $5 bill.
His plan was flawless. He said we need to stop trying to go for his head because his snout was too thin and it kept getting stuck. Sure enough, after $2 I had a great grip on Scrats body, and the claw slowly lifted him in the air only to drop him again closer to the hole. In that moment both of us were yelling and cheering, but I didn’t realize how loud we were until we started to gather a crowd. Three other little Latino kids and even an older black couple were watching us. The energy and tension was palpable throughout the whole room. I could see people trying to be inconspicuous but they were definitely watching us. The pressure was on.
While victory seemed so close there was a small problem. While Scrat was much closer, he was at a very poor angle for the claws to grip without gripping the stupid yellow dinosaur next to him.
After a few failed attempts I was down to my last quarter. It reminded me of the moment in Ice Age where the Dodo birds freak out because only 5 melons remain and they are so obsessed trying to keep the Melons for themselves they lose 4 of them and a Dodo says, “The Last MELON!”. It kind of felt like that moment, but far more intense.
I looked over to chubby Miguel and gave him the most intense stare I can muster and said, “Miguel, we are going to win the claw game.”
His big brown eyes just stared back into mine and the kid had all the confidence in the world that I was going to win with this quarter. He simply looked at me and said, “I know.”
It was almost cinematic. I took the quarter, blew on it for luck, did a few stretches and put it in the little hole.
I took control of the claw and the timer started to count down from 20. I held my breath and slowly lined up the claw to grab Scrat by the body and pressed to infamous red button. The claw slowly fell and grabbed a strong grip around its body. It all looked perfect. I could see Miguel’s mouth start to open with excitement when the claws, as they always seemed to do, loosened and Scrat fell right back down into pile of stuffed creatures.
“I’m sorry bro, I really thought we were going to win this thing.”
“I know. Me too.”
And those were last four words Miguel ever said to me.