• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 12

Claw Hog

Whizz, crank, whir, drop.
Whizz, crank, whir, whir. Whir?
‘Oh come on, that was…’ I trapped the last word in my mouth and swallowed. There’s a kid staring behind me.
Bloody claw machine.
How many coins? Two left. Right, that’s plenty. More than enough; I’m basically dancing. Keep your eyes on the prize, stare directly at your target and rub the coin against the sideboard before you slot it in. Buttered popcorn wafted through the air.
Whizz, crank, whir, drop.
‘Son of a…’ I glance behind me, ‘mother,’ I catch myself.
The kid’s eyes are saucer wide. ‘Go for Iron Man,’ he urges me.
‘I don’t want Iron Man.’ I clutched the joystick. ‘I want ET,’ I seethed. Around us plastic gunshots and electric cashier trills blasted through the air.
‘Why?’ the kid asked.
‘Because that’s what I want.’
‘Yeah, but why?’
‘Because I said so.’
‘No but really why?’
‘Because its murder,’ I bellowed. The kid’s ice cream dripped down his hand. I’d twisted my body round to face him, hand still clutching the joystick. I turned back to the claw machine, reaching into my pocket.


Claw Hog

‘They’ve hunted down my childhood.’ I rubbed a coin against the sideboard. ‘Harpooned my imaginary friend.’ I slipped it into the slot. ‘Stolen all my playtime things and stuck them in a vat of acid.’ I gently guided the claw in a circle. ‘And now they’ve churned them out as happy little nothings, dumped them in a prize pit, and I have to pay money just to grasp at their remains.’
The claw descended for a final time. I watched it fall. Its prongs stroked ET’s head then retracted back to the starting position. I stared; my shoulders slumped.
The kid stood next to me and pushed his nose against the plexiglass. ‘That sounds really bad,’ he said, breath misting the glass ‘but I want to have a turn now.’