Every Friday night, my brother takes his two sons for Pizza Fry-Day. Pizza, fries, general Harvey boy destruction. This Friday, the majority of the Harvey clan attended, minus Uncle Bear (my better half) and Poppa Joe (my mom’s).
Henry Harvey is two, full of wonderment at the world, and wanting to experience it. He is also super-conniving. He will burn the restaurant down to get what he wants. The Papa Gino’s on Beale St. in Quincy has one of those brutally-grab-a stuffed-animal-with-the-big-metal claw machines. Henry wants to play. No one ever wins at these things, but he’s two, so I’m not going to destroy his world with that info. Plus, it will keep him occupied. An occupied Henry Harvey makes for a safer experience for us all.
We insert the dollar. Henry is tall enough to immediately grip the stick shift, and try his best to RIP IT OFF THE CONSOLE.
“Henry, easy, you gotta go easy,” I soothe.
Henry LOVES “No!”
He is now making doubly sure to wildly *tink* the large metal claw off the surrounding glass with every YANK of the stick shift.
“Ok, Henry, give Uncle J. a turn.”
Curious at how much better or worse I might be at this activity, he surrenders the control to me. He looks at me in awe, and I feel the immediate pressure of wanting to give him everything in the world so he’ll always smile that smile of his. Yet I don’t want to spoil him, so he avoids becoming one of those asshole children. I’m not naming names.
No one ever wins these things. HOWEVER, there have been exceptions. Sometime in the early 2000s, Whiskey’s on Boylston Street had one of these claw machines. Except it contained not off-brand cartoon character stuffed animals, but live lobsters. Cruel and unusual, I know, but it was there. One evening, out with friends, I somehow caught a lobster. I am not agile or a sportsball person, so catching this lobster was the pinnacle of anything physical-like I’ll ever do. I drunkenly held my prize aloft, all wet and briny, and the entire bar cheered. At that moment, I was freed from the shame of being picked last for every game requiring teams at every recess I ever attended.
And we ate that lobster, right there (er, they did kill it first and gave us some drawn butter)! I thought that it was a once-in-a-lifetime victory.
Until this evening.
Until this evening, when I caught an on-brand stuffed Minion™ doll.
Ecstatic (no one ever wins anything at those things!), I slowly, gently eased it over to the chute. I had won my beloved nephew a prize!
“Look Henry – a Minion™!,” I exclaimed happily.
“Gunge Gob!” he yelled at me.
“Uh, no, Minion™! See, I’m putting it down the chute to you right now!”
“NO! GUNGE GOB!”
Why is Henry drunk, I thought? Then, as I made the hook release the Minion™ doll so it dropped into the Chute of Best Uncle Ever, I noticed he was on his tip-toes and tapping his pudgy little pointer finger against the bottom of the glass.
“NO INYUN! GUNGE GOB!” he shrieked.
A lifeless Sponge Bob doll with lenticular eyes lay with its face pressed against the cold glass.
“NO INYUN! GUNGE GOB!”
I retrieved the so-much-more-on-trend Minion™ from the prize tunnel. I thrust it at him, sure that he’d change his tune when he noted that it’s Cyclopean eye goggle was real plastic and it had some tag stapled to its hand that indicated it was an actual Minion™ and not a generic “minion.”
Henry ripped the Minion™ out of my hand, and began to STUFF it back up the machine’s prize tunnel while screaming “GUNGE GOB! GUNGE GOB!” “Gunge Gob” just leered at me with its lenticular eyes full of cold hilarity, sprawled atop an odd plush version of Fred from Scooby Doo and I think that’s a Justin Bieber beanbag face?
Henry wasn’t content until the hated Minion™ was reversed back into the machine, plastic gate closed, his chubby hands once more RIPPING at the game’s stick shift, looking expectantly at me. He didn’t have time for any more of my lame attempts to give him something other than “Gunge Gob.” Get it together, Uncle J.
Alas, we were out of dollars.
His older brother, who is 6 and a big fan of Minions™, gratefully accepted the doll after I retrieved it again from the machine. Henry had firmly stuffed it back up there. Luckily he forgot about “Gunge Gob” due to fries. I don’t think he’s holding it against me. For now.
I, however, might hold it against HIM. NO ONE EVER WINS AT THOSE THINGS. It was twice-in-a-damn-lifetime! I am getting him Sponge Bob everything for Christmas, and he will LIKE IT.